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Dr Ben Evans

BA (Hons) (Ebor) M.Sc. (Oxon) Ph.D (Leodis) PGCE (Cantab) QTS

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

Research Interests

My research interests expand outward from issues in digitally-mediated learning in (musical) educational settings. Specifically, how digital technology and music making might facilitate the development of young people’s social capital within institutions and make visible disparities between young people’s lived experience and the intuitions designed to serve them. This interest has spurned investigation into hidden curricula, decolonialised learning and social justice cases in educational, community and globalised settings. 

My current research is funded by the OU's Research Enterprise and Scholarship Unit. It's titled: ‘Music Talks: harder to reach young people share their musical stories via podcasting and app-based tools’. This UK-based project is intent upon better understanding how those facing childhood adversity integrate music into their lives and how this practice intersects with a school-based music education. Music Talks adopts a podcasting methodology to unearth young people's relationship with music and how this relationship aligns with, or departs from their experience of formal music education. Ultimately, participant co-researchers are invited to co-construct a new curriculum for music education, which will be presented to policy makers and music education organisations/lobby groups. 

I'm also leading an ambitious project to unearth the lived experiences of postgraduate researchers (PGRs) reading for Doctoral pathways at the Open University. This research seeks to connect with our PGRs in new ways: rather than anonymous surveys, we are seeking co-researchers to share their lived experiences in an auto and duo ethnographic fashion. A qualitative and emergent participatory research design, one founded on phenomenological and social constructivist assumptions, is providing PGRs with multiple pathways for how they’d like to participate (which includes the submission of artefacts such as poems and photographs). 

Theoretical perspectives

Speaking more broadly, I seek to empirically understand how situated communities develop their conventions/rules and products. This broad intent segways into research interests in communication (language, signs, multimodality) digital technology, mediated action, social culturalism and systems of activity. Thus my core research builds out from the writings of Wertsch who argues that:

'...human action typically employs "mediational means" such as tools and language, and that these mediational means shape the action in essential ways' (Wertsch, 1991, p.12).

An interest in mediated action began when I was introduced to computer-based cognitive tools while studying digitally-mediated learning as a postgraduate. These tools promise to distribute cognitive load between computer and human in ways which ensure that human's peculiar goal is achieved, even if it hither-to remained out-of-reach. Roy Pea's papers on 'distributed intelligence' speak to this perspective:

'I take as axiomatic that intelligence is not a quality of the mind alone, but a product of the relation between mental structures and the tools of the intellect provided by the culture' (Pea 1985, p.168).

These philosophical foundations situated an investigation into the role of classroom music education in community development. This Doctoral research argues that the music classroom could be redefined by its situation in time and space: a place where young people's culturally constructed musical relationships collide with formalised institutional agendas to forge new community conventions. I investigated how institutional rules, digital technology and young people's personal relationship with music can simultaneously mediate creative behavior in ways which uphold authentic community discourse. That is, creative activity which seeks to make use of and develop participants' social capital to redress any power asymmetries which might otherwise arise during classroom activity. 

  • Pea, R. (1985). "Beyond Amplification: Using the Computer to Reorganize Mental Functioning." Educational Psychologist 20(4): 167-182.
  • Pea, R. (2001). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. G. Salomon. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press47-87.
  • Wertsch, J. (1991). Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

Teaching Interests

Music education; digitally-mediated interaction; philosophy of digital technology; activity theory; participatory approaches to carrying out research with young people; theories of creativity; learning theory; social (in)justice; theories of trust and power; signs and multimodality and developing a critical, evidence-based approach to academic writing. 

Current Research Activity

Music Talks: The music and me podcasts. Harder to reach young people share their musical stories via podcasting and app-based tools (PI role)

The Lived Experienced of WELS PGRs: a phenomenological and participatory investigation unearthing postgraduate experience of the PhD, EdD and DHSC Doctoral pathways at the Open University (PI role/project manager) 

Climate Creativity: exploring the use of storytelling in community settings and grassroots groups to enhance awareness and appreciation of nature, and build hope for positive futures. PI: Dr. Philip Seargeant (Co-I role)

Ambulant vending practices in Latin America (AVPLA): an investigation into livelihoods to understand how vendor’s skills, security and human rights are configured in the popular economy. PI: Prof. Rosina Marquez Reiter (named project member)

PhD Supervision

Singay Singay: ‘ “Speak English only”: A Case Study of Translanguaging in English Medium Instruction Schools in Bhutan’ (Funded by the Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership.)

Current Teaching Activity 

Associate Lecturer: Module EK313 ‘Issues in Research with children and young people’

Recent Publications

Evans, Ben; Frumkin, Lara; Coopamootoo, Kovila; Jesus, Vitor and Little, Sabine (2022). Digital technologies, power and control: A review of how organisations can empower individuals and communities to develop trust, uphold their privacy and curate their identity in a secure digital environment. University of Manchester. URL: 

Morris, A. E., & Evans, B. (2023). Experiences of African American Spanish Learners in the US: mitigating racialization and fostering belonging through an inclusive curriculum. Journal of Spanish Language Teaching10(2), 138–154.


International Society for Music Education

British Association for Applied Linguistics

Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research


Experiences of African American Spanish Learners in the US: mitigating racialization and fostering belonging through an inclusive curriculum (2024-01-16)
Morris, Andrea Easley and Evans, Ben
Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, 10(2) (pp. 138-154)