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Research, scholarship and knowledge exchange

Our ongoing research informs and enhances our teaching, helping us to develop new ways to support our students and help them succeed. This can result from our scholarship (enquiry into our curriculum, pedagogy and assessment) and also by engaging students with our research, which is conducted around the world. Research plays an important role in making sure that the different communities and organisations with whom we work have a voice. We particularly promote participant voice in our research and student voice in our scholarship. Our research is designed to be impactful and we are involved in a wide range of knowledge exchange activity with diverse audiences, in particular professionals and practitioners, children and young people, community organisations/groups and policy makers.


Research clusters

Our School is organized around three research (scholarship and knowledge exchange) clusters:

The Education cluster draws together researchers investigating questions linked to contemporary education challenges across every stage of the life course (early years, school, tertiary and adult) within the UK and globally. Members of the Education cluster contribute to the Faculty’s expertise in Education and Learning through seeking to advance knowledge and practice in both formal and informal education settings and improve the contribution of education to social justice through research-informed change and development. To achieve this, members of the Education cluster work in collaboration with teachers and learners, recognising the Faculty’s commitment to Practitioner Involvement and partnership, involving a diverse group of regional, national and international partners.

Nationally and internationally recognised work enhancing education practice includes:

  • The Reading for Pleasure research and practice coalition aims to enable more young people to become childhood readers, thus reaping the associated academic, personal and social benefits and advancing social justice. This activity has grown from wider work in the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice, a Centre which spans the schools of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport and Language and Applied Linguistics. It draws together diverse partners, including teachers, schools, literacy organisations, charities, publishers, authors and researchers to build towards this vision.
  • The Ibali Network promotes creative, story driven research approaches, and has a particular focus on using story to research inclusion in education and global development contexts. Ibali grew from an AHRC-funded network in 2017 which aimed to connect and support storytelling researchers and practitioners from around the world – but particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. Its current directly funded work is exploring teachers and young people’s experiences of inclusion in Nigeria, South Africa and the UK, but Ibali and its partner organisation Transformative Story have supported many research teams to engage with more creative, story-based research approaches.
  • Mathematical Resilience: Research into Mathematical Resilience research group is making a difference to the teaching of mathematics to all age groups.
  • Lifelong Learning in Further and Higher Education (LiFHE) research group have a specific focus on all aspects of teaching, learning, researching and working in Further, Adult, Community, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning.
  • Early Childhood research (EC@OU) is a particular area of expertise. The EC@OU group engage in research and teaching to extend knowledge and understanding about a broad range of issues related to the lives of babies and young children. They are interested in exploring and promoting high quality early education and care for all children and for those who support them, and aim to challenge practice and policy through listening to different perspectives using a range of methods.
  • The ArDdysg Teacher Education research group at the Open University focuses on supporting evidence-informed practice in teacher education and professional learning. It brings together researchers with a range of educational research interests and experience. The group welcome opportunities to work with partners in schools, universities and the third sector, across Wales and further afield. 

Recognising the expertise and research and knowledge exchange activity of our colleagues, a research group Professional and Digital Learning (P&DL) is co-convened between the School and the Institute of Educational Technology.

Many academics in the Education Cluster are members of the Faculty-led Centre for the Study of Global Development (CSGD), launched in 2022. The CSGD builds on the School’s long-standing award winning track record in global development work (for example, gaining the Times Higher Education Award for International Impact (2017), the Guardian Universities Award (2017) and being cited among the Top 20 most impactful examples of UK research contributing to global development by the UK Collaborative on Development Research). The Centre builds on the activity of the Research into International Teacher Education and Development (RITES) research group, alongside broader interdisciplinary development work from across the Faculty. Over the past two decades our programmes have transformed the quality of professional learning for hundreds of thousands of educators, improving learning outcomes for millions of learners.

Our multi-disciplinary research generates evidence from a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, including developmental psychology, sociology, anthropology and ethnography, to address research questions in the areas of children and young people’s lived experiences and development. The group contributes to nationally and globally important practices, policies and debates across issues such as learning, language, inclusion, social justice, physical and mental health, wellbeing and rights. Research contributes to the Faculty’s expertise in the fields of Children and Families and Health and Wellbeing as well as enacting the commitment to harnessing key voices and agency through Community Engagement.

We are well networked with researchers collaborating with both internal and external research centres and groups, in particular the following, where you can find out more about the details of our research and impact.

Research groups within the Childhood and Youth cluster are:

  • Contemporary Youth Cultures and Transitions (CYCaT) brings together academic researchers – working across and between the boundaries of criminology, human geography, psychology, sociology, and education studies – alongside practitioners and youth activists. We believe that young people’s voices and experiences should be front and centre of our work.
  • Rumpus are an interdisciplinary group, employing a range of methods to explore the meanings and applications of fun.

Colleagues in the Childhood and Youth cluster are central to the activity of the Faculty wide Centres:

The Sports and Fitness cluster is a vibrant and diverse community of academics generate relevant, applied, ethically responsible, and impactful multidisciplinary research in the broad field of Sport and Fitness. Within a range of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, our research cluster includes experts in the areas of sport and exercise psychology, sports biomechanics, sports coaching, sporting embodiment, sporting career transitions, strength and conditioning, the sociology of sport, and women in sport.

The cluster draws together diverse research areas under the faculty themes of Health and Wellbeing, Children and Families, and Education and Learning where coach education impacts upon practice. Within each theme, cluster members are engaged in applied research projects with national and international organisations such as The Premier League, FIFA, Sport England, Therabody, Carers Trust among others.  

Together we curate a contemporary and relevant research programme to connect research and knowledge exchange in and beyond the Open University. Academics within the cluster benefit from both internal and external collaborations and disseminate high-quality, innovative and inspiring research which has been recognised and presented internationally. We have a history of funding awards to further develop our creative approaches to sport and fitness-based investigations and work with some prestigious UK based and international organisations to provide applied sport and fitness research.



Scholarship (as research about our curriculum, pedagogy and assessment) is carried out in the School as an extension of our educational research. More details about this can be found through the Faculty Scholarship and Innovation Centre PRAXIS.


Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport research blog sites

  • Research conversations: by and for Education researchers offers accessible posts which are, in effect, a research conversation on ‘paper’. They highlight the practical challenges of being an education researcher, are outward looking and applied, and authored by staff and students.
  • Sport and Fitness blog offers more detail about our Sport and Fitness research, recent publications, doctoral opportunities, knowledge exchange activities and impact.
  • Early Childhood blog presents accessible posts from staff, students and guest contributors discussing a wide variety of early childhood issues, ranging from supporting language development to promoting STEM in early education.
  • WELS postgraduate and emerging researchers’ blog is a postgraduate researcher-led blog which offers insights and explores issues from the experiences of doctoral researchers, including those engaged in education, childhood and youth, sport and fitness research.
  • The Ibali Knowledge Hub The Ibali team engage with academics, educators, practitioners and wider communities about storytelling and inclusion. They explore and showcase these engagements through blogs and podcasts on the Ibali Knowledge Hub. 


Celebrating research: student conference

Since 2022 the School hosts an annual summer student research conference organised, facilitated and presented by students with staff. This celebrates all aspects of research, from learning about research through reviewing academic literature, through developing the skills for small-scale enquiries on our undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes to scholarship and research undertaken in the School. Each year the focus and content is determined by the student-staff committee. Staff and student organisers, facilitators and participants gain open digital badges in recognition for their contributions.

The inaugural event was well attended and feedback was positive, such as: “Thank you for a new and interesting experience which has enriched my life as a student. I had the opportunity to listen and to talk to other students about their journeys and I feel I am not alone. I hope to join again the researcher festival next year.”

Feedback from participants each year is used to design the following year’s events. In 2023 a quiz night was added as a warm-up event and chance to raise questions. After the 2023 event students and staff captured inspirational quotes around research from the presentations.