Our staff are engaged in a variety of research projects evolving from a community of learning, which link in with our research themes.

You can get involved with our research either at an individual level, or in partnership as part of another organisation or institution. 

Research Seminar Series

Keep an eye on our events to find out about the School Research Seminar Series and reading and writing groups for opportunities to share knowledge and ideas.

Current Projects

NIHR Global Health Research Group on promoting children’s and adolescent’s mental wellbeing in sub-Saharan Africa

With £2.88 million in funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the University of Aberdeen, Addis Ababa University, and the University of Rwanda are working together to design, deliver and evaluate the impact of a mindfulness intervention in schools on child and adolescent mental wellbeing in sub-Saharan Africa.

Find out more at the project website.


RAPIDE Reimagining a positive direction for education

RAPIDE is an ERASMUS+ funded partnership of universities and schools in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Belgium and Hungary who will pool together research and insight from each country to collectively strengthen the inclusivity of the education systems across Europe through digital learning opportunities. The project is a response to the challenge of preparation and support for educators for digital education in a post-COVID world to ensure that all students are provided with education fit for the 21st century.

The aims of RAPIDE are:

  • to increase educators’ ability and confidence to provide effective and inclusive digital learning opportunities.
  • to increase educators’ ability to manage change in their working practices.
  • to increase the ability of the wider community including parents, carers, other family members and other interested professionals to understand and support both educators and students in digital learning contexts.

This will be achieved by producing:

  • an accessible interactive learning resource that allows educators to explore evidence based resources so that they feel able to teach all learners in the digital environment
  • an interactive online toolbox that supports engagement in multiple modes of cocoaching to strengthen educators’ ability to manage change in their working practices
  • an interactive digital resource which enables the wider community to work with educators and students to support all learners in the digital environment.

The University of Aberdeen team (Sarah Cornelius, Stephanie Thomson, Mary Stephen and Aloyise Mulligan) will help to surface and share innovative practices that have developed in Further Education to support learners during the pandemic, and develop new ways to support educators to address challenges they continue to face.

PROMISE Promoting inclusion in society through education: professional dilemmas in practice

PROMISE is an ERASMUS+ funded strategic partnership project involving Universities and professional development organisations in Scotland, England, Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary. Partners share common interests in the professional learning of educators and how this can support inclusion and diversity. It is underpinned by a commitment to inclusive education as a means to allowing all young people to participate in educational opportunities.

The project has drawn on professional dilemmas articulated by practitioners from across Europe. These are practice related challenges that have no obvious solution. Professional learning materials and tools have been designed to help educators explore dilemmas and become change agents in their own settings. A large selection of dilemmas and tools for using these in professional learning are freely available on the project website.

The University of Aberdeen team (Sarah Cornelius, Stephanie Thomson, Dr Aileen Ackland, Chris Adlred and Mary Stephen) bring expertise in vocational education and digital practice to the project and have provided insights to discussions, research, development activities and learning events. They have collated examples of dilemmas related to post-16 education and developed an online activity which draws on a boundary crossing framework to allow educators to explore dilemmas with international experts and peers. The have also contributed towards production of a forthcoming project eBook.

Further information:

  • Beaton M et al. (2021) Conceptualising teacher education for inclusion: lessons for the professional learning of educators from transnational and crosssector perspectives. Sustainability 13(4)
Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) Attainment Challenge Project

Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) Attainment Challenge Project: Developing pedagogies that work for Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers to reduce the Attainment Gap in Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing.

This project aims to equip early career teachers (final year ITE and induction year) to work effectively to improve engagement and attainment in schools serving pupils from SIMD 1-40 backgrounds. Eight Schools of Education across Scotland are involved in this project funded by Scottish Government for a duration of three years.

There are two strands to the project. The first strand is a collaborative endeavour across the participating Schools of Education to respond to four sequential questions:

1. What do we in teacher education institutions collectively do currently to support early career practitioners to work effectively with pupils from SIMD 1-40 backgrounds?

2. Of our current practice, what do we do well and what could we do better?

3. What other practice or research might assist us in our purpose?

4. How can we improve teacher education so our early career teachers are more effective in improving the engagement and attainment of pupils?

The second strand involves each of the eight participating schools of education conducting a research project that reflect their particular context and priorities.

Dr Archie Graham and Dr Dean Robson are the principal investigators for the University of Aberdeen (UoA) project.

The overall purpose of the UoA project, is to contribute to the larger Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) project, Developing pedagogies that work for Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers to reduce the Attainment Gap in Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing. The UoA project is designed to elicit insight into further developing knowledge to help teacher educators prepare new teachers to enact inclusion for all children and young people with a focus on high poverty school environments. By better understanding the lived experiences of probationer teachers undertaking their Induction Year in high poverty school contexts, the aim is to use this knowledge to inform and explore the value that has been added by the intervention for ITE student teachers, with a specific focus on practicum, to prepare them with the necessary knowledge, skills and attributes to enact inclusive pedagogy for all children and young people.

To find out more about the SCDE project follow the below link: SCDE Attainment Challenge Project: Developing pedagogies that work for Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers to reduce the Attainment Gap in Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing. – Scottish Council of Deans of Education

Widening Participation Mentoring Programme with St Machar Academy, the University of Aberdeen and RGU

This widening participation research project involves Dr Rachel Shanks and Alyson Young from the School of Education. The project involves students from both the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University mentoring school pupils. Other partner organisations include Police Scotland, Befriend a Child, the Aberdeen Law Project, Sport Aberdeen and the Denis Law Legacy Trust.

The aim of the project is to help pupils identify and overcome barriers into higher education. The research is focusing on the joint university approach which is unique and the impact on both school pupils and the university student mentors.

Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE) Project

The MQuITE project is a longitudinal research project funded by the Scottish Government and is tracking graduates over five years. The project involves all universities that provide initial teacher education in Scotland, as well as the General Teaching Council for Scotland. 

This work will contribute significantly to the development of quality teacher education in Scotland, and will also offer a useful perspective to the international debate on measuring quality in teacher preparation. 

Dr Rachel Shanks is the University of Aberdeen member of this research project and she edited a book with contributions from many of the MQuITE team ‘Teacher Preparation in Scotland’ (2020).

To find out more about the project follow the below link: 

New teachers’ responses to COVID-19

New teachers’ responses to COVID-19: building on initial teacher education for their professional learning

This project is funded by the British Educational Research Association through its COVID-19 Small Grants Fund. The key objective of the project is to find out what prepared new teachers in Scotland in their initial teacher education programmes and induction to enable them to handle the unexpected changes in teaching and learning and what professional learning needs they highlight.

The project’s research questions are:

  • How did initial teacher education and induction prepare new teachers for teaching in uncertain times?
  • What do the responses of new teachers to COVID-19 indicate about the development of teacher reflexivity in initial teacher education and induction?
  • What professional learning needs for new teachers have been highlighted during COVID-19?


Dr Rachel Shanks at the University of Aberdeen and Dr Mark Carver at the University of Strathclyde are working together on this project. It builds on the innovative Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE) longitudinal study in Scotland. The MQuITE study is following two cohorts of graduates from the end of their initial teacher education into their teaching career. For this COVID-19 research focus groups are being held with new teachers who have taken part in the MQuITE study.

The COVID-19 project is intended to inform initial teacher education curriculum planning, lead to a better understanding of what helped new teachers to respond to unexpected challenges and produce new insights into how teachers see themselves within society and their local communities.

NHS Highland Parentcraft

NHS Highland is looking at how best to advise parents about their pregnancy and care of their new baby. The aim of the project is to enhance parentcraft education in NHS Highland.

We have developed 4 audio podcasts that can be downloaded. The topics are:

  • Giving birth
  • Crying
  • Feeding Problems
  • Sleeping

Professor Philip Wilson is the Principal Investigator and other project members include Dr Deborah Shanks from NHS Highland and Dr Rachel Shanks from the University of Aberdeen School of Education.

The study will take place between 1st December 2015 to 30th April 2016.


For more information, please contact:

Jane Chisholm, NHS Highland Parentcraft Sister
+44 (0)1463 704344



SCOT: STEM Career Long Professional Learning Online Training in Scotland

October 2019 to March 2020: Enhancing Professional Learning in STEM

This project aims to investigate the skills and knowledge gaps in STEM education to identify, create and deliver new innovative online career long professional learning (CLPL) modules which specifically address the needs of STEM teachers and could contribute towards Masters level qualifications.

The University of Aberdeen has long term expertise in delivering education across remote and rural areas in teacher education. More recently the Institution has focussed on developing a wide range of innovative online and blended educational courses across a range of disciplines using a CPD model which can be expanded progressively up to Master’s degree level.

The research team anticipate this scoping study will lead to the development of inclusive, open and accessible online modules to all teachers in Scotland regardless of their geographical location. This project is being supported by Education Scotland’s Enhancing Professional Learning in STEM Grants Programme through the Scottish Government STEM Education and Training Strategy.

The team consists of Dr Chrissy Mangafa (School of Education), Prof Alison Jenkinson (School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition), Dr Martin Barker (School of Biological Sciences) and Dr Dean Robson (School of Education).

Educational Inclusion in Cambodia: A Scoping Study

The study was led by researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Battambang, Cambodia, alongside KHEN, an Education NGO and key education system actor in the region. This team collaborated to explore the potential for capacity-building in inclusive practice in remote rural schools in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Inclusive Education for All).

Though schooling is now compulsory in Cambodia, only 50% of children in rural areas have access to education. Schools that do exist often run in make-shift buildings with no electricity or clean water, poorly qualified teachers and no resources. This affects literacy rates and the quality of educational provision and inclusion. However, KHEN is currently working to address these challenges and has built 41 new or re-furbished schools since they were established in 2014, influencing the lives of over 9,000-children. Most newly built schools have basic disabled access and all teachers receive child rights education from KHEN. However, it remains unclear to what extent these schools are inclusive, especially for children with additional support needs.

To explore this, a Scoping Study was conducted in two remote areas of Battambang Province. Inclusion surveys were sent to over 200 teachers. Observations were undertaken in 5 schools, and teachers, Headteachers, District Officers and the Director of Battambang Teacher Training College were interviewed to determine perceptions of inclusive education. The findings indicate that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current quality of inclusion in rural schools. Interviewees cite a lack training and resourcing, and a range of socio-cultural and economic barriers as key factors.

The research team is now working on a practical, context-sensitive and sustainable capacity-building programme to support professional development in inclusion amongst practitioners in rural schools and to enhance the quality of educational inclusion for all children.

KINDINMI: The Kindergarten as a factor of inclusion for immigrant children and their families

The KINDINMI project is funded by the Erasmus Plus Programme of the EU and involves staff from the Universities of Aberdeen, Olomouc (Czech Republic), Uppsala (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria)

The recent wave of immigration to Europe has been bringing big issues concerning the inclusion of migrants in the host countries. Although school is considered as a medium for integration, learning different subjects often meets barriers, not only those of language but also in terms of cultural traditions.

Older children arriving have difficulties learning the new language (or becoming literate) as well at catching up with the curriculum. A lot of focus has been put on just this category, in some countries attending preparatory classes before being able to integrate the compulsory school or the upper secondary school, in others more or less directly put into ordinary classes, with variable success.

Meanwhile, very little focus has been put on younger children in the age of attending nursery school or preschool. For different reasons, some migrant families choose not to put very young children in preschool. A consequence of such a choice is that the child for example risks beginning compulsory education with no or poor knowledge about the language of the host country as well as social codes and practices. As the person taking care of the child often is the mother, another consequence is that she will also have more difficulties with social inclusion or with getting access to tools for inclusion, for example by attending classes to learn the language of the host country.

The reason for choosing preschool as a focus is that preschool, although it is not compulsory in our countries seems to be a possible way for migrant families to better integrate and be included in the host country. At every level, this project also aims at changing attitudes towards migrants and their families and at developing educational tools and professional development courses to facilitate the inclusion of migrants. It is also aimed at migrants themselves to help them understand different cultural codes, in order to become confident social actors in the host country.

The KINDINMI project is funded by the Erasmus Plus Programme of the EU and involves staff from the Universities of Aberdeen, Olomouc (Czech Republic), Uppsala (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria).

Verbatim Performance

Dr William Barlow is working with colleagues at New York University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on using verbatim performance as a research technique to contribute to our understanding of potential internal or overt bias in relation to perceived gender, ethnicity and accent.

Verbatim performance is a genre of theatre which centres on interviews with people that form the basis of a representation. The stimuli of a verbatim performance originate from a variety of sources including government statements, well-known personalities and politicians, documentary films and contemporary documents to name but a few. All source materials are freely available and in the public domain. Therefore, verbatim performance is not created by a playwright or a devising process. Instead, it centres on real people, in a specific place and time, using their words gestures/physical characteristics. The Verbatim Performance Lab (VPL) then creates a flipped version of the original source by swapping genders, ethnicity and accent while retaining original source words, gestures and physical characteristics. The difference is that this time the words might be spoken by an actor of a different colour/race/gender and accent.

For more information, view the sources undertaken thus far via the VPL website.
One Seed Forward: Cultivating Education

School Gardens: Cultivating Education

The OSF Garden Schools initiative is a collaboration between the voluntary organisation One Seed Forward and the School of Education in the University of Aberdeen.

The overall aim of the project is to create a School Garden Programme, the aim of which is to involve schools in being active participants in creating a physical garden space in their school that can be used to educate children in the benefits of growing their own food.

 Three schools in regeneration areas of the city, one in each nominated area, were involved in the pilot project. The participating schools were:

  • Bramble Brae primary school
  • Woodside primary school
  • Tullos primary school

 One result of the pilot project, apart from the development of the gardens in each of the schools, was the creation of an educational programme and materials which can now be rolled out to other schools.

 More specific objectives of the Garden Schools initiative are:

  • The creation of, or improvement to, a space in the school that can be used as a vegetable garden.
  • A developed school educational programme that includes local vegetable growing, health and nutrition benefits, recycling and composting, links to literacy, numeracy, citizenship, science and arts.
  • Developing links from garden projects to raise awareness of climate change and climate actions and sustainability.

Recent Projects

Read more about some of our past projects below

MINE: Mobile Learning in Higher Education

The School of Education is part of an EU-funded Erasmus+ collaboration to increase the use of mobile technologies in Higher Education.

In February 2018 three members of staff, Sarah Cornelius, Aloyise Mulligan and Rachel Shanks went to Lisbon with four students on the BA in Professional Development degree programme to take part in an Intensive Programme working with other university staff and students from Austria, Germany, Greece and Portugal.

Staff and students worked together to design new curriculum materials, for example, using Instagram and video stories to share learning and podcasts to record reflections.

MINE - mobie learning in higher education banner

Tales of Iona

Tales of Iona is an innovative and free game-based learning experience for upper Primary and lower Secondary learners created by the University of Aberdeen School of Education in conjunction with Hyper Luminal Games LTD on behalf of the Iona Cathedral Trust: a Scottish charity (SC017989) which seeks to “to advance the education of the public in relation to the history, culture, and heritage of Iona Cathedral and the Island of Iona”. 

The University development team, comprising Professor Do Coyle, Katrina Foy, Aloyise Mulligan, and Dr David Smith (Principal Investigator / Project Lead), sought to create through collaboration with Hyper Luminal Games LTD a relevant learning experience, which would combine clear pedagogical principles with the best of contemporary electronic game design.

The game-based learning experience has been designed to support learning both inside and outside a classroom setting.

Pedagogical Principles Underpinning the Game Design

 A variety of pedagogical principles permeate Tales of Iona:

  • Thinking Skills: Puzzles are a key feature of the game design.  They seek to challenge learners to think at a higher order level.
  • Instructional Knowledge: Some instructional knowledge is provided through the game narrative.
  • Curiosity: A pedagogy of curiosity / pedagogy of the question is central to the design of Tales of Iona – through the design of the narrative, in which ‘nuggets’ spark interest, and puzzles through to the artwork and centrality of the virtual library in the game.
  • Interdisciplinary Learning: The ‘library’ reflects the interdisciplinary possibilities that have been considered in the creation of the game.
  • Wiki: Tales of Iona seeks to use wiki pedagogy in order to enable learners to be a part of the ‘making’, construction, process through which their learner voice can be expressed. 
  • International Community of Learning: The wikis provide the opportunity for learners to engage in an international community of learning.

Technical Specification

Tales of Iona is powered by Unity WebGL and is playable on the following web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.  It can also be downloaded for offline playability.