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Professor in the School of Education+44 (0) 191 33 43192
Acting Deputy Executive Dean, Education and Student Experience (until 31 December 2023) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing+44 (0) 191 33 48324


I am an ethnographer of education, and am interested in using ethnographic methods to explore the social practices of learning and teaching in both formal as well as informal places, ranging from university lecture rooms to technicians' workshops. The overarching aim of my inquiry is to explore the ways in which what we might call "educational stuff" happens in the world around us - this might be in institutions such as a college or workplace, or in domestic environments such as somebody's home.

In order to think about this educational stuff, I draw on some distinct philosophical and theoretical approaches. Firstly, I use the work of the French anthropologist and philosopher Bruno Latour (I have written blogs about this ongoing approach which you can find here and here). I have published extensively in this field and the most recent papers can be found here, here and here. Other elements of my work rest on the Communities of Practice theory of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (the focus of my books Communities of Practice in Further and Adult Education and Learning Architectures in Higher Education). 

In 2022 I conducted an eight-month ethnography of a cycle technicians' workshop, and I have written about different aspects of this work in a series of open-access articles (see the publications list below.) Alongside this work, I have continued to write about higher education (please get in touch if you want to read any of these papers but cannot access them.)

Between 2013 and 2020 I was co-investigator for three funded projects led by Professor Anna MacLeod, Dalhousie University, Canada: "Becoming a Professional Through Distributed Learning: a Sociomaterial Ethnography" and "Medical Education in a Digital Age: an institutional ethnography". These were three-year research projects funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. I was also part of the research team for "Cadaver as Practice" - also led by Anna MacLeod and funded by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

For many years, I have been researching and writing about professionalism and professional learning in teacher education, with specific reference to the Further, Adult and Vocational Education (FAVE) or Post-Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) sector in England - most recently in this book. I have run lots of workshops in FE colleges over the years and am happy to receive further invitations to do so.

My FAVE/PCET research has recently been featured in a report from the OECD (you can download the OECD report here.) I was a member of the Ofsted Further Education and Skills Research Reference Group, a platform to inform and advise concerning research relevant to the Ofsted inspection framework for the Further Education and Skills sector: you can read the first report from the group here.) I was also a member of the advisory panel for the Ofsted reliability study for assessing the quality of provision within Further Education colleges.

I am currently teaching undergraduate and postgraduate modules relating to ethnographic research in education, social practice theory, curriculum theory, and qualitative research methodologies.

I sit on the organising committee for the Oxford Ethnography and Education conference, and am happy to hear from anyone who is interested in presenting their work there.

Completed supervisions

‘Fish out of water?’ A case study exploring low-income students’ experiences of an elite university.

The Study of Teacher Written Feedback: The Effectiveness of Electronic Feedback on Student Writing Revisions.

Graduating from care: A narrative study of care leavers' journeys into and through university

The Formative Potential of Standards-Based Grades and Report Cards.

An Examination of How Teachers Operationalise Formative and Summative Assessment.

Student learning experiences in higher education in Hong Kong:An investigation of students’ experiences of academic engagement in relation to the affective dimension of learning.

Tracing translation of an education policy initiative (Maths Mastery) into primary school teachers' classroom practices: an actor-network theory ethnography.

Information for prospective doctoral research student supervisions

I would be pleased to hear from potential research students with an interest in conducting research in matters relating to learning, teaching and/or assessment in further, higher or adult education; I am also interested to hear from prospective students who are interested in employing communities of practice, literacy as social practice or actor-network theory approaches within these or other subject areas.

Research interests

  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Communities of Practice
  • Further, Higher and Adult Education
  • Modes of Existence
  • Professional learning and development

Esteem Indicators

  • 2000: Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy:
  • 2000: Invited Conference Papers: Curriculum as Accomplishment: Tracing human and non-human actors in the delivery of educational curricula. Presented at Le Sujet de L’Acteur. An anthropological outlook on Actor Network Theory. Centre for Advanced Studies, Univeristy of Cologne, 2013. The papers from this symposium were published in 2014 and details are available here.

    Breaking Boundaries? Interdisciplinary perspectives on using technology for learning and participation in society [ESRC-funded seminar series]. Department of Education and Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, 2014.

    ICTs and the Internet as Field and Framework. Presented at Rethinking Educational Ethnography. University of Borås, 2015. Selected papers from this conference were published in 2017 and details are available here.

    Learning and Pedagogy in Digital Times: platforms, inclusion, and social justice. Presented at Inclusive Practices of Creative and Innovative Teaching. University of Zaragoza, 2023. Details of the conference are available here.

  • 2000: External Examining and Advising: During the last few years, I have examined PhD and EdD theses at the universities of East Anglia, Exeter, Huddersfield, Lancaster, Leicester, Newcastle, Plymouth, and for Canberra and Griffith [both Australia]. Other external roles have included: University of Central Lancashire (external examiner for Doctorate in Education); Universities of Derby and Greenwich (external examiner for PGCE (PCET)); Open University (external advisor for Childhood and Youth qualifications).
  • 2000: Peer reviewing: Studies in Higher Education; Higher Education Research and Development; International Journal of Educational Research; Ethnography and Education; Culture, Pedagogy and Society; Research in Post-Compulsory Education; Medical Education; Critical Studies in Education; International Journal of Lifelong Education; Social Epistemology; Critical Studies in Education; Education for Primary Care; British Educational Research Journal; Studies in the Education of Adults.
  • 2000: Editing: I am the deputy editor of Ethnography and Education and am an associate editor for Higher Education Research and Development.

    I am also a member of the editorial boards for Higher Education Quarterly, Research in Post-Compulsory Education and Studies in the Education of Adults.


Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Edited book

Journal Article

Supervision students