Dr David Johnston

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


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.


Research Interests

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


With Aberdeen City Literacy Group

With Aberdeenshire Literacy Strategy Group


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




Further Info

Admin Responsibilities

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



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  • Johnston, DH 2020, School Placement: Problematising notions of the ‘good’ placement. in R Shanks (ed.), Teacher Preparation in Scotland. Emerald Studies in Teacher Preparation in National and Global Contexts, Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
  • Johnston, D 2020, 'Student Teacher Participation in School Placement: a micropolitical analysis of students’ experiences of system tensions', Education in the North, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 39-57. [Online] DOI: https://doi.org/10.26203/4ty5-dv08
  • Johnston, DH 2016, ''Sitting alone in the staffroom contemplating my future’: communities of practice, legitimate peripheral participation and student teachers’ experiences of problematic school placements as guests', Cambridge Journal of Education, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 533-551. [Online] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2015.1069793
  • Johnston, DH 2010, ''Losing the joy': student teachers’ experiences of problematic interactions with host teachers on school placement', Teacher Development, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 307-320. [Online] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13664530.2010.504012
  • Johnston, DH 2009, 'Communities of Practice, Legitimate Peripheral Participation and Student Teachers’ Negative Experiences of School Placement', BERA Annual Conference 2009, Manchester, United Kingdom, 2/09/09 - 5/09/09.
  • Johnston, DH 2008, 'Johnston, D (2008) The Novel, communities of practice and apprenticeship. Paper presented at conference, The Novel and its Borders, Aberdeen University, July 10th, 2008.', The Novel and its Borders July 10th, 2008., Aberdeen , United Kingdom, 10/07/08.
  • Johnston, DH 2008, '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.', BERA Annual Conference 2008., Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 3/09/08 - 5/09/08.
  • Johnston, DH 2008, 'Losing the Joy', Professional Development Today, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 27-31.
  • Johnston, DH 2007, ''You’re only the student!’ Issues of power in PGDE student teachers’ interactions with school colleagues while on placement', BERA Annual Conference 2007, United Kingdom, 5/08/07 - 8/08/07.
  • McIntosh, KJ, Johnston, DH, Craig, L & Fraser, CA 2007, 'Developing a Literature Review for models of teacher education'.
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