Emma Ashworth

Emma, from the Wirral, UK, recently completed her PhD in Education. Her thesis title was "Differential effects of the Good Behaviour Game on pupils’ school functioning: Cumulative risk exposure as a moderator of intervention outcomes".

On my background

Emma Ashworth

Following completion of my undergraduate degree in Psychology in Education, I worked in a primary school delivering interventions for at-risk pupils. These interventions were mainly delivered to pupils already experiencing difficulties in certain areas, such as literacy or numeracy, speech and language, or personal and social development.

However, I was keen to explore if more could be done earlier, before these difficulties had developed, to prevent them from occurring; and so I was led to a career in educational research, particularly risk and prevention research.

On my research

My main research interests focus on cumulative risk exposure in children and young people, identifying the risk factors associated with academic, behavioural and mental health difficulties, and examining how these risk factors interact to predict negative outcomes in these areas.

In particular, I am looking at the role of interventions in schools that can reduce the likelihood of these difficulties for pupils most at-risk before problems occur.

Research for my thesis focused on the differential effects of universal interventions for children at varying levels of risk for poor school functioning; in other words, I looked at whether interventions delivered to the whole class benefited pupils differently depending on whether or not they were at-risk.

I am also interested in the way that teachers and practitioners make use of educational research in the classroom – I am the co-founder and co-editor of the Manchester Institute of Education’s 'Building Evidence into Education' (MIE BEE) project and blog.

On my motivation

I applied for a studentship position here in MIE, which is a little different to how most PhD programmes work in the UK. This means that my PhD was attached to a wider project, and my role included working as a research assistant on the project alongside completing my PhD.

The project that I was working on was a trial of an American schools-based intervention called the Good Behaviour Game; as I was currently working in interventions at the time that the position was advertised, the opportunity to be involved in the research side and to explore interventions further was one that really appealed to me.

On my aspirations

I hope that my research can have an impact on children and young people at-risk of difficulties.

Problems with school functioning and poor mental health are very real and current issues in the UK, particularly in adolescents, and so finding interventions that can be implemented early to reduce the likelihood of those difficulties occurring is key.