I became a lecturer after finishing my PhD, which involved researching children's phonological development. Before this, I worked as a primary school teacher for seven years, while also studying psychology part time. Going back even further, my first degree was in Physics with Astrophysics. As a child I wanted to be an astronaut - but I abandoned this idea when I realised how bad I was at parallel parking! I enjoy walking (especially in the Lake District), camping, watching films, anything to do with interior design and of course, reading.
I have always loved learning and I was lucky to have had lots of caring and inspiring teachers as a child. I went into teaching with the hope of passing on my enthusiasm for learning to others. I feel passionate about the importance of creating a positive and safe learning environment where learners are not afraid of making mistakes. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing a learner grow in confidence and start to believe in their own abilities.
There is no such thing as a stupid question!
I use a range of teaching styles in my sessions. Although my sessions are often accompanied by a powerpoint presentation to provide you with a record of the key points, the seminars are very interactive and I try to make them as much fun as possible! It is important that students have lots of opportunities to discuss how the new learning within sessions fits with their experiences in school. I will encourage you to critically reflect on your own practice as well as the practice of others, with the aim of supporting you to become reflective practitioners. I will model the kinds of styles, techniques and activities that you might use within school, while encouraging you to engage in a critical commentary about why I am teaching things in a particular way. I will also provide opportunities for you to develop your academic skills more generally, by engaging in critical reading of recent journal articles, and reporting on cutting edge educational research. My sessions are very informal, moving away from the traditional model of the teacher as expert. I try to create a supportive environment where students feel relaxed and are not afraid to make mistakes. After all, mistakes are where the best learning happens!
University of Manchester. PhD Psychology. Sept 2011 - March 2015
PhD project: Development and modelling of phonological representations in preschool children.
University of Manchester. MRes Psychology (with Merit). Sept 2010 - Sept 2011
University of Bolton. Graduate Diploma in Psychology (GBR status). Feb 2004 - Feb 2010
Manchester Metropolitan University. PGCE Primary Education. Sept 2002 - June 2003
U.M.I.S.T. MPhys. Physics with Astrophysics (First Class). 1997 - 2001
University of Manchester. September 2013 to date
Teaching assistant running seminars on the year 2 Developmental Psychology module.
Cadishead Primary School, Manchester. 2003 to 2010
Classroom teacher working with 3 to 7 year olds.
Additional positions of responsibility:
The key focus of my current research is on children's phonologcial development. I recently completed a research project invloving 90 children in nursery and reception classes. This project involved the development of novel measures designed to probe the way that children store the sounds in words. The measures were used with children alongside traditional measures of phonological awareness, vocabulary and letter sound knowledge. This study allowed us to test competing theories of phonological development. The new measures also have the potential to allow us to measure children's phonological representations (the structures that children use to store the sounds in words) earlier than has been previously possible. This has implications for the early identification of children at risk of later reading problems. The project also involved the simulation of phonological development using a neural network.
In future work I am intersting in pursuing the idea of early identification of phonological difficulties further. I would also like to apply the computational modelling techniques used above to other areas of learning. Other more general interests include the teaching of early reading and writing, teacher stress and any other areas where the domains of education and psychology overlap.
I am currently working in collobaration with a number of colleagues at the University of Manchester:
S. Ainsworth, J. Oldfield (2019). Quantifying teacher resilience: Context matters. Teaching and Teacher Education. 82, pp.117-128.
S. Ainsworth, S. Welbourne, A. Woollams, A. Hesketh Contrasting explicit with implicit measures of children’s representations: The case of segmental phonology. Language Learning. 69(2),
S. Ainsworth, S. Welbourne, A. Hesketh (2016). Lexical restructuring in preliterate children: Evidence from novel measures of phonological representation. Applied Psycholinguistics. 37(04), pp.997-1023.
S. Ainsworth, A. Hesketh, S. Welbourne Development of phonological representations in young children.
Child Language Symposium - University of Warwick (July 2015) Oral presentation: The development of global and phonemic sensitivity in young children.
IASCL - University of Amsterdam (July 2014) Poster presentation: Development of phonological representations in young children.
Child Language Seminar - University of Manchester (July 2013) Oral presentation: Measurement of phonological representations in young children using similarity judgement tasks.
I have reviewed articles for Applied Psycholinguistics and the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.
I successfully bidded for an ESRC studentship which provided funding for my PhD project investigating phonological development in young children. Grant number: [ES/J500094/1]