Elphinstone PhD Scholarships available in Education

Elphinstone PhD Scholarships available in Education

Several Elphinstone PhD Scholarships are available linked to specific, individual research projects in Education. These Scholarships cover the entirety of tuition fees for a PhD student of any nationality commencing full-time study in October 2015, for the three-year duration of their studies.

Investigating the relationship between secondary school cultures and institutional silence around sexual bullying and gender based violence

Supervisor 1:  Dr David R. Smith

Supervisor 2: Professor Gabrielle Ivinson

Evidence from ethnographic and qualitative work in secondary schools (Renold and Ivinson, 2013a and b) suggests that teachers know a great deal about the availability of cyber porn, yet seem to be ill-equipped to address this aspect of school culture; either to confront those (often adolescent boys) who perpetuate verbal, physical, and virtual, sexual bulling and gender-based violence, or to fully acknowledge the experiences of the victims (often adolescent girls and Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer [LGBTQ] pupils). 

This project seeks to investigate the gap between policy and practice in secondary schools in order to understand the difficulties, dilemmas, and personal challenges experienced by teachers that make it difficult to establish effective pedagogic practice which recognises, confronts, and addresses sexual bullying and gender-based violence.  Teachers charged with teaching sensitive topics often try to cover these issues in dedicated Relationships and Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) lessons, and sometimes in subjects such as Physical Education, Biology, Drama and English.  Formal discourses such as Biology and English are differently structured, and so offer different affordances and possibilities for addressing sensitive topics (Bernstein, 1990; Ivinson, 2007).

This study will be designed to investigate relationships between the organisational cultures of secondary schools and how they address welfare related topics with a specific focus on sexual bullying and gender-based violence.  The research design will draw on pedagogic theory that recognises the tension between the structure of formal subject discourses (such as Biology and English), and the structure of informal or common sense discourses through which gossip and bullying discourses circulate (Ivinson, 2007; Whitty, Ivinson et al. 1994a and b).  The research design will explore what can be said and not said, and what can be heard and not heard, within different schools and within different subjects of the curriculum.  Bernstein’s theoretical frame leads to a tentative hypothesis that in schools with performance-type pedagogy (Bernstein, 1996) in which with strong disciplinary structures exist, and which privilege academic subjects - relatively deregulated ‘informal’ spaces (e.g. during play time, lunch time, before and after school) will open up different kinds of opportunities for the flow of common sense discourses (and so, for sexual bullying and gender-based violence) than in schools with competence type pedagogy (Bernstein, 1996) which can be characterised as having interdisciplinary curricular structures and weak boundaries between academic/formal and informal/common sense discourses.

The emerging research question is: what kinds of pedagogic structuration in secondary schools offer possibilities for effective interventions to address sexual bullying and gender based violence?  This question focuses on the possible link between teachers’ capacities to address sensitive topics with classes, and with individual pupils, and the institutional structure of secondary schools.  It seeks to find out how different pedagogic approaches support different kinds of discourses, and so provide possibilities to address sensitive issues.  Following from this, we can ask the question: what kinds of institutional structures could accommodate interventions that are able to address the real and growing problem to which some young people are exposed: namely, unremitting sexual bullying and deeply disturbing forms of routine gender violence.  While studies that investigate pupils’ school experiences are plentiful, we know of no study that attempts to make connections between school structures, pedagogic approaches and spaces to address sensitive, welfare, issues.   

The research project will involve three phases:

Phase : 1 Literature review to map, document, and categories, the range and types of interventions that are available in the UK - that secondary schools can access to address sexual bullying and gender-based violence in the lower secondary school (years 7-9, pupils aged 11 to 14 years of age). 

Phase 2: Schools with different types of pedagogic organisations (based on Bernstein’s typology outlined above) will be identified, and the resources adopted by the school to address sexual bullying and gender-based violence in years 7-9 would be mapped. 

Phase 3:  Ethnographic work in four schools with a range of pedagogic structures (from performance to competence types) will be examined to investigate how interventions to address sexual bullying and gender-based violence are re-contextualised and instantiated at the level of classroom practice.

Pedagogies of collaborative online learning

Supervisor 1: Dr Aileen Ackland

Supervisor 2: Ms Sarah Cornelius  

Project 1: New Materialist Perspectives on Collaborative Online Learning

Project 2: Learners' and Teachers' Experiences of Collaborative Online Learning

Project 3: The Development of Intercultural and Interprofessional Learning Competencies through Online Collaboration

Online collaboration is increasingly part of the learning experience in Higher Education, Further Education and in many professional areas. It may involve collaboration within a single course facilitated by institutionally provided software; collaboration across courses or professional areas using social media; or international and intercultural collaboration within a MOOC.

Although there are some frameworks to support the design of effective learning activities in these contexts (for example Kirschner et al’s (2004) factors for operationalising educational interaction and Garrison and Anderson’s (2003) Community of Enquiry framework) the experiences of learners and teachers engaged in online collaboration have been relatively under-researched. As opportunities for global collaboration as part of learning are increasingly exploited, there is also a need for examination of issues surrounding the development of intercultural and interprofessional learning competencies.

New theoretical perspectives, generalised as ‘new materialisms’ (Fenwick and Edwards, 2013), provide alternative ways of studying online experience, acknowledging the ‘messy practices of relationality and materiality’ (Law, 2009, 142) which combine the technical with the social. Material matters are intrinsic to the development of virtual, social network based learning communities and to the achievement of learning outcomes which these are designed to achieve.  As Fox (2000, 864) argues, ‘We need to understand the learner as cyborg: a hybrid of material and knowledge’.  The work of understanding collaborative online learning through the new materialisms is just beginning; this is an area ripe for doctoral study.

Supporting Inclusion for Individuals with Autism in Health, Social Care or Education

Supervisor: Dr Jacqueline Ravet 

The study would explore issues associated with the inclusion of adults, young people and/or children with autism in a Health, Social Care or Education context in Scotland. The inclusion of this group across services is currently an area of concern in Scottish policy and the research literature, and lies at the heart of the Scottish Strategy for Autism (2011). The research would provide a critique of the barriers to inclusion encountered by individuals with autism focusing on an analysis of the problem in a specific service context and making links to some of the key recommendations within the national strategy. The research would be service-based and qualitative. For example, it could involve a detailed study of the experience of inclusion from the point of view of individuals with a diagnosis of autism, service practitioners and others, as appropriate. A case study approach may be suitable for such a project, however other ideas will be considered. The purpose of the research will be to identify and critically examine key issues and themes within the research, literature and policy in the field, including  my own ‘integrative model of inclusion’ (Ravet 2012). The student will also critically explore associated methodological issues and outline an appropriate research design that enables them to identify and analyse the barriers to inclusion that are problematic and explore adaptations that might support more effective service provision and enhance inclusion.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.  All candidates must have experience of working directly with clients with autism in an Education, Health or Social Care context. Candidates must also have a relevant degree and, preferably, autism training and/or a postgraduate qualification in autism.

How Do I Apply?

To apply for an Elphinstone PhD Scholarship, you should apply for a PhD via our online system stating:

  • ‘Elphinstone PhD Scholarship’ in the Intended Source of Fundingsection
  • The name of the lead supervisor in the Name of Proposed Supervisorsection
  • The title of the specific research project in the Outline Summarysection
  • Candidates should simultaneously register their desire to be considered by emailing the Graduate School Administrator, Ann Marie Johnston, at a.m.johnston@abdn.ac.uk

Deadline for submission of applications: Thursday 30th April 2015.

Eligibility for an Elphinstone Scholarship is based on academic excellence. Applicants must have the equivalent to a UK 1st class or an Upper Second (2.1) Honours undergraduate degree and/or a Masters with Commendation/Merit or Distinction.

Information for your country, including entry requirements, is available here.

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