Sarah Hayes (PhD, 2015)

Sarah Hayes

Current occupation
Lecturer in the Centre for Learning Innovation and Professional Practice (CLIPP), Aston University

Brief outline of PhD research
My thesis: The Political Discourse and Material Practice of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) was a Sociological analysis of UK policy discourse for TEL in Higher Education during the last 15 years. My framework was a dialogue between Marxist-based critical social theory and a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of UK policy texts for TEL. Embedded in TEL is a presupposition that technology alone has enhanced learning. This conceals the human labour involved in planning and supporting learning via technology. By omitting any reference to people, the discourse around TEL is a vehicle for simplified claims politically, in the name of technology. My thesis recommends explicitly writing the actions of people back into TEL policy, to acknowledge the humans involved.

Why did you choose to study for your PhD in the School of Languages and Social Sciences?
I was excited by the possibilities for researching in Sociology and Policy, through the lens of corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis, drawing on the knowledge and experience of colleagues who are experts in this field

What did you find most useful about the PhD programme?
As a member of staff completing my PhD part-time I felt privileged to develop my research, alongside my teaching, with strong support and interest expressed in my topic within LSS. I wrote and taught new Sociology modules (Technology & Social Theory and Tattoos, TV & Trends: Understanding Popular Culture) drawing directly from my research to engage undergraduates. At an early point I attended a colleague’s lectures on CDA, as a valuable way to extend my understanding of my chosen approach. I presented papers at conferences throughout my PhD, which developed my network of research contacts and strengthened my writing. 

How has your PhD helped you in your current occupation?
I have been able to publish papers and chapters with colleagues both at Aston and abroad that draw on research from my thesis. These include one in the Open Review of Educational Research and another article with Sage. I have forthcoming book chapters with Springer and Libri and a call for papers with Addleton Academic Publishers where I am the lead editor: Learning Technologies and Time in the Age of Global Neoliberal Capitalism My work in CLIPP combines, teaching, research, quality assurance, and input into, and writing of, policy. I am keen to ensure inclusivity and opportunities for all staff and students to participate in the work that we do. In this sense I find I draw regularly on ideas generated through my research, in particular the need to acknowledge humans and human knowledge as central within modern digital society.