Sally Howard

  • Sally Howard Sally Howard is from Derbyshire and joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in December 2015. Her thesis title is ‘A cross-phase investigation contrasting primary and science teachers’ understanding of, and pedagogic practice related to science inquiry.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    My daughter came to Oxford Brookes for her first degree so I was aware of it before starting my PhD. 

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    I had recently worked with Professor Deb McGregor on a project related to science inquiry and was keen to have her as my supervisor. Previously our paths had crossed through our mutual membership with the Association for Science Education (ASE) and I also followed her to Keele University many years ago, where I did my master’s degree about the management of effective education and learning.  

    I am currently supported by a studentship that is jointly funded by both Oxford Brookes and the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) which is financed by Astra Zeneca.

    What were you doing before?

    Directly prior to starting my PhD at Oxford Brookes I was a Research Associate at Kings College London working as part of the UK team on a large European funded project SAILS (  My role included helping to prepare secondary teachers to teach science through an inquiry approach and be more confident and competent in the assessment of their students’ learning through inquiry and formative assessment pedagogies. 

    As a mature student, I have had the opportunity to be part of many interesting experiences and roles including being a nurse and midwife prior to becoming a primary teacher.  Interestingly these two careers overlap a lot in terms of transferable skills and knowledge, although I have not had to deliver a baby in school yet!

    Tell us about your research.

    My research is stimulated by a desire to understand how science inquiry is described and practiced by teachers following the current English National Curriculum for Science. It hopes to identify pedagogical approaches used at the top end of primary (Year 6) and the start of secondary schooling (Year 7) which might identify common principles and practice that might support more effective transition from primary science education to secondary science education.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    I love learning about new things, and find reading the literature, attending conferences and seminars very absorbing, sometimes too much and I forget to write anything down.  I find Twitter very useful in terms of learning about useful ‘people’ to follow and resources and strategies to keep my PhD writing on track.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    I find people very friendly and supportive. Once I understand what I don’t understand I know who I can contact and receive specific direction or support. My two supervisors are always on hand to shine a light when I find myself in a dark corner.

    What are your future plans?

    I would love to be part of a research team and work on projects around science, education, inquiry, creativity and assessment, which involves being in the classroom and working with teachers and their pupils.