I'm fascinated by the changing nature of literacy in a digital age

Susan Haywood, MA Education

Dr Susan Haywood has taught in Higher Education since the late 1990s in four different universities, in the fields of Teacher Education, Education Studies, Research Methods and ICT in Education. She moved into teacher education in following a career which included secondary and primary teaching, advisory teaching and primary school leadership.

"As part of the MA Education programme I teach Research Methods and support students as they undertake their own dissertations. I also work with school colleagues completing research projects in their own classrooms as part of a leadership and management course. These colleagues have identified an aspect of their practice that they wish to investigate and develop through research. I support them by helping them to determine how they can analyse, evaluate and improve provision.

I have written a number of books and book chapters collaboratively with colleagues. These have focused on: professional practice in the early years and primary education, the teaching of ICT and aspects of the relationship between digital media and learning. My doctorate research focused on children’s engagement with computer-based stories and the changing nature of literacy in a digital age. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with an Iraqi colleague on British Council funded research which explored Iraqi and British children’s understanding of digital texts. I also worked as a consultant with a publishing company developing digital stories which supported primary age children who were struggling readers. These texts were interactive, and had an ‘older’ interest level combined with easier text.

I think it is vital in respect of ICT for teachers to understand the nature of the relationship between technology and learning. It’s not about what buttons you press; it’s about how technology can enhance learning. This is the focus of the module I teach on ICT and education. 

My own studies at Masters and PhD levels were undertaken part-time whilst I was teaching full-time. I recognise the challenge of combining study, and in particular research, with a full-time professional role and family responsibilities. I like to think that I support the students I work with by helping them focus and encouraging them to be confident about their own abilities. I believe passionately that teaching needs ‘deep roots’. We teach with our values as well as with our knowledge and skills. Teachers’ own research enables them to develop a critical and evidence-based knowledge of their craft and protects them, as far as possible, from policy and practice determined and imposed largely by political whim.

When I moved into university education, colleagues asked me whether I would miss the reward of seeing children develop and learn. Although working with adults is different from supporting young learners there is considerable satisfaction in supporting colleagues as they develop their knowledge and practice.

One memorable experience which I think about often and still find moving was when a mature undergraduate student I had worked with thanked me for my help and said, with pride, at graduation: "University wasn’t meant for people like me".

Returning to university study can be difficult, especially if it is some time since people completed their first degree and professional training. But university study has so much to offer, and I get great satisfaction from supporting colleagues as they reflect on their practice, develop their professional knowledge and undertake their own research."