Department of Education research project ideas
View a summary of proposed areas of research for prospective PhD students. You may be able to apply for funding to support your studies.
Student outcomes in English Medium Instruction contexts
I am interested in exploring student university (academic) learning outcomes in contexts where academic content is taught through English (contexts where English is not a majority language). Factors that affect these outcomes are vast and numerous; English proficiency, motivation, self-efficacy, language learning mindsets, willingness to communicate (to name a few).
Dr Samantha M Curle, Lecturer
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Language of Instruction policy and epistemic injustice
There is a significant evidence base that shows that dominant language of instruction policies (for example English as a Medium of Instruction) impact negatively on learners' experiences and outcomes in basic education across the Global South. However, there is limited theoretical engagement in the understandings of the impact of these policies for key beneficiaries (teachers, learners, parents).
This PhD project explores the impact of such policies by framing the analysis from an epistemic (in)justice perspective. You can choose the country and policy of focus. It is envisaged that the project will entail qualitative research in classrooms, the wider school community and/or at home.
Dr Lizzi O. Milligan, Reader
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Education inequalities in Latin America
This project will use data from UNESCO's Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (ERCE) to investigate education inequalities in Latin America and formulate strategies for improving the educational outcomes of the most vulnerable groups in the region. ERCE is an international large-scale assessment that evaluates primary students from 18 Latin American countries in reading, mathematics, and science (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Dominican Republic and Uruguay).
The study of education inequalities is particularly relevant in Latin America where, despite universal access to primary education, the rapid expansion of pre-primary education, and economic growth achieved in the past couple of decades, large differences between socio-economically advantaged and vulnerable groups persist and represent a great challenge for long-term sustainable growth.
Through a partnership between the University of Bath, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and UNESCO’s Latin American Laboratory for the Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE), the project will conduct a number of independent but interrelated studies on the theme of educational inequality.
All the studies will be based on comparative analyses of the education systems that participate in ERCE and will use a combination of advance quantitative methods (such as latent class analysis, SEM, HLM for example) and qualitative case studies. Strong foundations in at least one approach, either quantitative or qualitative, and willingness to learn the other are essential.
Dr Andrés Sandoval-Hernández, Reader
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Arts-based methods for feminist research on higher education
I am interested in supervising projects which take a curiosity-driven, activist and creative approach to feminist concerns and problems in higher education. My work is situated within higher education contexts and considers the relations between gendered bodies, spatial practices, knowledge, power and action, but there is a lot of flexibility to shape up particular PhD projects aligned to your specific interests. For example, you might be interested in feminist leadership practices, feminist mentoring, student engagement, student placements, curriculum change, feminist pedagogies (understood broadly), or how to enact change within your institution. Or you might be interested in more conceptual questions about ethics, or the civic purpose of universities, or how to make higher education more sustainable. All of these topics (and others) can be illuminated in new ways by using arts-based methodologies (using materials, objects, affects, embodied and sensory practices) as a means to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries and promote some forms of feminist activism. In my own research, I focus on micro-practices, the mundane everyday, and that which often passes under the radar as valuable sites for conducting research. From a feminist perspective, I want to see how scrutinising that which seems ‘hidden’ or which is ‘so obvious’ can help us unpick prevailing power dynamics and help produce more sustainable, relational and ethical ways of being.
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Parenting and child development in two father headed households
Over the past two decades, both policy and research have shown a significant interest, nationally and globally, in father-child relationships, but policy is criticised for failing to keep up with the social reality of changing family structures. For example, in 2019 both multi-family households (which can be multi-generational) and same sex married couples (though small in proportion), were the fastest growing households and family types in the UK.
In the area of fathering and education, Millennium Cohort surveys in England provide correlation evidence identifying a relationship between father involvement and child development (even when controlling for mother involvement), and there is some evidence to indicate early father involvement has an important protective role against psychological maladjustment in adolescents. While men's ability to nurture children is no different than women's ability to nurture children, there is some literature to suggest that general patterns of most fathers remain quite distinctive from the general patterns of most mothers. Also, nothing in the developmental literature suggests that children need something vastly different from fathers than from mothers: but it may be that ‘how they get it’ could be different.
This PhD study will aim to examine these kinds of tensions, adding to the body of literature about fathers and child development in modern families. It will focus on exploring the parenting patterns of fathers in families headed by two fathers (or father figures). Given the importance of the father-child relationship at a time when there is increasing interest internationally, in how fathers are more and more involved in a child's upbringing.
Dr Rita Chawla-Duggan, Senior Lecturer
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Reimagining Childhoodnature and Education for Justice
Childhoodnature is a new posthuman concept which reframes children's relationships with nature and the natural environment. This reframing rejects the binary divide between children (people) and nature, introducing a more expansive notion where children are recognised as natural beings themselves, entangled in the interconnected web of life, nonhuman and human.
Childhoodnature challenges us to respond in new ways to human activity, which is contributing to sustained, destructive impact on the planet. Such new responses speak to the groundswell of child and youth engagement in global environment change politics and informs how education has a key role to play in response to the current planetary emergency.
We would be interested in receiving PhD proposals which explore contemporary childhoodnature using the concept of Relational Becoming which sees relations across the nonhuman-human world as a fundamental orientation for education from the early years to adulthood. How do children become relational with nature and the human, non-human and materials worlds? How does the child's educational, sociocultural and environmental context affect them in becoming relational? How can these new understandings inform education which promotes the knowledge, skills, and values needed for a healthier, fairer, more sustainable way of life?
The methodological approach will decentre humans and, instead, focus on human-nonhuman emergent ecologies, relations and events - things which matter deeply on the personal and relational levels as initiators for change, but which are too often ignored in traditional research approaches and accounts. We seek applicants who are interested in developing research practices which engage emotions, creativity and materiality (such as arts-based and co-creation approaches) and produce new openings for social, educational and environmental justice.
We are looking for applicants with overlapping interests in education, childhood and the natural world. Whilst previous study (and/or practice) in education would be helpful it is not essential.
Elisabeth Barratt Hacking, Senior Lecturer
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EMI: Developing ecological approaches
English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) has been defined as: 'the use of the English language to teach academic subjects (other than English itself) in countries or jurisdictions where the first language (L1) of the majority of the population is not English' Macaro, 2018:18. Nowadays EMI is occurring globally, at all levels and in all sectors of education. However, it is a deeply contested area for educationalists, policy makers and researchers. Although EMI is driven and/or backed by official government policy in many contexts, those same contexts often report a shortage of qualified teaching staff and a lack of guidelines for EMI classroom pedagogy and teacher education. Furthermore, EMI is a socially divisive issue in many countries, provoking concerns about access to the curriculum by lower socio-economic groups, as well as concerns about loss of the first language and/or erosion of national identity.
The aim of this project would explore how EMI can be developed in ways that are appropriate to the social, cultural and pedagogical contexts in which is used. Related areas include Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), disciplinary literacies and genre practices, and pedagogical approaches which are attuned to the implications of World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca. If successful, you will become a member of the Bath EMI SIG, whose research agenda is linked to the newly developed MA English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI), of which I am the Director of Studies.
Dr Trevor Grimshaw, Senior Lecturer
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