School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Staff Profiles

Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith

Research Excellence Academy Fellow



My initial degree was in Anthropology at University College London. I then completed a Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and taught EFL in the UK and South East Asia. On returning to the UK I completed a Master’s Degree in Gender, Literature and Modernity at the University of Warwick, where I subsequently worked in university management. I was seconded to the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) as a Project Manager, developing out-of-school extension and enrichment provision for students labelled as gifted and talented under the national strategy. I then moved to NAGTY’s Research Centre as a Research Fellow.

My PhD (2010), funded by a University of Warwick Postgraduate Scholarship, drew on narrative methods to consider lived experiences of ‘giftedness’ in the context of policy espousing both equity and excellence. In conjunction with Professor Jim Campbell I have published a book based on my thesis entitled Families, Education and Giftedness: Case studies in the construction of high achievement (Sense, 2012).

I have been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Warwick's Institute of Education and Honorary Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education, University of Cumbria. I have also worked as an education consultant for organisations including Nord Anglia Education Ltd., Rural Learning, The Big Sofa, Oxford Learning Partnership and the Gifted Students Academy.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Personal tutor for BA Education Studies students
  • Convenor of the Education Research Seminar Series       
  • School Equality and Diversity Committee member   

Area of expertise

  • Sociology and Philosophy of Education
  • Qualitative Research Methods


  • Scientific Committee, Life History and Biography Network, European Society for Research on the Education of Adults
  • British Educational Research Association
  • Society for Educational Studies
  • Core Member, Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University
Google scholar: Click here.


Research Interests

My research lies mainly in out-of-school learning and in the wider socio-cultural aspects of education. I have particular interests and expertise in the following areas:

  • high ability studies
  • widening participation and social mobility
  • narrative and biographical methods in educational research, narrative pedagogy
  • digital storytelling and multimodal research methods

Recent research with care-experienced students and on poverty and schooling are discussed in these short videos for practitioners and teachers in training:

I have created a new NCL Advanced Student Award in Digital Storytelling: advancedawards


2018 EIT Health: A narrative approach to improve citizens' ageing and well-being (PI)

2017-2018 Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal: Poverty Proofing the School Day (PI)

2016 - 2018 ESRC Impact Accelerator Account: Changing Stories - narrative and relational agency in widening participation (PI)

2016 Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal: Changing Stories scoping and pilot (PI)

2016 Nuffield Foundation: Out of School Activities and the Education Gap

2016 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Early Career Fund: Systematic review of interventions that have been successful with disadvantaged able/gifted learners (PI)

2015 - 2016 Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal: Evaluation of the Poverty Proofing Initiative

2015 Gateshead Council: Evaluation of the Multi Agency Safe-guarding Hub (MASH)

2014 - 2015,Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Early Career Fund: Investigating whether and how Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) enable pupils to perform outside of normal academic roles and identities (PI)

2013 - 2014 Catherine Cookson Foundation: Supporting the Progression of Looked After Young People to University: Evaluating the work of the North-East Raising Aspirations Partnership in the context of analysing differing pathways to university progression for looked after young people (PI)

2013 Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal: Fairness in Education (PI)





I lead or contribute to the following modules:

  • EDU8207 Thinking Critically about Research Methodology (Core EdD module; module leader)
  • EDU8095 Research Strategies and Methods (PGT)
  • EDU8046 Developing Thinking Skills (PGT)
  • EDU3005 Philosophy of Education (UG)
  • EDU3002 Social Justice and Education (UG)
  • HSS8004 Qualitative Methodology in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Individual supervision of M-level and UG student dissertations

I am currently supervising the following doctoral students:

  • Norah Alqarni (PhD)
  • Kubra Kirca (PhD)
  • Andrew Ashley (PhD)
  • Shirley (Mei Ling) Chan (EdD)
  • Helen Allis (EdD)
  • Elizabeth Trattles (EdD)

 I have office hours for students on Mondays at 2pm and Wednesdays at 11am - Room 2.59, King George VI Building