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Dr Jon Swain
322 Gordon Square Building
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
20 Bedford Way
Dr Jon Swain profile picture
  • Senior Research Officer
  • IOE - Education, Practice & Society
  • UCL Institute of Education

I am a Senior Research Officer at UCL Institute of Education and work, primarily, as a qualitative researcher, supervisor and personal tutor in the Department of Education, Practice and Society. From 2005-2015 I worked as a researcher for the NRDC (National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy. For much of this time, I was also the programme leader for the MPhil/PhD in the doctoral school (2006-2014). I have extensive teaching experience, mainly at doctoral level, but also with masters and undergraduate level students. I have also been project leader on a number of externally funded projects.

My first degree was in History and my early professional career was as a primary school teacher. In 1997 I left my position as deputy head to study for a PhD at the Institute of Education (IOE). My PhD thesis was called, An ethnographic study into the constructions of masculinity amongst 10-11 year-old boys in three junior schools. I am particularly interested in gender, identities, teaching and learning (from early schooling to higher education), adult basic skills and family learning.

Research Themes
Research Summary

My main areas of research interest are in Gender, Masculinities, Identities, Family Learning, Ethics and Qualitative research methods.

Most of the research that I have carried out has been about teaching and learning, and has often been connected to adult basic skills and family learning. Although I have worked on a number of projects that involve mixed methods (e.g. generally questionnaires and interviews) I am essentially a qualitative researcher who is interested in designing research projects, carrying out the fieldwork, analysing the data and writing up the findings. As a sociologist I am particularly interested in how people make meanings -e.g. what does it mean to be a school pupil or, say, a student at university. The main methods that I use are interviews (either individual, group or focus groups) and many of them are in-depth conversations. I also try and use observations (generally unstructured and participatory) where this is possible because it is good to not only hear what people tell you in interviews, but also see what they do for yourself. Indeed, some of my interviews occur after the observation so that I can use questions based on, and inspired by, what I have seen. At a guess I have probably interviewed over 500 people, ranging from children (from the age of 7), students, teachers, parents, senior managers and soldiers of varying ranks. Being allowed a glimpse into someone else’s life, and hearing what they say, and learning from them is humbling and is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job as an academic. It has also been an privilege be able to visit many different settings such as, classrooms in schools and further education colleges, army bases and prisons to name a few.

Teaching Summary

My early professional background was a primary school teacher, and I was deputy head for 6 years. From 2006-2014 I was Programme Leader for the MPhil/PhD in the doctoral school at the IOE. I have extensive teaching experience, mainly at doctoral level, but also with masters and undergraduate level students. Much of my teaching has been about research methods and designing research, and I edited a book in 2017 based on my doctoral teaching: Designing Research in Education: concepts and methodo (Sage).

I have been a member of the UCL Ethics Committee for 10 years.

I am currently co-supervising five doctoral students:

Brendan: Street Masculinities on a London housing estate (EdD). Principal Supervisor

Wendy: The construction of a professional identity: from Teaching Assistant to Teacher (EdD). Principal Supervisor

Nazlin: The relationship between teacher training and teachers' classroom practice in London elementary schools during the interwar years (MPhil/PhD).

Alicia: School masculinities in Trinidad and Tobago (MPhil/PhD). Principal Supervisor

Aristea: The roles and challenges faced by international school counsellors (EdD).

Seven of my former doctoral students have gained doctorates. I have also examined 7 doctoral theses and carried out several upgrades for students transferring from MPhil to PhD.

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