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Dr Amelia Hempel-Jorgensen

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Profile summary

Professional biography

Amelia is a Research Fellow at The Open University where she researches pedagogy and social justice with a particular focus on developing more socially just forms of pedagogy to address persistent educational inequalities in England and internationally. Amelia's interests fall within sociology of education and also encompass learner identities, positional identity/subjectivation and intersectional social identities including ethnicity, social class and gender and their relationship with pedagogy and educational inequalities. Amelia's current research focusses on pedagogy for raising attainment and sustained engagement with reading for pleasure and  for meaning in schools with very low socio-economic in-takes. Her recent research focussed on the role of pedagogies for reading for pleasure and the impact of children's social identities and teachers' perception of these on different boys engagement with reading in low socio-economic schools.  

Amelia completed her PhD in Sociology of Education at UCL Institute of Education in 2011 on the relationship between social class school composition and high-stakes testing: the impact on children's learner identities.

Prior to joining OU Amelia held educational and social research posts over a period of 6 years at Institute of Education (2005-8), National Children's Bureau (2003-5) and Department for Transport (2012-3). She was a tutor on the Online MRes Educational and Social Research Methods at Institute of Education for 2 years and face-to-face facilitator on the Doctoral Training Programme (2010-13).

Research interests

Amelia's research is about the relationship between pedagogy and social justice and how pedagogical practices both contributes to producing inequalities but can also help to ameliorate them. A particular focus is learner agency and how teachers can create pedagogical affordances for all children to exercise agency for meaning-making and knowledge construction through using digital technology and enabling children to engage with reading for pleasure. This is in response to international research which suggests that pedagogy in schools located in disadvantaged areas are likely to use highly performative pedagogy which can significantly constrain children's capacity to exercise learner agency.

Research projects

Evaluation of Hackney Learning Trust's Reading Programmes (2017-2018), funded by Hackney Learning Trust. The project team is lead by Amelia (PI) and includes Teresa Cremin, Joan Swann, Jenna Mittelmeier, Kimberly Safford and Natalie Canning. A mixed methods evaluation of two reading programmes for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 which aim to raise reading attainment and enhance children's deep understanding of texts and engagement for reading for pleasure in schools with low attainment in reading and with high rates of low socio-economic intakes. The programmes are being implemented in 18 primary schools in southern England. Children's attainment in all 18 schools is being tracked over two years to identify potential changes in attainment and changes in teachers' knowledge, skills and practices for the teaching of reading are also measured. This is accompanied by in-depth case studies of five schools to understand how the programmes are implemented in different school types and to identity potential causal processes between the programmes and changes in children's engagement and attitudes to reading and reading progress and attainment. 

Understanding boys' (dis)engagement with reading for pleasure (2015-2017), funded by British Academy (Amelia is Principal Investigator) with Proferssor Teresa Cremin, Dr Liz Chamberlain and Dr Diane Harris (University of Manchester). Why are 'disadvantaged' boys not reading for pleasure? This project aims to develop new sociological understanding of this disengagement with reading for pleasure. There is considerable international evidence that illustrates the significant educational benefits of reading for pleasure. The project uses intersectionality theory and focuses on three potential factors for disengagement: teachers’ (often deficit) perceptions of disadvantaged boys’ ethnic and social class identities; teaching practices; and the boys’ subjective experiences of pedagogy for literacy, which frame their orientation to reading. The knowledge generated will contribute to the development of more effective and inclusive pedagogies for RfP and raising disadvantaged boys’ attainment.

New practices - New purposes - New pedagogies (NP3) (2015-2017), funded by Society for Educational Studies (Amelia is Co-Investigator). This project, led by Professor Peter Twining, examines primary school children's learning practices using digital technology and the ways (if any) in which teachers value and incorporate these practices in classrooms. The project investigates the ramifications of this for social justice and learning across subject domains. It does this by examining the digital practices of all children, including those from different ethnicities and social classes, and whether they are equally valued and reflected in classrooms. We also look at what institutional factors enable or constrain teachers' incorporation of children's practices into their pedagogy. Finally, we will develop a theoretical model of a participative and inclusive pedagogy using digital technology. The project is a partnership between OU and Lancaster University.

Cambridge Primary Review Trust (CPRT) Action Research for Mastery Learning (November - July 2016), (Amelia is principal investigator) with Dr Gill Goodliff and Kim Walker, funded by CPRT and Marlborough and Hallfield Primary Schools. Working with 6 teachers across two primary schools, the OU team enable the teachers to carry out their own action research projects to investigate the newly embedded mastery pedagogy in their own practice.

Learner Agency in Urban Primary Schools (2014-2015), funded by Society for Educational Studies (Principal Investigator). The project investigates the nature and extent to which children in primary schools in disadvantaged contexts are able to exercise learner agency and the impact of teachers' pedgogical practices on this. Data was collected in four urban primary schools with high proportions of children eligible for Free School Meals through interviews with teachers and children and observing lessons across the curriculum. The findings are currently being written up as a final report and peer reviewed journal articles.

Action Research for Learner Identities funded by Roger Ascham Primary School in East London (Principal Investigator, 2014-2015, with Dr Gill Goodliff). The project aims to enable a group of 6 teachers to carry out their own action research projects related to learner identity in order to develop children's understandings of learning and positive dispositions to engaging with school. The project aims to place teachers in an active role in developing their pedagogical practices and producing professional knowledge about the effect of pedagogy on learner identity.


Teaching interests

Amelia is currently a co-supervisor of an EdD student on the topic of drama and talk in primary school pedagogy. She is interested in hearing from prospective EdD and PhD students on topics related to pedagogy, curriculum and assessment in primary schools as well as social justice and equity.

Amelia has developed module curricula and module materials (including online activities) for two modules on play and creativity in the early years focusing on children's rights and enhancing practice in primary school classrooms for the new BA Education Studies at OU.

Impact and engagement

As a member of  the London Network of Cambridge Primary Review Trust, Amelia co-organises the London Teachers' Reading Group for teachers, HEI staff and educational consultants to discuss the implications of current educational research on teaching practice. For further info see:

Amelia was involved in organising and delivering CPD day conference for primary school practitioners on creative approaches to literacy in the 21st Century. She and Dr Gill Goodliff held a workshop with teachers using findings from the Action Research for Learner Identities project (see research interests for further info) to identify pedagogical practices which enable children to exercise learner agency and develop positive learner identities.


External collaborations

Understanding boys' (dis)engagement with reading for pleasure project, funded by British Academy/Leverhulme with University of Manchester - Dr Diane Harris.

New Practices - New Purposes - New Pedagogies (NPe) project, funded by Society for Educational Studies with Lancaster University - Professor Don Passey and Dr Julia Gillen

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)CentreFaculty of Education and Language Studies


Pedagogy for reading for pleasure in low socio-economic primary schools: beyond ‘pedagogy of poverty’? (2018-05-08)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia; Cremin, Teresa; Harris, Diane and Chamberlain, Liz
Literacy, 52(2) (pp. 86-94)

Learner agency and social justice: what can creative pedagogy contribute to socially just pedagogies? (2015-09-15)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 23(4) (pp. 531-554)

Working class girls and child-centred pedagogy: what are the implications developing socially just pedagogy? (2015)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
International Studies in Sociology of Education, 25(2) (pp. 132-149)

The importance of teaching: pedagogical constraints and possibilities in working-class schools (2012-08)
Lupton, Ruth and Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
Journal of Education Policy, 27(5) (pp. 601-620)

The construction of the 'ideal pupil' and pupils' perceptions of 'misbehaviour' and discipline: contrasting experiences from a low-socio-economic and a high-socio-economic primary school (2009)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(4) (pp. 435-448)

Evaluation of Hackney Learning Trust's Reading Programmes (2020-06)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia; Swann, Joan; Plowright-Pepper, Linda; Cremin, Teresa; Safford, Kimberly; Mittelmeier, Jenna and Canning, Natalie
The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Why are boys from low-income families more likely to disengage with reading? (2018-03-01)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
The British Academy

Understanding boys (dis)engagement with reading for pleasure: Project findings (2017)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia; Cremin, Teresa; Harris, Diane and Chamberlain, Liz
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

NP3 – New Purposes, New Practices, New Pedagogy: Meta-analysis report (2017)
Twining, P.; Browne, N.; Murphy, P.; Hempel-Jorgensen, A.; Harrison, S. and Parmar, N.
Society for Educational Studies, London.

Learner agency in urban primary schools in disadvantaged contexts: Report to Society for Educational Studies (2015-07)
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

Learner agency in urban primary schools in disadvantaged contexts
Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia