Garry Squires and Elena Anastasiou
Elena's thesis is entitled 'Enacting inclusion for students with dyslexia: using Cultural Historical Activity Theory to explore teachers' beliefs and classroom practices in Cyprus and North West England'.
What are the areas in which you most like to supervise?
I am currently supervising a mix of professional doctorates who are practising educational psychologists and traditional PhD doctorates. The students interests overlap with my own in terms of being around are around special educational needs; mental health; inclusion; professional educational psychology practice; the use of data in educational systems; dyslexia; cognitive behavioural therapy; therapeutic approaches in education; and, evaluating school based interventions and programmes.
Why do you enjoy supervising Elena?
I enjoyed supervising Elena because at the start of her PhD it was evident that she had a real thirst for knowledge and was highly motivated. The downside of this was that she read widely and in depth and this kept changing the potential focus for her PhD.
Like many doctoral students she was experiencing the up points and down points of the study and in the early phases, deciding what to do was the biggest challenge. Gradually, she refined her ideas and started to explore teacher attitudes to including students with dyslexia. This fits in well with my own professional and research interests and supervision created a good thinking space for both of us.
Elena used an approach which I would not normally use and this meant that she could develop her own expertise and the PhD became a real collaborative project between two experts in the area that she was studying. Through her exploration and data analysis we were both able to learn and understand together. It has been very satisfying seeing her turn her initial ideas into a thesis ready for submission and to start thinking about post-doctoral publications.
What's your research about?
My research is concerned with primary teachers' beliefs about inclusion and dyslexia and how these are linked to their professional practice in two cultural contexts: in Cyprus and the North West of England. The study is guided by the theoretical framework of Cultural Historical Activity Theory, which was used as both the descriptive and analytical tool to explore teachers' personal interpretations in the context of their schools and how teachers view their role and responsibilities for supporting dyslexic learners in their classes. I’ve employed a qualitative research design, including semi-structured interviews, classroom observations and follow-up discussions with the teachers. So far, my findings seem to suggest that teachers in both contexts present similarities and differences on the way the concepts of inclusion and dyslexia are perceived and understood. For example, in terms of dyslexia, both Cypriot and British teachers conceptualised it as a disorder with genetically based elements but at the same time they referred to the mediating role the environment plays in contributing further to students' difficulties in literacy.
What's it like to be supervised by Garry at the Manchester Institute of Education?
It wouldn't be possible for me to complete my doctoral studies without Garry’s valuable guidance and encouragement. Garry gives me the opportunity to reflect upon my own study, to develop my critical thinking skills and to have more confidence in my research skills and abilities to complete this project. Through his guidance and experience, he has 'brought me back down to earth' at times, when it was necessary, but at the same time he has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and to 'think outside the box' in order to successfully complete my studies. Being supervised by Garry has been an invaluable learning experience!