Seminars and Events

All events are held at 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6PY unless otherwise stated.

All are welcome to those indicated as ‘public seminars’ in parentheses after the title. These are held on Monday evenings and there is no need to book. If you are coming from outside the Department and would like to attend any of the other seminars or events, please contact the convener(s) beforehand.
Click on the title of the event for further information.

The difference between CHAT and socio-cultural theory

02 June 2016 12:30 - 13:45
Seminar Room B

Speaker: Dr Ian Thompson, Department of Education

Convener: Dr Ian Thompson, Qualitative Methods Special Interest Group

Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and sociocultural theory have their origins in the Marxist dialectical psychology of Vygotsky and share his concern with learning as a social activity. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably to describe research methodologies and methods that focus on analyses of learning and the contexts of learning. Other researchers sharply differentiate between the two theoretical positions. Sociocultural theory, often associated with researchers in the US, focuses on the formation of mind in society and reflects Vygotsky’s emphasis on the centrality of language. Activity theory developed from the work of Vygotsky’s colleague Leontiev with his emphasis on the ‘object motive’ of activity. CHAT analyses how people and organisations learn to do something new through changes in activity.  CHAT researchers such as Engeström or Hedegaard share a concern with culture and activity but with different emphases on systemic activity and interactions in practices respectively. This talk will discuss the connections and differences between CHAT and sociocultural theory with a particular focus on when and how they may be appropriate theoretical frameworks for empirical research.

Interaction, moderation, and mediation: definitions, discrimination, and (some) means of testing

06 June 2016 12:30 - 13:45
Seminar Room D

Speaker: Dr James Hall

Conveners: Dr James Hall, Dr Lars-Erik Malmberg and Professor Steve Strand, Quantitative Methods Hub

In 1986 Baron and Kenny set out to clarify the differences between the terms “Moderation” and “Mediation” as used in the social sciences.  Thirty years later, the seminal paper that this collaboration resulted in (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) has been cited 57,965 times (Google Scholar on 09/03/2016).  This is approximately 1,900 times year and on average once every 5 hours of every day, of every year, for thirty years.  However and despite this citation record, the uncertainty surrounding these terms has not gone away.  Academics still struggle to define, distinguish and utilise these terms while related under-graduate and post-graduate teaching is still the exception. This talk sets out simple, clear definitions that distinguish “Mediation” from “Moderation” and “Interaction” as well as all three from a number of other commonly-used terms.  Parallel methods for testing hypotheses of Mediation and Moderation are discussed and demonstrated.

Beyond happiness? Pondering the purpose(s) of education (Public Seminar)

06 June 2016 16:30 - 18:00
Seminar Room A

Speaker: Professor Peter Roberts, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Convener: Dr Alis Oancea, Philosophy, Religion and Education Research Forum

Over the last two decades a booming industry in ‘happiness’ has emerged.  Academic research on happiness has attracted widespread media attention and spawned a host of more popular publications, many of which have a strong ‘self-help’ flavour.  Happiness is typically construed as something we all want and ought to pursue; indeed, it is often seen as the ultimate end to which our activities are directed.  Education is expected to enhance, not impede, human happiness.  This presentation offers an alternative way of thinking about the nature and purpose of education.  It acknowledges the importance of certain forms of happiness while also investigating the role education has to play in creating discomfort, uncertainty, and unhappiness.

Peter Roberts is Professor of Education and Director of the Educational Theory, Policy and Practice Research Hub at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  His primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education and educational policy studies.  His most recent books include Happiness, Hope, and Despair: Rethinking the Role of Education (2016), Education, Ethics and Existence: Camus and the Human Condition (with Andrew Gibbons and Richard Heraud, 2015), Better Worlds: Education, Art, and Utopia (with John Freeman-Moir, 2013), The Virtues of Openness: Education, Science, and Scholarship in the Digital Age (with Michael Peters, 2011), Paulo Freire in the 21st Century: Education, Dialogue, and Transformation (2010), and Neoliberalism, Higher Education and Research (with Michael Peters, 2008).  In 2012 Peter was a Rutherford Visiting Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 2016 he is a Canterbury Fellow at the University of Oxford.  He is the Immediate Past President of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.

Applied Linguistics Research Group seminar (title to be announced)

07 June 2016 13:15 - 14:15
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Professor Victoria Murphy, Department of Education

Convener: Dr Jess Briggs, Applied Linguistics Research Group

‘Love is a Teacher’: pedagogical attention in The Brothers Karamazov

07 June 2016 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room D

Speaker: Professor Peter Roberts, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Convener: Dr Alis Oancea, Philosphy, Religion and Education Research Forum in association with the PESGB

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is widely acknowledged as one of the most important philosophical novels ever written.  The Brothers Karamazov deepens and extends Dostoevsky’s treatment of themes addressed in his earlier fiction: the clash of values and worldviews; the tensions between reason, faith and feeling; and the complexities of human relationships.  A key claim made by one character in the book is that ‘love is a teacher’.  Dostoevsky develops a notion of active love, contrasting this with the more abstract principle of loving humankind.  Active love focuses on particulars; it teaches us how to love individual human beings, with all their frailties and flaws.  Iris Murdoch’s concept of attention, adapted from the work of Simone Weil, provides a helpful starting point in exploring some of the broader educational implications of these ideas.

Peter Roberts is Professor of Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  His primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education and educational policy studies.  His latest book is Happiness, Hope, and Despair: Rethinking the Role of Education (2016).

Experiencing developmental crises in critical times: from realising potential futures to actualising virtual possibilities?

08 June 2016 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room G

Speaker: Dr. Michalis Kontopodis, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, University of Roehampton

Convener: Dr Ian Thompson, OSAT

Most theories of psychological development refer to a crisis taking place in adolescence due to physical, cognitive and psychosocial changes. Little research has however explored how young people experience this psychological crisis in the context of today’s broader financial, socio-political and ecological crises. While a crisis indicates a period of intense difficulty, it can also be understood as the turning point when a difficult or important decision must be made – which involves the possibility for the emergence of radical novelty. Drawing on post-Vygotskian and post-structuralist grounds I aspire to explore in my presentation the challenges and possibilities for youth development in this frame. I will propose a differentiation between two modes of human development: development of concrete skills (potential development) and development of new societal relations (virtual development, which is at the same time individual and collective). I will reflect on the significance of this differentiation by exploring research materials from my recent projects with disenfranchised youth in Greece, Germany, US and Brazil. Last but not least, I will expand on the notion of virtual development to consider recent technological developments that enable the multimodal communication and transnational  collaboration among young people from diverse linguistic and geographical contexts.

Dr. Michalis Kontopodis' background comprises psychology, educational science, and youth studies. He accomplished his PhD at the Free University Berlin and is currently working as a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at the Faculty of Education, University of Roehampton. Before that, he worked at the Humboldt University Berlin and at the University of Amsterdam and was a visiting scholar at the City University of New York; New York University, Moscow State University, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, and Jawaharlal Nehru University in India. Michalis Kontopodis is a former Secretary of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research. He has until recently coordinated the international research project DIGIT-M-ED "Global Perspectives on Learning and Development with Digit@l Video-Editing Media". His book "Neoliberalism, Pedagogy and Human Development" has recently been published as a paperback (second edition) with Routledge. Updates and recent publications:

Considering the role of ontology, epistemology, and theoretical frameworks in the development of your DPhil

09 June 2016 12:30 - 13:45
Seminar Room B

Speaker: Julia Pacitto, Centre for Refugee studies

Convener: Dr Velda Elliott, Qualitative Methods Special Interest Group

With reference to the development of my DPhil research which looks at the journeys of refugees and asylum seekers to the UK, this session will engage with key methodological questions such as: what assumptions about the nature of knowledge and social existence are implicit within our research designs? What is the connection between methods and methodology, mid-level theory and theoretical frameworks, and epistemological and ontological orientation? How do these interact/overlap? And, what is the place of each of these within a thesis? I will offer insights from my own lengthy and at times challenging navigation through philosophy and theory in the development of my DPhil project, which uses narrative and semi-structured methods to explore the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers during their journeys into exile. The questions identified above are especially pertinent when undertaking research with marginalized populations, where politics and advocacy often influence the way we think about and do research, and where these more abstract theoretical questions have the propensity to be overlooked.

Youth unemployment: can labour-market Intermediaries help?

09 June 2016 16:00 - 18:00
Seminar Room G/H

Speaker: Dr Andre Kraak, Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL), University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Convener: Dr Susan James Relly, SKOPE

For further information and to register for this event, please click here

Bayesian unknown change-point models to investigate causality in single case designs

13 June 2016 12:30 - 13:45
Seminar Room D

Speaker: Dr Prathiba Natesan, College of Education, University of North Texas

Conveners: Dr James Hall, Dr Lars-Erik Malmberg and Professor Steve Strand, Quantitative Methods Hub

Single case designs (SCDs) are widely used to test the effects of interventions in education, psychology, and medicine.  SCDs involve the repeated assessment of an outcome over time (i.e., a time series) within a case, during one or more baseline phases and one or more intervention phases, where the experimenter controls the timing of the phases. There are several challenges to statistical analysis of SCD data. Due to the small sample size, statistical estimates from few observations have considerable sampling uncertainty. This uncertainty is further worsened by autocorrelated errors.

In this talk I will introduce how Bayesian unknown change-point models can be used to confirm the presence of treatment effect. Advantages of Bayesian estimation such as making inferences from small samples, better autocorrelation estimates, posterior distributions (instead of single point estimates), and accommodating several types and distributions of data are particularly useful for SCDs.

How the European Bologna Process is influencing students’ learning experience: findings of a study of higher education students in Denmark

13 June 2016 14:00 - 15:30
Seminar Room C

Speaker: Dr Laura Louise Sarauw, Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Education, DPU, Aarhus University, Denmark

Convener: Dr Hubert Ertl, Higher Education and Professional Learning Research Group

Policies that aim to speed up students’ pace of learning and make them employable in a future labour market play an increasingly important role in the planning of European higher education. This presentation argues that some of the main features of the European Bologna process, namely the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), modularisation and a shift towards a competence-based curriculum, are far from being a neutral means to enhance student mobility across countries and study programmes that they were originally presented to be. Drawing on a recent large scale study of students’ responses to Bologna-related reforms of the Danish university legislation, the presentation demonstrates how these features are assembled in ways in which students are increasingly incentivised to adopt a certain kind of anticipatory behaviour, redirecting their attention from learning activities ‘here and now’ towards processes of piecing together and forecasting a particular future in the labour market.

A summary of the quantitative part of the study can be found on this webpage:

The findings of an RCT evaluation of the effectiveness of the Letterbox Club in improving reading and number skills of foster children ages 7-11 years old (Public Seminar)

13 June 2016 16:30 - 18:00
Seminar Room A

Speaker: Dr Karen Winter, Queen’s University, Belfast

Convener: Professor Judy Sebba, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education

The poor educational outcomes of children in care are a significant concern internationally. Whilst there have been many interventions developed to address this problem, very few of these have been rigorously evaluated. This paper presents the findings of a randomised controlled trial that sought to measure the effectiveness of a book gifting programme (the Letterbox Club) that aims to improve literacy skills amongst children aged 7–11 years in foster care. The programme involves children receiving six parcels of books sent through the post over a six-month period. The trial, which ran between April 2013 and June 2014, involved a sample of 116 children in Northern Ireland (56 randomly allocated to the intervention group and 60 to a waiting list control group). Outcome measures and findings are discussed. The accompanying qualitative process evaluation that sought to determine foster carer/child attitude towards and engagement with the parcels are also considered. In light of the combined quantitative and qualitative findings it is recommended that the logic model/theory of change underpinning book gifting schemes might benefit from being more clearly defined and that it might help if a clearer role for foster carers was delineated.

Dr. Karen Winter is a lecturer in social work at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research interests include children and young people in care; children’s rights; communication and positive relationships with children; vulnerable families. She has been involved in a number of research projects funded by local government, the ESRC and the voluntary sector. She has published extensively in her area of expertise. Karen is a Board member of the European Social Work Research Association. Outside of work she is also the Chair of the advisory group for Fostering Network Northern Ireland and a non-executive member of the Board for the Northern Ireland Guardian ad Litem Agency where she is also chair of the social care governance committee.  Prior to a career in academia Karen worked as a qualified social worker, team manager in child protection and as a Guardian Ad Litem in a career spanning over 16 years.

The ‘writing up’ process: discussion panel

16 June 2016 12:30 - 13:45
Seminar Room B

Convener: Dr Susan James Relly, Qualitative Methods Special Interest Group

Trends in Cultural-Historical Activity Theory

16 June 2016 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room E

Speaker: Issac Lim, Department of Education

Conveners: Dr Ian Thompson and Professor Harry Daniels, OSAT

In this presentation, I will outline findings of my review of the empirical literature that have used CHAT to study the delivery of patient care in interprofessional settings since the 1990s. Specifically, I will speak about trends, provide a critique, as well as recommendations on what future empirical work in CHAT should focus on. Additionally, I will present a framework I developed for synthesizing the literature, which predominantly used qualitative research design approaches.

I am currently reading a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford. I am also a member of the OSAT research group. Please go to this URL if you would like to know more

Functions: the growth of understanding

21 June 2016 16:30 - 18:00
Seminar Room G

Speaker: Anne Watson, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education

Convener: Dr Gabriel Stylianides, Subject Pedagogy Research Group

This seminar draws on the work of Michal Ayalon, Steve Lerman and myself. We investigated the growth of students' understanding of functions in secondary schools in two countries whose curricula are very different. In doing so, we developed conjectures about the relationship between curriculum and how the different elements that contribute to a mature understanding of functions are coordinated. We also engaged with the extensive literature about covariation and rate of change. Our most recent iterations through the data have led to some insights about the relationships between informal, schooled and formal mathematical knowledge.

The Young Language Learners (YLL) Symposium 2016

06 July 2016 -

EMI Oxford Course for University Teachers

14 August 2016 -

To what extent is Oxford still an ecclesiastical foundation university?

01 November 2016 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room D

Speaker: The Revd Dr John Gay, Department of Education

Convener: Dr Alis Oancea, Philosophy, Religion and Education Research Forum in association with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (Oxford Branch)

The term ‘Church university’ is normally limited in this country to the group of new universities evolving out of the teacher training colleges established by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.  However four of the earliest universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and King’s College London were ecclesiastical foundations. Whilst these four have broadened and secularized over the years, nevertheless there are still significant ecclesiastical elements remaining in their constitutions, their organisational structures and their practices.  This seminar focuses on Oxford as a case study.

The Revd Dr John Gay is an honorary research fellow at the Department of Education and a visiting professor at the University of Winchester.

Epistemic fluency in higher education: bridging actionable knowledgeable and knowledgeable action

16 November 2016 16:30 -
Seminar Room G

Speaker: Lina Markauskaite, Associate Professor,  Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation, University of Sydney

Conveners: Dr Ian Thompson and Professor Harry Daniels, OSAT