The Ruskin Mill Trust research project

Ruskin Mill Trust’s method, Practical Skills Therapeutic Education, which informs the curricula of each its provisions in England, Wales and Scotland, is subject to ongoing research. The aim of our research it to develop staff knowledge, understanding and practice for the benefit and impact of student progression. All research is coordinated through our dedicated research centres.

Ruskin Mill Trust’s research project comprises:

  1. Post-doctoral
  2. Doctoral
  3. Masters level
  4. Action research

Ruskin Mill Trust’s method, Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (PSTE), works with Seven Fields of Practice to provide students with a truly holistic and integrative education. Whilst each is distinct, the Seven Fields of Practice form an educational continuum that structures the student journey. Research into the Seven Fields of Practice, and its theoretical underpinnings, is coordinated through our three research centres in England, Scotland, and Wales. This unified trichotomy is referred to as the Golden Triangle.

Post-doctoral research

The post-doctoral research undertaken at the three sites has the following areas of focus:

Field Centre, Gloucestershire, England

Research is undertaken regarding animal morphology  and philosophy and history of Goethe’s scientific studies.  Both of these research areas are looking at change, relationship and sequence, all of which can be applied to the student experience, the Trust’s method, and staff training and development.

The researchers at the Field centre are Dr Troy Vine and Dr Judyth Sassoon

Life Science Centre, East Lothian, Scotland

The area of research at the Life Science Centre in Scotland focuses on plants; botany and ecology, and has a particular focus on the native plants of an area.  In looking at the qualities of the native plants and herbs, the research will inform the land curriculum at the schools and colleges and how students engage in growing herbs for wellbeing.

The researcher at the Life Science Centre is Dr Katherine Buchanan

The Castelliz Centre, Pembrokeshire, Wales

At the Castelliz Centre, the area of research focus is mineralogy and the landscape and how the minerals and rocks shape and influence the landscapes in which the students work, and how the landscapes affect the student experience.

The researcher at the Castelliz centre is Laura Wallwork (MSc)

Through staff training and staff development programme, this post-doctoral research cascades into the Ruskin Mill Centre for Practice and supports the direction of travel in both the PhD and Masters research into the Ruskin Mill Trust method and the Fields of Practice.

Doctoral Research

The Doctoral research currently being undertaken focuses on specific research into the method of the Trust through the 7 Fields of Practice:

Genius Loci and Goethean Science – Field 1: Genius Loci

Simon Reakes, MSc, PGCert (doctoral studies application pending)

The Pedagogical Potential of Craft – Field 2: Practical Skills

Matt Briggs, MSc (Sheffield Hallam University, Education Department)

Biodynamic Ecology – Field 3: Biodynamic Ecology

Berni Courts MSc (Coventry University, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience)

Evidence of Benefits of PSTE – Field 4: Therapeutic Education

Victoria Wren MSc / PGCE

(University of Exeter, College of Medicine and Health)

Implementation of  The Seven Fields of Practice and PSTE – Field 7: Transformative Leadership and Management

Constantin Court (Sheffield University, School of Education)

Further information regarding the doctoral research can be found on the Field Centre website

Master’s level research

In addition to the post-doctoral and doctoral research, there have been over 40 Master’s degree dissertations undertaken through the Field Centre, including the following:

Field 1 Genius Loci (Spirit of Place)

Engagements with Place: If staff at RMT are encouraged to engage with the notion of spirit of place, what approaches can be used to assist this? Simon Reakes (2015)

Field 2 Practical Skills

What are the Therapeutic and Pedagogical Benefits of Craft for impulse control related Disorders within the SEN Further Education Sector?  Matt Briggs (2013)

Does the workshop situation meet the needs of young people who may have a history of attachment disruption? Angie Iversen (2014)

How might the co-creation of a situated working woodland begin to address some of the major pedagogical challenges of our timeThomas Dillon (2019)

Field 3 – Biodynamic Ecology

How Can Biodynamic Ecology inform Methods of Leadership? Bernie Courts (2014)

A Phenomenological Exploration of the Role and Impact of Festivals for Students and Community of Ruskin Mill  Richard Turley (2014)

Field 4 – Therapeutic Education

An Enquiry into the Student Journey Manager Role at Ruskin Mill College Julie Woods (2013)

Playing with Fire: Using a drama production to facilitate the development of young adults with complex needs Michael Chase (2014)

Field 7 – Leadership and Management

How can Ruskin Mill Trust create a long-term legacy and fundraising strategy to support its charitable objectives and future goals? Janine Christley (2014)

Taking into Silence: Exploring the role of silence in the context of professional development Chris Helliwell (2014)

Forging Links – The Paradigm for Succession in Ruskin Mill Trust: Why are areas of the current training effective?  How is the efficacy of training understood, measured and built on?  And what is currently absent from the training offered? Chloe Hindmarsh (2014)

Developing a framework for a social enterprise that meets therapeutic, economic and community need. Elisabeth Johnson (2014) 

Dissecting the Buzzard!!!!! How can conversation as a method contribute to succession in the Ruskin Mill Trust? Helen Kippax (2014)

How can social enterprise promote symbiosis between the College, the special needs student, and the surrounding communities? This is in order to equip students for life after / or (potentially) within a special needs College. Paul Lear (2018)


Sensory Audit

Children’s Sensory Therapy Ltd were requested to complete a “short audit of three crafts, namely blacksmithing, green wood work, and wool work, pointing out the potential therapeutic and educational benefits to a young person.

View the Sensory Audit here.