7th Annual PhD Conference School of Education, University of Northampton, 24-25 June 2016

Day 1 - Friday 24th June

Getting ready


Yumy Zhao welcomed students and supervisors to the 7th PhD annual conference. The conference, organised by PhD students, has been a focal point for students and staff to share research ideas, support each other and develop further research with an impact.

Yu Zhao works as a research assistant while doing her part time PhD. She has been involved in a number of research projects, such as, Project IRIS (Inclusive Research in Irish Schools); ALLinHE (Access to Life Long in Higher Education); The Refining and Developing SEL (Social Emotional Learning) in Chinese Schools; Evaluation of Bag Books; The ‘10,000 hours’ pilot project – Raising the Bar and Narrowing the Gap; Situation Analysis on Inclusive Education and Action Plan for Children with Autism in Oman; UNICEF Bhutan. Her PhD research is a comparative study between England and Ireland exploring the experiences of children with autism spectrum disorder and school provisions during the transition between phases of education.

Prof Richard Rose's welcome

On the sobering notes of the EU referendum's result, Prof Rose reiterated the need for inclusion, tolerance and collaboration. This was an important reminder and a reflection of the international nature of the School's PhD cohort.

Keynote 1: 'Inclusive education' in the SDGs - opportunity or obsolete? Dr Nidhi Singal

Dr Nidhi Singal

Dr Nidhi Singal gave the first keynote talk in which she examined how inclusive education has been highlighted in recent international proclamations, including the Sustainable Development Goals. Drawing on current evidence in the field, particularly research conducted in Southern contexts, she examined how meaningful educational participation of children with disabilities continues to remain one of the most challenging issues. Dr Singal posed the question as to whether the current discourse around 'inclusive education' is actually stifling in developing creative solutions to old challenges. She concluded by arguing for a focus on identifying enablers in the existing systems and proposed new ways of moving forward, including the need for a re-envisioned agenda.

Biography - Dr Nidhi Singal is a Reader in Inclusive Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her core areas of research interest lie in addressing issues of educational inequity among marginalised groups in Southern contexts. She has worked extensively with children and young people with disabilities in South Asia and Africa. Her research has focused on the experiences of children with disabilities attending a range of different educational arrangements, the quality of teaching and learning in these settings. and the impact of schooling on short and long term outcomes. Nidhi is the Manager of the Doctoral Programme.

Peer Mentoring for secondary school students with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) - Jessica Newcombe

Jessica Newcombe

Jessica's research provided insights into the field of inclusive education regarding students with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Inclusive education for students with PMLD Is considered by some to be unrealistic because of the levels of the support required to meet the needs are these students. The aim of the research is to explore how peer mentoring can be used with students with PMLD. Through a participatory method in which students with PMLD and peer mentors were co-researchers, the study applied a mosaic approach to data gathering which includes the use of dialogue, reflection and interpretation from all participants.

Jessica works as a teacher and started teaching in 2008. After one year of teaching she decided to continue her studies further and focused on special education. In 2009 she undertook her MA at the University of Northampton and this sparked her interest for research in the area of education for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Currently, she is a part time PhD student and a part time teacher which is, in her words, a perfect balance as her research informs her practice.

Perceive stress amongst university academics - Phil Bowen

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Phil's research explores the concept of emotional intelligence and it fills a gap in our knowledge of how academics cope with stress. The study used an explanatory and sequential mixed method approach to gather the views of academics across the world. Drawing from 533 survey responses and 11 interviews, the study shows that stress has not declined. It is therefore important for organisations and individuals to develop constructive ways to cope effectively and enhance well-being. 

Phil is a lecturer in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Northampton.

Assessment for Learning using multiple choice questions - Mari Chikvaidze, Syed K. Hussein and James Underwood

Mari Chikvaidze

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) is a form of assessment in which learners are asked to select the best possible answer(s) out of a set of multiple choices. The study presented here explored and discussed the potential of using MCQs for Assessment for Learning (AfL) in mathematics. The research used a variety of methods, including exam revision quizzes, lesson observations, student questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with teachers. The challenges of identifying and responding to misconceptions are discussed and suggestions are made in regard to the effective use of MCQs as enabling teachers to clarify misconceptions as they arise in real time.

Mari is an Honorary Research Associate at the King's College London.

The Challenges of maintaining a long distance relationship - Emma Whewell

The study's aim is to investigate the experiences of a cohort of primary school Physical Education specialist trainee teachers in their first year of teaching in England. Through the use of phenomenology the study captures the self-reflections of newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) on their professional roles with a focus on their ideal identities. The presentation focused on the challenges of conducting research with participants who are located in their home town and the challenges of using video calling in terms of research relationship and recording of responses from participants.

Emma is a Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education. She studied Sports Science and Physiology at the University of Leeds and then went on to study a PGCE in Physical Education at Durham University. After graduating Emma worked as a physical education teacher in Bradford and, following this, moved to Leeds as head of PE teaching children in key stages 3-5. In 2002 Emma moved to a school on the outskirts of Newcastle where she was working as a Head of Year and PE teacher. She joined the University of Northampton in 2006 as part of the School of Education Initial Teacher Training team. Whilst working here she has completed her MA in Education focussing on the teaching of children classed as vulnerable. She is currently studying for her PhD which focuses on identity formation in primary PE teachers.

The ways in which our experiences as teachers shaped our choices as researchers - MA students and James Underwood

James Underwood and Katia Reis, Nicola Ryan, Velvet Nhung Vuong, Evelyn Frempong, David Jarvis, Evelyn Hartley, Alison Taylor

There is considerable and on-going debate regarding ways in which research findings can be communicated effectively to teachers, with an emphasis on how there are beneficial lessons to be learnt by teachers from the research community. In this presentation a group of masters students flip the relationship around and ask how practices and conventions of teaching could shape the way that researchers work. The reversal of roles includes, among others: the design of research questions, the methodological choices that we make, and our strategies for dissemination. Such questions are important because schools move at a much faster pace than many of the conventions of research can accommodate. They are places where day to day decisions are made rapidly and continuously regardless of whether research is being conducted. Action research and teacher leadership methodologies were used in the past, but the presenters argued that other methodologies can be explored as well, such as case study, ethnography and auto-ethnography.

Can psycho-physical exercise foster responsibility in young people? Artemis Artemiou

Arte Artemious

Psycho-social exercises are a form of body-mind connection exercises that have had a recent history in the West but a longer lineage in the East, mostly in performative religions and spaces. This research aims to use those exercises and practices with non-theatrically trained young people to explore the notion of responsibility. The research aims to explore personal and collective responsibility with young people using psycho-social exercises as the vehicle for that exploration. The purpose is to discover whether a link can be created between a conscious connection of the body-mind responsibility for self and the community. By using both qualitative methods and the measurement of neurological patterns through EEG scan, the research aims to compare young people in Northampton and Prishtina Kosovo.

Arte is a graduating Drama student from the University of Northampton and is applying for postgraduate research in Applied Performance. He has recently come back from Kosovo where he was involved in an Applied Performance project called the Imagine A Day Project (IADP). IADP brought together 24 participants of different ethnicities from across Kosovo and trained them to deliver a workshop whose aim is to inspire and empower children and young people to envision a better future. He will be continuing this work in the next year as his postgraduate degree.

Day 2: Saturday 25th june

Peter Well's welcome

Peter Wells. Deputy-Dean, opened the 2nd day of the conference with a reminder about the importance of 'philosophy' as key to research.

Why philosophy matters

Because ....

Peter Wells's cards on why philosophy matters

Keynote 2: Developing conceptual frameworks - from setting out on your research project to writing up your research - Dr Wai Yi Feng

Dr Wai Yi Feng

Every successful project is underpinned by a coherent and holistic framework. Sometimes developing such a framework is the research project! But what is a conceptual framework and how do you go about developing one for your research project? What makes a good conceptual framework and what makes a poor one? Why does it matter anyway? Taking 'mathematics enrichment' as an example, Dr Feng discussed conceptual frameworks at their different levels: at the macro level as an overarching conceptualisation that threads through every element of a research project; and at the micro level as frames of reference that underpin individual units of investigation.

Biography - Dr Feng is a Royal Society Research Fellow in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education at the University of Cambridge. Her research interest lies in understanding the impact of education programmes that enrich students' experience of STEM. For over ten years, Dr Feng has worked with organisations commissioning and delivering extra-curricular and co-curricular programmes across STEM within and beyond school for students aged 11-18, researching and evaluating industry, charity and government sponsored projects in the UK. Dr Feng is also Principal Researcher for the Cambridge Mathematics Education Project (CMEP), funded by the UK Department for Education. She is an Official Fellow and Tutor at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry Steering Group for the Chemistry for All project. She has also served as a Policy Fellow in the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Can NQTs take a leadership role in supporting experienced staff to improve teaching and learning? Rachel Peckover

Rachel Peckover

Research often focuses on the mentoring of beginner teachers during their induction phase. In contrast, however, this paper considers whether NQTs can be used as a resource within their schools to lead experienced colleagues in a specialist coaching activity. This is timely research in light of the Government's expansion of the academies programme, with external professional development opportunities for staff previously provided by the Local Authority and now accessed through private consultants and at a greater economic costs. A number of themes are pertinent to this research, such as, approaches to coaching and mentoring, distributed leadership, communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991). These ideas were used in a small-scale, exploratory research project involving two teachers - one in her first year of teaching, and one with ten year's experience. Data was collected through interviews carried out before and after the coaching activity. Findings show that the NQT was able to take on this leadership role successfully. Not only it benefited the more experience teacher through a greater understanding and use of mastery in mathematics, but it also had a positive effect on the new teacher's confidence and on how she saw her place within the school community.

Learning experiences during research: Challenges from institutional and policy changes - Martin Murove

Martin Murove

In cases where research seeks to evolve, empower and improve aspects of participants' social world it can be argued that theory alone has little power to create change. This presentation highlights some of the challenges encountered to date in bridging the gap between theory and practice during the study of student transition in a secondary school. The presentation discusses some of the challenges encountered in conducting the action research by exploring the multiple roles of the researcher as researcher, teacher and consultant. It argues that as circumstances change, the researcher has to adapt his or her role to suit the context in which he or she operates.

A NEET ending - The impact of adult community learning on supporting a young person who is not in employment, education or training on their journey to become an active democratic citizen - Pat Carrington

Pat Carrington

Still at the proposal stage, this research aims to explore the Individual Distance Travelled (IDT) and the social and emotional impact Adult Community Learning (ACL) providers have when working with NEETs. ACL is a sector of the education system that has for many years worked with some of the country's most vulnerable adults and young people with the aims of promoting community participation and social inclusion. Many NEETs that study with ACL providers have chaotic and complex lives, with no secure emotional base and a limited use of effective social capital, and often the emotional base the NEETs need can be sought from the ACL organisation. The aim of this ethnographic research is to explore the provision made available in the ACL College that the researcher is employed in and develop knowledge to determine how NEET young people are supported on their journey to become an active democratic citizen.

Pat has worked in the Adult and Community Learning sector for the past 10 years and has, for the last 5 years, been Principal in the college where she works and Assistant Director Skills and Employment for Peterborough City Council. Prior to this, Pat worked in the business sector working for large companies like Coca Cola as well as small local businesses that operated nationally. Pat has a national and regional profile for adult education. She is a director of AAETO, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee who are the executive board of HOLEX. She is the HOLEX National Policy Lead for LEPs and localism, and study skills, traineeships and apprenticeships; sits on the regional Ofsted Reference Group for raising standards and attainment in the Eastern region and sits on and supports many local strategic boards. She also chairs the local network of the Chartered Management Institution and the Peterborough Skills Partnership Strategy Board. She is passionate about adult education and the idea of lifelong learning, especially in providing a second chance for those adults who have not succeeded in the school system. She holds an MBA, is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and has just completed the second year of a four -year (part time) Professional Doctorate in Business.

The Zimbabwean student: Examining the experiences of migrant students in English secondary schools- Emmanuel Maphosa

Emmanuel Maphosa

Studies by Gillborn (2003; 2008; 2012), Anoop (2003; 2008) and Tomlinson (2000), among many, show the prevalence of of minority ethnic discrimination in social social and educational institutions in England. The proposed study explores and examines the experience of Zimbabwean migrant students, aged 11-16, in English secondary schools and their local communities. In particular, it will account for their journey of adaptation within English society. It is based on an ethnographic approach, comprising around 40 in-depth interviews and a focus group comprising 10 non-Zimbabwean peers. The theoretical framework of Critical race Theory has been adopted as a conceptual guide because CRT makes it possible to challenge racial inequality in society (Delgado and Stefnacic, 2001). Core and sub-themes to be addressed include the push/pull factors leading to migration from Zimbabwe; the academic and cultural experiences of Zimbabwean migrant students in England and the challenges they encounter in educational and social spaces. The study will also include how the young people's experiences are perceived by their parents, teachers and non-Zimbabwean peers. The study will also consider the impact of religion.

An analysis of how cross-linguistic transfer of grade 3 and 5 phonological and orthographic processing skills from Shona (L1) to English (L2) affects L2 spelling acquisition in Zimbabwean primary school children - Tarri Tanyongana

Tarri Tanyongana and Remi Odunsi

The study explores several aspects which affect Zimbabwean primary schools children in their acquisition of English spelling. In particular will be on how the cross-linguistic transfer of phonological and orthographic processing skills from Shona (L1) to English (L2) affects L2 spelling acquisition. There are several factors which affect the context of the children's learning and other within-child factors which may affect their learning. It is hoped that the findings will be of help in drafting a spelling error typology for Zimbabwean children.

Posters' exhibition

The following students and researcher at the Centre for Education and Research also exhibited their research through posters:

Deshnee Moodley (MA) - Reflective analysis on creating a positive learning environment: Montessori within Vygotsky's concept of zone of proximal development.

Mari Chikvaidze, Syed K. Hussein and James Underwood - Assessment for learning (AfL) using multiple choice questions.

Nicola Ryan (MA) - Primary school teachers' perceptions of how children learn to make connections in mathematics.

Sulata Ajit Sankardas (PhD) - An investigation into efficacy of differentiated instruction for including children with autism spectrum disorder into a sample of mainstream schools in Chennai, India

Sumathi Ravindranath (PhD) - An investigation into the nature and extent to which methods taught during Montessori teacher training in Bangalore, India, are applied by teachers in Montessori and mainstream schools

Pooja Padki (PhD) - The influence of the childhood experiences of women in Bangalore, India, upon their aspirations for their children: social and cultural perspectives

Paul Bramble, Sheena Bell and Helen Trory (SENEL project) - Working with employers and trainers to support young people with special educational needs/disability into employment (SENEL)

David Preece and Paul Bramble (ESIPP project) - Developing parent education in autism in south east Europe (http://esipp.eu/about-us/)


Thank you & see you in 2017

(from left to right: Dr Wai Yi Feng, My Chau Tran, Pat Carrington, Remi Odunsi, Tarri Tanyongana, Dr Cristina Devecchi, Prof Richard Rose, Yumy Zhao, Martin Murove & Jomy Padayattil
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