Despite all the uncertainties and challenges as a result of COVID19 this past academic year, the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE) still has managed to attract over £2 million in research grants. This is an incredible achievement. Below is a quick summary of some of these funded projects.

As a recipient of the UK Research and Innovation’s prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship scheme, Dr. Rowena Kasprowicz (Lecturer in Second Language Education, University of Reading) will spend her over £1 million research grant on a project, titled ‘Progression in Primary Languages’, which aims to provide, for the first time, a full and detailed picture of how foreign language knowledge develops in young learners in an instructed setting. It will involve a 4-year longitudinal study examining language learning throughout Key Stage 2 (ages 7 to 11) in primary schools in England. The project is supported by the Association for Language Learning, the National Centre for Excellence in Languages Pedagogy, and the Research in Primary Languages Network.

Prof. Alan Floyd (Professor of Education, University of Reading), in collaboration with Dr. Jacqueline Baxter (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Katharine Jewitt (Lead Researcher) from the Open University, is currently working on a UK Research and Innovation-funded project, titled ‘Leading school learning through Covid-19 and beyond’. With the funding of around £300,000, the project aims to explore how school leaders in England strategically manage and plan for online provision of learning through the pandemic and beyond. Focusing on secondary school headteachers, data will be drawn from semi-structured interviews (N=60) and an online survey (N=350). (More details can be found here.)

Additionally, Prof. Floyd is also working with colleagues from Qatar University to explore two key aspects of social life that are essential for the successful future development of Qatar, namely, higher education leadership and the role of gender within this context. This mixed methods study, titled ‘Exploring Gender and Academic Leadership Development in Qatar’, attracts the funding of around $260,000 (or £190,000) from Qatar National Research Priorities Fund, and sets out to draw on data from life history interviews and Q methodology undertaken with 50 male and female academic leaders. (More details can be found here.)

Elsewhere at the IoE, Dr. Billy Wong (Associate Professor in Widening Participation, University of Reading) is working with Dr. Peter Kemp (Principal Investigator) at King’s College London on a £243,000 Nuffield Foundation-funded research project, titled ‘Subject Choice, Attainment and Representation in Computing (SCARICOMP)’. This 3-year project aims to explore the factors that explain the participation and performance of girls in English secondary school computing education. The study will use the National Pupil Dataset and School Workforce Census, alongside school case studies through quantitative and qualitative data collected from school leaders, teachers, students and documents such as schemes of work.

Moreover, Dr. Wong, in collaboration with Dr. Tiffany Chiu (Principal Investigator) at Imperial College London, has also been working on a 2-year research project, titled ‘Supporting the Identity Development of Underrepresented Students (SIDUS), which attracts £100,000 in funding from the Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation. The project, due to be completed in April 2022, sets out to promote inclusion and success for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) students from underrepresented groups in higher education. Over a hundred students were interviewed on their lived experiences. By understanding how these students (e.g., disabled, female, first-generation, LGBT+, mature and minority ethnic students) navigate their way through university life, the SIDUS project will contribute to our knowledge of their successes, challenges and opportunities, allowing for better support of academic and professional identity and a sense of belonging which are central to the wellbeing of students.

Dr. Naomi Flynn (Associate Professor of Primary English Education, University of Reading) has recently been awarded a University of Reading Research Fellowship. In keeping with her researcher-practitioner identity, Dr. Flynn’s project, titled ‘Improving teachers’ practice for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL): Translating US success to English classrooms’ will involve working directly with staff in a group of schools where many pupils are learning English as an additional language (EAL). This project will investigate the extent to which a US-designed programme of professional development can enhance the pedagogy of teachers of pupils with EAL who make up around 20% of the school population. (More details can be found here.)

Dr. Flynn’s Fellowship project is a close follow-on to her American study funded by a US-UK Fulbright Visiting Scholar Award. Titled ‘Teaching English Language Learners (TELLs): A US-UK collaborative evaluation of an approach to training teachers for multilingual classrooms’, the project, with Professor Annela Teemant of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, explores the potential of a US-tested approach to teaching pupils, whose home languages are other than English, between July and October 2021. This teaching approach – The Enduring Principles of Learning – has been used successfully by US teacher educators to enhance the academic success of these learners. Naomi will be observing and analysing teachers’ practice, and interviewing educators at school and district level, with a view to evaluating how to adapt this method for use with teachers in England in linguistically diverse classrooms. (More details can be found here.)

Last but not least, Prof. Richard Harris (Professor of History Education, University of Reading) has been awarded a grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) for his project, titled ‘An examination of LGBTQ+ students’ lived experiences in high schools’. The general aim of the research is ultimately to support secondary schools in enhancing the educational experience of LGBTQ+ students through identifying the different ways in which school culture and school climate impact on LGBTQ+ students’ outcomes and experience.


Reflecting on the IoE research grant successes, Prof. Alan Floyd, the Research Division Lead (RDL) of the University’s Education, Language and Learning (ELL) research division, commented: “This has been an exceptional year for staff in many ways, but I am delighted that despite all the challenges we have been successful in gaining research funding for such a wide range of crucial educational projects which will no doubt continue to influence policy and practice in the years to come.”

“The IoE does transformational research, it has belief in the research it undertakes and speaks passionately about the change that can come through research.  The division is clearly motivated and supported and mentored – this research funding success does not come easily – it is really really hard work and the division deserves great credit for this.” said Prof. Adrian Bell, the Research Dean for the University of Reading’s Prosperity and Resilience research theme.