What is your field of research?

My research cuts across education and social policy and is broadly focused around the area of additional learning needs (ALN) or special educational needs (SEN) across various education systems and settings, with a specific focus on the developing education system in Wales. More recently I have also been working with colleagues both nationally and internationally, to explore the educational impact of COVID-19.

Dr Cathryn Knight

How did you become interested in the field?

Since being identified as dyslexic at age 17, I have been interested in exploring how my outlook and outcomes might have been different if this had been identified at an earlier age. In particular, how might the label have impacted on my educational outcomes and ambitions; and would it have impacted upon my academic self-concept and self-esteem? This has led me to question whether current education systems in the UK are set up in the best way to support learners with additional needs, and how we might be able to work with practitioners and the wider system in Wales to ensure that no learner is disadvantaged.

How did you come to work at Swansea University?

After finishing my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Kent (2013), I worked in a primary school in Wales as a teaching assistant. This piqued my interest in ALN in the Welsh education system and led to me applying to do my PhD in this area at Cardiff University (funded by an ESRC 1+3 doctoral training award). During my PhD I undertook an internship at the Welsh Government where I worked on analysis of the key indicators of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act. Having focused on Welsh policy and education, I was keen to keep working in Wales, more so as the new Curriculum for Wales and ALN legislation is implemented. The new School of Education at Swansea University has been the perfect place to develop strong links both within the Welsh education system and internationally, and to lead impactful research in this area.

What do you hope to achieve with your research? 

We are on the cusp of momentous education reforms in Wales with both a new curriculum and ALN system being implemented over the next few years. Furthermore, COVID-19 has disrupted all education systems — and all learners and practitioners — providing us with important insight into what we can learn from the shift to ‘emergency remote teaching’ and more established models for online learning, teaching and assessment.

It is clear that Wales (and other jurisdictions) need to better understand the short and longer-term impacts, with rigorous and robust research and evaluation. In particular, as we look towards a more inclusive education system in Wales, I hope that we can look beyond medical attitudes and practices around learning needs and begin to understand the social barriers that prevent learners from reaching their full potential, and work towards removing these. My research aims to address this area; I hope that outcomes from my current research can help to bring about positive change and benefits for all learners.   

Find out more about Dr Knight