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Professor Steve Swithenby

Profile summary

Professional biography

My main curent role is Director of the Centre for Open Learning of Maths, Science, Computing and Technology.

My research interests are centred on functional imaging of the human brain with application to the understanding of higher function. I am centrally inolved in the development of a new imaging facility, the Oxford Centre for Neurodevelopmental MEG Imaging. Since the mid 90s, I have collaborated with colleagues at Oxford, manly in studies of autism and consumer decision making. I am now developing a new research interest , the neurophysiological processes associated with education and training.

Alongside my teaching development activities, I carry out pedagogical research in assessment for learning.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Physics Applied to Medicine GroupGroupFaculty of Science


Externally funded projects

Learning science and computing through juxtaposition performance in video making (H-11-023-AA)
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Oct 201230 Sep 2015EC (European Commission): FP(inc.Horizon2020, H2020, ERC)

School and University students studying science and technology often encounter barriers to their understanding of complex concepts. However, unlike in the arts, students are frequently poorly motivated to overcome these barriers. Focusing on ‘performance’ JuxtaLearn will provoke student curiosity in science and technology through creative film making and editing activities. Computational identification of students’ barriers to conceptual understanding will be overcome by scaffolded creative application of concepts in activities juxtaposed to traditional understanding. State of the art technologies will support students transferable reflections focusing on two pedagogical approaches: juxtaposition performance and reflective performance. Juxtaposition performance: JuxtaLearn ICMAs (Interactive Computer Marked Assessments) will support students’ identification of threshold concepts that are their own personal barriers to understanding. Students’ understanding will be enhanced by them creating personal performances through application of a theory in a formal activity and then again in a creative juxtaposed activity (e.g. physics used in music DJ-ing, chemistry occurring in kitchens, possible evolution of an alien race). New media and learning analytics of public video resources will facilitate student creative inspiration and further conceptual insight and understanding. Reflective performance: State of the art systems for automated and personalised film making and editing will support curiosity and creative expression. A deeper understanding will be reinforced through scaffolding reflections on essential elements in applying the theory. Students will, for example, be supported in instigating reflective decisions on what to film, how to film it and what and where to edit. Public displays will enable sharing and commenting of these performances thus encouraging public curiosity and a ‘buzz’ around specific complex concepts.

Social inclusion through synchronous distributed team collaboration. (H-09-023-AA)
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Mar 201031 Dec 2011EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Mobile technologies bring the digital and the physical worlds together by providing just-in-time/contextual information related to what people are observing, visiting or walking past. However, people with mobility disabilities or socio-economic limitations are often prevented from experiencing these new forms of user experience. We are proposing an alternative approach through developing hybrid ‘social inclusion’ solutions that aim to support collaboration between teams moving around ‘in the field’ and those ‘in the home’. This proposal will develop new ways of connecting existing mobile and shared table-top technologies to support synchronous distributed team collaboration that enables innovative forms of vicarious experiences. An educational prototype system for investigating aspects of the environment will be built to demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of the approach for supporting distributed team collaboration. With this project we seek to build systems with middlewear that will link information resource systems and co-located table-top collaboration applications at the home-base with and mobile data collection and communication devices. This will require seamless translation of mobile data collection (i.e. audio, video, geological readings) into table-top displays e.g. mash-ups between geological readings in the wild linked to mappings on table-tops. Partner companies will support the development of viable propositions. The software company, specialising in mobile learning applications, OOKL, will support the synchronous collaboration between mobile and home-based applications. SMART, who specialise in tabletop solutions for educational applications, are in the business of developing ‘ecology of technologies’ through the seamless interaction between devices and displays i.e middleware for table-tops.


The Real Aims that Shape the Teaching of Practical Physics in Sub-Saharan Africa (2020)
Babalola, Femi E.; Lambourne, Robert and Swithenby, Stephen
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 18(2) (pp. 259-278)

The FuturICT education accelerator (2012-10)
Johnson, J.; Buckingham Shum, S.; Willis, A.; Bishop, S.; Zamenopoulos, T.; Swithenby, S.; MacKay, R.; Merali, Y.; Lorincz, A.; Costea, C.; Bourgine, P.; Louçã, J.; Kapenieks, A.; Kelly, P.; Caird, S.; Bromley, J.; Deakin Crick, R.; Goldspink, C.; Collet, P.; Carbone, A. and Helbing, D.
European Physical Journal - Special Topics, 214 (pp. 215-243)

Combining temporal and spectral information with spatial mapping to identify differences between phonological and semantic networks: a Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) approach (2012-08-09)
McNab, Fiona; Hillebrand, Arjan; Swithenby, Stephen and Rippon, Gina
Frontiers in Psychology, 3(273)

Contextual integration the unusual way: a magnetoencephalographic study of responses to semantic violation in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (2008-02)
Braeutigam, Sven; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Bailey, Anthony J.
European Journal of Neuroscience, 27(4) (pp. 1026-1036)

Semantic and phonological task-set priming and stimulus processing investigated using magnetoencephalography (MEG) (2007)
McNab, F.; Rippon, G.; Hillebrand, A.; Singh, K. D. and Swithenby, S. J.
Neuropsychologia, 45(5) (pp. 1041-1054)

Face- and gaze-sensitive neural responses in children with autism: a magnetoencephalographic study (2006-11)
Kylliainen, Anneli; Braeutigam, Sven; Hietanen, Jari K.; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Bailey, Anthony J.
European Journal of Neuroscience, 24(9) (pp. 2679-2690)

Face and gaze processing in normally developing children: a magnetoencephalographic study (2006-02)
Kylliäinen, Anneli; Braeutigam, Sven; Hietanen, Jari K.; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Bailey, Anthony J.
European Journal of Neuroscience, 23(3) (pp. 801-810)

Abnormal activation of face processing systems at early and intermediate latency in individuals with autism spectrum disorder: a magnetoencephalographic study (2005-05)
Bailey, Anthony J.; Braeutigam, Sven; Jousmäki, Veikko and Swithenby, Stephen J.
European Journal of Neuroscience, 21(9) (pp. 2575-2585)

The distributed neuronal systems supporting choice-making in real-life situations: differences between men and women when choosing groceries detected using magnetoencephalography (2004-07)
Braeutigam, Sven; Rose, Steven P.R.; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Ambler, Tim
European Journal of Neuroscience, 20(1) (pp. 293-302)

Salience and choice: neural correlates of shopping decisions (2004-04)
Ambler, Tim; Braeutigam, Sven; Stins, John; Rose, Steven and Swithenby, Stephen
Psychology and Marketing, 21(4) (pp. 247-261)

Endogenous context for visual processing of human faces and other objects (2003-07-18)
Braeutigam, Sven and Swithenby, Stephen J.
NeuroReport, 14(10) (pp. 1385-1389)

Task-dependent early latency (30-60 ms) visual processing of human faces and other objects (2001-05-25)
Braeutigam, Sven C.A.; Bailey, Anthony J. and Swithenby, Stephen J.
Neuroreport, 12(7) (pp. 1531-1536)

Phase-locked gamma band responses to semantic violation stimuli (2001-01)
Braeutigam, Sven; Bailey, Anthony J. and Swithenby, Stephen J.
Cognitive Brain Research, 10(3) (pp. 365-377)

Magnetoencephalographic signals identify stages in real-life decision processes (2001)
Braeutigam, Sven; Stins, John F.; Rose, Steven P.R.; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Ambler, Tim
Neural Plasticity, 8(4) (pp. 241-254)

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) as a tool to investigate the neurophysiology of autism (2011)
Braeutigam, Sven; Swithenby, Stephen and Bailey, Anthony
In: Roth, Ilona and Rezaie, Payam eds. Researching the Autism Spectrum: Contemporary Perspectives (pp. 156-175)
ISBN : 978-0-521-51896-3 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge

Science experiments for communities of distance learners (2009)
Robinson, David J. and Swithenby, Stephen J.
In: Bilsel, Ayhan and Garip, Mehmet U. eds. Frontiers in Science Education Research: Proceeedings of the Frontiers in Science Education Research Conference, 22-24 March 2009, Famagusta, North Cyprus. (pp. 487-492)
ISBN : 978-975-8401-67-3 | Publisher : Eastern Mediterranean University Press | Published : Cyprus

Achieving and maintaining a symbiosis between institutional priorities, personal professional development and improving student learning (2013-08)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Stephen
In : Improving Student Learning Symposium 2012: Improving student learning through research and scholarship: 20 years of ISL (29-31 Aug 2012, Lund, Sweden) (pp. 177-189)

The OpenScience Laboratory: a globally available online lab at the cutting edge of practical science teaching (2013-06-13)
Garrow, Kat; Braithwaite, Nicholas; Richardson, Brian and Swithenby, Stephen
In : ED-MEDIA 2013: Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (26 Jun 2013, Victoria, Canada)

Creating allowable personal and professional identities: the impact of changing contexts on SoTL activities and structures (2012-05)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Stephen
In : ProPEL: Professional Practice, Education and Learning International Conference (9-11 May 2012, University of Stirling)

Practitioner research as experiential learning?: the case of COLMSCT (2010-05)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Steve
In : Seventh International Conference on Networked Learning (3-4 May 2010, Aalborg, Denmark) (pp. 877-885)

Inter-cultural comparisons of staff perceptions on quality in online distance learning (2009-06-12)
Endean, Mark; Swithenby, Stephen and Bai, Bin
In : Innovation in Learning Communities (10-13 Jun 2009, Gdansk, Poland)

Criteria for effective development of academic staffthrough practitioner research (2009-05)
Swithenby, Stephen and Hills, Laura
In : SEDA Spring Learning Teaching & Assessment Conference 2009 (07-09 May 2009, Brighton)

eAssessment and the independent learner (2009)
Butcher, P. G.; Swithenby, S. J. and Jordan, S. E.
In : M-2009: Proceedings of the 23rd ICDE World Conference on Open Learning and Distance Education including the 2009 EADTU Annual Conference (7-10 Jun 2009, Maastricht, NL)

Science experiments for communities of distance learners (2009)
Robinson, David and Swithenby, Stephen
In : Frontiers in Science Education Research (FISER'09) (22-24 Mar 2009, Famagusta, Cyprus)

E-assessment for open learning (2008)
Swithenby, Stephen
In : The 6th International Conference on Education and Information Systems, Technologies and Applications: EISTA 2008, in the context of The 2nd International Multi-Conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics: IMSCI 2008 (29 Jun - 2 Jul 2008, Orlando, FL, USA)

Supporting open learners by computer based assessment with short free-text responses and tailored feedback (2008)
Swithenby, Stephen and Jordan, Sally
In : 2nd International Multi-Conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics (29 Jun - 02 Jul 2008, Orlando, Florida)

Face processing in individuals with autism: a longitudinal magnetoencephalographic study (2008)
Braeutigam, S.; Kylliainen, A.; Swithenby, S. and Bailey, A.
In : International Meeting for Autism Research 2008 (15-17 May 2008, London)

Online summative assessment with feedback as an aid to effective learning at a distance (2005)
Jordan, Sally and Swithenby, Stephen
In : Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Improving Student Learning : Diversity and inclusivity. (06-08 Sep 2004, Birmingham)

The Bayesian Power Imaging (BPI) method for magnetic source imaging (2001)
Hasson, R. and Swithenby, S. J.
In : Biomag2000, Proc. 12th Int. Conf. on Biomagnetism (Aug 2000, Helsinki, Finland) (pp. 697-700)

The Bayesian Power Imaging (BPI) test for task/control experiments (2001)
Hasson, R.; James, J. A. and Swithenby, S. J.
In : Biomag2000, Proc. 12th Int. Conf. on Biomagnetism (Aug 2000, Helsinki, Finland) (pp. 701-704)

Engaging Opportunities: Connecting young people with contemporary research and researchers (2018-02-01)
Holliman, Richard; Davies, Gareth; Ford, Diane; Russell, Mark; Steed, Anthony; Brown, Helen; Pearson, Victoria; Collins, Trevor; Stutchbury, Kris; Squires, Andrew; Scanlon, Eileen; Whitelegg, Liz; Ansine, Janice; Braithwaite, N St.J; Swithenby, Stephen; Dommett, Ellie; Sumner, Janet; Lee, Clare; Kendall, Joe; Green, Penny; Sharp, Damien; Bullivant, Mike; Devine, Peter and Hawthorne, Val
The Open University and the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance, Milton Keynes.

Assessment interoperability (2007-10)
Swithenby, Stephen
Learning Infrastructure for Europe, IMS