Dr David Johnston

Dr David Johnston
MA (Hons), PGCE, MEd, PhD


I am currently accepting PhDs in Education.

Dr David Johnston
Dr David Johnston

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 274646
The University of Aberdeen Room 517  MacRobert Building School of Education King's College Aberdeen University AB24 5UA


I have been active in Initial Teacher Education since 1999, firstly as a Lecturer at Northern College and then in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen. Prior to this, I was a secondary English teacher with 17 years' experience in Aberdeenshire.

My teaching focuses mainly on Literacy, where I work with both primary and secondary graduates and undergraduates. I am joint course leader for the PGDE Secondary English. More recently I have assumed responsibility for supporting Masters and PhD students. With Liz Curtis, I am currently  joint PGR Co-ordinator and PGR Officer. I supervise a number of both Masters and PhD students, with a particular focus on student teacher placement research.

I completed a PhD in 2016, entitled 'a sociocultural perspective on student teacher belonging as an achievement, in a school placement context'. I have published on student teachers' experiences on school placement and am interested in the implications of taking an ecological stance on practicum. This has involved working to explore the relational connections of Barbara Rogoff's personal, interpersonal and community levels of student teacher development as these work in interplay with the temporal dimensions of Emirbayer and Mische's iterational, practical-evaluative and projective levels of influence on action. The fusion of these theoretical ideas has enabled me to create an original theoretical framework for understanding student teacher learning and development in school placement situations. I have also become interested in the emotional dimensions of micropolitical activity in schools, focusing on student teachers in particular. Current research is exploring learning at the boundaries of systems, learning at the edges - again with specific respect to the experiences of student teachers on placement.

Internal Memberships and Affiliations

Course Leader: Literacy and English Course in Education BEd - ED 4017 and ED4052 The Emerging Professional (Curriculum)

Course Leader: Education PGDE P and S ED4018 and ED4511: Further Professional Studies Tutor: Literacy For All

Co-Leader: Education PGDE (S) FT English

Co-Leader : Belongingness Research Study

Course Co-ordinator: MSc/MEd Work Based Project Dissertation

Deputy Director of Postgraduate Studies

Prizes and Awards

SERA Prize

The Estelle Brisard Award for Beginning Researchers. 2013


Research Areas

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me


  • Education Studies

Research Overview

Student Teachers' Field Experiences

Student Teachers' development of  a 'Sense of Belonging' while on school placement

Workplace learning - specifically looking at beginning teachers' learning experiences in the school as a workplace

Socio-Cultural Theories of learning and development, with particular emphasis on the early development experiences of student teachers while on placement


Secondary School Departments as Communities of Practice

Current Research

Student Teachers and Belongingness while on school placement - with Yvonne Dewhurst

Tensions in student teachers' experiences of learning on school placement

Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement

Please have a listen to the podcast below which focuses on a recent paper published in Education in the North on student teachers' experiences of micropolitics on teaching practice:

Johnston, D., (2020). Student teacher participation in school placement: a micropolitical analysis of students’ experiences of system tensions. Education in the North, 27(1) pp. 39-57. https://doi.org/10.26203/4ty5-dv08

This is the BIORadio Podcast which discusses the above article: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1vzOK1zuA1pNPNwgh54BLL?si=yXru-gzDSK27T9C6t15_xg


With Aberdeen City Literacy Group

With Aberdeenshire Literacy Strategy Group


My current supervision areas are: Education.

I am currently supervising 6 PhD students:

Julie Bray

Anna Teitz

Nantia Chatzitheodorou

Beth McClure

Astrid Tonna

Sirui Gong


Teaching Responsibilities

Education MA - ED2555 Learning and Teaching In and Through the Curriculum

Education MA - ED 3004 and ED3005  MA 3 Literacy Tutor

Education MA - ED 4017 and ED4052 The Emerging Professional (Curriculum)

Education Chartered Teacher - MEd Work Based Practice: Course Co-ordinator and Dissertation Supervisor

Education PGDE (P) ED4018 and ED 4511: PGDE Primary Curriculum

Education PGDE (S) ED 4018 and ED 4511 FT English Tutor

Depute Director Postgraduate Studies and PhD Supervisor






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  • School Placement: Problematising notions of the ‘good’ placement

    Johnston, D. H.

    Teacher Preparation in Scotland. Shanks, R. (ed.). Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., pp. 111-123, 13 pages

    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters

  • 'Losing the joy': student teachers’ experiences of problematic interactions with host teachers on school placement

    Johnston, D. H.

    Teacher Development, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 307-320

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Communities of Practice, Legitimate Peripheral Participation and Student Teachers’ Negative Experiences of School Placement

    Johnston, D. H.

    Contributions to Conferences: Other Contributions

  • Johnston, D.H & McAdam, J (2008) Threshold Concepts, Liminality and Beginning Teachers’ Troublesome Knowledge of Literacy Concepts.: Paper presented at BERA conference, Heriot Watt, September 2008.

    Johnston, D. H.

    Contributions to Conferences: Other Contributions

  • Johnston, D (2008) The Novel, communities of practice and apprenticeship. Paper presented at conference, The Novel and its Borders, Aberdeen University, July 10th, 2008.

    Johnston, D. H.

    Contributions to Conferences: Other Contributions

  • Losing the Joy

    Johnston, D. H.

    Professional Development Today, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 27-31

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • 'You’re only the student!’ Issues of power in PGDE student teachers’ interactions with school colleagues while on placement

    Johnston, D. H.

    Contributions to Conferences: Other Contributions

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