Past Event details

Using spatial research methods

Wednesday, 15 July 2020


Can higher education researchers do more to capture the ways that students and staff in higher education interact with their material environment? How might we investigate relationships to the places and spaces in which higher education happens? And would such investigation give greater insight into the inequalities that structure higher education experience? This online workshop aims to respond to these questions, exploring the use of spatial research methods in higher education research and the diverse range of critical questions these methods might be used to answer. Methods such as participatory mapping in various forms and mobile interviewing are innovative ways of moving beyond the standard research interview, requiring different kinds of engagement from researcher and research participant, and therefore offering the potential for answering more and different research questions. We will explore in detail two different methods that can be used to further spatial inquiry in higher education research; along the way, we will consider the possible rewards and challenges of each method through practical tasks and application, as well as thinking through the ways that researcher positionality and power dynamics might be affected by each method. We will also situate these methods within a broad theoretical framework informed by social geographies, and consider the kinds of data analysis that might stem from a spatially-informed methodological approach.

The workshop is open to both new and established researchers, and might be particularly relevant to those in the early stages of planning a research project. Those who are new to spatial research methods, as well as those who are willing to share their experiences of using them, are equally welcome.

Workshop aims

The workshop aims to

o   Introduce the purposes of spatial research methods and the research questions these methods might answer

o   Explore examples of projects that have used spatial research methods

o   Consider the practicalities of methods such as participatory mapping and mobile interviewing in detail

o   Ask critical questions about researcher positionality and power dynamics in the use of spatial methods

o   Identify methods of data analysis within a broad social geographies framework


11.00-11.15:  Welcome and introduction: Why use spatial methods?

11.15-11.45:  Participatory mapping

11.45-11.50:  Comfort break

11.50-12.20:  Mobile interviewing

12.20-12.30:  Conclusions and questions

 Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas

Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas is a Senior Research Fellow and Athena SWAN Project Manager at Birmingham City University, UK.  She specialises in interdisciplinary enquiry into contemporary higher education, inequalities and gender; in spatial methods and analyses.  Kate also uses poetry and graphics as methods of disseminating her research in these fields


Dr Holly Henderson

Holly Henderson is an Assistant Professor in Education at the University of Nottingham. She has previously held positions at the University of Birmingham and began her career teaching in Further Education in London. Her research and teaching focus broadly on sociological issues of inequality in education. In particular, she is interested in access to and experiences of post-compulsory and higher education. Her research is theoretically informed by social geographies, which enable analysis of the ways in which place, space and mobilities structure educational possibility. She is also interested in narrative and its relationship to subjectivity.

Network: Professional Development Programme
Date(s): Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Times: 11:00 - 12:45
Location: Online event, link will be provided
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