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Our Postgraduate Research Students, with the guidance of our senior research staff, undertake research projects in a range of different areas, often with the help of funding.

Candidates investigate a specific and agreed topic, as set out in their original proposal, following the established themes of our Educational research department.

Below are the thesis titles and abstracts of completed PhD and EdD projects, with links to their full work on the Chester Repository where applicable.

 

An exploration of ‘child voice’ and its use in care planning: an ethnographic study with a looked after child

Johanna Bacon (EdD)

This thesis uses an ethnographic study to interrogate the policy discourse of capturing ‘child voice’ specifically in relation to a ‘looked after’ child. In recent years, attempts have been made to involve children who are ‘looked after’ in discussions and decisions about their care arrangements to ensure that their voice is heard. To ensure this happens, children ‘in care’ are asked about their care placement regularly as part of the care planning review process and their views are incorporated into decisions about their care plan. This study focuses on the lived experiences of a seven-year old female child, who I have referred to as ‘Keeva’, who is ‘in care’ under a Kinship Care arrangement. Over a period of a year, I was based in Keeva’s home one afternoon a week to gain insights about her lived experience as a ‘looked after’ child and how she represented herself. I also observed three care planning review meetings to see how her voice was captured by those charged with her care and how she was represented. I relate Keeva’s experience through seven narrative episodes to capture the rich complexity of the social world she inhabits. I explore aspects of her home and family, her interactions with others and her experience of exploring physical spaces both inside and outside the home. I suggest that these experiences underpin her sense of self and how she relates to others. Drawing on the ideas of Bourdieu, I suggest these experiences and her sense of place in the social order write themselves ‘onto her’ through her habitus and dispositions. Using a Foucauldian lens, I problematise the notion of voice as I contest that the child I observed engaged fully in the statutory processes that surround her. I suggest Keeva, a child who is ‘looked after’, will neither have nor feel she has the agentive properties to influence the care planning process. Instead, as her voice is irrevocably bound up in a bureaucratic process that is uncritically accepted as representative of her, she is obscured as a consequence. I also examine the multivocity in representations of Keeva highlighting the competing discourses of safeguarding, child protection and the ’rights-based’ agenda. I conclude that Keeva was not well represented in care planning reviews and had very little influence in decision-making about her care plan. Despite believing the opposite, those charged with her care failed to hear her or take note of what she said. Furthermore, there was an absence of criticality in representations of Keeva allowing Keeva to be constructed by those professionals involved with her care, in an unchallenged way. As a consequence she was silenced and less visible than the process itself.

An exploration of ‘child voice’ and its use in care planning: an ethnographic study with a looked after child

 

Learning to teach mathematics: navigating the landscape of teacher education

Sally Bamber (EdD)

Metaphor provides a potentially powerful rhetorical device to help me to tell informed and persuasive stories about mathematics education. In this ethnographic study I consider key episodes that serve to exemplify the complex experience of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students of secondary mathematics education. I use a narrative analysis to shine a spotlight on the experiences of six beginning teachers so that the metaphors in their stories expose the impact that separately situated sites of teacher education have upon their beliefs and behaviour as teachers. Tensions between school and university contributors to teacher education have been well documented over many decades, but recent policy changes in the nature of post-graduate ITE in England bring these issues to the fore. In this study, I consider the influences of school-based and university-based teacher educators upon the beliefs of student secondary mathematics teachers and interpret the students’ perceptions of these influences on their actions as novice teachers. My analysis is framed by a model of experience and education articulated by Dewey as well as a framework of representations of knowledge in a culture of education articulated by theorists concerned with the relevance of constructivism and situated cognition as theories of learning. In this study, disturbances and discontinuities relating to the location and culture of ITE, together with the development of ITE students’ professional knowledge are uncovered, warranting further research.

Learning to teach mathematics: navigating the landscape of teacher education

 

Student Nurses' Perception of Compassion.

Jan Barton (EdD)

Compassion has been associated with the nursing profession since the days of Florence Nightingale. It is a general expectation that nurses should be compassionate when they are caring for people. In the United Kingdom (UK) concerns have been raised recently that nurses are failing to be compassionate as they carry out their nursing duties. There is little evidence within the literature of how student nurses perceive compassion as they engage in the pre-registration-nursing programme. In this study, I use narrative to produce case studies as a vehicle for the students to voice their perceptions of compassion. My ethnographic analysis of their stories is framed by my own experience as a professional registered nurse and nurse educator situated within their learning environment, and applies theories of compassion and learning. In my study, themes emerge that demonstrate commonalities, differences and tensions relating to the students’ individual beliefs and behaviours, and to the impact of their professional development as they transcend from university learning spaces into clinical practice.

Student Nurses' Perception of Compassion

 

The experience of women as mature students in Higher Education

Lindsay Hanrahan (EdD)

There is a substantial body of knowledge into the factors that can influence women’s experiences of Higher Education (HE) such as social class, ethnicity and gender. Additionally, there is a significant focus on women and education in relation to their academic abilities such as comparing their achievement in terms of their gender. However, much of this research focuses on attainment between groups such as men and women or explores the impact of one specific characteristic. The principal aim of my study was to explore the experiences of a small group of women who had returned to education and entered HE. Through a series of conversations their unique stories were revealed, including the challenges and opportunities that they had encountered. The original contribution to knowledge that my study makes is in the way it documents five mature women’s experiences who traditionally would not have been expected to go to university. These women are working class, with caring responsibilities, who did not anticipate a time in their lives when they would continue into HE. To attain an undergraduate degree or professional qualification seemed beyond their particular sphere. In this study, the stories of five women over the age of twenty-one, returning to HE is captured and reveals the complex issues faced as they navigated their way through unfamiliar territory. During the research recurring themes emerged in the women’s experiences including personal motivations and aspirations, challenges to learning, networks of support and learning communities which shaped their time in HE. My ethnographic analysis of their stories is framed by my own experience of returning to HE and is viewed through the lens of feminist theory. The overall conclusions from the research reveal that the five women were able to complete their courses successfully and highlights a range of positive factors about returning to education including the opportunity to engage with fellow students, increasing personal confidence and independence and developing understandings, knowledge and skills. However, my study also illustrates the real barriers and constraints to learning that proved to be tough for the women to overcome both emotionally and practically. By examining several Marxist feminist writers such as Benston (1969) and Putnam Tong (1993), I recognised how women may be oppressed or restricted in their choices based on the numerous roles that they must perform in the home. For some of the women, attempting to study in addition to fulfilling other domestic and caring responsibilities proved to be very demanding. Overall, the research highlights the complexities that this group of non-traditional students face when attempting to improve their prospects and fulfil hitherto latent potential.

The experience of women as mature students in Higher Education

 

Artist teachers and democratic pedagogy

Marike Hoekstra (PhD)

Combining artistic practice with teaching is not unusual for teachers in the visual arts. A dual professional practice, which can be found throughout the field of art education with art teachers in all levels of education, requires a negotiation of roles and positions on a personal level and has impact on pedagogy. However, the binary opposition of artist versus teacher fails to comprise the diversity of practices where art making and teaching are combined. Not only does identification with artist or teacher vary, so does the extent to which the two disciplines are fused, to the point where it can be called a hybrid practice when the distinction between art and teaching is no longer relevant. The democratic nature of contemporary visual art making further problematises a singular model of artist teacher practice. In order to do justice to the personal strategies artist teachers employ in balancing their dual professional roles, this thesis proposes a multifaceted concept of artist teacher practice. In this thesis, the notion of hybridity and diversity in artist teacher practice and the implications for democratic models of teaching and learning is subject to both theoretical, empirical, and artistic inquiry. The employment of different lenses enables a multi-layered approach to a complex practice. By focusing on the knowledge incorporated in the practice of two Dutch artist teachers this thesis informs how artist teacher practice relates to models of democratic teaching and learning. The miniature dioramas visually explore my own perception of democratic learning spaces and add an extra auto-ethnographic layer of understanding to artist teacher pedagogy. Central in this thesis is the notion of a pedagogical thirdspace. A spatial representation of social realities helps to create a critical understanding of human life. A thirdspace is a place in the margins between reality and ideals (Soja, 1999). When binary models of understanding are exchanged for real-life knowledge of the pedagogical practice of artist teachers an ambiguous open space emerges, where there is room for experiential learning, uncertainty, risk-taking, care, equality, inclusion, tacit experience, sensitivity, play, flexibility, and conflict. The engaged pedagogy (hooks, 1994) of artist teachers emancipates learners because of the fact that the duality of the artist teacher invites learners to join in a democratic, living model of artistic practice.

Artist teachers and democratic pedagogy

 

Understanding ‘belonging’ among undergraduate residential students: A Lacanian perspective

Delyth Hughes (EdD)

This thesis seeks to understand how the notion of belonging is experienced by undergraduate residential students. Framing the research against the influence of neo-liberal policy and practices, this study employs a phenomenological approach and theorises the data using a poststructural framework. Throughout the thesis aspects of Lacanian theory are utilised as an interpretive lens, chosen for its ability to reveal that which is usually concealed. Beginning with an exploration of the reasons that ‘belonging to a university community’ is of interest to higher education student support practitioners, I conclude that this is a result of the therapeutic culture we are currently experiencing in education, along with a need to bring together a heterogeneous group of students who do not seemingly ‘belong’ together. This need comes from a desire to maintain higher education in its position as an elite pursuit which guarantees a better life. Yet paradoxically, in the current economic context, the achievement of a degree qualification can no longer guarantee a better life. Notions of belonging and community are therefore argued to be important in this context, as they serve to retain students and meet government objectives (which are to increase the number of students in higher education, thus sustaining the UK’s edge in a competitive global market). The data from nine participant interviews is analysed and interpreted through a poststructural lens. A poststructural framework is chosen based on my own experiences as a practitioner in this field: that our student support interventions which aim to engender a sense of belonging and community in students are somewhat flawed. Thus, my aim in this thesis is to understand from the students themselves how they experience belonging and community, and in doing so, understand if our University practices have had a part to play in this. Data from participant interviews reveals the themes of ‘stories, memories and rituals’, ‘place and home’ and ‘social networks’ and these are analysed with specific reference to Lacanian psychoanalysis, along with other theorists where relevant. Lacan is chosen as aspects of his theory allow me to take account of unconscious human drives, therefore revealing more than language can alone, and providing a more holistic understanding of how the phenomena are experienced. This thesis concludes with a phenomenological description of belonging, which is a pastiche of my participants’ voices. From this I draw the conclusion that the notion of ‘belonging to a university community’ is largely fictive, and symptomatic of a neo-liberal influence. I contend that experiences related to me by the participants suggest that ‘belonging’ is experienced in a way which is independent of any university interventions, and that ‘community’ is not recognised by students as anything other than a familiarity with their surroundings. I end the thesis with recommendations for student support practitioners and with a reflection on my research journey.

Understanding ‘belonging’ among undergraduate residential students: A Lacanian perspective

 

Learning to teach: A study of the development of professional identity in student teachers of Modern Languages

Bethan Hulse (EdD)

This study will explore the process of learning to teach Modern Languages (MLs) in secondary schools, focusing on how student teachers begin to form a sense of their professional identity. The principle aim of this study is to deepen my own understanding of the learning processes of the students I teach in order to be able to develop my own practice as a teacher educator (Elliott, 1991). The focus will be on how experiences in school and in university impact on the development of a creative and critical approach to practice within the wider context of Modern Languages education policy and current policy regarding initial teacher education (ITE).The research might also be of benefit to others in the same field of ITE to identify problems and possibly to see ways of addressing them (Bell, 2010, p15).

The context for this study is broad, encompassing the policy and practice of language teaching as well as the policy and practice of teacher education. The focus will be on how these factors impact upon the individual student teacher during their year on a
PGCE programme and also how it impacts upon my own professional role as a teacher educator. I am interested in exploring the kinds of experiences which have a positive impact on the development of creativity and critical thinking in beginning teachers and how this might influence their developing sense of professional identity.

Learning to teach: A study of the development of professional identity in student teachers of Modern Languages

 

The artist's book: Making as embodied knowledge of practice and the self

Elizabeth Kealy-Morris (PhD)

The initial research questions for this practice-based doctoral research project was to ask, "Is it possible to develop a more confident, self-conscious creative voice able to articulate one's identity more clearly through the making of handmade artefacts?"; this thesis applies the methodologies of autoethnography and pedagogy to consider an answer. My original contribution to knowledge through this enquiry is the identification of the ways in which the exploration of identity through autoethnographic, creative and pedagogic methods encourages an expanded field of self-knowledge, self-confidence and sense of creative self.

The artist's book: Making as embodied knowledge of practice and the self

 

Occupational Health and Regimes of Control

Alan Massey (EdD)

The act of providing specific health advice within workplaces has occurred since the industrial revolution. However, little scientific enquiry has been paid to the philosophical influences on workplace health and workers. This is particularly true of research into the effect of health support mechanisms within Higher Education Institutes on student health. I seek to address this gap by using Foucauldian critical discourse to analyse how provision of occupational health to students undertaking professional education can constrain or enable their educational experience. I seek to highlight that this is an important and potentially advantages area of research into improving the uptake and effectiveness of occupational health services for students and staff.

Occupational Health and Regimes of Control

 

Premature Labour: A New Mother's Return to Teaching

Elaine McCarthy (EdD)

This Ethnographic/Autoethnographic study reflects in rich detail a young teacher’s life as she navigates the changing landscape of her first pregnancy, the birth of her child and her subsequent return to work as a full-time teacher. Using data which has been collected from a personal journal which she kept throughout the eighteen month period of the study, it examines the practical and emotional challenges which she faced, and the commitment, self-sacrifice and dedication required of her for the continuation and advancement of her career. By combining her data with observed field notes, semi-constructed interviews and reflexive narrative, I have been able to offer a holistic and balanced account of her experience and expose the complexities of motherhood today and the impact they have on a woman’s life choices and professional decision making. My study revealed how this new mother faced a myriad of decisions and dilemmas, decisions, which ultimately impacted on her emotional well-being, and her power and identity as a woman, a wife, a daughter and a professional teacher. Its findings suggest that notwithstanding the historical political and legislative policies which have been implemented, in reality, little has changed since my own experience of being a working mother some thirty years ago. It recommends that if the increase in working mothers is to continue to rise, more must be done, both culturally and institutionally to alleviate the physical and emotional pressures which currently only serve to exacerbate the guilt and stress which appear to be an innate characteristic of the maternal condition. It concludes by recommending that working mothers need to harness “their strengths, their ability to learn, their confidence and joy in their work –[because this is] all part of being a woman now, [it is] part of [their] female identity” (Friedan, 1963, p.331), and rather than accepting motherhood as being a moderating factor, they should allow it to become an influence for further personal and professional growth and liberation, so that they can reassert their power and fight back to assume their equal place in society (Kristeva, 2015).

Premature Labour: A New Mother's Return to Teaching

 

Challenging the rules of engagement: Co-creation of knowledge in the public art museum

Deborah Riding (PhD)

This research examined perceptions of knowledge about art in the gallery and explored the potential of co-creation as a possible model with which to genuinely learn with our audience. Data for the study was generated at a gallery I have been based at throughout the period of undertaking the research. Participants were recruited from this gallery from groups implicated in knowledge co-creation: educators, curators, gallery assistants and audience members. Participants took part in a group workshop at the gallery facilitated by an artist educator, designed to provide opportunities to develop new knowledge together. Following the workshop, participants were interviewed and their experiences analysed. Other data generated through the workshop, as well as analysis of organisational documentation, and reflection on my own practice as a gallery educator, have been drawn together through a bricolage approach.

Through analysis of data, I have constructed a situated taxonomy of knowledge types in the gallery and a conceptual model of co-creation. Key paradigms of knowledge have been identified, and the issues associated with the authoritative nature of institutional knowledge presented as a significant barrier to co-creation. Findings indicate that a fundamental shift in the epistemological stance of the gallery is required. A new not-knowing paradigm has been constructed to accommodate models of co-creation shown to be successful in generating a collaborative learning experience, which I have termed ‘learning-with’.

Challenging the rules of engagement: Co-creation of knowledge in the public art museum

 

Organisational Change and the UK Fire and Rescue Services: An Exploratory Case Study

Thomas Simcock (PhD)

This thesis and abstract will be available to access from September 2018.

 

An autoethnographic exploration of creative self-efficacy (CSE)

Helen Smith (EdD)

This autoethnographic study investigates my self-perception of my artistic abilities which I posit as my Creative Self Efficacy (CSE). This is a part-practice thesis which uses arts-based research methods to investigate shifting self-perceptions and understandings of creativity and how these may have influenced my visual arts practice. CSE can be defined as one’s view of and belief in one’s creative abilities. Many scholars have written about the power of self-efficacy to condition behavioural choices, motivations and persistence. This research provides an autoethnographic enquiry into how these self-beliefs can shape, limit or enhance the possibilities for creative practice. The primary aim is to better understand the relationship between my own CSE and the influence of these on my creative practice. Arts-based methods enabled me to explore this territory, allowing a self-awareness to be developed through responding to the self-judgements and doubts experienced during the creative process. Reflexive resonances between these experiences of self-efficacy and pedagogical implications were made and framed through the lenses of theories such as habitus and my different roles of artist, teacher and researcher. Main findings include the influences of social comparisons, parental socialisation, and approaches and attitudes to art-making to my CSE, culminating in an experimental shift in practice which embraces a process approach. These findings suggest implications for pedagogical practices and approaches to art-making which demonstrate awareness of self-evaluative judgements and embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and not knowing.

An autoethnographic exploration of creative self-efficacy (CSE)

 

An exploratory study of women’s experiences regarding the interplay between domestic violence and abuse and sports events

Jodie Swallow (PhD)

This qualitative study aimed to examine and critically explore women’s accounts as to how their abusive partner’s interest in sport (team combat sports in particular) impacted on the domestic violence and abuse they endured. The study was underpinned by feminist standpoint epistemology and Lacanian theory. Values aligning with feminist standpoint epistemology, such as the nature and balance of power, were central to this research which had at its core the voices of marginalised women. At the stages of analysis and discussion the Lacanian model of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary were used to explore the women’s accounts. This model has afforded new insights into this culturally sensitive topic by removing the focus from the women who sustained abuse to the nature of the abuse they endured. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with nine women who were accessing women’s support services. The women spoke of the abuse they had endured during the course of a heterosexual, intimate relationship. Thematic analysis provided new perspectives regarding the interplay between sport fanaticism and domestic violence and abuse. This thesis extends existing research which has sought to interrogate the association between domestic violence and sporting events (mainly team combat sports). The significance of this study is that it confers deeper, richer understandings regarding the nature of domestic violence and abuse. It reveals how the perpetrators of abuse use violence and/or coercive and controlling behaviours around their sporting interests as a means of asserting power and subjugating their partners. The study is important in that it discloses how the perpetrators perceived some sports, especially football, as preserve which promoted male supremacy. It suggests avenues for further research and reflects upon the cultural significance of sport and team combat sport in particular. The study concludes by suggesting two key points which emerge from this study which underscore the pernicious, chronic and shifting nature of DVA and highlight the need for vigilance in responding to the cultural resources liable to be exploited by perpetrators of abuse.

An exploratory study of women’s experiences regarding the interplay between domestic violence and abuse and sports events