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Dr Alison Fox

Alison sitting drinking some peppermint tea in Amsterdam

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Alison Fox (BSc, Durham; MSc, Aberdeen; PGCE, Cambridge; MEd, Cambridge; PhD, Open) is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research contributes to understanding contemporary issues in education; currently, the opportunities and challenges of social media for professional learning and the development of a framework for defensible ethical enquiry. She leads a new Postgraduate Teaching and Learning Pathway and chairs a module of the Postgraduate Leadership and Management Pathway.

Alison’s academic expertise in Professional Learning and Ethical Enquiry is founded on both teaching and research experience. After working as an environmental scientist, she retrained and taught Science for ten years in Secondary Schools and Further Education, was a teacher educator on Post Graduate Certificate in Education courses for Science teachers for six years and, since 2007, has taught as a lecturer on Masters and Doctoral programmes. Her research began whilst studying an MEd (1998-2000) when a school teacher, then extended through contract research (2000-2011), her PhD examining the professional learning of emergent school leaders (2006-2011) and as a senior lecturer (2011 onwards).

As a University researcher Alison’s expertise is grounded in the work undertaken across a range of projects at the University of Leicester, the University of Cambridge and at the Open University. She has examined the development of beginning teachers, school leadership development and the adoption and dissemination of classroom assessment for learning practices across schools and networks. Her funded research projects include inter-University collaborations, internationally funded projects, commissioned research, and a project funded by a charitable trust. Her most recent project is ‘Promoting Inquiry Informed Practice: bridging the gap between theory and practice for participants of pre-service teacher education in Pakistan (2014-2017)’. She is passionate about supporting practitioner research through designing and teaching PostGraduate courses for teachers to develop their enquiry skills and through leading University support for school-based research in Teaching School Alliances.

Alison currently co-convenes the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Research Methods in Education Special Interest Group (SIG), for which she designs and leads an academic programme of events and publications. This follows previous work co-convening the BERA Educational Leadership SIG with a network of colleagues, including British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS), Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and the British Curriculum Foundation, and supported by the blogsite she hosts. Alison is committed to building researcher capacity through her SIG leadership role and co-publications. The Educational Leadership SIG edited a special issue of the BELMAS journal Management in Education and the Research Methods in Education SIG is editing a special issue of the BERA journal Research Intelligence. Her expertise in research ethics has been recognised through invitation to working groups reviewing the BERA Research Ethics Guidelines (2016-2018). She is also a member of the Association for Learning Technology and International Professional Development Association.

Alison’s expertise in Professional Learning informs her work on the editorial boards of the Journal of Workplace Learning, the Journal of Research in Social Sciences and the BERA Blog and she is regularly invited to review papers for international journals. This work was recognised when she was awarded Outstanding Reviewer for the Journal of Workplace Learning in the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence (2016). Her editing expertise extends to setting up a School-University journal Research4&BYteachers and leading the publication of a Special Issue of the BELMAS journal Management in Education (due 2018).

Research interests

Professional Learning

Alison’s expertise is oriented to supporting educational professionals in their ongoing learning by examining the benefits and challenges associated with professional networking in order to promote the value of such activity to training teachers and, more recently, training doctors. Alison developed a new method for professionals to visually represent their networks as learning opportunity maps which facilitate rich discussions with the maps’ authors about the nature and value of others to their learning. This has proved an insightful research and development tool across a number of projects including the ‘Learning How to Learn: In classrooms, in schools and in networks’ (2002-2006) funded by the TLRP/ESRC and 'Beginning teacher development and support' project (2006-2011) funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. This work has led to consultancy work for Relational Schools currently working with Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT to support strategies for increasing training teacher retention. Alison co-authored the book Researching and Understanding Educational Networks in 2010 and is now examining the issues professionals face due to the growth of digital social communication without a critical evidence base to inform their practice. She is contributing by illuminating the challenges, tensions and solutions professionals report as they, like other members of society but with additional responsibilities, embrace, dabble with and avoid social media. She was invited to contribute to a European symposium Teachers’ Role in the SNS-Era: Different points of view from a global perspective at the Ed-Media conference in Finland (2014) and a special issue of the European QWERTY journal entitled Reshaping professional learning in the mobile and social media landscape: theories, practices and challenges (2017). This work was presented with respect to doctors' learning through social media at the annual ASME (medical education) conference (2018). Alison is currently leading the production of a book in the Evidence-Based Teaching book series for Critcal Publishing. She is also involved in advising the Fleming Fund Anti-Microbial Resistance project (Mott Macdonald and Open University led) about their Monitoring and Evaluation strategy for professional learning events. 

Ethical Enquiry

Together with a colleague Kris Stutchbury, Alison has developed a comprehensive ethical appraisal framework published in the Cambridge Journal of Education as Ethics in Educational Research: introducing a methodological tool for effective ethical analysis to support their enquiries. Alison is keen to advocate that researchers prioritise and build ethical thinking into all Social Science enquiries as well as exploring how Western frameworks of ethical thinking can be applied to other cultural settings. Through scholarship and research activity she led and built an open access website Doing Ethical Research which has been endorsed by BERA, adopted for use in Masters and Doctoral teaching at the Universities of Cambridge and Leicester and adapted for use in a Teaching School Alliance. Alison led the development of a Massive Open Online Course on the FutureLearn platform to disseminate her and colleagues’ expertise in research ethics from across the Social Sciences at the University of Leicester. People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society runs for 6 weeks twice yearly. The currency of her recent work has led her to seed debate about pressing ethical concerns related to ethnographic methodologies by co-chairing and presenting a symposium Ethics and Research in Educational Ethnography as part of network 19 at the European Conference for Educational Research in Denmark (2017), the outputs of which are being published as a book Ethics for Educational Ethnography: Regulation and Practice. 

Teaching interests

Alison’s teaching expertise has grown from her early career as a classroom teacher, which provided her with a commitment to active pedagogical approaches to learning which support learners in developing enquiry skills for their ongoing learning. These principles she translates into supporting the learning of education professionals using her research to inform her teaching. Alison’s teaching expertise has been recognised through accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2015) and winning a University Distinguished Teaching Fellowship at the University of Leicester (2016). Alison was Director of Studies at the University of Leicester from 2013-2016 involving leading the development and quality assurance of the School of Education’s portfolio of taught programmes and was invited to chair Inside Government's debate on Delivering Teaching Excellence across UK Higher Education (2016). Alison brings together her expertise into Masters level course design and delivery. In addition to her current teaching roles, she has been Programme Leader for an MA in Education: Learning and Teaching, a PostGraduate Certificate in Effective Middle Leadership developed collaboratively with the national Union the Association for School and College Leaders and led the redesign of an MSc Educational Leadership (distance learning) programme. She supervises doctoral students on a range of international projects connected with her research interests. Alison is currently Pathway lead for a new MA/MEd programme in Learning and Teaching which launched in 2017 with a free six week badged online course Looking globally: The future of education and in 2018 with EE830 Learning and Teaching: Education for the next generation. 

Alison’s expertise in course design suitable for in-service teachers and leaders is built from her research expertise from projects such as the 2006 National College for School Leadership: Evaluation of Online Learning Impact Study, the 2008 TDA commissioned Schools and Continuing Professional Development in England State of the Nation Research Project and as a Senior Associate for CFE on the research project Evaluation of the National College’s Leadership Curriculum and Licensed Provision (2013-2016) commissioned by the Department for Education. She also draws on her external examining experience with the University of Sussex MEd/MAE programme, the University of Aberdeen MSc Leadership in Professional Contexts and her current role in supporting the University of Hertfordshire/Herts Cam Network MEd.

Impact and engagement

Alison is exploring different ways to engage potential users of her research with her enquiries to ensure the findings are accessible, meaningful and fuel further debate.  She is committed to the principles of open access dissemination, building communities and networks and utilising social media to explore the translation of her research into practice.

For children: Alison led a schools' debate of teachers and pupils about the value and challenges of using social media for education at the National Space Centre as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science (2014) which led to a schools' charter for social media use. She has also been working with the Leicester-based charity Kaine Management on a raising aspirations programme for disadvantaged children across 10 schools to offer a digital futures strand, linked to the development of an e-portfolio and safe use of social media.

For practitioners: Alison presented a Keynote lecture for the University of Sussex’s Teacher Research Conference entitled How can school-based enquiry be supported by ethical thinking? (2016) and worked with a Teaching School Alliance to develop an ethical appraisal protocol for school-based enquiry, presented with practitioner colleagues at BERA and University Council for the Education of Teachers conferences. This applicability of her and Kris Stutchbury’s ethical appraisal framework to school-based research has been recognised in the first edition of the Chartered College of Teachers’ journal IMPACT (2017). Alison has also been fostering school-based research through a range of partnership activities and has recently launched an open access online journal Research4&BYteachers as a vehicle for sharing the knowledge gained from such research with other practitioners, setting up an editorial team which spans school and University representatives. In terms of project legacy and facilitating local sustainability, the British Council Pakistan project to support initial teacher development in Islamabad, Pakistan is generating a set of self-evaluation guides (to be published 2018) for school and University partners in initial teacher development to take forward curriculum development and implementation, supported by training workshops led by the project team in May 2017. Alison has been invited to run a workshop about ethical research to the British Alliance for Research into Dental Education and Scholarship in June 2019. The book she is currently leading for Critical Publishing is aimed at a practitioner audience. 

For fellow researchers: Alison has contributed to the working group reviewing the BERA research ethical guidelines to ensure they are relevant, accessible and inclusive for contemporary use. As illustrated through this profile she has built open access web and blog sites to disseminate the collective research findings of the BERA educational leadership SIG, regional school-based research, her social media research and, in the case of research ethics, a public-facing website and downloadable resources Doing Ethical Research ( and a free online course People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society. Alison has been key, as part of her role on the BERA Blog Editorial Board in organising and editing collections of BERA blogs as BERA BITES in both areas of Educational Leadership (issue 2) and Research Methods in Education (forthcoming). 


External collaborations

  • Co-convenor BERA Educational Leadership SIG (2015-2018) with Anna Reid from the University of Newcastle, working with colleagues within BERA and BELMAS to organise Educational Leadership Research-related activities, including events and supporting colleagues with publications. A special issue of Management in Education was published in 2018.

  • Co-convenor BERA Research Methods in Education SIG (2018-) with Carmel Capewell from Oxford Brookes University, to organise events and supporting colleagues with publications. A special issue of Research Intelligence is planned for 2019.

  • Member of working groups who reviewed and revised the BERA Research Ethics Guidelines published as 4th edition (2018).

  • Member of the BERA Blog editorial board.

  • Member of the Association for Learning Technology and the International Professional Development Association.

  • Development of a collaboratively designed PGCertificate Effective Middle Leadership with the Union Association for School and College Leaders at the University of Leicester.

  • External examiner for the University of Sussex MEd/MAE programme (2013-2017), the University of Aberdeen (2013-2018) MSc in Leadership in Professional Contexts and the University of Hertfordshire/Herts Cam Network (2015-2019)

  • Has acted as external validator for the University of East Anglia/University of Essex

  • Co-investigator on the British Council Pakistan funded project (2014-2017) 'Promoting Inquiry Informed Practice: bridging the gap between theory and practice for participants of pre-service teacher education in Pakistan'

  • Editorial board member of the Journal of Workplace Learning and Journal of Research in Social Sciences, and reviewer for a number of international journals (Advances in Education - Pakistan, Educational Research Review, Education and Information Technologies, British Medical Journal Open, Education and Information Technologies,  Ethnography and Education, Italian Journal of Educational Technology, International Journal for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Pakistan Journal of Distance and Online Learning, QWERTY, Teaching and Teacher Education). She was awarded 'Outstanding Reviewer for Journal of Workplace Learning in the Emerald Literati Network 2016 Awards for Excellence.

  • External evaluator of doctoral theses for the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.

  • External grant reviewer: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg, CORE 2016; 2018. 

  • Ethics advisor on the international advisory board for the Horizon 2020 DiALLS project (2018-2021), led by the University of Cambridge. 


Teacher professional learning through lesson study: teachers' reflections (2020-10-17)
Fox, Alison and Poultney, Val
International Journal of Lesson and Learning Studies, 9(4) (pp. 397-412)

The Amoral Academy? A Critical Discussion of Research Ethics in the Neo-Liberal University (2020)
Busher, Hugh and Fox, Alison
Educational Philosophy and Theory ((Early Access))

Ethics-in-practice in fragile contexts: research in education for displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers (2020)
Fox, Alison; Charitonos, Koula; Baker, Sally; Moser-Mercer, Barbara and Jack, Victoria
British Educational Research Journal ((Early access))

Exploring research methods for educational leadership (2018-01)
Showunmi, Victoria and Fox, Alison
Management in Education, 32(1) (pp. 3-5)

What makes useful evidence for educational leadership practice? An interview (2018)
Addae-Kyeremeh, Eric and Fox, Alison
Management in Education, 32(1) (pp. 53-55)

#any use? What do we know about how teachers and doctors learn through social media use? (2017-12-31)
Fox, Alison and Bird, Terese
Qwerty - Open and Interdisciplinary Journal of Technology, Culture and Education, 12(2) (pp. 64-87)

The challenge to professionals of using social media: teachers in England negotiating personal-professional identities (2017-03-31)
Fox, Alison and Bird, Terese
Education and Information Technologies, 22(2) (pp. 647-675)

The development of a small-scale survey instrument of UK teachers to study professional use (and non-use) of and attitudes to social media (2016)
Owen, Nathaniel; Fox, Alison and Bird, Terese
International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 39(2) (pp. 170-193)

Plurality or Linearity: What is the Experience of Emerging as a School Leader in the English Context? (2016)
Fox, Alison
Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(5) (pp. 1129-1141)

Networking and the development of professionals: Beginning teachers building social capital (2015-04-30)
Fox, Alison R. C. and Wilson, Elaine G.
Teaching and Teacher Education, 47 (pp. 93-107)

Designing a consequentially based study into the online support of pre-service teachers in the UK (2015)
Kontopoulou, Konstantina and Fox, Alison
Educational Research and Evaluation, 21(2) (pp. 122-138)

Beginning Teachers’ Workplace Experiences: Perceptions of and Use of Support (2011)
Fox, Alison; Wilson, Elaine and Deaney, Rosemary
Vocations and Learning, 4(1) (pp. 1-24)

Examining beginning teachers' perceptions of workplace support (2010)
Fox, Alison; Deaney, Rosemary and Wilson, Elaine
Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(4) (pp. 212-227)

Ethics in educational research: introducing a methodological tool for effective ethical analysis (2009-12)
Stutchbury, Kris and Fox, Alison
Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(4) (pp. 489-504)

Events and professional learning: studying educational practitioners (2009)
Fox, A. and McCormick, R.
Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(3) (pp. 198-218)

'Support our networking and help us belong!': listening to beginning secondary school science teachers (2009)
Fox, Alison and Wilson, Elaine
Teachers and Teaching, 15(6) (pp. 701-718)

Viewing recently qualified teachers and their networks as a resource for a school (2008)
Fox, Alison and Wilson, Elaine
Teacher Development, 12(1) (pp. 97-99)

The design and use of a mapping tool as a baseline means of indentifying an organisation's active networks (2007)
Fox, Alison; McCormick, Robert; Procter, Richard and Carmichael, Patrick
International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 30(2) (pp. 127-147)

Researching and Understanding Educational Networks (2010-06)
McCormick, Robert; Fox, Alison; Carmichael, Patrick and Procter, Richard
New Perspectives on Learning and Instruction
ISBN : 9780415494830 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Improving learning how to learn: Classrooms, schools and networks (2007)
James, M.; McCormick, R.; Black, P.; Carmichael, P.; Drummond, M. J.; Fox, A.; MacBeath, J.; Marshall, B.; Pedder, D.; Proctor, R.; Swaffield, S.; Swann, J. and Wiliam, D.
TLRP Improving Learning Series
ISBN : 978-0-415-40427-3 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

Learning how to learn: Tools for schools (2006)
James, M.; Black, P; Carmichael, P.; Conner, C.; Dudley, P.; Fox, A.; Frost, D.; Honour, L.; MacBeath, J.; McCormick, R.; Marshall, B.; Pedder, D.; Proctor, R.; Swaffield, S. and Wiliam, D.
Improving Practice (TLRP)
ISBN : 978-0-415-40026-8 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

Chapter 1 – Introduction: Overview of the book (2019-05-20)
Busher, Hugh and Fox, Alison
In: Busher, Hugh and Fox, Alison eds. Implementing Ethics in Educational Ethnography: Regulation and Practice (pp. 1-16)
ISBN : 9780429507489 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Ethical learning from an educational ethnography: the application of an ethical framework in doctoral supervision (2019-05-02)
Fox, Alison and Mitchell, Rafael
In: Busher, Hugh and Fox, Alison eds. Implementing Ethics in Educational Ethnography: Regulation and Practice (pp. 110-126)
ISBN : 9780429507489 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Implementing Ethics in Educational Ethnography: Regulation and Practice (2019-05-20)
Busher, Hugh and Fox, Alison eds.
ISBN : 9780429507489 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Using a Masters course to explore the challenges and opportunities of incorporating Sustainability into a range of educational contexts (2019)
Fox, Alison; Addison-Pettit, Paula; Lee, Clare and Stutchbury, Kris
In : International Symposium on Climate Change and the Role of Education (12-13 Apr 2019, Lincoln) (pp. 219-236)

Application and development of an ethical framework in ethnographic research at a government primary school in Ethiopia (2017-08-22)
Fox, Alison and Mitchell, Rafael
In : ECER Annual Conference 2017 (22-25 Aug 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Exploring Digital Literacy to Connect Less-Advantaged Pupils with Opportunity (2016)
Bird, T. and Fox, A.
In : ALT-C Annual Conference 2016 (6-8 Sep 2016, University of Warwick, UK)

#Anyuse? What do we need about how teachers and doctors benefit from engaging with social media? (2016)
Fox, A. and Bird, T.
In : BERA Annual Conference (13-15 Sep 2016)

TwitterFlipping the Classroom: Social Media for Independent Learning through Teacher-Student and Teacher-Teacher Collaborations (2015)
Bird, T. and Fox, A.
In : ALT-C Annual Conference 2015 (8-10 Sep 2015, University of Manchester)

"I see inquiry as a normal part of my professional practice": A critical examination of practitioners' experiences from one Midlands Teaching School Alliance (2015)
Fox, A.; Poultney, V.; Brown, A.; Rawes, N. and Silverthorne, J.
In : BERA Annual Conference 2015 (15-17 Sep 2015, University of Belfast)

The self-improving school: how leadership supports teacher inquiry (2015)
Poultney, V.; Fox, A.; Brown, A.; Rawes, N. and Silverthorne, J.
In : BERA Annual Conference 2015 (15-17 Sep 2015, University of Belfast)

Valuing teachers’ diverse attitudes to and use of social media (2014)
Fox, A.
In : ED-MEDIA 2014 (22-27 Jun 2014, Tampere, Finland)

Teachers’ use (or not use) of social media for their professional learning: a small-scale survey of English teachers (2013)
Owen, N.; Fox, A. and Bird, T.
In : BERA Annual Conference 2013 (3-5 Sep 2013, University of Sussex, Brighton)

What is the experience of emerging as a school leader in the English context? (2013)
Fox, A.
In : ISATT Biennial Conference on Teachers and Teaching (1-5 Jul 2013, Ghent, Belgium)

Examining school leaders’ learning in practice: methodological choices and dilemmas (2012)
Fox, A.
In : Oxford Ethnography in Education Conference (Sep 2012, Oxford)

Finding valued relationships: beginning teachers networking to meet their professional needs (2011)
Fox, A. and Wilson, E.
In : European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction Biennial Conference (Sep 2011, Exeter)

Becoming a teacher-leader: Exploring biographical representation of teachers’ experiences of transition (2010)
Fox, A.
In : European Society for Research on the Education of Adults 'Life history and Biographical Research' network conference (4-7 Mar 2010, Linnaeus University, Sweden)

Perceptions of the workplace by new teachers (2009)
Fox, A.; Deanet, R. and Wilson, E.
In : Researching Workplace Learning 6th Annual Conference (28 Jun - 3 Jul 2009, Roskilde, Copenhagen)

Networking for support: learning from the experiences of beginning science teachers (2009)
Fox, A. and Wilson, E.
In : Teacher Education division of the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference (11-14 Apr 2009, San Diego, USA)

Exploring biographical approaches to understanding learning as identity: cases of emergent school leaders (2008)
Fox, A.
In : ESREA ‘Access, Learning Careers and Identities’ Network Conference (10-12 Dec 2008, Seville, Spain)

Contrasting approaches to researching lifelong learning: the leadership group and individual biographies (2007)
Pegg, A. E. and Fox, A.
In : Centre for Research into Lifelong Learning 4th International Conference (22-24 Jun 2007, Stirling, UK)

Teachers' Learning through networks (2006)
McCormick, Robert; Fox, Alison; Carmichael, Patrick and Proctor, Richard
In : AERA Annual Conference (7-11 Apr 2006, San Francisco)

Ethics-in-practice in fragile contexts: The value of the CERD ethical appraisal framework (2020-06-24)
Baker, Sally; Jack, Victoria; Moser-Mercer, Barbara; Charitonos, Koula and Fox, Alison

Technology-supported Capacity Building on AMR Surveillance: Findings from the Pilot Phase (2019-10-11)
Charitonos, Koula; Littlejohn, Allison; Kaatrakoski, Heli; Fox, Alison; Chaudhari, Vasudha; Seal, Timothy and Tegama, Natalie
The Open University

Leadership Curriculum Evaluation: Final Report DFE- RR639 (2017-08)
Leornardi, Sarah; Archer, Rachael; Tazzyman, Sarah; Burkin, Guy; Choudhoury, Arifa; Cork, Lorna and Fox, Alison
Department for Education, London.

Schools and continuing professional development(CPD) in England - State of the Nation research project (T34718): Qualitative Research Summary (2008-09)
Storey, Anne; Banks, Frank; Cooper, Deborah; Cunningham, Peter; Ebbutt, Dave; Fox, Alison; Morgan, Bethan; Pedder, David and Wolfenden, Freda
Cambridge University/The Open University