Reimagining the Diary: diary-keeping as a positive tool for teacher wellbeing

How can a new approach to diary writing be used to improve the wellbeing of teachers in the UK? Can effective policy be developed around this to impact government policy on teaching?

In 2018 an Ideas Exchange between Lucy Kelly and Grace Huxford called ‘Writing and well-being for busy people’ looked at why have people written diaries, now and in the past? Whether private diary writing could help promote well-being? And whether it was time to ‘reimagine’ the diary for the contemporary era in an era where people publicly share life-stories on social media? This project developed into a larger Experimental Partnership in 2019 called ‘Reimagining the Diary: Writing and well-being for busy people’ in which Lucy Kelly, Grace Huxford and Catherine Kelly worked with local primary and secondary teachers and the interactive design studio Stand + Stare to work creatively to reimagine the diary format. A core outcome of that project was the development of a Diary Toolkit and the generation of data on its efficacy for improving teacher wellbeing in the UK. Lucy Kelly worked closely with local teachers through focus groups and workshops and Grace Huxford explored the history of diaries and examined the archival holdings of the Theatre Collection and Bristol Special Collection.

What did the project involve? 

In this next stage of the project the team employed a research assistant (Lauren Hennessy) to analyse the latest data from the project, and then work alongside Policy Bristol to design and write a policy document about the project and the key findings for the Department for Education and other national organisations, such as teaching unions.

This project sought to ensure the team’s findings could contribute towards the development of the government’s Early Career Framework for teachers, which had a focus on wellbeing.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Lauren Hennessy (School of Education, University of Bristol) is a research associate affiliated with the Educational Futures Network. She has held an RA role on the Climate Change Education Research Network.
  • Emily Crick (Policy Studies, University of Bristol) researches how drugs have been constructed as a threat to humankind and the nation state and how this has shaped international drug policy. She has also written about the developments in cannabis policy in the United States and elsewhere.
  • Lucy Kelly (School of Education, University of Bristol) is a researcher and author whose main research area is diary keeping as a positive tool for teacher wellbeing.
  • Catherine Kelly (School of Law, University of Bristol) research focuses on the law’s interaction with science and medicine in both historical and contemporary contexts. She has a particular interest in the history and regulation of the professions.

What were the results?

The research team cowrote a policy briefing which you can read here: Policy Briefing: Diary Toolkit should be rolled out in schools to support teacher wellbeing.

Lucy Kelly has also released a book inspired by her research and practice during the project entitled Reimagining the Diary: Reflective practice as a positive tool for educator wellbeing.