IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Q&A with Professor Sam Duncan

Professor Sam Duncan is Professor of Adult Literacies and the Director of the International Literacy Centre.

What attracted you to take up your position at IOE? 

I originally started at IOE to lead a new programme for adult literacy teachers. This was almost twenty years ago!

How long have you been at IOE?

I started part time in 2005 and then full time in 2008. Before this, I was an adult literacy teacher in a London college.

What do you most enjoy about your position and why?

I love working with students – getting to know them and their interests. I also really like working with colleagues from across the IOE and UCL more widely – and getting to talk about different ideas every day. Walking through Bloomsbury is also (usually) a joy. Especially in the autumn and spring.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

I am very proud of our traditions of teacher education here at IOE, particularly our courses for adult literacy teachers. I am very grateful to be a part of this. I am also grateful to have had the chance to work on my research project Reading Aloud in Britain Today – exploring all the different ways adults across Scotland, Wales and England read aloud, in different places, for different purposes, in different languages and in completely different ways.

What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries and/or insights will bring?

My research focusses on adult literacy. This includes examinations of the diverse roles that literacy plays in adult lives, as well as ideas around adult literacy pedagogy. I am also really grateful to be a part of the International Literacy Centre, where we are trying to bring together all those doing literacy related research across IOE.

What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subjects you teach?

That you cannot predict the literacy practices of others.

Do you think being in London and at UCL benefits your work and why?

Yes, London is an extraordinary city: its history, architecture, people, trees, river(s?) and streams – all of it. The intrigue is endless. This will always be stimulating (as well as exhausting at times).

What other subject outside of your area of specialism interests you?

Aspects of folklore and literature, the history of religions and religious practice, traditions of singing and chanting, and dance…

What might it surprise people to know about you?

I was born in the UCL hospital (UCH). Quite a long time ago now.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences at UCL or IOE?

Things may often be tough or feel dysfunctional, but it is the people that make IOE (and UCL). Take time to get to know different people and things will get better.

Last updated 30 Nov 2023.