Andy Howes and Samar Albalawi

Samar's thesis is entitled 'Enlarging the space of science education'.


Photograph of Andy Howes

What are the areas in which you most like to supervise?

I enjoy supervising across a range of areas of educational research – currently mainly in relation to science education, but also in other areas such as teacher education, English as an Additional Language, and inclusive education. In most cases, the research focuses on processes of education: research that has an intention to engage directly with practice in schools and classrooms, and indirectly with policy, and which takes a critical view, raising questions about educational purpose: who benefits, who should benefit, and developing new ways of thinking about practice in the context of inevitable contradictions. This is a focus for educational research that I pursued in my own doctorate here, completed in 2001, and in which I explored learning in the intercultural context of international volunteering.  (The contexts of this research include England, Indonesia, China and Nigeria.)

Why do you enjoy supervising Samar?

Samar arrived at the university after a masters degree in Australia, and after several years working in a university in her home country of Saudi Arabia. As with most students starting a doctorate, the learning curve is steep, and that's what I have most enjoyed: helping to guide her developing thinking, her critical perspective, and her ability to construct and use an analytical framework to explore the purpose and practice of science education. Samar has consistently come to supervisions well prepared, having read widely and worked hard to understand what she is reading. She has become much more confident through this process, and I have been very impressed with the approach she has taken to field research in a school in Greater Manchester, where she has created very strong relationships with staff and pupils, and tackled the inevitable challenges with determination and creativity. The perspective that Samar brings and the connections that she is able to make with diverse communities including refugees and asylum seekers in school is proving to be highly productive, and provokes and deepens our thinking as a research team.


Photograph of Samar Albalawi

What's your research about?

My research is about Science Education. I want to understand how student respond to the question 'What is Science outside of school?'. I am using a mixed method approach to elicit pupil perspectives on the meaning of science outside of the context of school. I want to help students and the curriculum makers. I noticed that perspectives on science beyond the curriculum tend to come from teachers and experts, not the pupils themselves, so I decide to look into this. I am using a variety of methods, such as photo elicitation, surveys and interviews.

What's it like to be supervised by Andy at the Manchester Institute of Education?

I am really enjoying the experience. Andy is very supportive. He always helps to find answers and his knowledge about science education has been invaluable. He is always available for support, even by email, which I find very helpful. Andy has recommended useful workshops and provided advice on applying for conferences, too. Beyond the PhD programme, Andy has provided some help with life in the UK. For example, he gave me some useful information about getting a driving license and things to look out for when searching for accommodation. I am an international student and I arrived late at the beginning of term, so Andy took me on a tour of the building to meet friendly staff in MIE like Liam (Grindell) and Debbie (Kubiena) – this was so helpful for me!