Research in Education

Research in Education

The school brings together researchers with expertise across all sectors of education: formal and non-formal, and from primary school through to higher, adult and community education. The School prides itself on the effective integration of research, theory, policy and practice.

Highlights of our research include: urban and place-based learning; adult learning and youth transitions; migration and refugee education; collaborative schooling for change; and ethics, religion and values in education. The School also offers courses in teacher education, psychological studies, children’s literature, TESOL, community development, museum education, education policy and leadership, adult education, assessment in education, and inclusive education. We also have a large group of postgraduate research students undertaking PhDs and EdDs.

Our current research themes focus on:

Adult Learning and Youth Transitions

This area of work focuses on the impact of learning opportunity in formal, non-formal and informal settings on the life courses of both young and older adults, including those who are most vulnerable in labour markets and at risk of social exclusion. Projects such as the H2020 funded, YOUNG_ADULLLT Policies Supporting Young Adults in their Lifecourse and the ESRC/Newton Fund supported, Governing the educational and labour market trajectories of secondary TVET graduates in Chile, both led by Oscar Valiente and also involving, Chris Chapman, Lesley Doyle, Kristinn Hermannsson, Kevin Lowden and Michele Schweisfurth, contribute to a) developing new knowledge about the impact of LLL policies, b) better understanding of structural relationships and the functional match between education/training and the labour market, and c/ identification of successful sustainable institutional solutions to mismatches. A  major GCRF project funded by the ESRC, led by Oscar Valiente and Srabani Maitra focuses on the role of dual apprenticeships in India and Mexico. A project led by Muir Houston and Mike Osborne, Labour Market Efficiency of Tertiary Adult Education (LETAE), assessed the role of lifelong learning for mid-career professional development in seven European countries


Migration and Refugee Education

The School of Education has a longstanding and sustained strand of work deriving from language education, and the use of the arts in awareness raising for refugee integration and migration that has grown out of work undertaken over 20 years in collaboration with the School of Modern Languages, importantly through the vehicle of GRAMNet co-ordinated by Alison Phipps. It relates to work funded on four occasions by the AHRC (and its precursors), the British Academy and Leverhulme Foundation that investigated the place of and performance of multilingualism in varieties of migrant integration.

A major AHRC project, Researching Multilingually, has provided the basis for the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts held by Professor Phipps. In early 2019 the South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub was established with funding for a major five-year project under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Global Challenges Research Fund, involving Alison Phipps, Tawona Sitholé and Gameli Tordzro  from the School.

Related work led by Evelyn Arizpe, Julie McAdam and Lavinia Hirsu concerns the development of visual, multilingual, emotional, critical and digital literacies using multimodal texts that are crucial for understanding and developing migrant children’s and young adult’s meaning-making and intercultural competences in the global 21st century. This includes the AHRC-GCRF project,  Children’s Literature in Critical Contexts of Displacement, working with collaborators in Egypt, Mexico and Central America.

Giovanna Fassetta runs an Impact Acceleration GRCF project to maximise the impact of the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) language course. The OAfP is the main output of an earlier AHRC-GCRF project called “The impact of language”. The OAfP course was designed and developed in collaboration with the Arabic Center at the Islamic University of Gaza (Palestine).

Work within an AHRC/ESRC funded GCRF Forced Displacement project, Building Futures: Aspirations of Syrian Youth Refugees and Host Population Responses in Lebanon, Greece and the UK, involving Lesley Doyle and Kristinn Hermannsson as Co-investigators also links to our concern with skills development and focused on displaced Syrians in the Lebanon, Greece and the UK. Bonnie Slade has led a British Academy funded project concerned migrating medical professional knowledge. Marta Moskal has been the Co-I on an ESRC funded project concerned with identity, citizenship and belonging among settled Eastern European migrant children in the UK


Collaborative Schooling for Change

Core to the work of the School of Education in this field is our belief that tackling educational inequity is one of the most significant challenges of our time. This can only be achieved by researchers working across disciplines and in partnership with policy-makers and practitioners to develop new theoretical insights and practical approaches that levels the playing field so that all children can achieve their full potential irrespective of their background. This is illustrated by Chris Chapman’s research, which focuses on the interplay between educational and public service research, policy and practice, specifically in relation to the improvement of educational outcomes in disadvantaged settings. Chris works collaboratively with schools and communities to develop deeper understandings and support the practical interventions to improve educational outcomes. The recurring themes in Chris’s research are accountability, collaboration, equity, leadership, professional learning and organisational/system reform. He is a member of the First Minister’s International Council of Education Advisers, the highest level advisory group in Scotland. Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney, credited the report of the Council with influencing the government not to introduce legislation in June 2018. Chris is also Senior Academic Adviser to the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

We also offer research in the field that influences systems development in the schools sector in other nations. An ESRC-DFID funded project on School Development and Management Committees in Karnataka, India, involving Michele Schweisfurth, investigates how these committees can use accountability structures to improve school outcomes and school-community relations.  A prestigious British Academy fellowship awarded to Adrian Zancajo investigates the decommodification of education in Chile. A team led by Louise Hayward and also involving Peter Donaldson, Kay Livingston, Kara Makara-Fuller and David Morison-Love is funded by the Welsh Government in a major project concerned with Progression and Assessment in the Curriculum for Wales and draws on the work of the International Education Assessment Network (IEAN) of Small Nations and States that she leads. The Welsh Government has also recently announced a new National Academy for Education Leadership, strongly influenced by the Scottish College of Educational Leadership, which is chaired by Tony Finn. Further, Trevor Gale is also a founding member of the new Wales Education Commission, a group of international education experts providing research-informed advice to the Welsh Government on its new education agenda. Clive Dimmock is leading work to build leadership capacity of headteachers in Vietnam supported by funding from the British Council and the Head Foundation. Kay Livingston has provided extensive advice to the European Commission on Initial Teacher Education.

Further, our work in leadership extends into higher education and leadership for development through a range of projects. For example, through funding from the British Council and other agencies, work led by Margery McMahon has developed senior leaders in a number of countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia and the Ukraine. Michele Schweisfurth and Oscar Valiente in work funded by AusAid have explored the relationship between education and developmental leadership in the Philippines.

Other work connected with fostering change in schools includes the project, Don’t Waste our Future, led by Alan Britton and funded by EuropeAId concerning the fostering of responsible consumption and combating food waste.


Ethics, Religion and Values in Education

The School of Education has sustained demonstrable research strengths in the fields of philosophy of education, religion and education, and religious education, and includes the work of Jim Conroy, Bob Davis, Catherine Doherty, Penny Enslin, Leonard Franchi, Nicki Hedge and Stephen McKinney. These contributions illuminate issues of ethics, values, character and morality across school curriculum, classroom pedagogy, childhood and teacher education. These bodies of scholarship are distinguished by rigorous attention to the history of ideas, metatheory, principled scholarly reasoning, and theory building applied to contemporary issues. This scholarship underpins the broader school strength in social justice and equity studies.  As the key institution preparing teachers of religious education for Scotland’s Catholic schools, the school hosts a critical mass of scholars in theology, religion and pedagogy and their interactions with culture, politics and education, and hosts the St Andrew’s Foundation for Catholic Teacher Education.

The expertise of our scholars in this area is recognised in an international handbook chapter on Religious Education. The large project ‘Does Religious Education work?’ (2007-2010), led by Jim Conroy and Bob Davis, and jointly funded by the ESRC and AHRC), has continued to generate new publications, and a follow-up study for Character Scotland led by Jim Conroy. Attention to religious formation implicates questions around liberalism and post-liberalism, secularism and post-secularism, religious literacy and illiteracy and the expression of these different orientations in the school curriculum and its possible futures.

The school’s research in the philosophy of education takes controversies about understanding education itself as central, especially in the face of contemporary neoliberal influences on policy and practice. The focus on ethics and justice addresses a range of problems to do with social and global justice in education, in interpreting what education is particularly in a global context, who gets what education, delivered by what means, and where on the globe. This incorporates themes of inclusion and exclusion; the ethics of internationalisation; postcolonial relationships in the distribution of educational goods; feminist ethics; citizenship; sex education; capabilities; caring; and autonomy.