I am a Lecturer in English Language and Applied Linguistics at the Open University. I have over thirty years’ experience as a teacher and lecturer in English Language, English Literature and Communication in a range of postcompulsory settings, including Higher, Further, Adult and Community Education, English as a Foreign Language and English for Academic Purposes. I have also worked in learning support, writing development and academic development roles. I started work with the Open University as an Associate Lecturer I 1997. I now combine a range of teaching roles with pursuing my research interests.
My work with student writers and in staff development led me to pursue doctoral research (supervised by Theresa Lillis and Mary Lea) exploring the practices of academics teaching in the disciplines in UK Higher Education around undergraduate writing, from teachers’ own perspectives. I adopted an “academic literacies” approach, viewing pedagogies around writing as social practice and employing an ethnographically-oriented methodology to explore teachers’ lived experiences of work around student writing. The study provided new insights into the challenges faced by lecturers working at the academic ‘textface’ but also acknowledged the creative and collaborative labour many are engaged in through their work with student writers.
My research is positioned at the cusp between two broad fields of interest: on one hand the study of literacies as social practice, and on the other higher education pedagogy research and practice. A key element of my approach and expertise is to employ ethnographically-oriented methodologies to explore pedagogic practices around student writing. By placing academic teachers, rather than student writers, at the centre of these enquiries, my work provides an in-depth focus on an under-researched area of higher education. It provides an insight into the complexity of practice around student writing and in particular those “hidden” literacy practices and events, such as the marking of students’ written work, which play a huge but take-for-granted role in higher education. This focus also helps to throw new light on work with student writing as an aspect of academic labour. One key consequence is that my work has the potential to contribute to academic development and higher education research more widely by challenging a tendency to “blame” teachers for intractable problems in education and by offering insight into how more transformative outcomes for students can be achieved despite pressures in the HE sector environment.
Some of these arguments figure centrally in a published monograph with Routledge rooted in my PhD research, entitled Academics Engaging with Student Writing: Working at the Higher Education Textface. (See publications list for the full details.)
I have extended this programme of work in collaboration with South African colleagues Dr Lynn Coleman, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Dr Moeain Arend, University of Cape Town (UCT), in a CPUT-funded project entitled Conceptualisations of Academic Writing in the University of Technology Sector. The project explores lecturers’ perspectives on student writers and their writing, and on writing more broadly, with a particular focus on the institutional and biographical factors at play in shaping their understandings, experiences and practices around student writing. Lynn Coleman and I have recently had two co-authored articles published based on this empirical study (see publications list).
I am currently developing two new projects. One focuses on higher education marking practices which continue to be a site of contention and challenge and which are evolving rapidly in response to technological and economic and political change at institutional level and beyond. At present I am engaged in literature review work with the aim of gaining a fully rounded picture of marking which takes account of what is known in a wide range of disciplines including Psychology, New Literacy Studies, Educational Technology and Higher Education studies. These perspectives are rarely brought together. This review will prepare the ground work for an empirical study exploring marking practices in contemporary UK higher education.
My other key project at present is entitled Writing for the Professional Doctorate and has been funded by the PRAXIS scholarship fund within the Faculty of WELS. This project will take place over two years, with an initial phase based on analysis of feedback texts, followed by a more in-depth study involving PD students and supervisors.
I Chair L101, a new introductory Level 1 English language module which was first presented in February 2019. This module has been designed to combine engaging, contemporary teaching and research material in the field of English Language and Linguistics with a fully integrated academic and digital literacies curriculum, with the aim of providing an accessible and solid grounding for students who wish to progress to Level 2 English Language studies, or who wish to specialise in other English-related and/or Language degree qualifications at the Open University. I am also a longstanding member and former Chair of the popular third level module EA300 Children’s Literature where I have contributed to the continual development and updating of materials and pedagogy. Jointly with Dr Dena Attar, I received an Open University Teaching Award in 2016 for scholarship work leading to the development of online collaborative learning on EA300. I am currently a member of the academic team planning the remake of this module. I have also contributed to the production of other English Language modules E304 Exploring English Grammar and, at Masters level, EE817 Applied Linguistics, including a lead role in the academic co-ordination of audiovisual materials production.
Beyond the faculty level, I co-ordinate the PACE (Professional Academic Communication in English) team which works with the Graduate School to make a significant contribution to capacity-building in the area of academic and research communication across the university. The PACE team works mainly with research postgraduates at the OU, usually face-to-face but also online. The team devises and runs workshop sessions on a range of issues relating to academic reading, writing and speaking for postgraduate research. As part of the PACE initiative, I co-facilitate the PACE Writing Circle which takes place once a month through the academic year. With colleagues Professor Theresa Lillis and Jenny McMullan, I created an online resource available to all OU researchers to support the development of their academic literacy practices.
Central to my practice as an educator is a commitment to promoting wider participation and greater equity and diversity in higher education, and this motivation is reflected in all of my teaching and research activity.
I currently supervise two PhD students, investigating topics in the following areas:
An Investigation into Self-OER relative to Open Education and Networked Participatory Scholarship
Exploring contemporary citation practices of Russian scholars writing in Russian and English in three disciplinary fields (Economics, Sociology, and Philosophy): static and dynamic approaches
I welcome enquiries by prospective PhD or EdD students interested in pursuing research in the following areas: ethnographic and other qualitative approaches to academic and professional literacies, pedagogies around academic reading and writing, traditional and emergent academic writing practices, writing and assessment in higher education, critical approaches to higher education pedagogy and development, the role and location of writing and writing work in the academy, academic labour around writing, gender and academic writing.