Research Centre for Learning and Teaching

Social Justice and Education

Social Justice and Education


Our research works to disrupt education inequities. We have developed conceptual frameworks to explore and explain inequities alongside models of practice which are co-produced and transformative, advancing knowledge in:

  • Fairness in education
  • Conceptual integration of sociocultural theory (SCT) with translanguaging-to-learn
  • Britishness as racist nativism
  • Education and the labour movement in Europe
  • Learner-centred pedagogies and alternative learning environments
  • Translanguaging as a political and emancipatory pedagogical practice
  • How schools and other organisations can work together to transform communities and address disadvantage
  • Out of school activities and character education
  • Young people as drivers and agents of change.

Our work includes


  • Participatory approaches including participatory action research (PAR), the use of visual methods, co-production and co-creation
  • Theory of change approaches to research, evaluation and project development.
  • Phenomenology and narrative research
  • Critical race theory (CRT) (and critical whiteness) as a conceptual and analytic framework for understanding the permanence of racism in education
  • Raceclass and critical realist methods of research
  • Comics as a research method

Staff involved in Social Justice and Education Research

Helen Burns 

Jill Clark - Co-production, Participatory research, Visual methods, Community-based education, Policing and prison-based research

Gail Edwards - Critical realism, Marxism, Philosophies of science, Education and the labour movement, Vygotsky and pedagogic theory

Eric FletcherOutdoor learning; Boundary crossing; Personal and Social Development (incl. well-being and character); Participatory approaches

Hanneke Jones

Karen Laing

Maria Mroz

Sam Shields

Heather Smith - Critical race theory, critical whiteness, translanguaging, Roma education, sociocultural theory

Liz Todd

Lydia Wysocki

Relevant Publications

Casado RG, Golightly D, Laing K, Palacin R, Todd L. (2020) Young people and ‘Mobility as a Service’: Opportunities and barriers for future mobility. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, 4, article 100107.

Laing K & Todd L. (2020) Schools and Child Poverty: from extended schools to closing the attainment gap. Where to from here?. In: J. Tucker, ed. Vision. Ending Child Poverty for Good. London: Child Poverty Action Group, 2020.

Wysocki, L. (2020) Hate, Marginalization, and Tramp-bashing: A Raceclass and Critical Realist Approach to Researching British National Identity through Comics. In: T. Giddens (ed) Critical Directions in Comics Studies, University Press of Mississippi.

Laing K, McWhirter J, Templeton L, Russell C. (2019) M-PACT+: Supporting families affected by parental substance misuse. Health Education 2019, 119(1), 63-82.

Laing K, Mazzoli Smith L, Todd L. (2019) Using the concept of relational justice to apply fairness in schools. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives 2019, 18(1), 128-142.

McNicol S & Wysocki L. (2019) Using comics as a research method. In: P.A. Atkinson, S. Delamont, A. Cernat, & R. Williams (eds) SAGE Research Methods Foundations. SAGE.

Woolner, P. and Tiplady, L. (2019) Enhancing Wellbeing Through Broadening the Primary Curriculum in the UK with Open Futures. In H. Hughes, J.Franz and J. Willis (Eds) School Spaces for Student Wellbeing and Learning: Insights from Research and Practice. Singapore: Springer.

Wysocki, L, Jackson, M, Webster, J, Miers, J, and Coxon, B. (2019) Making the invisible visible: hyperlinked webcomics as alternative points of entry to the digitised Gertrude Bell archive. International Journal of Heritage Studies, DOI: https:/

Clark J, Laing K. (2018) Co-production with young people to tackle alcohol misuse. Drugs and Alcohol Today Vol. 18 Issue 1, pp.17-27.

Forbes J, McCartney E, McKean C, Laing K, Cockerill M, Law J. (2018) Co/productive practitioner relations for children with SLCN: an affect inflected agentic frame. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.

Laing, K., Mazzoli Smith L. and Todd L. (2018) Foregrounding relational issues in schools as a means of removing barriers to learning. In: S. Gannon, R. Hattam and W. Sawyer (Eds) Resisting Educational Inequality: reframing policy and practice in schools serving vulnerable communities. London: Routledge.

Laing K, Mazzoli Smith L, Todd L. (2018) Poverty and school processes: from equality of opportunity to relational justice. In: Susanne Gannon, Wayne Sawyer, Rob Hattam, ed. Resisting Educational Inequality: Reframing Policy and Practice in Schools Serving Vulnerable Communities. Routledge.

Laing, K., Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L. (2018). The impact agenda and critical social research in education: hitting the target by missing the spot? Policy Futures in Education, 16(2), 169-184.

Mazzoli Smith L, Todd L, Laing K. (2018) Students' views on fairness in education: the importance of relational justice and stakes fairness. Research Papers in Education 2018, 33(3), 336-353.