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Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith

Associate Professor


AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Associate Professor in the School of EducationCB2005+44 (0) 191 33 40177
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing 0191 334 0177


I joined the School of Education at Durham University in 2018. Prior to this I was Senior Research Fellow in the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth at the University of Warwick, where I completed my PhD and Research Excellence Academy Fellow in the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University. I have worked on a range of projects funded by the ESRC, EPSRC, EIT Health, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Nuffield Foundation amongst others. I have carried out research consultancy for organisations including Nord Anglia Education Ltd, Erasumus University and the Bridge Group.

Drawing on my multi-disciplinary background (anthropology, literary studies, sociology) my work primarily focuses on educational identities and progression across the life course, with a focus on inclusion and wellbeing. My research is characterised by an anti-reductionist stance to educational questions, emphasising the importance of evaluative, relational, affective and contextual dimensions of education. I am concerned to foster dialogue and integrated theorising across domains and approaches, as one route to linking social, philosophical and policy concerns in education. I am motivated to develop real-world applications of research to foster inclusive learning opportunities across the lifecourse.

I have a particular interest in narrative and auto/biographical approaches to educational questions and digital storytelling for research and pedagogy. I created the NCL+ Advanced Award in Digital Storytelling at Newcastle University and I contribute to digital storytelling work at Durham through: Digital Storytelling Durham - Tell us your Story. I was part of the European EIT Health funded consortium that developed the Caring Stories narrative-based learning platform for healthcare practitioners: Caring Stories and part of the EPSRC-funded team that developed the educational quantum computation game, Quantum Odyssey: Quarks Interactive. I am currently involved in a consultancy project at Erasmum University, Connecting through Voices, drawing on both digital storytelling and narrative based pedagogy to support diversity and inclusion: Building New Blocks | Erasmus University Rotterdam (

Completed Supervisions

A study on the character development and education of gifted pupils using a critical realist approach.

That’s me when I’m angry”: seeking the authentic voices of pupils and teachers from inside a Pupil Referral Unit through autoethnography.

Information for prospective doctoral students

I welcome enquiries from potential postgraduate research students interested in these areas: social inequalities/widening participation to university, epistemology of educational research, narrative-based pedagogy and inquiry, adult and lifelong learning.

Research interests

  • Higher education widening participation and inclusion
  • Diversity and inclusion in learning
  • Life history and auto/biographical methods
  • Narrative based pedagogy and narrative inquiry
  • Adult education

Research Projects

Esteem Indicators

  • 0000: Awards and nominations: BERA award-winning symposium, ;Community Led Educational Reform: looking at school engagement, out of school activities, co-defining a future and responding to poverty (2017); twice nominated for Research Supervisor of the Year (Newcastle University 2018).
  • 0000: Invited presentations: 'Poverty Proofing the School Day', Leeds Beckett (2017); Giftedness and the logic of neoliberalism: economic value as a determinant of expectations’, Institute for Research in Social Phenomena, University of Samara, Russia (2017); 'Research with young people - negotiating gatekeepers’, Youth Matters Conference, Newcastle University,(2016); ‘Narrative methods in educational Research: family practices and beliefs in relation to academic giftedness’, Teacher Education Advancement Network Conference, University of Cumbria(2013).
  • 0000: Memberships and fellowships: European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Life History and Biography Network Scientific Committee; ;Emerald Open Research Education Advisory Board; Journal of Global Education and Research Advisory Board; Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
  • 0000: Peer reviewer:
    Routledge, Emerald, Sage, Thinking Skills and Creativity, International Journal of Research and Method in Education, International Studies in the Sociology of Education, European Educational Research Journal, Gifted and Talented International, Journal of Medical Humanities.
  • 0000: PhD examining: Universities of Cumbria, Canterbury Christ Church, Exeter, York St John.


Authored book

  • Mazzoli Smith, L. & Campbell, R. J. (2012). Families, Education and Giftedness: Case Studies in the Construction of High Achievement. Sense.

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

  • Rose, J., Jay, T., Goodall, J., Mazzoli Smith, L. & Todd, L. (2022). Repositioning Out-of-School Learning: Methodological Challenges and Possibilities for Researching Learning Beyond School. Emerald Studies in Out-of-School Learning. Emerald.

Journal Article


Supervision students