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Research projects

CEPA members are engaged in a range of research activities. For further details of some of our current or recently completed projects, please see below. Our funding page also has lists the projects we have ongoing funding for.

Academic responses to impact as a new indicator in the REF: exploring the implications for pedagogic and policy-related research in HE

Dr Catherine O'Connell

This study examines academic responses to ‘impact’ as a new indicator in the Research Excellence Framework. In particular, the study explores differing narratives of impact in relation to educational research focused on the Higher Education sector. There has been considerable debate as to whether impact (as demonstrated by qualitative case studies) provides a counter-point to quantitative research outputs and a new narrative space for the sector to define broader conceptions of value and purpose or whether it induces a new form of performativity. Through an analysis of impact cases studies of HE-focused educational research, and interviews conducted with academics engaged in this field of research, the study seeks to gain and share insights into ways this new indicator is perceived to be influencing perceptions of, and practices relating to, policy-related and pedagogic research in higher education.

Unpacking PGR Funding Policies in the Social Sciences

Dr Richard Budd, Dr Catherine O’Connell, Dr Tingting Yuan, Dr Olga Ververi

We are examining national policies for funding doctoral studies - and responses to those policies - in the social sciences in the UK. Following a decision-making process that spanned a government spending review, 21 Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) involving 46 universities were launched in 2010. The ESRC channels its entire doctoral funding programme, which is being relaunched in 2016. These DTCs currently take various forms, from single institution centres to regional, multi-university consortia. There is a limited research base in this area, and we are in the process of analysing policy documents that underpin the DTC initiative, as well as speaking to doctoral students, and academics involved with doctoral training, across the UK.

Funder: Faculty of Education Research Fund

Immigrating academics in the pedagogic 'foreign-land': Factors influencing their pedagogic acculturation

Dr Namrata Rao

With globalisation there has been an increase in cross-border travel of academics within Higher Education (HE). It is estimated that in the UK HE around 28% of the academics are non-British (HEFCE, 2015). These immigrant academics often have a ‘pedagogical habitus’, related to their previous teaching experience and learning environments. This may result in a ‘pedagogic dissonance’ created by the mismatch between the learning-teaching practices these academics are accustomed to and the ones they are exposed to in their new context. Using Berry’s acculturation theory (1997), we contend that any consequent dissonance may lead to separation, marginalisation, assimilation or integration of these academics in their new pedagogic environment. Using a questionnaire, the study will draw on the pedagogical experiences of at least fifty immigrant academics within the first five years of their teaching within UK HE institutions (HEIs), followed by interviews with ten of these respondents for an in-depth understanding of the issue.

It is anticipated that the data will help explore any barriers these immigrant academics may perceive in teaching in the UK and how they experience their host HEIs’ strategies to acculturate them into their new pedagogic milieu. Findings will help identify any ‘pedagogic dissonance’ these academics face to better understand their professional teaching and learning needs. The research would be of value to academic developers, senior management and native academics in helping meet the professional needs of the immigrant academics to successfully integrate their pedagogical practices in a ‘symbiotic internationalisation’ of the teaching-learning process.

Languages of Inequality: Widening Participation and Social Justice in UK Educational Policy Discourse

Dr Joseph Maslen, Dr Konstanze Spohrer

We are engaged in critical discourse analysis of UK education policy as it pertains to social and economic inequalities. Our research brings together the linguistic and Foucauldian traditions of discourse analysis, while investigating the framing of social inequality policy problems for governmental action. Our enquiry includes: (1) the discursive logics of ‘raising aspiration’ strategies and the ways that these are negotiated in schools; and (2) the rhetorics of management and competition that appear in current policy on social mobility and working-class educational achievement.

The Unseeing Eye: Disability and the hauntology of Derrida's ghost, a story in three parts

Dr Alan Hodkinson

Through the employment of the three stanzas of Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Self-Unseeing’ this research trembled the picture of disability located in the pedagogical materials in English Schools. By mobilising, and then reversing, Derrida’s concept of the visor and the ghost, as well as Bentham’s Panopticon, this story reveals the power of the Them, the Their and the They. In materialising the ghost of the real of disability within a utopia of hope this research deconstructs the power of Their transparent house by revealing disabled people as magnificent beings.

What makes an excellent lecturer? Academics' perspectives on the discourse of 'teaching excellence' in higher education

Dr Frank Su, Dr Margaret Wood (York St John University)

Taking a critical perspective on the discourse of ‘teaching excellence’ and building on our previous research from the perspectives of students (Su & Wood, 2012), this CEPA supported study examines what sense academics make of the concept of ‘teaching excellence’. We are interested in academics’ general view of the concept; examples of ‘teaching excellence’; the distinction between ‘good’, ‘good enough’ and ‘excellent teaching’; and the measurability of ‘teaching excellence’. In framing our take on this discourse we reject the underlying authoritarian assumptions about performativity inherent in neoliberal policies and instead we argue for ‘excellence’ to be repositioned within a concept of higher education as a democratic public sphere.

It is our contention that teaching practices need to be understood and evaluated in terms of situated context, for ‘practice is necessarily contextualised. We argue for a rebalancing of performative meta-understandings of ‘excellence’ in favour of understandings which displace the dominant shallow ‘vacuity of excellence’ and instead position participatory dialogue and moral purpose at the centre. We argue for a more expansive and considered conceptualization of ‘teaching excellence’. In developing this more expansive view, we assert the importance of a cosmopolitan outlook on teaching quality.

Reference: Su, F. and Wood, M. (2012) What makes a good university lecturer? Students' perceptions of teaching excellence. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 4(2), 142-155.

Students as research collaborators: The relationship between identity, engagement and collaboration in the study of research methods pedagogy

Dr Cathal O'Siochru, Dr Frank Su, Dr Namrata Rao

This project adopts a collaborative approach for the teaching and learning of undergraduate research methods. By collaborating on a research project related to the staff’s research area, students should learn about the area of research, the research process and research methodologies in general. We are looking at better understanding, and theorising, the relationship between the construction of students’ research identity and engagement with research methods, as well as our own research and teaching identity. We are adopting a mixed methods approach, employing a predominantly qualitative design with a small number of quantitative elements, combining analysis of a reflective diary for students with data such as grades and attendance rates.

The Development of New Teachers' Understandings of 'Fundamental British Values'

Dr Phil Bamber, Dr David Lundie (University of St Mark & St John), Dr Alison Clark (Liverpool World Museum), Ms Andrea Bullivant

Based on multi-method analyses of a course on wider global perspectives in a teacher education program in England, this project examines the development of teachers’ relationship to the teaching of Fundamental British Values. These values, enumerated in the National Teachers’ Standards and embedded in inspection policy, are a relatively new development and have been subject to criticism for their links to a security and counter-terrorism agenda. Initial findings suggest the emergence of a more complex relationship between professional duties and personal values among new teachers as they engage reflectively with Fundamental British Values during teaching experience.

A Comparative study of policy and practice for Education for Sustainable Development/Global Citizenship (ESD/GC) in teacher education across UK nation

Dr Phil Bamber, Dr Alison Glover (University of South Wales), Gerard McCann (St Mary’s University College, Belfast), Ms Andrea Bullivant (Liverpool World Centre)

The early 21st century has seen a period of extreme turbulence in education at all levels in the UK. Although education policy was administrated on a territorial basis before 1999, the 1998-1999 devolution settlement has amplified the complexity of education policy and practice across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Through a comparative study of teacher education across the 4 nations, this project will highlight aspects of divergence and convergence of policy and practice with a particular focus on Education for Sustainable Development / Education for Global Citizenship (ESD/GC). This project will explore the implications for ESD/GC in relation to statutory teaching standards/competencies, values and ideologies, curriculum and pedagogy and the role of the third sector. It intends to identify opportunities and challenges facing ESD/GC in teacher education across the four nations.