Skip Navigation LinksUniversity of Gloucestershire / Research / Research priority areas / Learning and Professional Contexts

Learning and Professional Contexts

Group of people sitting around a desk in an office

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Conceptualised as a professional learning community, this research priority area provides opportunity for members to both ‘reinvent practice and share professional growth’ (Stoll and Seashore Louis, 2013) through collective learning. We also draw upon Wenger’s notion of ‘communities of practice’ and ‘peripheral participants’ in understanding and responding to the experiences of our students.

​The research priority area, Learning & Professional Contexts comprises four main themes:

Education for sustainable development

There is no shortage of evidence to show how society has generated an array of interconnected social and environmental challenges from biodiversity loss to gross inequality to climate change. Given that education tends to recreate the society it serves, it is clear that education itself will need to change if it is to help us achieve a more sustainable world.​

Engaging marginalised groups in the education process

This strand of the research priority area focuses on the ways in which young people can become disengaged with the education process and disengaged as young citizens. Research in this strand includes the education of young people in custodial settings and ways in which young offenders may be re-engaged with the education process. This strand also explores the notion that in many ways society is at the dawn of an age of extremism. Consideration is also given to global education policies and ways in which young people might be prevented from engaging in violent extremism.

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 are mindful and deliberate in supporting the personal transformation of our students who will go on to transform society and 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.

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.


Re-engaging young offenders with education and learning​

By Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi

Young people in conflict with the law are often described as disengaged with education and learning. The literature on the education of incarcerated young people indicates little consideration of previous educational experiences or of the secure context and how these may shape their engagement with education in custody. This research theme seeks to build on this under-researched area to understand the nature of disengagement in these young people to offer ways to re-engage them with learning whilst incarcerated.

​Find out more​

A Rounder Sense of Purpose

By Dr Paul Vare and Richard Millican

This EU-funded project has sought to define the competences required by educators who wish to offer Education for Sustainable Development. Now in its second three-year phase, RSP is linking its framework of educator competences to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This will help teacher educators to offer pre-service and in-service teachers a measurable framework of competences that has been tested in a wide variety of contexts.

​Find out more​

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

By Dr Eve Tandoi

Charles Darwin’s work captured the public imagination and revolutionised the study of science. However, although his 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. As researchers, we are excited to be working with young people in two continents to explore how developing an understanding of evolution affects their understanding of themselves and to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue through the use of video conferencing.

The Role of Assessment Feedback in Academic Bouyancy

By Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi, Tristan Middleton, Richard Millican, Sian Templeton

This project focuses on the everyday challenge in academic learning of assessment, and argues that academic buoyancy is a key factor in academic success. To scaffold students’ learning and effectively support academic buoyancy, there is arguably a need for a better understanding of: (i) what students find most and least useful in their assessment feedback; (ii) how students use feedback to approach future assessments; and (iii) how students 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 and offer insight into opportunities for the development of academic buoyancy.

​Find out more


By Ruth Hollier, Emma Howell, Jackie McNeill

With the help of the strategic and operational partners, the GLOWMaths Hub aims to ‘shine a light’ on collaborative working across primary, secondary schools, and colleges in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. It is one of the network of DfE funded school-based centres, or hubs, coordinated by the NCETM (National Centre for Excellence in Teaching mathematics) and designed to transform mathematics education for children and teenagers of all ages across the country.

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.

​Fin​d out more​

Reconceptualising Resilience for Education and Beyond

By Dr Adeela ahmed-Shafi, Tristan Middleton, 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. Drawing on a range of educational settings, the book argues that the interplay between individual resilience, community resilience and resilient societies is complex and symbiotic. Using this idea, this book demonstrates that developing resilience in individuals would benefit from a complex systems approach. The book begins by presenting a dynamic systems model of resilience, the Dynamic Interactive Model of Resilience (DIMoR), combining established bio-ecological systems models to illustrate the complexity of the interplay between individual and societal systems and how they shape resilience. In doing so, the book offers a new way to examine and develop resilience which advocates an understanding and development of resilience that offers greater detail and nuance of its complexity.

​Find out more​

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 in certain target wards and those parents that may be deemed ‘hard-to-reach’. It will also explore ways in which such parents would increase their engagement with the Schools and how the Schools themselves could reach out to parents in ways that may encourage them to become more involved. The purpose is to break down some of the barriers that exist and bring the parents into the communities of the Schools that their children attend providing a greater opportunity for parent/school collaboration and the benefits this can bring.

​Find out more​

Education and Extremism

By Prof Hazel Bryan

Education and Extremism: WERA International Research Network

This International Research Network is based on the premise that society is at the dawn of an age of extremism. A significant consequence of this is the way in which education policy and education practice (from a global perspective) are being shaped in response to this complex agenda. 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. We are mapping the research, the education policies and teacher practices from a global perspective that have been designed to address in-country issues of radicalisation and extremism and that impact significantly upon education. As such, the Research Network provides a critique of education policy and practice in relation to extremism in contemporary times. The network will be in a position to compare practices across countries and to identify cross-cultural themes.​

Find out more​​

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, and 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. Whilst fully supportive of current school-based research initiatives, the Research Ethics Group (established by members of the Council of Church Universities and Colleges) has become concerned about the place of ethics in school-based research. Building on research undertaken by Bryan and Burstow over the last four years that has highlighted a dearth of understanding or engagement with research ethics in schools, the Research Ethics Group has been established to work with school partners to more fully understand issues underpinning school-based research.

Find out more:

Leaders’ views on the values of school-based research: contemporary themes and issues

Understanding ethics in school-based research