Department of Education

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Some of the UK’s most eminent education academics have collaborated to create a book offering a firm foundation for evidence-based, effective primary education. The book features work from department Professors Iram Siraj (Professor of Child Development and Education), Pam Sammons (Professor of Education), Edward Melhuish (Professor of Human Development) and Kathy Sylva (Professor of Educational Psychology). Using the UK’s 17-year Effective Provision of Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education research study (EPPSE, 1997–2014) as the core source, this research-led book combines qualitative and quantitative research findings to shine a spotlight on teaching in effective primary schools.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive Education Endowment Foundation, says “The history of education is littered with ideology, headline-grabbing here today, gone tomorrow policies and the hyped ideas of education gurus. Cutting through the fads and fashions, this book, by some of the UK’s most eminent education academics, gives us firm foundations for effective primary education.”

The book reveals the pedagogical strategies that are the hallmark of successful schools and brings these strategies to life through detailed observations of classroom interactions. By taking the reader into the classrooms of skilful teachers, it offers an accessible, multi-layered insight into how to make learning more engaging and motivating for children. This in turn will influence their development and progress, and, therefore, their later life chances.

The book also features work from Brenda Taggart, Honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Education and Donna-Lynn Shepherd, Senior Research Assistant at Coventry University.

Teaching in Effective Primary Schools: Research into pedagogy and children’s learning

Iram Siraj, Brenda Taggart, Pam Sammons, Edward Melhuish, Kathy Sylva and Donna-Lynn Shepherd
£24.99, paperback, 220 pages 16th September 2019 UCL IOE Press

Find out more about this area of research here.

Sibel Erduran, Professor of Science Education and Deputy Director of Research at the Department of Education, University of Oxford has co-authored a new book, “Transforming Teacher Education Through the Epistemic Core of Chemistry: Empirical Evidence and Practical Strategies”.

The book, published by Springer and written with Dr Ebru Kaya, associate professor in science education at Bogazici University, Turkey, illustrates the relevance of philosophy of chemistry in the education of chemistry teachers. It investigates how to make chemistry education more meaningful for both students and teachers, rather than concentrating on “cookbook” activities where students and teachers follow “recipes”, memorise formulae and recall facts without a deeper understanding of how and why knowledge in chemistry works. This book provides empirical evidence for the integration of epistemic themes in pre-service teachers’ learning.

The book is the second Professor Erduran has published this year: “Argumentation in Chemistry Education: Research, Policy and Practice” came out in February.

“Transforming Teacher Education Through the Epistemic Core of Chemistry: Empirical Evidence and Practical Strategies” provides an example of how theory and practice in chemistry education can be bridged. It reflects on the nature of knowledge in chemistry by referring to theoretical perspectives from philosophy of chemistry. Drawing on empirical evidence from research on teacher education, it illustrates concrete strategies and resources that can be used by educators. With the use of visual representations and analogies, the project makes some fairly abstract and complex ideas accessible to pre-service teachers.

Discover more about Professor Erduran’s work and research here.

Department of Education Academic Jason Todd responds to coverage of a Tide-Runnymede Trust report that he co-authored.

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Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, comments on the relationship between China and Russia in the academic sphere.

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Education is often one of the top priorities for those young people who arrive to England on their own from another country. Many have been through difficult journeys and find themselves separated from family, friends, and their home country, but we know that education provides a place for stability, for aspirations, and to make new friends.

The young people have aspirations to learn English to a high standard, finish college courses, and go to university. They have wide-ranging job aspirations from pilots to photographers. The other week, one 16-year old asylum-seeking boy explained,

“I want to be a nurse […] I have a grandmother, and when I was with her, she so nice. I was helpful to her. She’s very old. That is why I like older people, to help. I like that to do. […] I don’t want to learn only to get a job and get the money. [I want to learn] especially for my mind, for changing my experience.”

What educational provision is currently offered? 

So what educational provision is offered to unaccompanied migrant young people in England? We’ve written a new paper to be released in the Oxford Review of Education that explores this topic based on a research project funded by the OUP John Fell Fund. The statistics show us surprisingly little. We find that only half of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who have been in care for 12 or more months have a unique pupil number (tracking their educational provision in state funded schools). This may be because many of them go straight to English language programmes in colleges at the ages of 15-17 or be because they go to bespoke provision designed for unaccompanied migrant young people. No matter the reason, it means that it is difficult to understand what provision they do receive and how that provision meets their needs. In order to improve resource sharing, the National Association of Virtual School Heads is planning to host a repository of different educational projects for this population. Understanding educational provision serves as a basis for evaluation and for understanding outcomes.

What do these young people think about their education and aspirations?

Dr Ellie Ott is currently exploring this topic as part of a TORCH Humanities Knowledge Exchange Fellowship. The Fellowship is a partnership with the Oxfordshire Orientation Programme run by Key 2 and with the National Association of Virtual School Heads to share knowledge and share the voices of young people themselves. Although the Fellowship is on-going, the young people’s dedication towards learning and their aspirations for their future careers are already impressive.


This post is written by Dr Ellie Ott, Research Fellow at the Rees Centre and Dr Aoife O’Higgins, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Magdalen College and the Department of Experimental Psychology who completed her doctorate at the Rees Centre.  It is part of a series for the month of May on unaccompanied migrant young people in care.

Contact: Ellie.ott@education.ox.ac.uk


Related Rees Centre resources

Research: Educational provision

Research: Concepts of care

Department of Education DPhil student James O’Donovan is conducting ground-breaking fieldwork in Mukono, Uganda in training Community Health Workers to recognise, treat and prevent hearing loss in remote and rural areas.

Over 5% of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. This can cause oral language and communication impairment in children which in turn leads to adverse effects in educational attainment and behaviour and is linked to depression, dementia and social isolation in adults. However, of the global population affected, over 80% live in low or middle income countries, many of which have a severe lack of resources to prevent, diagnose or treat the disease. A report from the World Health Organization in 2013, revealed that 64% of participating countries from the African region had fewer than one Ear, Nose and Throat surgical specialist per million people, in comparison to 12 in some high-income countries.

In partnership with The World Health Organization (WHO) programme for prevention of deafness and hearing loss and The Mukono District Health Office, James’ current fieldwork aims to tackle this inequality by training community health workers to recognise, treat and prevent hearing loss. Training lay individuals as community health workers has had great success in the past in reducing common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, however this approach has been largely unexplored in regards to hearing loss.

In particular, this project aims to create a better understanding of how the use of mobile phones can support supervision of the Community Health Workers in this process and the pedagogical processes underpinning their use and is one of the first studies to take this approach.

Early findings show that some of the major underlying causes of high rates of underdiagnosed hearing loss and barriers to accessing care include a lack of clear referral pathways, widespread corruption and a lack of trust in the formal healthcare system. Despite these deeply rooted and complex issues, James is working with key partners on a local and national level to address them. So far the project has promising signs of success with over 100 individuals screened by Community Health Workers since the fieldwork began in September 2018. It is estimated that over 1,000 individuals will have been screened by the end of the six-month evaluation period.

Commenting on the importance of this research James said: “Hearing loss effects hundreds of millions of people globally, but the burden of disease falls hardest on resource poor countries. This is a social justice issue which needs to be highlighted and addressed, hopefully resulting in greater attention being paid to hearing loss and ear disease at the community level, by practitioners, academics and policy makers.”

This project is likely to be a landmark study in understanding how community health workers can address the burden of ear disease in low and middle income countries and will serve as a model for others working in this area. The project is funded by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council and The British Medical Association Charitable Arm.

James began his DPhil in Education in September 2017 and is being supervised by Professor Niall Winters (Associate Professor of Learning and New Technologies, Department of Education) and Dr Chris Paton (Group Head of the Global Health Informatics Group, Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health).

The DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford is an advanced research degree of high standing. The course provides graduates with a wide range of research skills as well as an in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of educational research. About 80 DPhil students from over 40 different countries are attached to the department, producing high-quality research across a wide range of topics.

Find out more about the DPhil in Education here: http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/programmes/dphil/

Find out more about James’ research here and download his latest article, ‘The use of participatory visual methods with community health workers: A systematic scoping review of the literature’ here.

A Mathematical Reasoning programme developed by Department of Education researchers has been found to help pupils’ understanding of the logical principles underlying maths and boost their results by one additional month, according to the findings of a randomised controlled trial published by the Education Endowment Foundation in December.

160 English primary schools took part in the trial of Mathematical Reasoning, originally created and piloted by Terezinha Nunes (Emeritus Professor of Educational Studies) and Peter Bryant (Honorary Research Fellow), which involved almost 7,500 pupils in Year 2 (Key Stage 1). Teachers were trained to deliver the programme over 12-15 weeks as part of their usual maths lessons and pupils’ learning was supported by online games, which could be used at school and at home.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) led the delivery of the trial through the network of Maths Hubs, including recruiting 160 schools and training teachers. The independent evaluation by a team from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found that pupils who took part in the programme made the equivalent of one additional month’s progress in maths, compared to a similar group of pupils. They also found some evidence that the programme also had a positive impact on mathematical reasoning.

Terezinha Nunes is Emeritus Professor at the department and has been researching children’s mathematical thinking for more than 35 years. In 2018 she was awarded the 2017 Hans Freudenthal Award for her outstanding contribution to the understanding of mathematical thinking, its origins and development.

The Mathematical Reasoning programme aims to improve mathematical attainment by developing pupils’ understanding of the logical principles underlying mathematics. The programme is delivered to year 2 pupils during normal lesson time.

The EEF previously funded a smaller trial of Mathematical Reasoning, which also suggested a positive impact on attainment, equivalent to an additional three months’ progress. This new trial, adapted to enable the programme to be delivered at scale, was designed to test its impact under everyday conditions and in a large number of schools. The EEF, University of Oxford and NCETM will now explore the potential for taking the project to more schools in England.

To find out more about Terezinha’s research visit: www.education.ox.ac.uk/people/terezinha-nunes/

To find out more about this research project see: www.education.ox.ac.uk/research/maths-reasoning/ 

100th Anniversary of the passing of a statute creating the Oxford University Department of Education

In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates its 100th anniversary in style; rated first in the UK for degrees in education by the Times Higher Education World University Subject Rankings, number one in the UK for research in education by the most recent Research Excellence Framework (the REF), and as part of the world’s leading University for Social Sciences teaching and research.

Originally established in 1919 to prepare teachers for Elementary and Secondary schools, the department’s contribution to the wider community has been evident since its inception, with the delivery of the University’s cultural resources to schools always being of critical importance. Our excellence in teacher education remains a core part of the department today, as demonstrated through the recently received ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating of our PGCE programmes, through our MSc in Teacher Education and Learning and Teaching, our research informed teaching practices, and the work of our Oxford Education Deanery, which has been dedicated to supporting teachers’ professional development and improving outcomes for pupils in schools since 2013.

Today, the department has 7 postgraduate programmes, 9 research groups, 4 research centres, over 590 postgraduate students and more than 160 staff members. The department takes particular pride in the diversity of its students, with 33% of students coming from the UK or EU during 2018 and the remaining 67% from countries overseas, including Ghana, Japan, Germany, India, Malaysia, China, Mexico, Estonia, Australia, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States, among many others.

Research in the department has continued to grow over this past century, not only across the breadth of its research areas, addressing issues in Language, Cognition and Development, Policy, Economy and Society, and Pedagogy, Learning and Knowledge but also through its increased physical growth, research activity and popularity. In 2018, the number of researchers in the department increased by 36%, research income exceeded department records and the number of doctoral applications increased by 20%.

The relevance of our research on policy, in particular, has been both influential and crucial to the UK government through parliamentary committees such as the  Science and Technology Committee, the Treasury Select Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee, to the Education Committee, the House of Lords Select Committee and the Women’s & Equalities Committee. The depth of research on both an inter and cross-disciplinary level has seen collaboration not only within the Social Science disciplines, from Philosophy, Social Policy, Sociology and Psychology, but also into the Humanities and Medical Sciences.

Last year saw the launch of a brand new Masters programme aimed at researchers and professionals in the field of educational assessment and led by academic researchers from the department’s Centre for Educational Assessment. We also welcomed three new senior academic Professorships to the department in Higher Education, Teacher Education and Child Development and Education, with Associate Professorships in Applied Linguistics and Higher Education underway. 2018 also saw the arrival of our most recent research centre, the Centre for Global Higher Education, now headquartered at the department and actively researching themes from the internationalisation of Higher Education, local and global public good contributions of Higher Education and the implications of Brexit, trade and migration for UK universities.

100th Anniversary Activities

To mark our 100th anniversary a year-long series of themed activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education.

Celebrations will start with a public seminar series on ‘Student Access to University’, led by Simon Marginson (Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education). The series will run for 5 weeks starting in January and involve an array of education experts within and outside of the department. In March, our annual student conference, STORIES (Students’ Ongoing Research in Education Studies), will explore issues in mental health, access and accountability in education. During Trinity term we will discuss the importance of Teacher Education, the basis that established the department in 1919, through our second public seminar series for the year, as well as celebrating with our alumni through the relaunch of our annual Oxford Education Society lecture.

A paper commemorating the centenary and the department’s history will also be published by Emeritus Professor and former Department Director, Richard Pring, later in the year. Entitled, ‘Teacher Training at Oxford University; Reluctant birth, Robust development – and the Oxford Review of Education’, the paper will set-out the department’s evolution, relationship with the University and cultural involvement with the wider community and contribution to Government policy.

If you would like the opportunity to explore our history, learn more about our future research and discover how you can be part of our 100th anniversary celebrations, join our mailing list and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest updates. Further announcements will follow throughout the year.

To find out more about our research: www.education.ox.ac.uk/our-research/

To view our public seminar series on ‘Student Access to University’ and register to attend see here.

To find out more about our PGCE, range of masters programmes and DPhil in education: www.education.ox.ac.uk/programmes/

To view all upcoming events: www.education.ox.ac.uk/news-events/events/

The University of Oxford’s teacher training has again been graded as ‘outstanding’ – the best possible category – by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in its latest report, published on 14 December 2018. Inspectors found teacher training at the Department of Education to be of the highest standard in all the performance categories. The results come just ahead of the department’s 100th anniversary year, which will be celebrated in 2019.

Teacher training at Oxford University has been in existence since 1892, when the University opened (under the Non-Collegiate Delegacy) a Day Training College for elementary school teachers, where pupils were able to gain a teachers’ certificate and take an external degree. Today, the department, in partnership with local schools, trains around 180 secondary school teachers a year through its PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) programmes in English, geography, history, mathematics, modern languages, religious education and science.

The inspection team visited the department and 12 of its partnership schools during June and November 2018 to carry out their assessments. They found the initial teacher education partnership at the department to be:

  • A unique and distinctive partnership, underpinned by a compelling and clearly articulated vision for a research-informed, partnership-led model of teacher education and professional development.
  • The recruitment processes, including the setting of pre-course research tasks to be rigorous and thorough, with almost all trainees making a flying start to their training year, leading to completion and employment rates for all subjects and groups that are, over time, well above sector averages.
  • The exceptionally well-crafted design of the course enables virtually all trainees to exceed the teachers’ standards. Typically, more than two thirds of trainees attain to a high level by the end of the training year. As a result, they make an exceptionally strong start to their NQT year, ensuring in turn that their pupils make sustained progress in their learning.
  • The partnership draws exceptionally well on the skills and experience of teachers and leaders within the partnership to enrich the curriculum studies and professional development aspects of the course. In addition, school-based mentors and university tutors work together extremely well to ensure a coherent and joined-up experience for trainees. Trainees express considerable confidence in all elements of the course, in particular the support provided by their university tutors.
  • Leaders have ensured that schools in challenging circumstances, as well as those judged to be outstanding, good and requiring improvement, are well represented in the partnership. Schools value their involvement in the partnership, especially the opportunities membership provides for staff at all levels to be involved in research activity. School leaders believe this helps to recruit and retain talented teachers and leaders.
  • The partnership takes its role in supplying high-quality teachers extremely seriously. Trainees are prepared for a long-term career in teaching, able to take responsibility for their own professional development and committed to social justice. A large number of former trainees hold teaching and leadership positions in partnership schools and, in many cases, contribute to the course as mentors.

Department Director, Jo-Anne Baird, welcomed the inspection outcome, saying that: “Ofsted have recognised the strengths of Oxford’s distinctive partnership model, with its distributed leadership and firm grounding in research-based teacher education.  All of those involved in the Oxford Internship Scheme can be rightly proud of their contribution to excellence in teacher education.”

The Oxford PGCE secondary partnership works with around 37 secondary schools in four local authorities and specialises across the 11-18 age range. A particular strength of the programme is its truly integrated approach, which acknowledges the different roles of university and schools in teacher education. This is reflected across the course structure, enabling trainees to use theory to interrogate practice and vice versa. A further feature is the way in which it has, at its heart, a model of research-informed practice which encompasses not only research about effective teaching which is drawn on to generate suggestions for practice, but also research into the processes of professional learning that is used to inform and review the structure and design of the teacher education programme itself.

Commenting on the outstanding grading, Trevor Mutton, Director of Professional Programmes at the department, said: “We are extremely proud of this achievement which recognises the unique nature of the partnership that we have with the local schools which work closely with us in both planning and delivering the PGCE programme. The Ofsted report recognises that we are producing teachers of the highest calibre who go on to make a difference to the lives of countless young people in schools up and down the country.”

The University of Oxford has been consistently designated by Ofsted as an ‘Outstanding’ provider and in 2019, the department will celebrate its 100th anniversary since the official passing of a statute creating what is known now as the Oxford University Department of Education. Originally established in 1919 to prepare teachers for Elementary and Secondary schools, the department’s contribution to the wider community has been evident since its inception and remains firmly at its core.

To find out more about teacher training at Oxford see: www.education.ox.ac.uk/programmes/pgce/

To view the full Ofsted report see here: 10040487 University Of Oxford Partnership 70057 Final Report