Current projects

Teaching and Learning in the Humanities

This is a literature review looking at published research articles written about teaching and learning in the humanities which use approaches specifically identified as deriving from the humanities. The aim is to identify ways in which individuals with research expertise in humanities subjects might approach thinking about teaching and learning; and to explore the strengths and weaknesses of existing publications. It is hoped that the study might influence the design of our teaching and learning courses in Oxford.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Dr Julia Horn.

Doctoral Co-Supervision - How well does it work?

Whilst various patterns of supervision exist, co-supervision is becoming more common. However, there is limited research on whether, or how, co-supervision is effective and for whom - student or supervisor development - and how supervisors and students might be better prepared to engage in this form of supervision. This project will document the co-supervision experiences of doctoral students and supervisors, and identify the range of practice, benefits, and tensions involved. Findings will inform the experiences of the supervisor-student relationship and the provision of support offered to supervisors, and broaden academic knowledge of the co-supervision landscape. Qualitative methods involving questionnaires and interviews are being used to collect data.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Dr Gill Turner

Learning from the experience of former Faculty Board Chairs

This research, using semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis, aims to learn from the experience of former Faculty Board Chairs (FBCs) in the Humanities Division, to support present and future post-holders and to improve recruitment and succession-planning for the role.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Clare Wakeham

Becoming a Principal Investigator (PI)

This project seeks to deepen our understanding of the personal and professional development needs of recently appointed Principal Investigators, i.e. post-PhD researchers who have achieved research independence by successfully acquiring their first research funding, e.g., ERC starter grant (or equivalent). Specifically:

  1. What are the challenges faced and the resources used by researchers as they move from doing research under close supervision to developing the autonomy necessary to getting their first PI grant?
  2. What are the challenges new PIs deal with as they make significant ‘leadership transition’ to PI?

The next generation of academic STEM scientists: Why remain in today’s pressurized academic labour market?

What motivates early career STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) scientists to remain in today’s increasingly pressurized and entrepreneurial academic labour market? This question matters because the extent to which individuals are prepared to invest in academia will impact not just the quality of knowledge generation but also the quality of learning of future generations of higher education students. Yet, despite calls for greater investment in preparing STEM researchers, there is a significant gap in knowledge of their experiences. This study attempts to fill this by exploring the experiences of doctoral students, as they progress through their programmes and beyond. We ask three questions: (i) How do early STEM scientists experience the shifting nature of academic practice? (ii) What are the day-to-day experiences that influence their notions of what it is to be and develop as an academic? (iii) How do their day-to-day experiences influence their decision to stay in academia or go?  The findings will go some way towards stimulating efforts to enhance institutional pedagogies and policies for early STEM scientist professional development.

The research is investigating longitudinally how doctoral students in the sciences experience academic practice and what influences their decisions to stay in academia. It is a companion to the McAlpine & Amundsen Canadian study, and parallels previous research by McAlpine, Amundsen, Turner, Horn & Rath in the social sciences. The results contribute to the on-going development of the university research supervision website as well as other support for supervisors at Oxford and other national and international universities.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Prof Lynn McAlpine

Recent Projects

Evaluation of use of abstracts in tutorial teaching

This study explores the use of abstract writing as part of tutorial teaching at Oxford; the ways in which writing an abstract in addition to an essay can support undergraduate learning and what the various benefits might be for the tutor and the student. This study will contribute to the growing literature on how students develop their sense of writing, thinking and arguing in their subject area. It will also give some indication of how discussion with peers in the tutorial may or may not support particular types of learning.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Julia Horn.

Partnership for writing: Enhancing the professional development of early career social scientists

This study, in conjunction with Wolfson College, concerns the provision of support for academic writing given to doctoral students and postdoctoral staff in the social sciences and humanities. This has involved the development of a pilot writing programme for early career academics. The evaluation will document how we can improve the writing programme, what resources and structures are needed for the sustainability of the programme, and the perceived impact on participant writing and leadership practices. 

What is the impact of Departmental or Programme-Level interventions in educational and professional development? Case Studies in a Research University

The goal of this project is to evaluate the impact of bespoke consultations and workshops for host units (e.g. Departments, Colleges, Programmes, and Divisions) across the collegiate University of Oxford. The fields of educational and professional development in the UK generally overlook organisational level interventions and their impacts. We believe that our experience and the evaluation of our work will be of use to others in the field.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Dr Kathleen M. Quinlan

Feedback as teaching in tutorials: analysing critical moments through video and interview

This project is intended to offer insights into tutorial teaching at Oxford; to identify illustrative examples of different models and theories of teaching in action; to illuminate critical moments in tutorial teaching from both the perspective of tutors and students; to compare tutor and student experiences of the same tutorial; and to understand feedback as a form of teaching. This project addresses the lack of research on actual classroom interactions and how those are experienced and interpreted by teachers and students in higher education.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Julia Horn.

Research Staff Perceptions of the Researcher Development Framework.

The project is exploring ways in which research staff approach professional development, using in particular Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF) as a lens. It aims to gain a greater understanding of barriers to research staff using the RDF and of engaging in development more generally.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Dr Laura Hodsdon

The next generation of social scientists (2007-2014)

This longitudinal study builds on an earlier CETL study following social sciences doctoral student and research staff at Oxford (Turner, Horn) and another research-intensive university (Rath) in order to understand their developing knowledge of academic work. In this phase, a sub-set of 11 doctoral students and research staff are being followed as they navigate their careers post-degree. This work has provided background information for work being undertaken at Oxford to support new researchers, and been presented in workshops nationally.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Prof Lynn McAlpine

Doctoral Training in the Social Sciences: DTC pedagogies and the governance of research training

The ESRC’s 2011 announcement of a network of 21 accredited social science DTCs reflects a major shift in the governance and organisation of doctoral training in the social sciences across the UK. Through site visits, interviews and documentary analysis this study is exploring the influence of this new policy formation on the governance and pedagogy of doctoral training. 

Contact details (should someone want to find out more):Prof Lynn McAlpineDr David MillsProf Ingrid Lunt 

The experiences of new doctoral supervisors

Little is known about the experiences of and challenges faced by those who, having once been PhD students, navigate the transition to being doctoral supervisors. In 2008 11 early career academics new to doctoral supervision were interviewed about their experiences; 4 were re-interviewed in 2012. Analysis so far shows that supervision is not as expected, is emotionally challenging, is often solitary, and requires determined commitment. Findings have been used to inform the University’s support of new doctoral supervisors.

Contact details (should someone want to find out more): Dr Gill Turner