Over ten students started their PhD research journey at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education this term. We would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest members of our IoE research community, and we hope everyone will help them feel settled over the next few weeks and months. You can learn more about some of them below.

Aniqa Leena

Aniqa’s research centres around the ‘Raising EAL Learners’ Attainment’ project. She will work collaboratively with schools to explore the effectiveness of ‘The Enduring Principles of Learning’, an evidence-informed rubric that aims to improve classroom practice and pupil outcomes. Her supervisors are Dr. Naomi Flynn and Prof. Suzanne Graham. Aniqa has been awarded funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to undertake her PhD research.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Aniqa said: “Having studied at the IoE before, I was fully aware of its internationally-recognised reputation in educational research. However, I also wanted to return to the thriving academic community here and know that I will be supported to develop impactful research from the outset.”

Aniqa completed her BA in Primary Education at the University of Reading, specialising in English. She went on to teach at one of the largest primary schools in the local area, before moving on to complete her Master’s in Education at the University of Oxford.


Fei Lian

Fei’s research will examine the identity formation and paradoxical development of female teachers with highly educated background in Beijing primary and secondary schools. Her supervisor is Prof. Carol Fuller.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Fei said: “I chose to do my PhD study at the University of Reading’s IoE because of its rigorous coursework, global reputation, and strong faculty in Education studies. I believe it is a place where I could communicate with scholars from different countries and broaden my horizon.”

Fei earned her undergraduate degree and Master’s degree in English Language and Literature at Beijing Jiaotong University (China). She worked as a part-time EAL teacher at the Central University of Finance and Economics (China) during postgraduate studies. After graduation, she worked as an EAL teacher in a secondary school and a primary one in Beijing China for six years.


Helen Gormley


Helen’s research will explore ways in which children’s mathematical vocabulary is developed, through independent and teacher-supported play, during their first year in school. Her supervisors are Professor Helen Bilton and Dr. Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai. She is awarded the Wilkie Calvert studentship and will be collaborating with her school on her PhD research.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Helen said “I chose to pursue my PhD research at the University of Reading after studying for an MA degree here at the IoE two years ago. The quality of teaching, along with the expertise and enthusiasm of the staff, inspired me to continue researching my area of interest.”

Helen gained her undergraduate degree many years ago from the University of Greenwich and she has been a primary school teacher specialising in music and early years ever since. She currently teaches part-time in a rural village school.


Hira Hanif

Hira’s research will examine the impact of professional development on foreign language teachers’ classroom practice in Saudi Arabia. Her supervisor is Prof. Richard Harris.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Hira said “I chose the IoE because of its excellent reputation as well as for its significant contribution to educational research.”

Hira earned her undergraduate degree in English Language Studies and Religious Studies from Open University. She later earned her MA in Education and TESOL from Oxford Brookes University. Currently, she teaches English for academic purposes at Princess Noura University in Saudi Arabia. She is also a visiting lecturer at King’s College London.


Madelaine Best

Madelaine’s proposed research will explore teachers’ experiences of parental leave within the independent sector, and how taking parental leave impacts on medium-term career progression, and their return to work. As a History and Politics teacher working in the independent sector who has experience of taking parental leave, this is an area Madelaine is passionate about researching. Her supervisor is Dr. Karen Jones. Madelaine is a recipient of a Reading Regional PhD bursary.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Madelaine said “I chose Reading’s IOE because of its excellent reputation, and the opportunity to be supervised by an expert in gender and education.”

Madelaine did her undergraduate degree at Bath University in Politics and International Relations, and her PGCE at Buckingham University.


Natalie McGuinness

Natalie’s proposed research is looking into more authentic forms of assessment in the 16-19 education sector. Her first supervisor is Dr. Elizabeth McCrum and her second is Prof. Richard Harris.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Natalie said: “I chose Reading University as I have colleagues who have gone through the PhD programme and spoke extremely highly of the support and experiences they had. I’m now very excited to get started on this new journey!”

Natalie teaches in a Sixth Form college in Hampshire. Prior to that she completed her Master’s degree through Roehampton University.


Paul Warrington

Paul’s proposed research will examine the effectiveness of mastery-based mathematics intervention in late secondary students in the UK. His supervisors are Dr. Fiona Curtis and Dr. Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai.

On why he decided to pursue his PhD research at the IoE, Paul said: “I was particularly attracted by the relevance of research interests, alongside the reputation of the Institute of Education. I am looking forward to conducting research that will directly benefit the profession that has served me so well.”

Having worked previously as the Headteacher of a secondary school, Paul is currently enjoying a trust senior leadership position for a multi-academy trust in South Yorkshire. Paul’s first degree was in Applied Physics at the University of Hull, which was followed by a Master’s degree in Mathematics Education at Edge Hill University.


Tiantian Zhou (Tina)

Tiantian’s research will explore families’ experience, perceptions, and home-based practices of 3-6 years old children’s transition from home to kindergarten in Nanning, China. Her supervisors are Dr. Maria Kambouri and Dr. Holly Joseph.

On why she decided to pursue her PhD research at the IoE, Tiantian said: “I chose to do my PhD study at Reading because of its academic excellence and global impact. It provides research students with a large, vibrant, and diverse research community. The education research at the IoE has always been world leading.”

Tiantian earned her undergraduate degree in Preschool Education and later completed her Master’s degree in Modern Educational Technology at the Nanning Normal University in China (previously known as Guangxi Teachers Education University). More recently, Tiantian obtained her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Sheffield.