My research to date has paid particular attention to linguistic and communicative processes within educational settings.
My PhD investigated how and to what extent children from two socially differentiated primary schools in Teesside, north-east England, used the resources of their local dialect to construct identities, negotiate social hierarchies and manage their relationships with each other and with their teachers.
This work drew upon variationist and interactional sociolinguistic approaches. You can download my PhD thesis here but for more recent work please see ‘Publications & Outputs’ tab.
I have since used data from my PhD fieldwork to challenge the deficit-oriented perspectives that are once again becoming prominent in discussions of young people’s language in media discourse and some educational policy documents.
In April 2011 I gave a keynote talk at the BAAL/CUP seminar on ‘Language, Education and Disadvantage: A response to the Deficit Model of Children’s Language Competence’ at Sheffield Hallam University. A special edition of the journal Language and Education has been published on this theme [see here]. Issues around the relationship between local dialect, standard English and education often make the national news. My response to the move made by a Teesside primary school to censure the use of local dialect at home, as well as in the classroom, was published in the Independent on Sunday on 10th February 2013.
Following my PhD, I worked on the ESRC-funded project, ‘Towards Dialogue: A Linguistic Ethnographic Study of Classroom Interaction and Change’, with Adam Lefstein at the Institute of Education, University of London. Here my focus was on classroom discourse and the relationship between teachers’ sensitivity to classroom interactional dynamics and their professional practice.
In a related project (also with Adam Lefstein), supported by the centre for Work Based Learning for Educational Professionals (a HEFCE-funded initiative), I studied the social processes that influence learning in teacher professional development workshops that use video representations of participants’ own practice.
All of these research projects reflect my interest in ethnography, and in developing innovative research methodologies (in particular finding ways to combine quantitative with qualitative methods).