Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
As a postgraduate research student at the Institute of Education (IoE) at the University of Reading, you will be part of a vibrant and diverse research community, working alongside leading experts within education. We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time or part-time basis.
If you would like to learn more about pursuing your PhD research at the IoE, please click here.
If you are looking for a potential supervisor to supervise your research, please click here.
Read on to see what some of our PhD alumni think about their time at the IoE and what they have been up to since their graduation.
Dr. Anna Tsakalaki
Title of thesis: Investigating spelling in English and Greek native speaking children with and without dyslexia
Year of Graduation: 2016
Research focus: My PhD explored areas of literacy development and literacy difficulties in different languages. I compared the spelling performance of Key Stage 2 students in England and Greece. My sample included children with dyslexia and typically developing children. By comparing their spelling performance, I was able to detect differences in the pace with which their spelling skills developed, the manifestation of dyslexia in the two different languages and the contribution of the specific language they were writing in (English or Greek) to acquisition of spelling skills.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: As a doctoral student, I enjoyed working in a supportive research environment being supervised by experienced researchers specialising in my field. I have been given several opportunities to present my work at seminars and conferences, to assist in other research projects apart from my own and to gain teaching experience in higher education. I also enjoyed being part of an active community of doctoral students, who met regularly to support each other.
Career: I am currently a Lecturer in Education at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education, where I teach across postgraduate and undergraduate programmes and supervise research projects of postgraduate level. In the future, I am hoping to build a strong network of colleagues sharing my teaching and research interests leading to many opportunities for collaborations and exchange of knowledge.
Dr. Hebah Sheerah
Title of thesis: Exploring English as Foreign Language (EFL) students’ perceptions on the use of blended learning to develop academic English language skills in preparatory year in Saudi Arabia
Year of Graduation: 2018
Research focus: My PhD explored EFL undergraduate students’ perceptions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of blended learning as a technology-enhanced pedagogic tool on the development of their academic English in each language skill (reading, listening, speaking, writing) as well as their recommendations for improving the skills using blended learning in the preparatory year in Saudi Arabia.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: As a doctoral student, I have been given several opportunities to present my work at seminars and national conferences in the UK. Moreover, a wide range of research opportunities was provided. The environment was encouraging and enabled flexible ways of working.
Career: I am currently an Assistant Professor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at King Khalid University (Abha, Saudi Arabia). I teach undergraduate programmes. In the future, I am hoping to build a strong network of colleagues sharing my teaching and research interests which will hopefully lead to opportunities for collaborations and exchange of knowledge.
Dr. Heike Krusemann
Thesis title: Language learning motivation and the discursive representation of German, the Germans, and Germany in UK school settings and the press
Year of Graduation: 2018
Research focus: My PhD at the Institute of Education combined the areas of language learning motivation and discourse studies. I explored the motivational dynamics underlying the subject choices of adolescent German learners in England beyond the compulsory stage of language learning (age 14), and how they are related to the representation of German in wider, national press discourses.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: Highlights of my time at the IoE were taking part in internal and external conferences, and being made to feel welcome in the departmental research group (Language & Literacy in Education). I also appreciated the professional, respectful and supportive working atmosphere between supervisors, other staff and research students.
Career: I now work as post-doctoral researcher here at the IoE for Linguistic Creativity in Language Learning, a strand of the large Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded research programme Creative Multilingualism, led by the University of Oxford. I enjoy this post enormously as it is a natural fit for my research interests and skills, and it is perfect for gaining experience and building connections in my academic field.
Dr. Jie Liu (Sherry)
Title of thesis: Trilingual education of Chinese university minority students in China: A case study
Year of graduation: 2017
Research focus: My PhD set out to study the language education of Chinese minority groups in China. In particular, I explored the experiences of staff and minority students in a trilingual educational programme (home language, Mandarin Chinese and English) at tertiary level.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: As an international EFL research student, I I felt extremely lucky to have supervisors at Reading who provided effective and constructive guidance throughout my whole PhD journey. Their tremendous and consistent supports and genuine care for me in life played a crucial role in my achievements today.
Career: I am currently a Teaching Fellow in Education at the Institute of Education, the University of Reading. I am hoping to develop my capacity for academic teaching and research on the post and collaborate with colleagues within a wider network to explore shared areas of interest, such as multilingualism, multilingual education and language policies.
Dr. Nayr Ibrahim
Title of thesis: Identity in children learning to read and write in three languages: A case study
Year of graduation: 2017
Research focus: My PhD research investigated how trilingual/triliterate children negotiated an emerging multilingual identity. It was a qualitative case study, using mixed and multimodal methods, that placed the child at the heart of the research process as it elicited their attitudes, perceptions and interpretations of living and learning in diverse multilingual contexts.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: I was a part-time student studying away from the university, in Paris, with a full-time job on the side! Even though I was not based in the UK, I did hop on the Eurostar and came over to Reading as often as I could to: meet my supervisor; attend Researcher Development sessions; give my first presentation at the Language Studies PhD conference; and finally for my viva. I always found every one very friendly and helpful, and enjoyed meeting up with other PhD students.
Career: After graduation, I have accepted the post of Associate Professor of English Subject Pedagogy at Nord University in Bodø, Norway. I am excited to move to Norway and to start my work with student teachers at the University. I am also looking forward to building my network and continue my research in multilingualism, language learning, literacy and children’s voices.
Dr. Pengchong (Anthony) Zhang
Title of thesis: Comparing different types of EFL vocabulary instruction for Chinese high school learners of English
Year of graduation: 2018
Research focus: I started my PhD research here at the Institute of Education in 2014, exploring the teaching and learning of vocabulary through listening among Chinese high-school learners of English. I used a quasi-experimental, mixed method design in a classroom intervention comparing incidental vocabulary learning through listening with different types of vocabulary instruction.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: As an international student, I was made to feel very welcome, with a warm and informative induction that helped familiarise me with the IoE’s vibrant research community. Alongside my PhD, I have worked as a research assistant on two projects (‘Linguistic Creativity in Language Learning’, ‘Phonics Roadshow’) and have taught postgraduate modules. The training, support and research seminars provided have equipped me well to become an independent researcher.
Career: I am now working as a Lecturer in Second Language Learning at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education, having previously worked as a Teaching Fellow in Education at the same Institution. As a Lecturer, I lead and teach postgraduate level modules as well as supervise MA dissertations. My career aspiration is to become a leading scholar in my research field of second language education.
Dr. Sufang Li Brassington
Title of thesis: ‘It’s like kindling a fire’: Training student teachers about special educational needs and inclusive education at a university in China
Year of graduation: 2018
Research focus: The purpose of my PhD at the University of Reading was to raise awareness of special educational needs and inclusive education in China, and the study included a blended-learning training course for student teachers at a university.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: The Institute of Education was such a special place where I immensely enjoyed both my MA and PhD studies. In addition to the consistent support and academic guidance from the team of supervisors, and the Enrichment Programme about English culture, I also benefited from lots of opportunities to grow and develop, to present my work at seminars and conferences, to co-organise postgraduate research conferences, to supervise dissertations, to experience teaching in higher education in the UK, and to apply for funding as well. And for all these I am extremely grateful.
Career: Since September 2017, I have been working as the Research and Development Officer at Innova Press (Reading, UK).
Dr. Yang Hong
Title of thesis: The educational aspirations of ‘Left-behind Children’ in rural China: A case study
Year of graduation: 2017
Research focus: My research investigated educational aspirations of Chinese rural ‘left-behind children’ (a highly socially disadvantaged young population in China) in relation to their educational experiences within the context of being ‘left behind’. It adopted the qualitative case study approach and used ethnography as the primary research technique to capture factors that impact on aspirations, and to understand and explain why educational aspirations are different among these young people who share many similar social characteristics.
Memorable experiences at the IoE: I have had an absolutely amazing experience studying at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE). As we all know, doing a PhD is difficult, and it can be even more challenging for international students. However, I received generous support from staff and my fellow PhD peers at the IoE. Without them, I couldn’t make it! I cannot express my gratitude enough for their support.
Career: Currently, I am working as a Research Associate at Shaanxi Normal University in China. I will continue doing research with a focus on the disadvantaged young people and their education, not only in China but also in other countries. I want to give voices to these young people’s experiences, and I hope to raise more awareness towards providing more care, protection and support to these young people.