THESIS Pedagogic Research Seminars

THESIS Pedagogic Research Seminars


This seminar series aims to offer talks that examine how psychological-based research may inform teaching-related issues. This group is for all staff involved in teaching to ensure we can disseminate best practice in teaching. This seminar series is convened by Dr. James Ravenhill. If you would like to know more about this group, or would like to provide suggestions for potential topics or speakers, then please contact him:

Previous talks and symposiums


May 8 – 2024Pedagogy of Hope for Global Social Justice

Professor Douglas Bourn

Influenced by the ideas of Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux, Professor Bourn will outline why he sees the concept of pedagogy of hope as particularly relevant today. He will suggest that it is particularly relevant within education in terms of the approaches teachers take to engage students. The talk will suggest there is a need to go beyond idealised conceptions of hope to one of educated hope, that situates a sense of optimism and change with concrete realities of peoples’ everyday experiences.  Reference will be made to themes identified in the volume he edited with Massimiliano Tarzozzi on Pedagogy of Hope for Global Social Justice, published by Bloomsbury as an open access book in 2023. The theme of global social justice will be suggested as providing a sense of forward and futures thinking and link the discussions to debates on education for social change.

About The Speaker

Director of the Development Education Research Centre at University College London. Chair of the international Academic Network for Global Education and Learning (ANGEL). His most recent publications are Theory and Practice of Development Education (2015), Understanding Global Skills (2018) and Education for Social Change (2022). He has also edited Bloomsbury Handbook for Global Education and Learning (2020), Research in Global Learning (2023) and Pedagogy of Hope for Global Social Justice (with M.Tarozzi) (2023) and out later this year is the Bloomsbury Encyclopaedia for Global Education and Learning , edited with Dr.Aamna Pasha. With UCL he is active on initiatives on sustainability and decolonisation and currently co-chairs a working group on Cultural Understanding. His main academic work at UCL includes supervising doctoral students and teaching on the online masters’ programme on Global Learning.


February 14 – 2024 – Exploring the student experience of discussing emotive experiences in the classroom

Dr Natalie Pitimson

The experience of learning about emotive topics in the classroom presents many challenges for educators, particularly within the university context. My presentation will focus on two research projects carried out with final year undergraduate students at a British university who had chosen to study a module on the Sociology of Death and Dying. The first study took place in 2019 and the second in 2023 following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several key issues of experiential and pedagogical concern arose in both projects, highlighting in particular how students use each other’s experiences as well as their own vulnerabilities to engage with emotive topics. The research also explored the role of the tutor as an emotional safety net in such classes and the extent to which trigger warnings should be ensconced in university teaching. The post-Covid research explored these same themes against a more acute backdrop of mass death and the concomitant heightened fear of indiscriminate death that emerged during and beyond the pandemic. The purpose of both of these projects was to explore student perceptions of the experience and value of death education as well as providing reflections on the extent of universities’ and lecturers’ duty of care. I also wanted to create opportunities to reflect upon how we might consider death education post-pandemic.

November 15 – 2023Understanding how to understand Neuroscience,

Dr Isabella Vainieri

Neuroscience is one of the most difficult modules for Y1 Psychology Undergrads. In this talk, I will present studies that have investigated the most common barriers that students face in understanding biological subjects, potential teaching adjustments as well as my plans for a pedagogic project to help students to better engage with Neuroscience. Feedback and suggestions on my plans, and openings for potential collaborations are very well welcomed.

November 15 – 2023Learner reflexity: Towards a critical pedagogy for Psychology teaching in HE,

Dr James Ravenhill

In his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire argued that education is an inherently political pursuit, because it facilitates reflection on inequalities and injustices, and enables learners to envisage possibilities for social change. Educators should employ “critical pedagogies” that extend beyond the teaching of “facts”, and the training in methods and skills that meet economic need, and instead encourage in students self-reflection, and belief in a critical agency to contribute to a fairer society. In this talk, I will share my thoughts on and experience in using reflexivity as a critical pedagogy for learning and teaching in Psychology, a discipline with a long history of (re)producing inequalities in its quest to identify “realities” about human thought and behaviour. I will suggest that embracing critical pedagogy in Psychology has the potential to expose epistemic injustices, support decolonisation efforts, and empower students to become “global citizens”, aware of their role in changing the world for the better.

October 9 – 2023Improving inclusion and representation in the curriculum – where to start? 

Professor Allan Laville

Embedding Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in Teaching and Learning (T&L) is currently a topic of much national interest. Professor Laville will provide an evidence-informed reflective account of his EDI in T&L journey, which started in 2011. He will provide examples of practice from multiple levels; from the classroom, institutional work, and national initiatives.

8th June 2023 – Symposium – Developing your Scholarship

On 8th June the THESIS group hosted their first in person Early Career Teaching event. ‘Early Career Teaching Workshop: Developing your Scholarship’ was coordinated by Sam Fairlamb and Elise Gear with support from Danijela Serbic, Ryan Jefferies, Aysha Bellamy, Nuno Nodin and Gaia Giampietro. Follow this link to find out more. 

8th June 2022 (1-2.30pm) – Symposium – ‘Insights from Early Career Teachers: What Have We Learnt from COVID-19’.

Register your attendance here

Time Presenters
1:00-1:10pm Welcome and opening remarks


Elise Gear (Psychology Department – PhD student)

1:10 – 1:35pm Talk 1 – The Use of Emojis and Gifs in Online Teaching to Foster Student Engagement


Online teaching presents new challenges in satisfying students’ needs. For example, when successful, online teaching can be effective in minimising procrastination (Kang & Zhang, 2020) and reaching students in complex environments (e.g., students with childcare responsibilities; Redmond et al., 2018). When unsuccessful, online teaching can deter attendance (Nieuwoudt, 2020) and lower motivation (Xu et al., 2020). Emojis (static pictograms depicting emotion or sentiment) and gifs (graphic images depicting pop culture references) are popularly used within online communication (Tang & Hew, 2019) and are being increasingly used within online teaching (Darby, 2020). Drawing upon my own experiences of online and blended teaching since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as two quantitative studies I have conducted, the use of emojis and gifs within online teaching and whether these foster student engagement will be discussed.


Dr. Beatrice Hayes (Psychology Department)

1:35 – 2:00pm Talk 2 – Student Engagement in Language Classes


The pandemic has significantly impacted and changed student engagement. This paper will study the different types of engagement with language classes showed by students in 1st year, second and final year from 2020 to 2022, when studying fully online (2021 term 2) or fully in person (2021-2022). Age and level will be taken into consideration in order to understand attendance data. While highlighting what could be maintained from online teaching, this talk will put the emphasis on the benefits of in person teaching: its impact on student well-being in particular, and on student improvement in the target language.


Dr. Marion Joassin (Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

2:00 – 2.25pm Talk 3 – The Wellbeing of Staff Whilst Teaching During the Pandemic: The Challenges and Assets


Teaching in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic required prompt adaptation and familiarisation to hybrid teaching. Leading to an increase in workload and a constant need to adapt teaching style to governmental guidelines and online platforms. For many members of staff (and students), working from home blurred the boundaries that were once set to separate home and work life. Whilst this provided great joy (from showing off pets on camera and the occasional cat filter), for some the end of the workday didn’t necessarily mean the end of work. This talk will expand on the both challenges and positive assets of teaching during COVID-19 and the impacts this has had on our mental health


Dr. Vanita Chamdal (Psychology Department)

Wednesday 23rd February 2022 (1-2pm) – Lectures and lecture capture in the new normal’

Dr Emily Nordmann, University of Glasgow (online talk)

In this talk I will summarise my work on lecture capture and discuss how my view on the purpose and place of lecture capture has evolved. I will argue that live lectures with lecture recordings still have a place in the new normal, if it ever arrives, that students learn more from lectures than what the lecturer is teaching, and that at lecture capture is vital for an inclusive ​approach. As part of these arguments, I will touch on issues of attendance, lecture capture policy, and widening participation.

Monday 31st January 2022 (1-2pm) – The 4 Ws of test anxiety: What is it; Why is it important; Where does it come from; What can be done about it?’

Prof David Putwain, Liverpool John Moores (online talk)

Anecdotal evidence would indicate that in the past five years or so, a greater number of adolescent secondary school students are seeking support to deal with the anxiety and pressure associated with preparing for, and taking, high-stakes exams. This has prompted questions such as why more students are requesting help, how many are experiencing high levels of anxiety and whether this figure is increasing, what the effects of exam anxiety might be, and what can schools do about it. In this webinar, Professor Putwain will be sharing findings from research into the prevalence of exam anxiety, relations with achievement and mental health, and interventions designed to reduce exam anxiety.

Monday 17th January 2022 (1-2pm) – Good feedback: strategies and practices that enhance student learning from and satisfaction with assessment feedback.’

Professor Berry O’Donovan, Oxford Brookes University (online talk)

This session will draw from recent research studies into assessment feedback in Higher Education that critique current practice and suggest some contemporary approaches to improving student learning from, and satisfaction with, feedback that go beyond technical concerns such as timing and quantity.  Such approaches emphasise the particular challenges inherent in feedback on assessment activities that move beyond accurate memorisation of established facts and demonstrable theories.  Based on empirical research it is posited that in this situation the effectiveness of feedback rests not only on the nature and content of the feedback artefact, but also on the assessment context in which it is received and recipients’ capacity to understand and engage with it.  It may only be those students who view knowledge as relative and mutable who will ever be truly ‘satisfied’ with feedback on complex, open-ended tasks. The presentation will conclude that focusing on the epistemological development and feedback literacy of students is important to enhance both their learning from, and satisfaction with, feedback.

Wednesday 17th November 2021 (2-3pm) – ‘Using social psychology to tackle educational inequalities: Identities, contexts, and interventions’. Dr. Matthew Easterbrook, University of Sussex (online talk).

Abstract: Some groups of students—such as some ethnic minorities or those from lower class backgrounds—on average achieve much lower academic grades and are much less likely to progress within the education system than other groups. Social psychological or “wise” interventions can be incredibly effective at improving outcomes for these groups of students; however their effectiveness, and the groups that benefit from them, vary considerably across contexts and they can even—in some circumstances—be harmful.  In this talk, I present the Identities in Context model of educational inequalities, which emphasises the importance of gaining a deep understanding of the extent to which features of the local educational context are creating social psychological barriers to success for some groups of students.  I then suggest a research protocol for researchers and practitioners to follow in order to a) identify which, if any, social psychological barriers are disrupting the educational performance of which groups of students in their local context and b) if such barriers exist, to choose, tailor, implement, and evaluate a psychological intervention that is likely to be effective at reducing those barriers and so improve outcomes for those groups.  Finally, I will present some preliminary, unpublished findings from my lab that show the how this protocol has been used to reduce sanctions for poor behaviour and improve attendance in schools in a locality in England.

Wednesday 10th November 2021 (2-3pm) – ‘Why don’t they just listen to feedback?’ Dr. Rob Nash, Aston University (online talk)

Abstract: Most people prefer to perform well than to perform badly. And one of the primary aims of giving feedback is to help people to enhance their performance. So why do our students so often ignore, resist, and reject the feedback we give them? Over the past 8 years, I’ve carried out a variety of pedagogical and psychological research centred around this question, exploring perceived and actual barriers that limit students’ effective engagement with feedback. In this talk, I will discuss some insights from my own research, and from several other domains of psychology. I will also share my own mixed experiences of trying to implement what I’ve learned into my own teaching practice. One of the most important take-home messages is this: we need to understand resistance to feedback not as a student problem, but as a people problem!

Wednesday 20th October 2021 (2-3pm) – ‘Transitions and belonging in higher education: duck to water, or fish out of water?’ Dr Julie Hulme, Keele University (online talk).

Abstract: The transition to university is often described as a challenging or difficult time, with the literature focusing on the transitional experience as a single episode. In this talk, I will draw upon three separate research projects to reflect on the diversity of transitional experiences, and explore whether it is helpful to ‘problematise’ transitions, or to consider them as a normal part of the student (and human) life experience. We will explore some practical implications of the findings to reflect on ways in which we can help students to successfully navigate transitions, and to develop a sense of belonging and social support at university.

9th June 2021 (1-2.35pm) – Symposium – ‘Insights from Early Career Teachers: A Teaching Survival Kit’

Time Presenters
1:00-1:05pm Welcome and opening remarks


Elise Gear

1:05 – 1:35pm Talk 1 – Tips and tricks for effective teaching delivery


Within higher education, teaching spans a broad range of learning environments from small scale seminars to large scale lectures. Dependent upon numerous factors, teaching delivery varies across these environments and pitching level of delivery is vital for fostering a positive learning environment. With a PGCE and experience teaching within primary, secondary and higher education, I will draw upon my own training and teaching experiences to present tips and tricks for teaching delivery within a higher education setting.


Dr. Beatrice Hayes

1:35 – 2:05pm Talk 2 – Developing student-teacher relationships and the use of humour in teaching


Positive student-teacher relationships can support engagement in higher education. This talk will outline evidence-based methods to foster productive student-teacher relationships, drawing on the experiences of PGR teaching staff. These methods will be considered in context of online teaching delivery methods necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and how teaching staff can build relationships with students using online tools. Finally, the role of humour will be explored in the context of developing rapport between teaching staff and students. The importance of student-teacher relationships will be considered in context of educational and wellbeing outcomes.


Alex Lloyd

2:05 – 2.35pm Talk 3 – Being an autistic teacher in higher education 

 Searching for sources about autism in education reveals a lot of information about teaching autistic people, and little about what it is like to teach when you are autistic. Teaching involves an understanding of the needs of students, and presenting information in a way that students can understand. This might lead people to wonder how it’s possible for an autistic person to teach effectively. In this talk, I (a late-diagnosed autistic woman) discuss the benefits and barriers of being autistic, and teaching in higher education. Evidence regarding improving diversity and representation in the classroom will be discussed, along with personal examples from myself, and other autistic teachers.

 Louisa Thomas

3rd March 2021 (1-2pm) – Talk – ‘Reducing inequality in educational outcomes’

Compared to their traditional counterparts, students from underrepresented backgrounds generally have lower levels of achievement (known as attainment gaps), and are less likely to progress from one year to the next (known as continuation gaps). Causes of these differential outcomes may be related to a range of factors, such as: curriculum practices; student-staff relationships; social, cultural and economic capital; and psychosocial and identity factors. In this talk, I will summarise recent literature on differential outcomes and interventions taken to reduce inequalities, with a particular focus on inclusive approaches to assessment and feedback practices.

 Kieran Balloo is a Research Fellow in the Surrey Institute of Education, University of Surrey. His disciplinary background is in psychology and his current research broadly explores the impact of students’ backgrounds and the university environment on their experiences of higher education.

10th February 2021 (1-2.30pm) – Symposium – ‘Psychological Core Skills in Academia’

Time Presenters
1:00-1:05pm Welcome and opening remarks


Dr. Danijela Serbic

1:05 – 1:35pm Talk 1 – We need to talk about self-esteem


Education can be an ego-threatening process. This talk will examine academic contingent self-worth and its role in higher education. Evidence regarding academic contingent self-worth will be reviewed, with the main outcomes being that it can produce deficits to one’s learning, success, and well-being. This therefore goes against popular wisdom that investing in one’s academic work can produce positive outcomes. It is therefore of importance to consider how we manage issues of self-esteem in higher education. Some strategies to tackling contingent self-worth will be considered.


Dr. Sam Fairlamb

1:35 – 2:05pm Talk 2 – Resilience: Why it matters more now than ever


Resilience predicts a number of positive outcomes during university life in terms of mental health, retention, academic performance and life satisfaction. Furthermore, it is valued by future employers as one of the top ranked attributes that they look for during the recruitment process, given its perceived importance in the work environment. Developing resilient students is particularly salient in the current time, given a host of statistics and reports that indicate a crisis of mental health problems in students as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which presents additional and new challenges. In this talk, I will present why now, more than ever, is a crucial time to develop our resilience.


Dr. Illham Sebah

2:05 – 2.35pm Talk 3 – The role of self-compassion in protecting students from mental health difficulties


Mental health difficulties have been significantly increasing in the last decades in the UK (Higher Education Statistics Agency [HESA], 2020). Due to the difficulty in addressing the needs of students presenting complex cases, it is crucial to consider a preventive approach. There has been a growing body of research supporting the relevance of emotional resilience in higher education (Brewer et al., 2019; Slavin, Schindler, & Chibnall, 2014), which would promote students’ ability to face adversity and challenges. Self-compassion has been empirically supported as a resilience factor that protects against the development and maintenance of mental health difficulties (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012; Trompetter, et al., 2017). Being self-compassionate involves being kind, understanding and supportive towards oneself in moments of distress and pain. In this talk I will discuss the role of self-compassion in protecting university students from mental health difficulties. I will also present different avenues to enhance wellbeing skills and support students’ mental health.


Dr. Ines Mendes