Department of Education

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Abstract: English-medium instruction (EMI) refers the practice of offering academic subjects taught through English in countries where English is not the first language of the majority of the population. The growth of EMI in higher education (HE) has been well-documented, and the driving forces behind EMI are intertwined with goals related to the internationalization of HE. Although EMI as a phenomenon has grown exponentially in recent decades, little research has explored EMI across global regions, particularly in countries in the Global South. This study aimed to investigate the current situation with regards to the introduction and expansion of EMI in HE in 52 countries designated as recipients on the Official Development Assistance (ODA) list. In doing so, the study aimed to shed light on EMI provision in many countries which are relatively less resourced and under-researched. The study involved 3 stages of investigation: (1) a country-level analysis with data collected through open-ended questionnaires from informed respondents to investigate the introduction and expansion of EMI in the 52 ODA recipient countries; (2) a website analysis of purposively sampled universities to examine what information with regards to EMI programmes is available; and (3) a survey of key institutional players to explore additional information about EMI programmes offered worldwide. The data was analyzed to explore global and regional trends, and the findings offer insights into the admission requirements, professional development opportunities, international student enrolment, and driving forces behind EMI programs. Based on the findings, recommendations are offered for researchers and practitioners.

Bio: Kari Sahan is a researcher in the EMI Oxford Research Group and an Honorary Norham Fellow in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. She completed her DPhil in 2020 from the Department of Education, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on language policy, teacher–student interaction and the use of the L1 in EMI classrooms. Her work has appeared in journals such as ELT Journal, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, System, and Journal of English for Academic Purposes.

Abstract: Phonological decoding proficiency has attracted ample attention in L1 reading research, and has been a key variable in prediction studies of L1 reading comprehension ability. Contrary to L1 research, L2 decoding skill has received less attention and it remains unclear whether, and the extent to which, this skill would explain any variability in the reading comprehension of adult L2 learners. This talk will present the findings of a study that aimed to investigate the unique contribution of L2 decoding proficiency to L2 reading comprehension, relative to the contributions of previously established predictors of L2 reading comprehension, namely, L2 vocabulary knowledge, L2 grammar knowledge and L1 reading comprehension. In this study, 216 Saudi university students were assessed on 6 measures: L2 pseudo-word decoding ability, L2 real-word decoding ability, L2 vocabulary knowledge, L2 grammar knowledge, L1 reading comprehension, and L2 reading comprehension. A series of regression analyses showed that there was a significant relation between L2 decoding proficiency and L2 reading comprehension performance. Further, L2 decoding proficiency made a significant, yet small, contribution to L2 reading comprehension even after controlling for the effects of L2 vocabulary knowledge, L2 grammar knowledge and L1 reading comprehension. The talk will also shed light on the nature of the decoding difficulties experienced by a subsample of these learners using error analyses of their decoding outputs and their self-reported decoding experiences and processes. Finally, the implications of these findings for L2 reading theory and pedagogy will be discussed.

Bio: Hala Alghamdi completed her PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Oxford in 2020. She is now an assistant professor in Applied Linguistics at the University of Jeddah, King Abdulaziz University previously. She is interested in second language reading, and more particularly, lower-level reading processes and predictors of second language reading comprehension ability.



Children are powerful statistical spellers: They can learn novel written patterns with phonological counterparts under experimental conditions, via implicit learning processes, akin to “statistical learning” processes established for spoken language acquisition. Can these mechanisms fully account for children’s knowledge of written patterns? How does this ability relate to literacy measures? How does it compare to explicit learning? I address these questions in a series of artificial lexicon experiments, inducing graphotactic learning under incidental and explicit conditions, and comparing it with measures of literacy. Previous studies assessed learning of spelling rules which have counterparts in spoken language; however, while this is also the case for some naturalistic spelling rules (e.g., English phonotactics prohibit word initial /ŋ/ and accordingly, written words cannot begin with ng), there are also purely visual constraints (graphotactics) (e.g., gz is an illegal spelling of a frequent word-final sound combination in English: *bagz). Can children learn patterns unconfounded from correlated phonotactics? Developing and skilled spellers were exposed to patterns replete of phonotactic cues. In post-tests, participants generalized over both positional constraints embedded in semiartificial strings, and contextual constraints created using homophonic non-word stimuli. This was demonstrated following passive exposure and even under meaningful (word learning) conditions, and success in learning graphotactics was not hindered by learning word meanings. However, the effect sizes across these experiments remained small, and the hypothesized positive associations between learning performance under incidental conditions and literacy measures were never observed. This relationship was only found under explicit conditions, when pattern generalization benefited. Investigation of age effects revealed that adults and children show similar patterns of learning but adults learn faster from matched text.

Bio: Daniela is a post-doctoral researcher within the Learning for Families through Technology (LiFT) project at the Department of Education. Within this project, Daniela is responsible for leading on the collection, analysis and reporting of a learning app data generated by users. In this role, Daniela contributes to key components of the LiFT research programme and assists project investigators in developing a research agenda aimed at evaluating the educational content of learning apps and carrying out research to investigate language learning potential and parental engagement in using learning apps. Before joining the Department of Education, Daniela was a doctoral student at the Department of Psychology and Language Sciences, Division of Language and Cognition, supervised by Dr. Elizabeth Wonnacott. Her work lies at the intersection between learning, memory, and language and investigates key questions for literacy learning and instruction. She designed and carried out learning experiments that focused on the contribution of statistical learning processes to children’s learning of spelling patterns. This research was a continuation of her MSc Language Sciences project, also carried out at UCL’s Division of Language and Cognition.



Although research on the mathematics teaching and learning has made significant progress in recent years, it has had only limited impact on classroom instruction in many countries. I report on an investigation in which we collaborated with mathematics teachers, school leaders, and district leaders to investigate what it takes to improve the quality of instruction and students’ learning on a large scale. After giving an overview of our findings, which take the form of a theory of action for instructional improvement that spans from the classroom to system instructional leadership, I will focus on key supports for teachers’ learning.


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In 2013/14 the arrangements for setting teacher pay in England were radically reformed.  A system of seniority-based progression was replaced by a decentralised system allowing local authority schools to pay teachers based on individual performance and local labour market conditions. Using a data-driven strategy we show that, on average, teachers’ pay in local authority schools fell relative to the counterfactual pay they would have received in the absence of the reform.  Over half of all schools let their pay drift downward relative to the counterfactual.  Effects were larger in secondary schools (2% fall) than in primary schools (1% fall).  Local authorities played a role in the degree to which schools adopted flexibility.  Among secondary schools, proximity to Academy schools was important.  Schools that allowed their pay to drop the most experienced a decline in teacher retention rates and a reduction in the percentage of qualified teachers at the school.

Young people who have had experience of being in the care of the state, usually due to neglect or maltreatment, are disproportionately likely to be not in education, employment or training (or NEET) in early adulthood.  This session will outline some of the findings from the quantitative strand of a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation and due to report in January 2022:  In particular, it will use binary logistic regression to explore employment outcomes in young people’s 21st year using linked administrative data from the National Pupil Database, Individualised Learner Records and the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes dataset.  The analysis compares the general population with young people with different levels of engagement with the social care system, with a focus on identifying particular supporting or risk factors.

Research at the intersection of social science and genomics, “sociogenomics”, is transforming our understanding of the interplay between genomics, individual outcomes and society. It has interesting and maybe unexpected implications for education research and policy. Here we review the growing sociogenomics literature and discuss its implications for educational researchers and policy makers. We cover key concepts and methods in genomic research into educational outcomes, how genomic data can be used to investigate social or environmental effects, the methodological strengths and limitations of genomic data relative to other observational social data, the role of intergenerational transmission, and potential policy implications. The increasing availability of genomic data in studies can produce a wealth of new evidence for education research. This may provide opportunities for disentangling the environmental and genomic factors that influence educational outcomes and identifying potential mechanisms for intervention.

A significant proportion of pupils move school during their school career for reasons other than standard structural moves between educational stages. Little is known about the underlying causes of these moves and the characteristics and experiences of mobile pupils are challenging to research. This seminar presents analyses of the English National Pupil Database (NPD), tracking a cohort from age 5 to 16, to better understand when school moves occur, the characteristics of mobile pupils and the impact of mobility on attainment. Findings reveal a sizable underlying rate of moves in England of about 1.5–2% per term and identify differences in mobility related to disadvantage, school phase, ethnic group and SEND status. The predictive power of the data for identifying mobile groups, however, is low, highlighting the need for more research, policy and practice in this area to better understand individual mobility circumstances. With regards to attainment, analyses identify moves during the secondary phase – but not the primary phase – as being significantly associated with lower pupil academic progress. This seminar presents results from across these analyses and discusses their implications for policy, practice and further research.

We present an analysis of A-level subject choices at around age 16 for a cohort of students in English schools who completed their studies in 2014. We examined both the National Pupil Database and a unique rich dataset on the subject preferences and subsequent choices between the ages of 16 and 18 (i.e. GCSE and A-level). We found substantive differences between students’ preferences and actual choices of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ post-16 subjects (i.e. A-level). These differences were strongly associated with falsification of students’ expectations of examination grades taken at age 16 (i.e. GCSE) in the core subjects of English and mathematics. The sizes of these falsification effects were much larger than other significant associations such as gender, ethnicity, and social class. This suggests that subject choices are not rigidly framed by stable individual preferences and they are therefore open to influence from new information, persuasion, and opportunities.