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IOE researcher wins doctoral thesis award

9 March 2020

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) researcher Dr Nozomi Sakata has been awarded the 2020 BERA Doctoral Thesis Award.

School children in Africa. Photo by Adrianna Van Groningen on Unsplash

Dr Sakata’s thesis looked at Learner-Centred Pedagogy (LCP) and its implications for pupils’ schooling experiences and learning outcomes in Tanzania.

LCP is an approach where the responsibility for learning is placed on the student. This can involve pupils working in groups or asking each other questions in order to complete tasks. Despite its global appeal, the effectiveness of LCP in developing countries remains uncertain. This is because it may not fit in with national sociocultural and political contexts.

Dr Sakata’s mixed methods case study looked at Tanzania’s philosophy and history, which showed it may offer a rare compatibility with LCP foundations.

Dr Sakata found teachers understood the meanings and importance of LCP, but they rarely employed LCP-related classroom activities. The research suggested that over Tanzania’s history, knowledge has traditionally been viewed as unquestionable. This has produced a child–adult power imbalance, which manifests itself in classrooms between teachers and pupils.

The study reveals that although there was an expectation that LCP would lead to learning improvement, the level of LCP teaching observed in the classroom was not significantly associated with better learning outcomes. However, pupils’ subjective perceptions of practices played a crucial role for their learning: the more they experienced LCP, the better their academic performance and learning attitudes.

The paper concludes that sociocultural factors obstructed teachers using LCP.

Dr Sakata said: “I am delighted to receive the Award and would like to thank my supervisors and colleagues at the IOE for all the support they provided during my PhD journey.

“The research focus on pupil views has illuminated the multifaceted nature of teaching and learning that may remain obscure if examined solely from adults’ viewpoints. Rather than considering LCP as a universally applicable teaching method in any contexts, an educational policy design that appreciates the uniqueness of local practices will lead to more viable improvements in pedagogical practices in low-income countries.”

Nozomi Sakata teaches at the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID), co-leading online modules in Education and International Development MA and Education, Gender and International Development MA.

Her research interests lie in the field of comparative and international education, with a focus on pedagogy in sub-Saharan Africa, education reform in global contexts and the use of mixed methods in educational research.

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