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Michelle Cottle


  • LA013, Lower Lawrence Building, Froebel College


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Personal profile


Michelle is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies within the School of Education at the University of Roehampton.  She teaches on the BA and MA Early Childhood Studies programmes and has taught on the BA Primary Education.  She is a member of the Early Childhood Research Centre and the Teaching and Learning in Schools Research Group.

After completing a BA Hons degree in English and History of Ideas at Cardiff University, Michelle trained as a primary teacher and taught in international schools for ten years. She gained a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment from the UCL Institute of Education then joined the Roehampton staff in 2007, working as a researcher on ESRC-funded projects before taking up her current post the following year.   Michelle completed her doctoral research in 2019. Her thesis is entitled ‘Enacting ‘Creativity’ in a Neoliberal Policy Context: a Case Study of English Primary School Teachers’ Experiences’. It is an empirical, in-depth investigation of the ways that a head teacher and a group of primary school teachers defined and enacted ‘creative teaching’ and ‘creative learning’ within their school over the course of an entire academic year. Detailed data were generated through an ethnographic case study approach combined with Bourdieusian analysis in order to conceptualise the relationship between the experiences of the staff and children and the broader socio-political context.


  • BA Joint Hons English and History of Ideas: University of Wales, College of Cardiff.
  • PGCE Primary: University of Wales, Institute of Higher Education, Cardiff.
  • MA Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment: University of London, Institute of Education.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: University of Roehampton.
  • PhD Education: University of Roehampton.

Research interests

Michelle’s research interests are located within in the sociology of education, focusing on the ways that educational values and practices are shaped by individual and personal experiences, as well as the system of interactive social, political and institutional contexts in which individuals and social groups are situated. She has focused on policy and practice within primary schools and early years settings and her research projects and publications have explored practitioners' perspectives on their work with children as well as children's perspectives and experiences and their participation in research.  

 Michelle has concentrated on learning, teaching and assessment, conceptions of quality and accountability related to these and the ways these play out in practice.  However, she is particularly interested in creativity in learning and teaching, the subject of her doctoral research, and the wellbeing of children and practitioners connected to this. She is also interested in the ways that Bourdieusian theory can be used to challenge and counter performativity and inequality within educational institutions and to develop reflexivity and alternative conceptions of pedagogy.  She is committed to participatory research and social justice and is open to developing research collaborations related to any of her interests with other researchers as well as practitioners and students.


Michelle teaches mainly on the BA and MA Early Childhood Studies.  She has taught and developed modules focusing on research methods, professionalism and advocacy, curriculum and assessment, early years and education policy, leadership and teamwork, placement and professional practice.  She also supervises BA and MA dissertations.

Professional affiliations

  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • British Education Research Association
  • British Sociological Association
  • Bourdieu Study Group

Research projects

  • Co-investigator on a Froebel Trust funded project 'Reception teachers' and heads of school perspectives and experiences of an observation-led baseline assessment that focuses on child-initiated activity'.  Project Director:  Mathias Urban.  Co-investigators:  Sigrid Brogaard Clausen, Dr. Sofia Guimaraes and Dr. Sally Howe 
  • Research Officer on an ESRC-funded project 'Understanding Quality and Success in Early Years Settings: Practitioners' Perspectives' (ESRC RES-061-23-0012). Project director: Dr. Elise Alexander.  
  • Research Officer on an ESRC-funded project 'British Chinese Pupils' Identities, Achievement and Complementary Schooling' (ESRC RES 000 23 1513) Project Director: Professor Becky Francis.
  • Research Officer on a Froebel Trust funded project 'The Nature of Young Children's Talk in Music Making' Project Director: Dr. Angela Major
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