I am a Senior Research Fellow in International Education, and the convenor of the International Teachers, Education and Sustainable Development research group (RITES) at the Open University. I am responsible for the academic direction of this group and, in collaboration with the international education academic director, am currently focused on more strategically embedding research within the university’s international teaching projects in order to extend the evidence base for our practical work and strengthen the group’s collective intellectual narrative.
I lead and co-lead a range of internally and externally-funded projects focusing on education and teacher development in low-resource contexts using visual, creative and collaborative methodologies. I currently lead the research strand of the SAGE (Supporting Adolescent Girls' Education) Programme - a collaboration between the OU and Plan International. This research is using a storytelling approach to map girls' aspirations as they participate in a community education programme. In August 2017 I was awarded funding from the AHRC to develop and lead a network of expert and early career researchers focusing on storytelling approaches for understanding learning exclusions in urban schools in Sub-Saharan Africa (the iBali Network). Other recent studies include: conceptualisations of education for social justice in colleges of education in Ghana (The Spencer Foundation); the impact of different modes of teacher education on the learning outcomes of pupils in rural Malawi (Open University) and; the use of participatory video as a research tool in remote communities (Open University and Humana People to People). I have recently been Co-I on projects which include: the impact of open educational resources on teacher educators' practice in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Mauritius (ROER4D - Freda Wolfenden as PI) and; policies and practices around English medium instruction in Ghana and India (British Council/CBfT - Elizabeth Erling as PI).
I was previously a researcher for the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme, which creates and supports the use of open educational resources (OER) for teachers and teacher educators. My PhD, awarded in 2012, was one of the first studies to apply Amartya Sen’s capability approach to the issue of teacher professional development in low income countries. I developed a new model of professional capability for women teachers in rural Sub-Saharan African schools, which sits at the heart of the book 'Quality teaching and the capability approach: evaluating the work and governance of women teachers in rural Sub-Saharan Africa' (Routledge, 2015).
My key area of expertise is in the application of the capability approach to teacher education. My current work focuses on the relationship between the ‘doings and beings’ of teaching, which an analytical application of capabilities can surface, and the notion of ‘becoming’ a teacher which is embedded in socio-cultural learning theories.
My work draws on methodological innovation, and focuses on the possibilities for this in resource-limited contexts, for example creating spaces for storytelling and creative narratives in busy urban schools in South Africa, and the use of film in rural, un-electrified schools in Malawi.
Technology, gender and inclusion are cross-cutting issues in my work.
I supervise PhD and EdD students, with current studies focusing on teacher reflection in India, community learning hubs in Uganda, teachers and inclusion in northern Nigeria and school leadership and motherhood in the UK. I teach capabilities and development on the inter-university Grand Union Doctoral Training Pathway and have taught seminars on fieldwork and methods on my department’s research methods programme.
I also helped to develop, and worked on, the Masters’ Level Education for Development module.
I prioritise capacity building of new research staff in international projects and have led research methods workshops in Ghana and Zimbabwe.
I have worked with and advised a range of organisations working in international education and teacher development, including Plan International, Plan Zimbabwe, World Vision, Save the Children, Humana People to People (Malawi), Restless Development, The Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation (South Africa), KEMRI Wellcome Trust (Kenya) and VVOB (Belgium). Much of the work I do with film is in collaboration with Catcher Media Social.
Through my work on TESSA I have collaborated with academics all over Africa, and I worked particularly closely with academic colleagues in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Sudan for an extensive ethnography into teachers’ lives.
The iBali Network brings together experts in storytelling, youth, urban issues and education from across Africa, and globally.
I am the Secretary for the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE) and between 2014-2018 led their national funding scheme for student fieldwork.
I am also a member of BERA, the Human Capabilities and Development Association, and am on the Review Panel for the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF).