Welcome to the pages of the Social Psychology of Education Research Group (SPERG). Click on one of the links below to find out about our research, publications and impact.

We are united by our interest in how social psychology can be applied to teaching, learning, and other experiences in educational contexts, using a range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches and techniques.

Who we are

We are a group of researchers united by our interest in how social psychology can be applied to teaching, learning, and other experiences in educational contexts, using a range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches and techniques.

Names and links to our profiles can be found below, which contain contact details and further information about research and teaching activities. An asterisk (*) indicates those who would welcome enquiries regarding doctoral study (see also Research degree opportunities).

Members

Associate Members 

  • Andrew Townsend (Associate Professor, School of Education, University of Nottingham)
  • Branwen Bingle (Principal Lecturer, School of Education, University of Greenwich)
  • Carla Solvason (Department of Children and Families, School of Education, University of Worcester)
  • Jill Turner (former member of the School of Education, University of Worcester)
  • Louise Hoskins-Staples (Independent Researcher)
  • Scott Buckler (Teacher, Holy Trinity School, Kidderminster)

News

New publication

Katie Spicksley (Doctoral Candidate & Associate Lecturer) has a new paper in PRACTICE which looks at Teach First. Full details are:

Spicksley, K. (2019). Teacher First: What is it doing? PRACTICE: Contemporary Issues in Practitioner Education. 1(1), 9-20.

New project

A new project has been launched by the Research Group entitled ‘An exploration of teacher identity as a contributor to retention in the context of a changing policy landscape’. Within this two-phase, mixed methods study, the team will be focusing on four interconnecting strands in order to explore the reasons why primary and secondary school teachers (across all career phases) choose to remain in the teaching profession and how these relate back to the development of individual and collective identity. Updates will be available as the research moves forward!

New PhD Studentship opportunity

Applications are invited for a new self-funded PhD studentship entitled: Primary Identities in Science and Mathematics (PrISM). For further details please click here, or contact Prof Alison Kington or Dr Karen Blackmore

Research and publications

Our research focuses on a number of themes that reflect the importance of social and learning relationships across all phases of education, in both formal and informal settings. Themes include classroom identities, social interaction, individual differences, and adult-child/peer relationships. 

Below is a list of some of the research carried out by members of the group. Please click to read more, including details of any publications arising from the projects.

SENCo perceptions of Education and Health Care Plan implementation

InvestigatorHazel Richards

Overview: Recent legislation and policy (Children and Families Acts 2014, SEND Code of Practice 2015) introduced Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) to place children and families at the centre and join up support from different disciplines. The role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCos) is seminal to the implementation of the changes. Much of the previous research has identified a lack of clarity about this role. Differences in leadership, training and phase create a confusing situation, where knowledge, status and priorities vary. Many previous studies have concentrated on the school-age SENCo. This mixed method research project therefore seeks to identify, describe and explain key features of the role, implementation and professional identity, as experienced by both early year and primary SENCos. The study has three overarching research questions:

  1. How do SENCos perceive the impact of the new policy on their roles, responsibilities and relationships?
  2. What do SENCos perceive to be the key positive and/or negative influences on the implementation of this policy?
  3. How, if at all, do these influences contribute to their developing professional identity as SENCos?

This project seeks to explore the perception of SENCos in order to understand the reality of implementing policy in practice. Eight early year and seven primary SENCos from a variety of settings in the Midlands region of the UK participated in two stages of data collection. The sample represents a range of provision (e.g. private and state funded), SENCo experience, training and status.  Early results indicate issues pertinent to phase, and issues pertinent across age-phases.

Timescale: January 2016 – January 2019

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Hazel Richards by email (hazel.richards@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

Exploring Transformational Career Changers’ use of Informal Learning and Development

InvestigatorAlison Gisby

Overview:  Career development is concerned with gaining the knowledge, skills and experience needed to progress from being a ‘novice’ to becoming an ‘expert’ in a chosen occupation. This developmental process cleaving between two different types of learning: formal and informal.  A wealth of literature exists on these processes, which essentially revolve around the distinction between who initiates the learning and how it is delivered or acquired. Formal learning is largely organisation-led and often externally validated, whereas informal learning is associated with intrinsic motivation and relationships in the workplace.  Literature also exists in terms of the impact of these processes on subsequent career success.  In both cases, however, this research has focused solely upon the use and benefits of individual and isolated processes such as formal or informal use of mentoring and coaching, rather than adopting a more holistic approach and exploring the variety of processes used by individuals seeking to develop their career. In addition, and something which has attracted very little attention, is the extent to which ‘informal’ learning and development processes (ILDP) contribute to the career success of individuals who don’t simply move onwards and upwards in their existing occupation, but who take part in a far more disorienting, risky and disruptive process of re-training to enter an entirely new occupation i.e. ‘transformational career changers’. This thesis will therefore add to the developing occupational psychology research literature by exploring ‘transformational career changers’ use of ILDP, and the extent to which these contribute to the development and achievement of success in their new occupations.

The specific aims and research questions are:

1. To explore transformational career changers’ selection and use of ILDP.

  • Do transformational career changers have awareness of ILDP in organisations and if so what ILDP are selected and used, and how are they used?
  • What are the barriers and facilitators to attaining meaningful career success for transformative career changers?

2. To explore the value of ILDP in supporting the development and achievement of career success for transformational career changers.

  • What are transformational career changers experiences of ‘career success’ and how do they make sense of it?
  • What value is placed upon individual ILDP and how do these contribute to transformational career changers’ career success?

3. To develop an intervention (as appropriate), based on the achievement of aims 1 and 2, relating to the use and value of ILDP to career success in the workplace.

Timescale: October 2017 – September 2020

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Alison Gisby by email (a.gisby@worc.ac.uk).

The Role and Impact of Primary School Staffrooms

Research teamAlison Kington*, Scott Buckler, Colin Howard, Maxine Watkins & Sue Howarth.

*Principal investigator

Overview: An aspect of teachers’ working lives that is often overlooked in research studies is that of collegiality (or not) in the staffroom. Yet teachers and other practitioners inhabit this specific area of the school at some point every working day. This research project seeks to identify, describe and explain key features of the social interactions and behaviours evident within the primary school staffrooms, focusing on the similarities and differences within and between settings. The study has four overarching research questions:

  • What are the social and behavioural practices regarding collegial relationships in these staffroom settings?
  • What are the characteristics of interactions within this social condition?
  • What do practitioners perceive as key features of, and influences on, these interpersonal relationships?
  • To what extent do practitioners foster positive collegial experiences?

Within the scope of this research, we will be focusing on three key strands that will inform the direction of study:

  1. the impact of staffroom interactions on teaching and learning;
  2. the role of the staffroom in relation to teachers’ emotional health and well-being; and
  3. the impact of ‘outsiders’ to the balance of staffroom life (e.g. trainee teachers, parents, peripatetic staff, multi-agency workers).

The overall objective of the study is to explore and extend knowledge and understanding regarding the complex relationships developed and nurtured between colleagues and how these relate to enhanced learning opportunities.

 Timescale: September 2015 – December 2018

 For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Alison Kington by email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

The Link Between Pupil-Teacher Relationships and Integration in Secondary School Life

InvestigatorBen Looker

Overview: Although relationships between pupils and teachers have been explored in relative depth, with findings confirming that positive relationships reduce rates of pupil dropout, there is limited research exploring how pupils experience these relationships with reference to alienation from, or inclusion to, their learning. This study seeks to explore an overlap between the phenomena of alienation and pupil-teacher relationships using a critical realist lens of analysis. The study has 3 main research questions:

To explore:

  • Links between pupil-teacher relationships and pupil alienation from learning in schools.
  • Mechanisms which can lead to pupils and teachers forming effective relationships
  • How pupils perceive barriers to engaging with learning in a school setting

The overall objective of the study is to explore and extend knowledge and understanding regarding the constructs which lead to effective pupil-teacher relationships. It hopes to advance a theory which can further be explored to help reduce alienation in secondary schools.

Timescale: May 2018 – July 2021

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Ben Looker by email (b.looker@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542841).

New Faces and Changing Places: The Impact of Academisation on the Professional Identity of Early Career Primary Teachers

InvestigatorKatie Spicksley

Overview: Academies are state-funded independent schools. Academy schools have more autonomy over staffing, curriculum and term dates than maintained schools in England. Originally developed as a way of rapidly improving secondary schools in urban areas, the Academies Act 2010 extended academy status to all schools including primaries. Government policy since 2010 has encouraged primary schools to become ‘academised’ by joining Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), management organisations which take responsibility for the umbrella organisation of a group of schools. The majority of research on academy schools is focused on secondary schools. Research into the identities of those working within academy settings has been weighted towards those in senior leadership or executive management positions. This research project looks at Early Career Teachers (those who have been working as teachers for five years or less) working in primary schools which are managed by a Multi-Academy Trust.

This research project is organised in two phases. The first phase involves a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of policy texts, exploring the relationship between academisation and the role of Early Career Teachers in policy discourse since 2010. The second phase involves qualitative case studies in MAT primary schools.

Timescale: January 2017 – January 2021

 For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Katie Spicksley by email (k.spicksley@worc.ac.uk).

The Influence of Teacher-pupil Relationships on Early Career Teachers’
Professional Identity

Research teamAlison Kington* and Kathryn Spicksley 

*Principal investigator

Overview: There is currently a crisis of recruitment and retention, with up to 40% of teachers reportedly leaving the profession within five years of qualifying (e.g. TES, guardian) with the most capable early career teachers (ECTs) being most likely to leave the profession first. Understanding how ECTs shape their new professional identities while at the same time enabling their personal selves to persist and remain coherent is an important part of understanding how to retain teachers in the profession. Contemporary theorising of professional identity recognises identity development as an on-going, highly complex, discontinuous, multi-faceted and nonlinear process of interaction between individuals and their various social and professional environments; specifically the interpersonal relationships that develop in the classroom. This study seeks to understand the role that teacher-pupil relationships play in the complex process of ECT identity formation.

This small-scale study was conducted with a purposive sample of 20 primary teachers across the Midlands region of the UK. All of the participant teachers are within the first four years of teaching, with half (N=10) of participants being on their first appointment and half on their second appointment. A qualitative research design, adopting a hierarchically-focused interview technique, aims to provide a combined focus on individual experiences alongside an exploration of the contextual issues across the profession.

Timescale: January 2017 – December 2018

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Alison Kington by email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

Effective Classroom Practice

Research team: Alison Kington, Pam Sammons, Chris Day, Elaine Regan, Judith Gunraj and Eleanor Brown

Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council

Overview: The Effective Classroom Practice (ECP) project was a two-year, multi-disciplinary study, which used an integrated, mixed method design. The project investigated the variations in teachers’ classroom practice, and relationships with school phase and school context, which built on and extended a four year longitudinal research study into variations in teachers’ work, lives and effectiveness (VITAE), funded by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). This follow-on study (funded by ESRC) identified key factors that contribute to effective teaching in primary and secondary phases of schooling, such as (for example) interactions with students, the roll of feedback, the learning climate and positive relationships.

The identification of a purposive sample of 81 ‘effective’ teachers was based on a combination of factors:

(1) Value-added data collected over three years or more;

(2) Social, affective and behavioural data collected via a pupil questionnaire survey;

(3) Judgement ratings based on two innovative observation schedules.

The project explored a number of important influences on classroom practice and teachers’ work in terms of career phase, teacher identity, and self-efficacy. The study also highlighted the role of core classroom competencies in terms of organisation and management, pedagogical context knowledge, innovative pedagogical skills, and interpersonal qualities. Moreover, it showed that these can be enacted differently by teachers in different sectors, year groups, subject groups and socioeconomic contexts. This research study was awarded an ‘outstanding’ grade by the ESRC on completion.

Timescale: October 2005 – December 2008

 Publications (by year):

Kington, A., Reed, N. and Sammons, P. (2014). Teachers’ Constructs of Effective Classroom Practice: Variations across a career, Research Papers in Education. 29 (5).

Kington, A., Sammons, P., Day, C., Regan, E., Brown, E. & Ko, J. with Buckler, S. (2014). Effective Classroom Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Kington, A., Day, C., Sammons, P., Regan, E., Brown, E. and Gunraj, J. (2012). What Makes Teachers Effective?: Profiles of innovative classroom practice. In: C. Day (Ed), The Routledge International Handbook of Teacher and School Development, London: Routledge.

Kington, A., Regan, E., Sammons, P. and Day, C. (2012). Effective Classroom Practice: A mixed method study of influences and outcomes, Nottingham: University of Nottingham Jubilee Press.

Kington, A., Sammons, P., Day, C. and Regan, E. (2011). Stories and Statistics: describing a mixed method study of effective classroom practice. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 5(2), 103-125.

Kington, A., Day, P., Sammons, P. and Regan. E. (2009). Observing Effective Classroom Practice. Paper presented at the annual ECER conference, Vienna (September).

Kington, A., Day, P., Sammons, P., Regan. E. and Brown, E. (2009). Effective Classroom Practice: A study of influences and outcomes. Symposium presented at the annual BERA conference, Manchester (September).

Brown, E., Kington, A. and Day, C. (2008).  What Do Effective Teachers Look Like?  How Do Effective Teachers See Themselves? Findings from primary and secondary teacher data.  Swindon: ESRC.

Day, C., Sammons, P., Kington, A., Regan, E., Ko, J., Brown, E., Gunraj, J. and Roberston, D. (2008). Effective Classroom Practice: A mixed method study of influences and outcomes. End of Award Report.  Swindon: ESRC.

Kington, A., Brown, E., Day, C., Regan, E., Gunraj, J. and Sammons, P. (2008). Findings from Secondary Teachers’ Interview data. Working paper ECP/09, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Kington, A., Reed, N, Regan, E., Sammons, P., Day, C. and Gunraj, J. (2008). Initial Findings from the Repertory Grid Data. Working paper ECP/03, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Kington, A., Regan, E., Day, C., Gunraj, J. and Sammons, P. (2008). Findings from Secondary Teachers’ Observational Data. Working paper ECP/07, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Kington, A., Sammons, P. and Day, C. (2008). The Use of Mixed Method Design in the Research of Effective Classroom Practice. Working paper ECP/02, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Ko, J., Sammons, P., Kington, A., Regan, E. and Day, C. (2008). Variations in Effective Classroom Practices: Confirmatory factor analysis. Working paper ECP/08, [online].  Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Ko, J., Sammons, P., Kington, A., Regan, E., Day, C. and Gunraj, J. (2008). Using Systematic Observation Schedules to Explore Variations in Effective Classroom Practice. Working paper ECP/04, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Sammons, P. Ko, J. Kington, A., Day, C. and Regan, E. (2008). Variations in Effective Classroom Practices:  Results from two international teacher classroom observation instruments. Paper presented at the Annual EARLI Conference, Frankfurt (August).

Tolley, H., Day, C., Sammons, P., Kington, A., Regan, E. and Gunraj, J. (2008). A Review of Literature Relating to Teacher Effectiveness and Effective Classroom Practice.Working paper ECP/04, [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

Kington, A., Day, C., Sammons, P. Regan, E. and Gunraj, J. (2007).  Designing Mixed-Methods Study of Effective Classroom Practice.  Paper presented at the BERA Conference (September).

Robertson, D., Sammons, P., Kington, A., Day, C., Regan, E. and Gunraj, J. (2007).  Analysing Pupil Attitudes to Teaching and Learning. Working paper ECP/01 [online]. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

 For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Alison Kington by email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

Inspirational and Effective Teaching

Research team: Alison Kington, Pam Sammons*, Ariel Lindorff* and Lorena Ortega*

Funded by: Education Development Fund (formerly CfBT)

*Department of Education, University of Oxford

Overview: This project was a small-scale study of ‘inspiring’ teaching commissioned by CfBT (now the Education Development Trust). It was based on case studies of a purposive sample of 17 primary and secondary teachers in England nominated by their head teachers. The mixed methods research design included integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches across the data collection, analysis, and interpretation stages. This involved teacher interviews which covered views on inspiring teaching, teachers’ own practice, teacher identity and support, and future career plans. Teachers and head teachers also completed a ranking sheet based on 17 constructs related to teaching. Two systematic protocols (the International System of Teacher Observation and Feedback (ISTOF) and the Lesson Observation Form for Evaluating the Quality of Teaching (QoT)) were also adopted. In addition, detailed qualitative notes were collected. Finally, questionnaires were administered to class groups of the participating teachers.

The integration and synthesis of evidence from multiple perspectives (teachers’ voices, lesson observations and pupil perspectives) in this study increased understanding of the concept of inspiring teaching, and examined overlap with evidence on effective teaching. Core features of inspiring practice identified included: positive relationships, good classroom management, positive and supportive classroom climate, formative feedback, enjoyment, and high quality learning experiences. In addition, findings had implications for professional practice and developing professional learning communities.

Timescale: September 2012 – July 2014

Publications (by year):

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff, A. and Ortega, L. (under review). It ain’t (only) what you do, it’s the way that you do it! A mixed method approach to the study of inspiring teachers. Review of Education.

Sammons, P., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A. Kington, A. and Ortega, L. (2016). Inspiring teaching: Learning from exemplary practitioners, Journal of Professional Capital and Community. 1(2).

Lindorff-Vijayendran, A., Sammons, P., Kington, A. & Ortega, L. (2015). Teacher and student voices: Perspectives from ‘inspiring’ classrooms. Paper presented at the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference (August), Limassol, Cyprus

Ortega, L., Sammons, P., Kington, A. & Lindorff-Vijayendran, A. (2014). Inspiring Teaching: What we can learn from exemplary practitioners? Paper presented at the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference (August), Southampton, UK.

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A. and Ortega, L. (2014). Inspiring Teachers: Perspective and practices. Reading: CfBT.

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Alison Kington by email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

Tales from the Watershed: A study of mid-career primary teachers’ identity

Research team: Alison Kington*, Branwen Bingle**, Colin Howard, Sue Howarth and Maxine Watkins

*Principal investigator; **University of Greenwich, London

Overview: This research explores factors that influence and contribute to the professional identity of a group of primary teachers located in what may be seen as the mid-phase of their teaching careers. This phase covers the period of between 8 and 15 years of teaching, which has been described as a “watershed” period during which a teacher can experience a number of changes in their professional and/or personal lives. This study seeks to explore these understandings and insights regarding i) the relationships between personal, professional and organizational contexts in this phase of career, and ii) the impact of these on teachers’ sense of identity.

The project adopted a qualitative-dominant, mixed methods design with a purposive sample of 18 primary teachers located in the West Midlands region of the UK and chosen to represent a range of teachers (e.g. year group, gender, additional roles), school characteristics (e.g. size, SES), and urban/suburban/rural contexts. A combination of narrative approach interviews, individual teacher worklines and repertory grid interviews were utilized to address the four research questions:

1) What are the key critical professional, situated and personal events that impact on primary teachers’ identity over time?

2) What are the coping and managing strategies employed in adapting to these events?

3) What are the key moderating and mediating factors that influence primary teachers’ professional identity over time and how are these factors linked, if at all, to number of years in teaching?

4) What are the shared and/or unique patterns, if any, of professional identity development primary teachers experience during their career?

The descriptive and statistical strands of data will be integrated, allowing the construction of detailed profiles of teachers’ identity(ies), providing new knowledge and understanding in this area.

Timescale: October 2015 – October 2018

Publications (by year):

Bingle, B., Kington, A., Howard, C. and Robinson, C. (2017). Tales from the Watershed: Using repertory grids in the study of teachers’ mid-career identity. In: DA. Winter, P. Cummins, H. Procter and N. Reed (Eds) Personal Construct Psychology in the 21st Century, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholarly Publishing.

Bingle, B., Howard, C., Robinson, C. & Kington, A. (2015). Tales from the Watershed: Using repertory grids in the study teachers’ mid-career identity. Paper presented at the XXIth International Congress for Personal Construct Psychology (July), Hatfield, UK,.

For more details of this project:

If you would like further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Alison Kington by email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone (01905 542025).

Research degree opportunities

We currently have the following studentship opportunities for MPhil/PhD study:

New PhD Studentship Opportunity

Applications are invited for a new self-funded PhD studentship entitled: Primary Identities in Science and Mathematics (PrISM). For further details please click here, or contact Prof Alison Kington (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or Dr Karen Blackmore (k.blackmore@worc.ac.uk).

Members of the research group are engaged in a number of related research areas and would welcome enquiries regarding further study on our MRes and MPhil/PhD programmes.

Areas of particular interest include:

  • professional identity
  • teacher careers/professional life phases
  • teacher effectiveness
  • school leadership
  • classroom behaviours and interaction
  • teacher-pupil relationships
  • peer relationships/friendships
  • children’s socio-cognitive development
  • transition between educational phases.

For details of group members who are available to supervise research students, please see our staff list. Please contact Prof Alison Kington via email (a.kington@worc.ac.uk) or phone 01905 542025 for an informal chat about potential research ideas. 

 

 

Contact us

Please do get in touch with our research group.

Email: a.kington@worc.ac.uk

Call: 01905 542025