History

Shakespeare Reloaded is a funded, collaborative research project between the University of Sydney and Barker College. 
 
The project has developed through four phases.
 
Phase 1 (Shakespeare Reloaded, 2008-10)
 
In 2007 Liam Semler (English Department, University of Sydney) and Shauna Colnan (then Head of Curriculum, Barker College) led the design of a research proposal called ‘Shakespeare Reloaded: Innovative Approaches to Shakespeare and Literature Research in Australian Universities and Secondary Schools.’ The proposal achieved Australian Research Council funding for 2008-2010. The academic team comprised Liam (as project leader), Penny Gay, Kate Flaherty (Postdoctoral Fellow) and Linzy Brady (PhD student). The school team included Shauna, Rod Kefford (Headmaster), Ben Batchen (Head of English) and David Stewart (Head of Drama). 
 
The aim of the project was to establish a space in which secondary and tertiary educators could explore collaboratively the teaching and learning of Shakespeare so as to gain a better understanding of the student experience within large learning institutions. 
 
Some outcomes of this first phase included:
  • A Travel Fellowship Scheme that annually paired a teacher with an academic and sent them on an overseas research trip to Shakespeare-related educational and cultural sites. On return, they shared their insights with colleagues in Sydney.
  • The teaching of two University of Sydney postgraduate modules on Shakespeare on site at the school (rather than on the University’s campus). These modules attracted teachers from a range of schools in the local area to commence and complete postgraduate coursework degrees. 
  • A conference, ‘Drawing out Shakespeare: Shakespeare and Education, Then and Now’ (2010), co-hosted with the Australia and New Zealand Shakespeare Association. This led to the co-edited book, Teaching Shakespeare beyond the Centre: Australasian Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
  • An academic-in-residence program that enabled academics to spend full days on the school campus in order to explore new teaching and learning ideas with teachers and their classes. This scheme produced resources that were made available to teachers via publication in mETAphor and now on this website.
 
Phase 2 (Better Strangers, 2011-13)
 
In 2011 the project entered a second phase called ‘Better Strangers: Creativity and Complexity in Literature and Drama Learning’. This was a formal research agreement between Barker College and the University. It was co-designed by the school’s Head of English, Andrew Hood, and an expanded academic team that now also included Will Christie and doctoral student Claire Hansen. 
 
Orlando’s remark in As You Like It, ‘I do desire we may be better strangers’ (3.2.251), epitomized the project’s aim to make the teaching and learning experience for teachers and students refreshingly strange via innovative approaches arising from creativity studies, complexity theory and tertiary-secondary education collaboration.
 
Some outcomes of the second phase included:
  • The ‘Unlearning Shakespeare’ symposium which was co-convened by Jane Coles and Liam Semler at Oxford Brookes University (UK) (2012) and the ‘Radical Shakespeare Pedagogy’ roundtable co-hosted with the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon (2012). 
  • Published research into the relationships between formal learning systems, creativity, complexity and the neoliberal educational context. 
  • The creation and pilot of the Shakespeare Imaginarium as a free, accredited, professional learning course for teachers.
 
Phase 3 (Better Strangers 2, 2014-16)
 
The third phase of the project was ‘Better Strangers 2’. The academic team expanded with the inclusion of Jackie Manuel to connect us with the Sydney School of Education and Social Work. The team successfully trialled a Poetry Imaginarium (May-June 2014) and created and launched this website.

In 2015 a new Imaginarium series called Shakeserendipity was piloted at Barker College before being launched online in April 2016. In 2016 a new professional learning initiative called the Teaching and Learning Caskets Imaginarium was piloted at the school. This enabled English teachers to discuss recent scholarly articles on educational ideas and practices. At the end of 2016 the team published a digital game called Shakespeed which uses the same game mechanics as Shakeserendipity, but all its linked resources are short, open-access videos. In 2016 six members of the Better Strangers team (including a schoolteacher from our partner school) presented papers and ran a workshop at the British Shakespeare Association Conference in Hull, England.

Phase 4 (Better Strangers 3, 2017-19)

 
The fourth and current phase of the project is ‘Better Strangers 3.’ In 2017 the team trialled the T&L Caskets Imaginarium a second time, but rather than solely including English teachers, the workshop discussions included staff from all faculties across the school. In 2018 the team expanded to nine researchers with the appointment of its new research assistant Lauren Weber. The Better Strangers project is currently focussed on producing new Shakespeed modules and preparing to host its Shakespeare FuturEd conference (1-2 February 2019, University of Sydney).