Dr Sarah Huxley

Professional biography

Sarah has 20 years experience as a social development specialist in International Development focused on youth and children. This has involved working in a spectrum of thematic areas, including: youth engagement, non formal education, governance and accountability, safeguarding, gender/inclusion, youth livelihoods, post conflict transitions, and play work/therapy. She has been privileged to work in a range of places, with a variety of people – from trafficked children in Kathmandu care homes to policy maker panels at the OECD in Paris.

She is driven by creating and facilitating opportunities for young people to have a meaningful role in shaping their own futures, and understands that as an adult researcher and co-learner, there can be many challenges and contradictions in this.

Her work around the world  has always encountered highly contested narratives and approaches relating to ‘creativity’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘participation’. She now wants to focus specifically on ‘fun’ – an elusive social construct – to assess its meaning in different cultural contexts, and to examine if/how ‘fun’ contributes to learning processes directed towards self and community social change. 

Research interests

Her research interests are interdisciplinary and will draw predominantly upon education, social anthropology and human geography. She is particularly interested to explore how fun is used in specific out of school learning contexts.

Sarah is working closely with Coaches Across Continents (CAC), an NGO whose aim is to facilitate self directed learning through ‘fun’ in non-competitive soccer-related games.  This is an assumption embedded in a lot of out of school ‘life skills’ programmes, that fun (or its big brother ‘play’) are vital, but why and how has not been fully examined or explained. Sarah believes that ‘fun’ remains undervalued and under-utilised in educational practices. She wants to explore if there is evidence as to why fun matters, and whether it should be acknowledged and made an integral part of  multi-generational learning processes.

Her methodology draws from interpretivist ethnographic foundations, focusing on creative and engaged practices. She is particularly interested to situate ‘fun’ through embodied practice, and in so doing explore how the wider senses can be used as a research tool.

Her challenge will be to embody ‘fun’ in the research process itself. Wish her luck!

Impact and engagement

A selection of blogs and presentations:

Huxley, S (2022). Listen Up! Reflections on being a research participant as part of an online ethnography. Podcast posted on the OU Graduate School’s website 11 March 2022. Accessible from: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/listen-up-reflections-on-being-aresearch/id1541300446?i=1000553692354

Huxley, S (2021). More than ‘out there’: re-figuring presence during online video conferencing learning experiences. Blog posted on the OU Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) website 22 November 2021. Accessed from: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/CALRG/?p=1268  

Dowdeswell, E. & Huxley, S. (2021). Moments of reconnection with/in digital presentation: an exploration of found poetry. Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference (EQRC), June 14-15th  2021, University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Original blog posted on the OU Rumpus site, 6 April 2021 accessible here: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/rumpus/index.php/2021/04/06/chop-chop-cut-cut-moments-of-reconnection-with-in-digital-presentation/

Huxley, S. (2020). One (dis)placed ethnographer’s movements during the pandemic: Is the on-line world a lesser ethnographic world? Blog posted on Ethnography.com 14 December 2020. Accessed from: http://www.ethnography.com/2020/12/one-dis-placed-ethnographers-movements-during-the-pandemic-is-the-on-line-world-a-lesser-ethnographic-world/

Huxley, S. (2020) Shifting to Online ethnography: using a river flow diagram to explain the experience. Presentation and contributions at the online workshop 19 November 2020 on Online ethnography. This was part of the National Centre for Research Methods Changing Research Practices: Undertaking social research in the context of Covid-19 project. See:  http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/4397/1/NCRM%20Changing%20Research%20Practices_MAIN%20REPORT.pdf

Huxley, S. (2020). In celebration of sensory methods and movement. Blog posted on the OU Rumpus website 11 August 2020. Accessed from: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/rumpus/index.php/2020/08/11/in-celebration-of-sensory-methods-and-movement/

Huxley, S. (2020). Fun: Is it fundamental to ‘education outside the classroom’? Blog posted on Coaches Across Continents website 7 February 2020. Accessed from: https://coachesacrosscontinents.org/tag/sarah-huxley/

External collaborations

Associate at the Centre for the Study of Global Development.

Member of the OU Future Societal Challenges Group.

Member of RUMPUS.

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