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Learning and Professional Contexts

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​Education in a broad sense can transform individual lives as well as wider society. As the name of our research priority area suggests, our focus is on professional practice, which we see as a means to bridge this wide range of potential impact. 

By conducting a variety of research projects in real-world settings, our professional learning community seeks to reinvent practice while sharing collective learning. In this way we aim to contribute to the creation of a more just and sustainable society.

The four main themes currently explored by our research priority area comprise:

  1. Education for sustainable development
  2. Engaging marginalised groups in the education process
  3. Pedagogic and curricular research
  4. Young people & families

Education for sustainable development

There is no shortage of evidence to show the array of interconnected social and environmental challenges facing society, from biodiversity loss to gross inequality to climate change. 

Given that education tends to reflect the society it serves, there is an urgent need to change education itself in order to help us achieve a more sustainable world. What such a change might look like is the focus of this thematic area.



A Rounder Sense of Purpose (RSP)

by Dr Paul Vare with Richard Millican

This Erasmus+ project has developed an educators’ competence framework for Education for Sustainable Development. Now in its second three-year phase, the project is linking this framework with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A book and several papers are in the pipeline while the project’s international success has led to it featuring as an Impact Case Study submitted to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

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by Dr Paul Vare with Alex Masardo and Eve Tandoi

Student teams from high schools in five countries participated in this vast practical experiment developing projects to create change in their communities. In this way students developed their innovation capacity (‘iCAP’). The website of this Erasmus+ project comprises a Resource Centre to inspire others in running innovation projects.

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Mission-based Learning

by Dr Paul Vare with Cathy Burch

Similar to iCAP, this Erasmus+ project supports secondary school students in developing and implementing their own ‘missions’ to improve their communities. This is designed to enhance their action competence, giving them the skills, confidence and motivation to take action for a more sustainable world.

Young Europeans

by Dr Paul Vare with Lynda Kay and Chris Jones

This is the sister project to Mission-based Learning only this time the focus is on young people’s engagement in democracy. Both funded by Erasmus+ these projects are the focus of a research programme that is using Cultural-historical Activity Theory to better understand the processes and challenges involved in facilitating such community-based learning in formal education contexts.


by Dr Paul Vare with Arran Stibbe

This project examined four very different environments in Turkey, Italy, Slovenia and the UK, exploring their potential as a focus for Education for Sustainable Development. A principal output of this Erasmus+ project was a book which included Arran Stibbe’s work, Living in the Weatherworld, the focus of an Impact Case Study submitted to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

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Engaging marginalised groups in the education process

This strand of the research priority area focuses includes the education of marginalised young people who may be in the youth justice system. We explore the ways in which these young people can be re-engaged with education and learning.

The emphasis is on understanding the challenges for them and how these may be addressed or overcome in and through education.



Re-engaging young offenders with education and learning (RENYO)

by Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi with Tristan Middleton

Young people in conflict with the law are often described as disengaged with education and learning. This EU funded project working with partners in Italy, Spain and Germany, seeks to understand the nature of disengagement in these young people and explores the use of authentic inquiry as a way to re-engage them with learning whilst incarcerated.

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Active Games for Change (AG4C)

by Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi with Sian Templeton

The potential of active games has been shown to be a means to develop social, ethical and moral competencies. ActiveGames4Change is an EU funded project with partners in 7 countries in Europe and aims to design active games to support young people in conflict with the law (in custody and community supervision) in acquiring and using key competencies that facilitate inclusion, education and employability.

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Education and Extremism

by Prof Hazel Bryan

Education and Extremism: WERA International Research Network

The network brings together scholars from across the globe who have an interest in this field to draw together the research that is taking place in response to this phenomenon. The network provides a critique of education policy and practice in relation to extremism in contemporary times to identify cross-cultural themes.

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Pedagogic and curricular research

In line with the University strategy our purpose in learning and teaching is to nurture in students and staff, the pursuit of community and personal transformation. 

We believe engendering a passion for learning and subject expertise will enable our students to develop as critical thinkers, who are engaged, enquiring, empowered, empathetic and ethical citizens. 

Pedagogic and curricular research emerges as a key strand of our purpose, values and mission in relation to our students.​



Deconstructing Semantic and Iconic Representations of Evolution in Children’s Literature

by Dr Eve Tandoi

Although Darwin’s theory of evolution is accepted by the scientific community, there is still ongoing debate about how it should be taught within schools. Working in collaboration with colleagues in Canada, this study analyses how key concepts of evolutionary thinking, such as survival of the fittest, are represented in the burgeoning number of picture books on the topic.

The Role of Assessment Feedback in Academic Buoyancy

by Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi, Tristan Middleton, Richard Millican & Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi with Sian Templeton

This project focuses on the everyday challenge of academic assessment, and argues that academic buoyancy is a key factor in academic success. To scaffold students’ learning, there is arguably a need for a better understanding how students use and respond to feedback in terms of what they think, feel and do. The findings have implications for the provision of assessment feedback in higher education.

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by Ruth Hollier, Emma Howell & Jackie McNeill

GLOWMaths works with successful established mathematics communities across the region including local schools, colleges, the NCETM, Universities, CPD providers and employers to ensure all pupils, teachers and leaders have access to support, research and innovation that will improve the enjoyment and achievement of mathematics.

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Reconceptualising Resilience for Education and Beyond

by Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi, Tristan Middleton, Dr Paul Vare with Richard Millican & Sian Templeton

This book explores the concept of resilience and its significance in responding to a rapid and ever-changing global world whilst critiquing its ‘buzzword’ status in contemporary times. Presenting a dynamic systems model of resilience, the Dynamic Interactive Model of Resilience (DIMoR), combines established resilience models to illustrate the complexity of the interplay between individual and societal systems and how they shape resilience.

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Ethics in School-based Research

by Prof Hazel Bryan

The notion of the ‘teacher as researcher’ has been in the education lexicon since Stenhouse first coined the phrase in 1975. Whilst teachers have long engaged in varying degrees of research, school-based research is currently enjoying something of a renaissance, flourishing within the emerging, complex school landscape. The Research Ethics Group has been established to work with school partners to more fully understand issues underpinning school-based research.

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Young people & families

This research strand employs multi-disciplinary research in order to engage in principle encounters with young people and their families. 

This work necessitates a multi-professional approach through which the interaction between families, young people and services can be explored. 

Mobile families, post-separation families, shared time parenting, nurture groups and an understanding of the factors that reduce exclusion in schools, comprise this research strand.



Breaking Down Barriers: Engaging Parents Deemed ‘Hard-to-Reach’

by Dr Alex Masardo and Chris Jones

This project aims to investigate the specific barriers preventing engagement between Gloucestershire Secondary Schools and those parents that may be deemed ‘hard-to-reach’. The purpose is to break down some of the barriers that exist and bring the parents into the communities of the Schools their children attend providing a greater opportunity for parent/school collaboration and the benefits this can bring.

Supporting Nurture Group Practitioners’ Professional Development and Well-being

by Tristan Middleton

This project aims to identify areas of professional and personal support for practitioners working with children and young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties in Nurture Group settings. Stage 1 identified the challenges present for practitioners. Stage 2, in collaboration with Dr Tina Rae and Dr Jody Walshe, is exploring the effectiveness of a specially designed approach, Nurturing Peer Supervision, as a support for Nurture Group Practitioners in the UK and Ireland.

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