Maxine Stephenson

My name is Maxine Stephenson.  I have just started my PhD at Middlesex London having recently completed 3 years as a Visiting Lecturer in the Early Years/Education Department at Middlesex Dubai.

My interests are the debates surrounding the underachievement of Black Caribbean males within the UK educational system. In black and minority ethnic communities mentoring has been recognised for its potential as an empowerment intervention to raise achievement and the self-esteem of their learners.

The purpose of my research is to explore how the unique relationship between a mentor and mentee is perceived by both parties in its endeavour to raise outcomes for Black Caribbean male learners in state and community/supplementary schools. For those whose every aspect of their lives are affected by race, this will be the essential lens through which mentoring will be examined.

The research methodology will be qualitative. The main body of the research will be an examination of a number of case studies consisting of secondary schools, mentoring programmes, supplementary/community schools and an alternative provision such as a PRU.  The participants will be the mentors, mentees, teachers responsible for mentoring referrals, mentoring programme and supplementary school managers. The intended methods are focus group interviews, one-to-one interviews and observations.

Clearly, mentoring cannot singularly impact the complex multi-layered social, environmental and institutional factors at play. There are racial, cultural and contextual factors that may affect academic outcomes for Black Caribbean male learners.  However, it would be interesting to see if mentoring improves resilience, nurtures trust where there is difference and ultimately promotes a desire for improved educational outcomes.

Supervisors: Nathan Fretwell, Leena Robertson & Rima Saini

Sarah Dalrymple

I am Sarah Dalrymple and I run a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) approved training centre, delivering Foundation and Modern Apprenticeships throughout Scotland. I am a Chartered Educational Assessor, External and Internal Verifier and Assessor for Modern Apprenticeships (MAs), I am also a Qualification Development Specialist for SQA. My career started as a chef and while I was the head chef of a 5 star hotel in South Africa, I was offered the opportunity to become an assessor. This was possibly the best thing that happened to me and my career. I started my training career working with disadvantaged African women, helping them develop their skills to open up their own bakeries. In 2001, we moved to Scotland and I started my career as an MA assessor. I have spent 20 years working with MAs across a number of sectors. My passion lies in the unique and personal approach to learning and development and the very real value of work- based learning. For a number of years, I have felt that school and institutionalised learning does not quite meet the vast learning styles and abilities of learners and I have been considering doing my PhD in Work- Based Learning for a while, as I believe very strongly that Vocational Work – Based Learning and the very practical approach to learning on the job, is highly beneficial to both the learner and employer. I started the PhD programme at the end of October 2020, so am currently doing my literature review and developing my research topic title. My broad title for now is, `Bridging the gap between Vocational Work Based Learning and Industry: A Study of Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland and the relationship between learner, employer and training provider.’ The topic covers all the areas that I would like to explore relating to the delivery of MAs, but I would also like to look at the differences in delivery of MAs to English Apprenticeships, to fully understand the benefits and drawbacks of the different approaches to work-based learning. I am supposed to be doing the PhD as a part time student, but am finding myself getting more and more drawn into the exciting world of research, particularly seeing the research topic is so relevant to my day to day work activities.

Ramona Pistol

My research project analyses metaphors comprehension. Considering the idea that some metaphors are perceived as being more metaphorical than others, the project looks at the novelty in metaphorical instances and what exactly it is about metaphors than many are treated as instances of meaning which stand out. Furthermore, several important theories of metaphor rely heavily on the conceptual structure and treat emotional content as perimetric. This project brings forth the idea that metaphors do not only give rise to mental images which can be freely explored for their emotive content, but they also open a world of experience, both physical and imaginative, as a way of capturing the vividness of the metaphorical meaning in the novel instances. The project relies on secondary sources and reviews data from several theoretical accounts of metaphors (Black 1995, Richards 1936, Lakoff and Johnson 1980), philosophical conversations (Ricoeur 1975, Merleau-Ponty 2012) and enactivist accounts of cognition (Hutto and Myin 2012).

Supervisors: Professor Paul Gibbs and Dr Victoria de Rijke

Jamieson Dryburgh

Jamieson Dryburgh’s research explores the experience of learning from within the dance technique studio. He employs an interpretive ethnographic approach to the shared experience of the dance class. The study centralises the nuance and insight of the research participants with respect to their approach to the materials, their relationship with the teacher and the influence of peers. His supervisory team at Middlesex University are Vida Midgelow and Victoria de Rijke.

Jamieson has been a dance technique teacher in a UK conservatoire setting for over twenty three years. Through his thesis, he utilises reflexivity in order to navigate his role as teacher/researcher and situates himself as co-participant. Feminist and queer theories are applied to thinking about transformative pedagogy and in particular the work of bell hooks draws attention to concepts of learning as engaged contribution and collective effort.

Jamieson successfully defended his thesis in September 2020 and recently published Vital Entanglements in the International Journal of Education and the Arts (IJEA). From 2021, Jamieson will assume the role of Director of Education at the Central School of Ballet, London.

Mari Ystanes Fjeldstad

Exploring knowledge in music through diffractive stories from violin lessons

Thinking with posthuman theories, my research is investigating knowledge in music. What is it to know how to sing or to play an instrument? Knowledge is often understood as divided into separate categories. In the curriculum framework of the schools of music and performing arts in Norway, skills in playing an instrument, knowledge of music theory, and musical experiences as conceptualized as separate domains. The posthuman philosopher Karen Barad (2007) argues for an ethico-epistem-ology where knowledge and being are entangled and where knowledge is a doing done by both human and nonhuman agencies. Based on observations of violin lessons, I write diffractive stories exploring a multitude of intra-acting agencies. Through the reading of these stories and posthuman theories I develop a relational and performative notion of knowledge in music. I argue that the knowing done in violin lessons are done by intra-acting human and non-human agencies and I pay attention to the entanglement of knowing, being, and doing.

Supervisory team: Professor Jayne Osgood and Professor Sidsel Karlsen


Dilys Wilson

Holding the baby – the contribution of Early Years Teachers to leading practice with babies

Policy initiatives to promote a graduate professional role in an early years sector with mixed market provision remain partially implemented, resulting in Early Years Teachers not being recognised as qualified teachers. For the education and care of the under 2s in nurseries, the lack of consensus about the skills and training required by the professionals who work with them raises questions about what quality provision should aspire to be.

The research focuses on the professional journeys taken by early years teacher trainees on a Postgraduate training programme as they explore their pedagogy with the 0-2 age group. The purpose of the research is to investigate how they make use of the experiences they gain from placement/workplace practice in baby rooms and from the opportunities for reflection available to them during the training period.

Taking an insider researcher position, directly involved in developing the training programme, a praxeological methodology is used to engage with trainees in the process of critical reflection in order to promote a shift in practice. The reflections and actions of the trainees, the support provided by setting-based mentors and the training team are analysed using a psycho-social paradigm.

Findings show that trainees are able to articulate a more confident pedagogy for babies when they have opportunities to engage with others in small group reflective supervision. Professional growth and development are further facilitated through the development of close training relationships with group supervisors and experienced leaders of practice with babies.

Supervisors: Professor Jayne Osgood, Dr Paula Nottingham


Kar-wai Tong

A comparative case study from the perspective of Confucianism on students’ and staff’s perceptions of happiness at two public universities respectively in Hong Kong and London –  Happiness is not a frequent topic of research in the Chinese philosophy and the number of academic studies about happiness from the angle of Confucianism is even less. It represents a gap in the wealth of literature. Confucianism is therefore proposed as the perspective for the current study, as it is relevant in at least three aspects: happiness, education and its influence across eastern and western cultures.

Adrian Ting

Undergraduate writing support – a Hong Kong case study

My PhD research investigates the academic and disciplinary writing support provision at an English as a medium of instruction (EMI) university in Hong Kong. The main focus is to examine different stakeholders’ perceptions on what constitutes academic and disciplinary writing at undergraduate level (namely students, writing instructors, and subject lecturers) in order to identify discrepancies in their understanding of the practice. In addition, the study also aims to examine whether the current writing support provision adequately prepares graduates for the workplace. Using qualitative methods, I focus on the nursing and IT disciplines in particular because both fields are relatively new in higher education and that they are vocational. As well, both fields require its practitioners to use written English in the workplace while all other forms of communication happen in Cantonese, which is a phenomenon unique to Hong Kong. It is hoped that the findings will inform future decision making of writing support at EMI universities.

Supervisory Team: Dr. Victoria de Rijke, Professor Paul Gibbs and Dr Gillian Lazar

Nina Odegard

Aesthetic exploration with recycled materials. Concepts, ideas and phenomena that matter.

This project sets the concept of Aesthetic Exploration in motion in relation to empirical data by exploring young children’s encounters with recycled materials in a Blackbox at a Remida. Through four published articles that focus on different parts of the research: methodologically, empirically, and theoretically, I explore how theorising recycling materials and Aesthetic Exploration contribute to the field of early childhood. I make use of posthumanist and new-materialist theories that underline the significance of non-human agency and materiality (Barad, 2007; Bennett, 2010; Hultman, 2011a; Lenz Taguchi, 2010), to extend understandings of what matters in early childhood education. With the use of these theories, different perspectives on matter and materiality have emerged through conceptualising and materialising different Aesthetic Explorations in the encounter in-between recycled materials, young children, space (the Blackbox), and tools. Conceptualising Aesthetic Exploration through this study is an on-going process that has no end; instead, it continues to take shape and transform as readers engage with it.

Supervisory team: Professor Nina Rossholt, Professor Sidsel Germeten and Professor Jayne Osgood

Johnny Chan

A Cross-discipline Study in the School of Health and Education:
Examining Interpersonal Conflict in College Life Through Collective Cultural Lens

In this study, a model is proposed that shows how individuals can better understand interpersonal conflict through the lens of cultural factors, specifically that of a collectivist culture. Viewing issues through a lens that considers cultural factors is important as there have been tremendous cultural shifts in values, lifestyle and language globally, especially in multicultural countries like Canada, the United States and Australia. Nevertheless, even though there have been numerous studies on the cultural elements of conflict, few recommendations have been made that address the interpersonal conflicts of students in a college environment. Traditionally, many interpersonal conflict studies have been focused on family relation or organizational behavior. For an approach for college students, the conflict study in an education setting anticipates a new understanding of how collectivist students are reluctant on some norms such as genuine dialogue when they respond to conflict. Secondly, students can benefit from the reflection process in the study for a better self-awareness where it is a good preparation before entering the workplace.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Gibbs & Dr Alex Elwick