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Mrs Steph Doehler

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Professional biography

Steph is an award winning Senior Lecturer within the School of Education, Childhood, Youth, and Sport at the Open University, where she has been a full-time faculty member since February 2020. She also has a longstanding association with the school, having served as an Associate Lecturer since 2016. 

Steph’s specialised area of focus centres on the sociology of sport, with a primary emphasis on sports communication.

Steph has contributed her expertise as a guest reviewer for various esteemed peer-reviewed publications, including International Journal of Sport CommunicationJournal of Sport & Social Issues, Sport in Society, and Journal for Learning Development in Higher Education. Her dedication to the field of education is further underscored by her Senior Fellow status at the Higher Education Academy. 

Her extensive experience is not confined solely to Higher Education; she brings a wealth of practical experience to her role. Prior to her full-time employment at the Open University, she amassed several years of lecturing experience in both Further and Higher Education. Moreover, her role as a Learning Development Manager within an awarding organisation enabled her to create personal development awards and qualifications, benefiting over 100,000 young individuals annually. In this capacity, she established the organisation's virtual learning environment and designed e-learning content for learners and educators alike. Collaborating with numerous National Governing Bodies across the UK, she spearheaded the development of their leadership programmes. Steph's impact also extends to commissioned research projects for Sport England.

Between 2018 and 2020, Steph held a significant position as a member of the Expert Physical Education Advisory Group, one of seventeen Expert Subject Advisory Groups supported by the Department for Education.


Research interests

Steph's research contributions revolve around critical analysis in the field of sports communication, with a particular focus on traditional media framing and social media framing. Research undertaken has explored this through the lenses of gender, athlete activism, and athlete mental health. 

In her research, Steph primarily employs qualitative research designs to deepen understanding of these complex phenomena.

In recognition of her contributions to the discipline as an early-career researcher, Steph was honoured with the Emerging Scholar Award presented by the international Sport & Society Network in 2023.

Currently, Steph assumes the role of Convenor for the Sport Research Group at the Open University. You can explore their blog, which features valuable insights and research findings, by visiting this link.


Teaching interests

Steph provides extensive expertise in the sport and fitness fields having taught on a wide range of topics, particularly those related to the sociology of sport. She also has taught sport psychology, and professional practice in sport modules at undergraduate level.

Steph currently tutors on E117: Introduction to Sport and Fitness, and E314: Contemporary Issues in Sport and Exercise.

She has previously co-chaired E313: Exploring psychology aspects of athletic development, and acted as a critical reader on its replacement, E312: Athletic Development: A Psychological Perspective. Presently, she serves as a contributor to an upcoming Sport module, writing a study topic on gender inequalities in sport. 

To find out more about the Sport and Fitness qualifications available at The Open University please click here.


Impact and engagement

Steph has disseminated her knowledge through various outlets, including at several international conferences. She has published in peer-reviewed publications and has several journal papers and book chapters currently in press.  

Steph has also written for The ConversationOpen Learn, and to disseminate her knowledge and expertise. 

She has been invited to speak as a guest lecturer at several HEIs, presenting to a range of undergraduate and postgraduate students.


External collaborations

Steph is an External Examiner at both St. Mary's University and University of East London. 

Prior to moving to the Open University full time Steph worked with several external organisations on various projects/pieces of work, including:

  • Led a £50,000 Sport England funded research project which used the voice of Looked After Children to understand the barriers, motivations and benefits affecting the engagement of young people in the care system from participating in sport-based social action.
  • Project managed the development of volunteer training for the 2018 Sainsbury’s Active Kids Holiday Clubs, in collaboration with ukactive.
  • Collaborated with global fitness company Les Mills to support schools and a new generation of children, parents and carers to be physically active, by creating a new wave of Les Mills BORN TO MOVE™ Activators and developing an online training course to upskill the delivery of BORN TO MOVE™ virtual classes.


Taking the star-spangled knee: the media framing of Colin Kaepernick (2023-01)
Doehler, Steph
Sport in Society, 26(1) (pp. 45-66)

‘Full speed ahead Barcelona’: the social construction of Roy Keane’s 1999 semi-final performance versus Juventus (2023)
Doehler, Steph
Soccer & Society, 24(4) (pp. 581-592)

Levelling the field? The English Football Association's promotion of their men's and women's national teams through Twitter (2023)
Doehler, Steph
International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 58(7) (pp. 1114-1134)

Role Model or Quitter? Social Media’s Response to Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020 (2022)
Doehler, Steph
International Journal of Sport Communication, 16(1) (pp. 64-79)

A hero’s journey: the monomythical narrative of Diego Maradona’s World Cup appearances (2021)
Doehler, Steph
Funes. Journal of Narratives and Social Sciences, 5 (pp. 4-17)

Sport, the media, and athlete activism (2024-04-23)
Doehler, Steph
In: Lawrence, Stefan; Hill, Joanne and Mowatt, Rasul eds. Routledge Handbook of Sport, Leisure, and Social Justice (pp. 446-458)
ISBN : 9781003389682 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Protecting the Brees brand: How Drew Brees Said “Sorry” for his National Anthem Protest Comments (2023)
Doehler, Steph
In: Rentner, Terry L. and Burns, David P. eds. Social Issues in Sport Communication: You Make The Call (pp. 64-74)
ISBN : 9781032327976 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York, USA

Tweeting triumphs and tribulations: the experiences of women football fans on social media (2024-03)
Doehler, Steph
In : The International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS) Summit (14-16 Mar 2024, Los Angeles, California, USA)

A Level Playing Field? How a Governing Body Promotes Its Men's and Women's National Teams through Social Media (2023)
Doehler, Steph
In : International Conference on Sport & Society (7-8 Jun 2023, Las Vegas, Nevada)

Role model or quitter? Social media’s response to Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020 (2022)
Doehler, Steph
In : Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research - annual conference (18-19 Mar 2022, California State University, Fullerton)

A tragic hero? An exploration of Diego Maradona’s stardom through national and local patriotism (2022)
Doehler, Steph
In : Official heroes and contested guerrillas: The role models of football fans’ patriotism (1 Apr 2022, Université Libre de Bruxelles & Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan)

Land of the free and home of the brave? The media framing of Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 National Anthem protest (2021)
Doehler, Steph
In : ECREA 2021 - Media, Sport, and Diversity online seminar (5-6 Nov 2021, Aarhus University)

Euro 24: Innovation and Trends in Modern Football (2024-05-28)
Doehler, Steph
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

[Book Review] The United States of Sport: Media Framing and Influence of the Intersection of Sports and American Culture, by Brown, Dickhaus & Long-Anderson (2024-05-10)
Doehler, Steph

Why does the FA give the Lionesses less social media support than England’s men? It needs to up its game for the Women’s World Cup (2023-07-21)
Doehler, Steph
The Conversation

From headlines to hashtags: is the FA doing enough to promote gender equality through social media? (2023-07-05)
Doehler, Steph
OpenLearn, Milton Keynes.

[Book Review] Athlete Activism: Contemporary Perspective edited by Rory Magrath (2023-01-19)
Doehler, Steph, Malmö.

‘Shut up and play’: a brief history of athlete activism (2022-10-31)
Doehler, Steph

The case of Simone Biles and perceptions of athlete mental health (2022-10-28)
Doehler, Steph

[Book review] The Circus is in Town: Sport, Celebrity, and Spectacle, edited by Lisa Doris Alexander & Joel Nathan Rosen (2022-10-20)
Doehler, Steph, Malmö.

[Book review] Duelism Confronting Sport Through Its Doubles, edited by Brittany Reid and Taylor McKee (2022-03-11)
Doehler, Steph, Malmö.

[Book review] The Power of Sports, Media and Spectacle in American Culture (2021-09-07)
Doehler, Steph, Malmö.

Olympics 2021: The story of how a small Shropshire town influenced the modern Olympic movement (2021-07-21)
Doehler, Steph