Today’s young generations are among the first ones to grow up in an environment where digital voice assistants (e.g. Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant) can emulate some innate capabilities of their human Creators, such as the autonomous use of human language and speech. My dissertation aims to contribute to a theoretical as well as empirical understanding of what role voice assistants play in today’s home and childhood environments, and how exposure to these machines is related to way children construct a basic understanding of the world around them. In addition, I am also hoping that my findings will prefigure to a certain extent how the nature of human-machine relationships might look like in a couple of years and decades from now.
I am a pragmatic proponent of mixed methods designs, with a particular emphasis on advanced quantitative means of scientific inquiry. I also hold a strong interest in philosophical issues related to the ongoing rise of artificial/machine intelligence.
- Festerling, J., & Siraj, I. (2020). Alexa, what are you? Exploring Primary School Children’s Ontological Perceptions of Digital Voice Assistants in Open Interactions. Human Development, 64, 26–43. https://doi.org/10.1159/000508499
- Festerling, J. (2020) Alexa, what are you? Why we should actively engage children in discussions about intelligent technologies. Researching Education, Issue 3. https://researchingeducation.com/jfesterling1020/
- Festerling, J. (2020). Changing Nature of Childhood Environments – Investigating Children’s Interactions with Digital Voice Assistants in Light of a New Paradigm. Proceedings of The Thirteenth International Conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions – ACHI 2020, 73–78.
- Festerling, J. (2020). Alexa, How Do You Change Us? Annual Poster Conference of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.36687.30887
- Festerling, J. (2020). Innovators’ Freedom to Challenge Our Paradigms: Why the Copernican Legacy Should Guide Our Progression through the Incipient Age of Artificial Intelligence. Proceedings of the Global Essay Competition at The Fiftieth St. Gallen Symposium. http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.18644.22405/1
Aneyn O’Grady is a first-year DPhil Student supported by the LiFT Project studentship, focused on how an individual’s system of emotion concept representation may underlie interpersonal behaviour.
Her research draws upon her master’s dissertation completed in 2018 as part of the MSc Education (Child Development and Education), also supervised by Dr. Sonali Nag at the University of Oxford Department of Education, that led to the creation of an emotion identification computer game and coding scheme to grasp multi-faceted and multi-modal understanding of emotions in children.
Prior to pursuing graduate studies in education, Aneyn worked in the NYC Department of Education as an Americorps VISTA Program Associate in the Office of Community Schools focused on supporting partnerships between social service agencies and low-performing/underserved state schools to address issues with attendance, access to health/mental health services, and family engagement, as well as developing an asset map of local community resources.
Her research interests centre on the relationship between language and social skill, and how this links to the development of social-emotional learning curricula and interventions. She is particularly focused on exploring individual differences in theory of mind, the influence of multilingualism, and how engaging in digital spaces (e.g., social media) may influence emotion representation and social cognition for today’s developing child.
Title of Thesis
Structuring Mind-Space: The Role of Language in the Multi-Dimensional Representation of Emotion
Shepard, & O’Grady. (2017). What kinds of alternative possibilities are required of the folk concept(s) of choice? Consciousness and Cognition, 48, 138-148.
Brad is currently completing his doctoral thesis. He aims to demonstrate that phonological skills can transfer between languages.
Brad developed an innovative programme teaching children phonics in either English or Cantonese. Without any further teaching, children were able to acquire the phonological skills in another language. The successful training results provide strong evidence that phonological skills are transferable across languages. Children develop the phonological skills for a new language by transferring their previous learning, instead of acquiring the skills anew.
In Brad’s research, he tailor-made a set of toys and storybooks for children to enjoy the learning experience. He has also constructed and validated a phonological test that measures children’s phonological awareness of English and Cantonese in parallel. Over 180+ kindergarteners have been individually trained and assessed by Brad using his teaching and assessment materials.
Brad is interested in research related to language development in early childhood. He is specialised in intervention studies using randomised controlled trial design and quantitative methods (e.g. structural equation modelling).
Brad holds a BEd in English Education (First Class Honours) from The University of Hong Kong and an MSc in Child Development and Education (Distinction) from The University of Oxford. Prior to his doctoral study, he has worked for NGOs serving underprivileged students.
Title of Thesis
Cross-linguistic transfer of phonological awareness in Chinese Children Receiving English Instruction: An Intervention Study
Chan, YWB., & Gao, X. (2014). Pre-service English teachers’ perceptions of newly arrived children from Mainland China. Journal of Education for Teaching, 40(2), 140-154.
Tiarnach’s research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Tiarnach has returned to the Department of Education having previously completed an M.Sc in Childhood Development and Education at the University of Oxford. Tiarnach was recipient of the Oxford Review of Education Dissertation Prize 2016/2017 for his thesis exploring the effects of feedback in virtual learning environments. He completed his undergraduate, Honours B.Ed at Trinity College Dublin.
Tiarnach’s professional background is in primary education as a mainstream and English language teacher, working predominantly in disadvantaged communities.
- Technology in education
- Early literacy and numeracy learning
- Early mental health
- Effects of social disadvantage on education
- Quantitative methods in education research
Before starting at Oxford, Peter taught English and Maths, both in the UK and abroad.
Additionally he has completed research for The Northern Irish Civil Service and Civitas, a UK think tank, on patterns of UK school segregation. He holds a 1st class degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics BA from Queens University, Belfast and a Masters of Education from The Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Title of Thesis
Understanding Ethnically Integrated Schools in the UK
Mitchell, P. (2017) 10 Things to Keep in Mind When Advocating for Your Child., Cambridge, MA.: RIDES, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Mitchell, P. (2017) 5 Things to Keep in Mind When Addressing Racial Bullying in School, Cambridge, MA.: RIDES, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Mitchell, P. (2017) A student centred analysis of ethnic segregation in London’s schools, London, UK.: Civitas Institute for the Study of Civil Society.
Pei-Hsin’s current research interest focuses on subjective well-being of Taiwanese educators. Her research aims to emphasise the importance of teacher mental health and the potential way to elevate the level of well-being.
Pei-Hsin earned her BA degree in the Department of Education and got teaching certification in National Cheng-Chi University in Taiwan. She then earned her MA degree in psychology and counselling in Taiwan. After studying, she then worked in higher education area in Taiwan, where she was involved in teacher training system and research.
Zhen graduated from China Foreign Affairs University in 2001 with a first-class honours degree in English, and obtained MSc in Child Development and Education in University of Oxford in 2014.
Before coming to Oxford, Zhen taught English in China or over 10 years. She also worked in 12 UK schools (11 primaries and 1 secondary school) for one year, teaching Chinese and Chinese culture. Her first-hand knowledge of Chinese and English education, combined with the training she received in Oxford, gives her an advantage to create her own voice in child learning, and in second language learning for young children.
Her research interests are children learning, literacy development, bilingualism, second language acquisition, English language teaching and learning.
Rachel is a DPhil student in the Department of Education, Oxford. Her research focuses on improving children’s literacy, through interventions which target early spoken language skills.
Before studying that the University of Oxford, Rachel completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Birmingham and an MSc in Language Sciences specialising in Sign Language Studies at University College London. Between studying, Rachel was employed as a Learning Support Assistant in a secondary school, particularly with KS4 students who struggled with reading, and also as a British Sign Language Communication Support Worker with D/deaf students in further education colleges in London. Prior to beginning doctoral training, she worked at University College London, developing and trialling a parent-delivered early language intervention (PACT; Parents and Children Together), which aimed to improve the oral language and literacy skills of nursery aged children, particularly focussing on those living in areas of higher deprivation.
In addition to working on her own research, Rachel was involved in the organisation of the student-led postgraduate STORIES (Student’s Ongoing Research in Education) conference 2018, and has also contributed to the development of the ATLAS app (Automated Test of Language AbilitieS), designed to assess the verbal language skills of young children.
- Early language and literacy development
- Language intervention in the early years
- Use of Randomised Control Trials in educational research
In his DPhil research, Dominik focuses on the predictors and correlates of achievement emotions amongst primary students in Rwanda.
Achievement emotions in education may not only be positive or negative but also activating (e.g. enjoyment) or deactivating (e.g. boredom), which makes them a particularly interesting lens to study student learning engagement.
In this respect, he is particularly interested in interaction effects between person and environmental factors. At the core of his project, there will be an intensive longitudinal study of Rwandan primary students and their maths and language teachers. In addition, a qualitative exploratory phase will precede the main study to cognitively and culturally validate all data-collection processes and tools.
Prior to starting the DPhil programme, he worked as a specialist in research methodologies in Africa and Asia. As the executive director of idea42 India, he managed large scale social experiments in behavioural economics, microfinance, and education.
As the Country Director for Innovations for Poverty Action(IPA) Malawi, he managed randomized controlled trials in agriculture, microfinance, and SME business development.
As Plan UK’s research specialist, he developed and managed the evaluation of its girls’ education programme in Sierra Leone using a quasi-experimental design.
As Girl Effect Rwanda’s Senior Research Manager, he led all in-country monitoring, evaluation, and research undertakings. I hold an MA in Political Science, Economic History and Economic Policy, an MSc in Development Studies, and a PGCert in Econometrics.
He is an advanced learner of Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s lingua franca.