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27th October 2021: Listening to the voices of children and young people

Listening to the voices of children and young people

Speaker: Professor Mel Ainscow

Date: Wednesday 27th October

Time: 1pm

The views of students can provide important insights into school policies and practices. However, capturing such information presents many challenges, not least that of breaking down social barriers that may limit the willingness of young learners to speak freely. This lecture will use examples drawn from studies carried out in schools to explain how such barriers can be overcome. A feature of the approaches recommended is an emphasis on creative ways of engaging the views of children and young people.

Mel Ainscow is internationally recognized as an authority on the promotion of inclusion and equity in education. Previously a head teacher, local education authority adviser and lecturer at the University of Cambridge, his work focuses on ways of making schools effective for all children and young people. A distinctive feature of his approach is the emphasis he places on carrying out research with schools and education systems to promote improvements. A long-term consultant to UNESCO, Mel is currently working to promote equity and inclusion globally. He is also a consultant to an initiative organised by the Organization of American States, which is supporting national developments in nine Latin American countries.


CANCELLED: 24th November 2021: Pitfalls and benefits

***Unfortunately, this lecture has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.***

Some pitfalls and benefits of cross-national collaborative research

Speaker: Dr Ralph Leighton

The open lecture this month (November) will be given by Dr Ralph Leighton who will be addressing some issues that arise from using focus groups and semi-structured interviews with young people with regard to their perceptions of their role, status, and future as citizens. The construction of a schedule for semi-structured interviews revealed divergent understanding of educational terms and structures when preparing to interview school students for a project which involved interviewing 100 upper secondary students in England and Sweden in gendered and age-specific groups as well as social science/ citizenship teachers. The resulting discussion between researchers highlighted assumptions and clarified previous confusions, enabling deeper analysis of data. Preliminary and post research discussion between researchers revealed further assumptions and clarified previous confusions, enabling deeper analysis of data.

The lecture will discuss some of the following key elements:

  • assumptions made by researchers,
  • parameters for, and the reality of, selection of research samples,
  • conduct of focus group and interviews,
  • transcription of recordings,

Dr Leighton will also discuss the divergent understanding of educational terms and organisation between researchers from different disciplines, countries of origin, and countries of professional practice. 

Brief biography

Dr Ralph Leighton is an Associate Tutor at both the University of Glasgow and Canterbury Christ Church university. He has taught in schools in England for 22 years before establishing and leading the Citizenship PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University until his [semi]retirement in 2019.  He was also PGCE Programme Director and a GCSE Chief Examiner, and his research into teacher education and on Citizenship Education, a compulsory subject in England's National Curriculum, has been widely published.

Essential reading

Griffiths, M. (1998) Educational research for social justice: getting off the fence Buckingham: OUP

Leighton, R. and Nielsen, L., (2020)  ‘Part 1’ The Citizen in Teaching and Education. London: Palgrave pp3-67

Nussbaum, M. C.  (2011) Creating Capabilities  Harvard: Harvard University Press

Ragin, C. C., (1987) The Comparative Method Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

15th December 2021: I wish I had moved away from ANOVAs years ago: Interpreting ‘ratings’ data with mixed models

I wish I had moved away from ANOVAs years ago: Interpreting ‘ratings’ data with mixed models

Speaker: Dr Chris Hands

Date: Wednesday 15th December

Time: 1.00pm

Like many researchers, much of what I do involves asking participants to provide (ordinal) ratings - responses to Likert-type questions, or providing ratings of stimuli, indicators of attitudes, etc. Historically, I (and many others) have largely ignored the fact that general linear model approaches (e.g., t-tests, Analysis of Variance) are far from perfect for interpreting these types of dataset. In my talk, I will present some recent research that I have conducted which looks at how emoji and text interact to influence perceptions of both messages and their senders. This is important when we consider that emoji are so very common in our digital lives – social media, interpersonal communication, commerce, and increasingly in healthcare and education. Instead of repeating my historical mistakes (and those of my colleagues who have published before me), I have used cumulative mixed models to interpret the isolated and combined effects of key co-variates. I will provide a beginner’s guide to these analytical approaches, in an attempt to further my journey towards redemption. This talk will be helpful for those of you who work with ‘ratings’ / Likert-type data, or other ordinal data responses.

9th March 2022: Systematic literature reviews in educational research: when to conduct one, and how to do it.

Systematic literature reviews in educational research: when to conduct one, and how to do it.

Speaker: Dr Clara Fontdevila

Date: Wednesday 9th March

Time: 12.00 noon

Systematic literature reviews in educational research: when to conduct one, and how to do it.

In the field of educational research, systematic literature reviews (SLR) continue to be perceived as a preparatory step or second-best option, rather than a research method in its own right. Yet much is to be gained from SLRs – systematizing existing evidence is a way of advancing knowledge and answering specific research questions. SLRs are also a way of advancing towards the construction of an evidence basis on which decisions on education policies and practices can be drawn. In this session, we will discuss when to use (and when not to use!) SLRs, and how to do it. Specifically, elements that will be discussed in this lecture are:

  • What are SLR – and in which ways they differ from other approaches at research synthesis.

  • What are the benefits and limitations of SLR and what questions can SLRs answer to.

  • How to design and conduct a SLR – which are the key steps and tools involved in a SLR, and how can they be tailored to different forms of education research.

Recommended reading:

  • Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (2013). Learning from Research: Systematic Reviews for Informing Policy Decisions. A quick guide. London: Evidence for Policy and Practice Centre.

  • Petticrew, M., & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences. A Practical Guide. Blackwell Publishing.


Dr Clara Fontdevila holds a PhD in Sociology from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She is currently a ‘Margarita Salas’ Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona/University of Glasgow, with a project on the political economy of large-scale assessments in the Global South. In the past, she has participated in different competitive research projects, and has collaborated with various educational and research organisations, including Education International, Open Society Foundations and UNESCO. Her research interests are market policies in education, the comparative analysis of education reforms, and education and international development.

Twitter handle: @clarafontdevila


13th April 2022: Using photography in research with children and young people

Using photography in research with children and young people

Speaker: Dr Giovanna Fassetta

Date: Wednesday 13th April

Time: 12.00 noon

The use of visual methods to collect data in qualitative research has now quite a long and varied history. Visual methods are employed in different contexts and in a range of disciplines and for a range of reasons, and they are seen as particularly useful in research that includes children and/or young people. For example, visual methods are seen as increasing active participation; as offering views into participants’ lives that researchers would not otherwise have access to; as facilitating conversations by providing a shared focus of attention; as affording greater creative opportunities for expression; and, more generally, they are seen as a more ‘fun’ way to engage young participants in the research process.

In this lecture, I will discuss the experience of using child-led photography during my doctoral research project to look at the expectations and experiences of children and young people of migrant background. I will highlight the considerations and concerns about this method which emerged at the data analysis stage, discussing the opportunities but also the challenges that photography can offer when used with young participants, also (but not limited to) when they are from visible minority backgrounds. I will also discuss the feedback on this method that young participants shared, to question whether photography is indeed ‘fun’. I argue that photography can be a very useful tool in research, but we also need to reflect more critically on what photographs show as well as what they may also hide.


Dr Giovanna Fassetta is a Senior Lecturer in Social Inclusion at the University of Glasgow (School of Education). Giovanna comes from a teaching background (modern languages) and taught for over 20 years in several countries before moving to academia. She currently teaches in several Master’s degree programmes, with a focus on issues of inclusion in educational settings. Giovanna’s current research focusses on the role of languages in fostering inclusion; teaching/learning in situations of protracted crisis; intercultural communication; critical and engaged pedagogies.

Recommended reading:

  • Fassetta, G. (2016) Using Photography in Research with Young Migrants: Addressing Questions of Visibility, Movement and Personal Spaces. Children's Geographies, 14(6), 701-715. Doi: 10.1080/14733285.2016.1190811.

  • Brown, A., Spencer, R., McIsaac, J.L, and Howard, V. (2020) Drawing Out Their Stories: A Scoping Review of Participatory Visual Research Methods with Newcomer Children. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 19, 1–9. Doi:

18th May 2022: White Water Writers: Using Creative Writing as a Research Method

White Water Writers: Using Creative Writing as a Research Method

Speaker: Dr Yvonne Skipper

Date: Wednesday 18th May

Time: 12.00 noon

Zoom registration link:

White Water Writers is a research-based intervention which gives groups of people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a full-length novel in just one week. The group of writers, plan, draft, proofread and put their novel up for sale online within just 5 days. A few weeks later we host a book signing event which is attended by friends, family and the local press, where we present the authors with professionally printed copies of their novel and celebrate their achievement. We have worked with writers in primary, secondary school and university. We have also worked with writers with SEND, care experienced young people, siblings of seriously ill children and young and adult offenders. Each stage of the project is based on psychological theory and research and the project has demonstrable positive outcomes on writers’ self-concept, skills and literacy.  The novels themselves also provide an interesting window into the views of our authors and we have used the project to elicit stories where the authors are asked to explore themes such as climate change and trust in digital spaces.

In this lecture Dr Yvonne Skipper will discuss:

  • The theory behind White Water Writers to help those who are considering developing research-based interventions of their own
  • How we can use creative methods such as White Water Writers to elicit data from participants
  • How best to analyse these novel forms of data


Dr Yvonne Skipper is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology based in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow. She uses co-creative methods, working in partnership with organisations to find solutions to real world issues.

Dr Skipper's research primarily focusses on social influences on learning; for example, exploring views of intelligence, the impact of feedback on learning, how we deal with failure and mental wellbeing. She is particularly interested in applied research, working with partner organisations to co-create interventions to improve educational outcomes.

Twitter handle: @YvonneSkipper

8th June 2022: Accounting for Relationships when Making Sense of Educational Phenomena: an introduction to Social Network Analysis

Accounting for Relationships when Making Sense of Educational Phenomena: an introduction to Social Network Analysis

Speaker: Dr Thomas Cowhitt

Date: Wednesday 8th June

Time: 12.00 noon

Zoom registration link: TBC

Relationships matter a great deal in education. How can we [early career researchers] account for networks of relationships that encompass us and are therefore able to help facilitate or frustrate our individual ambitions? This seminar will first introduce Social Network Analysis (SNA) methods [forms of relational data collection, types of network visualization, and a diversifying landscape of network modelling]. The session will then detail a Mixed Methods Social Network Analysis (MMSNA) research protocol, designed to understand innovation expression across complex educational systems [i.e., England’s rapidly evolving middle-tier, referring to a broad range of entities serving as intermediaries between the Department for Education and local schools]. Attendees will also be introduced to prominent researchers in SNA, both within the field of education and more broadly. Opportunities for further SNA training in the U.K. and abroad will be discussed.


Dr Tom Cowhitt started his career in education as a practitioner, teaching in secondary schools in the Midwest region of the United States. His research interests consist of understanding and supporting teacher-led innovation to teaching and learning as well as investigating new types of collaborative improvement arrangements capable of utilizing the expertise of more diverse coalitions of stakeholders. Tom specialises in Mixed Methods Social Network Analysis and is an active contributor to Digital Humanities with an interest in innovative data visualization techniques, especially the use of interactive network diagrams to integrate quantitative and qualitative data from MMSNA research. 

Twitter handle: @EdNetResearch

Recommended reading:

Greany, T. (2018). Innovation is possible, it’s just not easy: Improvement, innovation and legitimacy in England’s autonomous and accountable school system. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 46(1), 65-85.

Daly, A. J., Moolenaar, N. M., Bolivar, J. M., & Burke, P. (2010). Relationships in reform: The role of teachers' social networks. Journal of educational administration.

Crossley, N., & Edwards, G. (2016). Cases, mechanisms and the real: The theory and methodology of mixed-method social network analysis. Sociological Research Online, 21(2), 217-285.

Beach, D. (2016). It's all about mechanisms–what process-tracing case studies should be tracing. New Political Economy, 21(5), 463-472.