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School of Environment, Education and Development

Research community

Engagement with schools, teachers and pupils is of critical importance for understanding more about education and development.

Below are some case studies of the latest research from our doctoral students, which share some of the latest work occurring through school-research partnerships.

Linda Foley - Candidate, Doctorate in Education

I am studying compensatory approaches to supporting disadvantaged young people in secondary schools. I have 24 years experience as a teacher and school leader in seven secondary schools in the North West of England. I am currently on the first year of the EdD and completing my training to be an additional Ofsted inspector.

I am interested in evaluating the different compensatory approaches that have been adopted by Labour and the Coalition government. I am interesting in exploring 'What works?' for disadvantaged young people. I am particularly interested in the ethnographic research from Australia on critically engaged learning, the relational school and the socially critical school. I am interested in exploring whether their recommendations could be adopted by English schools. I am interested in schools that are currently being successful in deploying the Pupil Premium effectively.

I am concerned that the pressure on school leaders, caused by Performance Tables and Ofsted, is resulting in an instrumental approach to school improvement, rather than one that is sufficiently focussed on the needs of individual children. As a practitioner, I led an innovative approach to raising achievement that was recognised by the Local Authority. The initiative was part funded by the DfE under the SEAL programme. I am exploring a child-centred compensatory approach that encompasses the Every Child Matters philosophy, but also raises standards.

Rob Buck - Candidate, PhD. Education

Thesis title: Attentional Biases in Test Anxious Adolescents

During my teaching career I felt there was an increasing demand placed upon students to achieve in examinations with little consideration for how they approached the testing process itself. I became interested in the underlying causes of test anxiety and its impact on performance. Additionally, I want to explore what can be done to ameliorate the effects of test anxiety and help those students for whom the current system is a test of nerve rather than a test of skills or knowledge.

To this point I have successfully piloted a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test to induce state anxiety in an education setting with post-16 A-level students. Participants in the main phase of the study will be randomised into high and low performance evaluation threat conditions, undergo the modified TSST and complete measures on their trait test anxiety, state anxiety and attentional bias. They will also be interviewed to explore their attitudes to the examination process and the feelings it provokes within them. I will be looking for relationships between state anxiety and attentional bias and at the role of trait anxiety in these relationships. The interview data will be used to add depth and context to the findings.

I was a secondary school Science teacher for 15 years, holding both academic and pastoral leadership roles before taking the opportunity for a change of career. I have studied the M.Ed. Psychology of Education with a dissertation about dispositional mindfulness and test anxiety. In September 2013 I embarked on my PhD at the University of Manchester.

I also recently presented a poster on the pilot phase of my project at a PGR conference.

Claire Forbes - Candidate, PhD. Education

Thesis title: Mapping assets in disadvantaged communities. What assets do communities have to support education and wider life chances and what does this suggest for the actions of schools and other services?

This study will be embedded in a school, which opened in 2010 to serve three socially deprived postcodes in Manchester. The school has set itself up to be a community 'hub' and is seeking to have a substantial impact upon the disadvantaged area that it serves. To achieve this, the school leadership have rejected the traditional 'deficiency-oriented' stance, preferring to embrace an assets-based approach towards their future development and community relations.

As part of an ESRC CASE studentship, my study will involve work with a community interest company, established by the school to develop innovative responses to poor outcomes in the school's highly disadvantaged local areas. Its members consist of local service providers, including representatives from the Adult Education Service, Local Authority Regeneration teams, the Police and the NHS. The group meets approximately four times a year to share perspectives and discuss collaborative strategies to tackle the significant issues faced by the surrounding communities.

Bringing research capacity to the school, this study will not only explore the community assets which might support children to achieve better outcomes in relation to education and their wider life chances, but also it will support the school to develop its future agenda and actions by responding to the evidence-base created.