Professor Debra McGregor

PhD (Keele), MSc (Lond), PGCE (Hull), BSc (UEA)

Professor in Education

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Deb McGregor joined the School of Education at Oxford Brookes in September 2012. She has worked as the Research Lead [preparing and supporting staff for Research Excellence Framework (REF) submissions and assessments.  She has also worked as the Post Graduate Research Tutor (PGRT) providing advice and guidance for staff and students regarding research degrees and project designs. Prior to joining Brookes, she worked as Professor in Learning and Developing Pedagogy as well as Assistant Director of a Centre for Development and Research in a West Midlands University.

Deb has worked in Higher Education for twenty years. Her roles have included various positions in private and public Universities both in the US and the UK. She led the Secondary Science PGCE at Keele University. In the US she worked as an Assistant Professor in Secondary Science Education in Central Connecticut State University and Bridgeport University. Early in her career she held leadership positions in science teaching in secondary schools in the midlands, UK, and was an ICT advisory teacher in Staffordshire LA.

Her PhD entitled ‘Applying learning theories reflexively to understand and support the use of group work in the learning of [practical] science’ has proved to be a catalyst in proffering insights into the ways collaboration can be influenced by task design to promote effective interactive learning. This work also involved scrutiny of the nature of talk emerging between learners, whilst resolving differentiated problems. A hermeneutic approach to analysis revealed that the nature of learning interactions arising between young secondary students can be interpreted and understood in alternate ways. Paying attention to cognitive development, interaction and/or collaboration presents understandings about learning that can inform a range of pedagogical approaches.

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught


Deb has previously taught at undergraduate level (including educational psychology, views of intelligence, the nature of learning and pedagogy, qualitative and quantitative educational research methods).


This has included Theories of Learning to all PGCE and ITE students as well as Secondary Science specific sessions (e.g. practical work, investigations, physiology, thinking skills, science education research).

Masters level has included sessions on learning, assessment, research methods and enquiry approaches.

Educational Doctorate sessions have included Transition from M to D level work, Advanced Educational Research, Enquiry Design and Reflecting in and on Educational Research.

Deb has also led and directed the Educational (Taught) Doctorate, held various responsibilities in Doctoral Research Committees and steered staff development of research supervisors.


Deb is currently Director of Studies to the following PhD and Ed D students:

  • Liz Coppard : A comparative study exploring contrasts in primary and secondary schools about ways that understanding of the concept of substance and the particulate nature of matter are developed.
  • Julie Boyle : Exploring STEAM practices in secondary schools.
  • Clare Fenwick : Examining stories of the impact of the pandemic on FE lecturers work.
  • Clare Keighley : Forest Schools and the teachers’ experiences.
  • Ruth Tuffnell : Exploring gender differences in choices regarding Art at GCSE.
  • Linda Rice : Dyslexia and Identity development in school and university.
  • Jen Gadd : Foucault and Technology, why are we where we are now?
  • Jane Fletcher : Figured worlds created in Mathematics classrooms. 
  • Maura Donovan : Parents and child learning to write.

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
Polly Bell Creativity in arts and science classes Active
Kirstie Mahoney Young children learning through play Active
Sally Howard Contrasting science inquiry learning across primary and secondary phases 2023
Ben Burbank Young children’s experiences of museums 2021
Sarah Frodsham Assessment of Primary School Science: Understanding when and how effective formative assessment is being performed whilst teaching creatively for science 2018


This has involved a wide range of teaching and learning, professional development and curricular projects carried out in schools, colleges and LAs in Europe, Asia and the US.

The funding bodies have included University of Ljubljana Slovenia; Malaysian Education Department; Singaporean International Schools; Connecticut Schools;  Higher Education Academy; Esmee Fairbairne; Primary Science Teaching Trust (formerly Astra Zeneca Science Teaching Trust); Walsall LA; Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

External funding for projects outlined below exceed £1 million.

The projects led as a Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic have involved exploring and exemplifying creativity; examining the nature of creative, critical and metacognitive thinking; evidencing the nature of effective professional development; re-considering the ethical dilemmas of educational research; evaluating the impact of interventional approaches on school leadership; researching the impact of drama in the service of science learning and designing curricular materials for a range of purposes in primary and secondary educational contexts.



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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Previous Chair and Member of the Association of Science Education (ASE) Research Committee.
  • Previous Member of the Executive Board of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Committee
  • Expert Panel Member for EU project (involving over 12 different countries) Strategies in Assessment for Inquiry Learning in Science (SAILS).
  • Member of the Editorial Board for Research in Science and Technology Education.
  • Previously member of the International Committee for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), that resides in the USA.
  • Member of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in the USA.
  • Member of American Educational Research Association (AERA).
  • Reviewer for a range of Journals including International Journal of Science Education; International Journal of Thinking Skills and Creativity.


List of key conference papers and Invited talks:

  • Frodsham, S., McGregor, D., Mahoney, K., & Skelton, J. (2021) Once upon a time .... drawing on fictional texts to support learning science. British Educational Research Association. Online. 13th-16th September
  • Frodsham, S., McGregor, D., Mahony, K., & Skelton, J. (2021) Once upon a time : A Covid secure approach to teaching science. ESERA. Online. 30th August-1st September
  • McGregor, D., & Frodsham, S (2021) Researching creativity in learning : Ethical considerations when probing etic and emic perspectives. British Educational Research Association. Online. 13th-16th September
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2021) Ethically eliciting Ethnographic Data: Seeking Etic and Emic Perspective About Learning in Creative Science classrooms. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Online. April 8th-12th 
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2021) Epistemic Reflection on Successful Science Teaching Intervention : Theorising How Constructivism Works to Promote Creativity. American Educational Research Association (AERA). Online. April 8th-12th
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2021) Consideration of participatory ethics when eliciting etic and emic perspectives of learning. National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST). Online. April 7th-10th 
  • McGregor, D. (2021) Action Research as Professional Development for Teachers. Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Online. January 9th. Invited talk.
  • McGregor, D., & Frodsham, S. (2020). Moments of Creativity: Analysis through an application of CHAT. Presentation at British Educational Research Association (BERA) Online August 3rd-21st
  • Frodsham, S., Deller, C., & McGregor, D. (2020) Researching practice – Sharing action research tools to measure the impact of your teaching. Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Reading, UK. January 9th
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2019) Scientists’ narratives of their school science experiences : Implications for policy and practice (so far). British Educational Research Association (BERA) Newcastle, UK. September 10th-12th
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2019) Scientist views of scientific originality: Opportunities and constraints in school science. European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) conference. Bologna, Italy, 26th-30th August 2019.
  • McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2019) Storytelling and inquiry practical work in school science: why bother? European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) conference. Bologna, Italy. 26th-30th August
  • Frodsham S. & McGregor, D. (2019) School science: Scientists’ stories. Presentation at The Association  for Science Education (ASE), Birmingham, UK. Jan 10th


This has primarily involved schools (in Europe, the USA and Asia) wishing to develop thinking skills and aspects of science education. Consultancy has also included national and international presentations and workshops focused on learning, cognitive development, pedagogy and assessment.

Further details

Various recent projects worked on include the following:


Dramatic Science

Using different drama conventions to teach science. Prof. Deb McGregor led this project working with Dr Wendy Precious [formerly Staffordshire LA] Dr Jill Rezzano [The New Vic Theatre]. This project using drama to teach science resulted in offering a CPD Unit and a taste of the approach, resources and impact available here.

The book providing even more details on this project is available here.


Strategies for Assessment and Inquiry Learning in Science (SAILS)

This pan European project, led by Prof Odilla Finlayson, Dr. Eilish McLoughlin and Dr. Deirdre McCabe [Dublin City University] involving 14 partner countries was designed to develop teacher’s knowledge and understanding of assessment in scientific inquiry. This project developed a wide range of assessment strategies that built upon established Inquiry based science education (IBSE) activities. Prof. Deb McGregor was one of the independent External Advisors working alongside Prof. Bronwen Cowie [Waikato University in New Zealand] and all the participants in the project. The various SAILS teaching units [and other project outcomes] that emerged from this international endeavour are available here.


Examining Creative Pedagogy and Learner Creativity

In this project, Prof. Deb McGregor and Dr Sarah Frodsham worked with PSTT Fellows to demonstrate the nature of creativity and identify moments in science lessons where teachers were teaching creatively, and also where they were teaching for creativity, i.e. developing their children’s creativity. These moments are illustrated through a series of web pages that include:

  • explanatory text regarding the context of the creativity captured through visual and auditory means; 
  • annotated video episodes illustrating aspects of creative practice;
  • reflective commentary from the teachers;
  • excerpts of the children’s responses to the tasks and questions, demonstrating their creativity too, and
  • secondary pupils’ reflections of the legacy of their creative experience in primary school.

The website can be found on the Illustrating ‘Aspects of Creative Practice in Primary Science’ the link is  here.

This aspect of the project was also reported on in the Spring PSTT Newsletter. You read more about it here


Scientists Scientific Creativity

Another outcome of the PSTT project includes a number of interviews with experienced scientists that explore what they thought about creativity.

The outcomes of conversations are shared through a new website, ‘Professional Scientists Recollections of their Creative Educational Experiences’. The website contains illustrative audio clips, or soundbites, which exemplify a range of creative educational experiences, as described by twenty four experienced scientists (click here to enter the site). Each soundbite will describe one of the following:

  • What appears to have motivated the scientists involved in the project to want to become a scientist?
  • What the scientists think about their school experiences (primary, secondary and as an undergraduate) that appear to have been influential?
  • What kinds of experiences beyond school appear to have been influential?
  • What do the scientists involved in the project say schools could pay more attention to.

This aspect of the project was reported on in the Summer PSTT Newsletter. You can read more about it here.


Museum Learning

The Research Excellence Bid 2020 entitled : Exploring ways of using Museum Spaces for Learning : Working collaboratively with Museum Educators will inform the current Arts Council bid, ‘Creative approaches utilising virtual spaces to encourage Exploring  Learning at the Museum (ELM)’ being developed with Tracey Martin-Millward & Wendy James. This area of research work has informed the development of the STEAM website here and here. The development of this area of work, building on Burbank’s PhD research has prompted staff, particularly Fletcher and Payne, to engage with MEs and develop more research oriented work.


Impact Case Study : Creative Primary Science Pedagogies : Transforming approaches to teaching and learning

This has involved a huge amount of different kinds of work packages. A variety of different kinds of reports, posters, conference presentations, articles have been written to contribute to the STEAM website and provide evidence of impact. The main website for archiving publicly available material related to the ICS is here


The STEAM Research Group

The overarching view of all the various projects, presentations and publications that have emerged from STEAM RG members and their activities. Many of the above, completed, ongoing and related projects are presented here. All under the umbrella of the STEAM Research Group website.