Dr Alison Fox (BSc, Durham; MSc, Aberdeen; PGCE, Cambridge; MEd, Cambridge; PhD, Open) is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research contributes to understanding contemporary issues in education; currently, the opportunities and challenges of social media for professional learning and the development of a framework for defensible ethical enquiry. She leads a new Postgraduate Teaching and Learning Pathway and chairs a module of the Postgraduate Leadership and Management Pathway.
Alison’s academic expertise in Professional Learning and Ethical Enquiry is founded on both teaching and research experience. After working as an environmental scientist, she retrained and taught Science for ten years in Secondary Schools and Further Education, was a teacher educator on Post Graduate Certificate in Education courses for Science teachers for six years and, since 2007, has taught as a lecturer on Masters and Doctoral programmes. Her research began whilst studying an MEd (1998-2000) when a school teacher, then extended through contract research (2000-2011), her PhD examining the professional learning of emergent school leaders (2006-2011) and as a senior lecturer (2011 onwards).
As a University researcher Alison’s expertise is grounded in the work undertaken across a range of projects at the University of Leicester, the University of Cambridge and at the Open University. She has examined the development of beginning teachers, school leadership development and the adoption and dissemination of classroom assessment for learning practices across schools and networks. Her funded research projects include inter-University collaborations, internationally funded projects, commissioned research, and a project funded by a charitable trust. Her most recent project is ‘Promoting Inquiry Informed Practice: bridging the gap between theory and practice for participants of pre-service teacher education in Pakistan (2014-2017)’. She is passionate about supporting practitioner research through designing and teaching PostGraduate courses for teachers to develop their enquiry skills and through leading University support for school-based research in Teaching School Alliances.
Alison currently co-convenes the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Educational Leadership Special Interest Group (SIG), for which she designs and leads an academic programme of events with a network of colleagues, including British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS), Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and the British Curriculum Foundation, and supported by the blogsite she hosts. She is committed to building early career researcher capacity through her SIG leadership role and co-publications. Her expertise in research ethics has been recognised through invitation to working groups reviewing the BERA Research Ethics Guidelines (2016-2018). She is also a member of the Association for Learning Technology and International Professional Development Association.
Alison’s expertise in Professional Learning informs her work on the editorial boards of the Journal of Workplace Learning, the Journal of Research in Social Sciences and the BERA Blog and she is regularly invited to review papers for international journals. This work was recognised when she was awarded Outstanding Reviewer for the Journal of Workplace Learning in the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence (2016). Her editing expertise extends to having set up a School-University journal Research4&BYteachers and leading the publication of a Special Issue of the BELMAS journal Management in Education (due 2018).
Alison’s expertise is oriented to supporting educational professionals in their ongoing learning by examining the benefits and challenges associated with professional networking in order to promote the value of such activity to training teachers and, more recently, training doctors. Alison developed a new method for professionals to visually represent their networks as learning opportunity maps which facilitate rich discussions with the maps’ authors about the nature and value of others to their learning. This has proved an insightful research and development tool across a number of projects including the ‘Learning How to Learn: In classrooms, in schools and in networks’ (2002-2006) funded by the TLRP/ESRC and 'Beginning teacher development and support' project (2006-2011) funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Alison co-authored the book Researching and Understanding Educational Networks in 2010 and is now examining the issues professionals face due to the growth of digital social communication without a critical evidence base to inform their practice. She is contributing by illuminating the challenges, tensions and solutions professionals report as they, like other members of society but with additional responsibilities, embrace, dabble with and avoid social media. She was invited to contribute to a European symposium Teachers’ Role in the SNS-Era: Different points of view from a global perspective at the Ed-Media conference in Finland (2014) and a special issue of the European QWERTY journal entitled Reshaping professional learning in the mobile and social media landscape: theories, practices and challenges (2017).
Together with a colleague Kris Stutchbury, Alison has developed a comprehensive ethical appraisal framework published in the Cambridge Journal of Education as Ethics in Educational Research: introducing a methodological tool for effective ethical analysis to support their enquiries. Alison is keen to advocate that researchers prioritise and build ethical thinking into all Social Science enquiries as well as exploring how Western frameworks of ethical thinking can be applied to other cultural settings. Through scholarship and research activity she led and built an open access website Doing Ethical Research which has been endorsed by BERA, adopted for use in Masters and Doctoral teaching at the Universities of Cambridge and Leicester and adapted for use in a Teaching School Alliance. Alison led the development of a Massive Open Online Course on the FutureLearn platform to disseminate her and colleagues’ expertise in research ethics from across the Social Sciences at the University of Leicester. People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society runs for 6 weeks twice yearly. The currency of her recent work has led her to seed debate about pressing ethical concerns related to ethnographic methodologies by co-chairing and presenting a symposium Ethics and Research in Educational Ethnography as part of network 19 at the European Conference for Educational Research in Denmark (2017).
Alison’s teaching expertise has grown from her early career as a classroom teacher, which provided her with a commitment to active pedagogical approaches to learning which support learners in developing enquiry skills for their ongoing learning. These principles she translates into supporting the learning of education professionals using her research to inform her teaching. Alison’s teaching expertise has been recognised through accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2015) and winning a University Distinguished Teaching Fellowship at the University of Leicester (2016). Alison was Director of Studies at the University of Leicester from 2013-2016 involving leading the development and quality assurance of the School of Education’s portfolio of taught programmes and was invited to chair Inside Government's debate on Delivering Teaching Excellence across UK Higher Education (2016). Alison brings together her expertise into Masters level course design and delivery. In addition to her current teaching roles, she has been Programme Leader for an MA in Education: Learning and Teaching, a PostGraduate Certificate in Effective Middle Leadership developed collaboratively with the national Union the Association for School and College Leaders and led the redesign of an MSc Educational Leadership (distance learning) programme. She supervises doctoral students on a range of international projects connected with her research interests. Alison is currently Pathway lead for a new MA/MEd programme in Learning and Teaching which is being launched with a free six week open online course in October 2017 - Looking globally: Education for the future.
Alison’s expertise in course design suitable for in-service teachers and leaders is built from her research expertise from projects such as the 2006 National College for School Leadership: Evaluation of Online Learning Impact Study, the 2008 TDA commissioned Schools and Continuing Professional Development in England State of the Nation Research Project and as a Senior Associate for CFE on the research project Evaluation of the National College’s Leadership Curriculum and Licensed Provision (2013-2016) commissioned by the Department for Education. She also draws on her external examining experience with the University of Sussex MEd/MAE programme, the University of Aberdeen MSc Leadership in Professional Contexts and the University of Hertfordshire/Herts Cam Network MEd.
Alison is exploring different ways to engage potential users of her research with her enquiries to ensure the findings are accessible, meaningful and fuel further debate. She is committed to the principles of open access dissemination, building communities and networks and utilising social media to explore the translation of her research into practice.
For children: Alison led a schools' debate of teachers and pupils about the value and challenges of using social media for education at the National Space Centre as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science (2014) which led to a schools' charter for social media use. She has also been working with the Leicester-based charity Kaine Management on a raising aspirations programme for disadvantaged children across 10 schools to offer a digital futures strand, linked to the development of an e-portfolio and safe use of social media.
For practitioners: Alison presented a Keynote lecture for the University of Sussex’s Teacher Research Conference entitled How can school-based enquiry be supported by ethical thinking? (2016) and worked with a Teaching School Alliance to develop an ethical appraisal protocol for school-based enquiry, presented with practitioner colleagues at BERA and University Council for the Education of Teachers conferences. This applicability of her and Kris Stutchbury’s ethical appraisal framework to school-based research has been recognised in the first edition of the Chartered College of Teachers’ journal IMPACT (2017). Alison has also been fostering school-based research through a range of partnership activities and has recently launched an open access online journal Research4&BYteachers as a vehicle for sharing the knowledge gained from such research with other practitioners, setting up an editorial team which spans school and University representatives. In terms of project legacy and facilitating local sustainability, the British Council Pakistan project to support initial teacher development in Islamabad, Pakistan is generating a set of self-evaluation guides (to be published 2018) for school and University partners in initial teacher development to take forward curriculum development and implementation, supported by training workshops led by the project team in May 2017.
For fellow researchers: Alison has contributed to the working group reviewing the BERA research ethical guidelines to ensure they are relevant, accessible and inclusive for contemporary use. As illustrated through this profile she has built open access web and blog sites to disseminate the collective research findings of the BERA educational leadership SIG, regional school-based research, her social media research and, in the case of research ethics, also a free online course.
Co-convenor BERA Educational Leadership SIG with Anna Reid from the University of Newcastle, working with colleagues within BERA and BELMAS to organise Educational Leadership Research-related activities, including events and supporting colleagues with publications.
Member of working groups reviewing and revising the BERA Research Ethics Guidelines.
Member of the BERA Blog editorial board.
Member of the Association for Learning Technology and the International Professional Development Association.
Development of a collaboratively designed PGCertificate Effective Middle Leadership with the Union Association for School and College Leaders at the University of Leicester.
External examiner for the University of Sussex MEd/MAE programme (2013-2017), the University of Aberdeen (2013-2018) MSc in Leadership in Professional Contexts and the University of Hertfordshire/Herts Cam Network (2015-2019)
Has acted as external validator for the University of East Anglia/University of Essex
Co-investigator on the British Council Pakistan funded project (2014-2017) 'Promoting Inquiry Informed Practice: bridging the gap between theory and practice for participants of pre-service teacher education in Pakistan'
Editorial board member of the Journal of Workplace Learning and Journal of Research in Social Sciences, and reviewer for a number of international journals (Educational Research Review, Education and Information Technologies, International Journal for Innovation in Teaching anf Learning, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Teaching and Teacher Education, Teacher Development, The Curriculum Journal, Vocations and Learning). She was awarded 'Outstanding Reviewer for Journal of Workplace Learning in the Emerald Literati Network 2016 Awards for Excellence.
External evaluator of doctoral theses for the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.
External grant reviewer: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg, CORE 2016