Research Projects

Peer Assessment in Group Assignments

Funded by SICSA Education.

With improved teaching efficiencies in institutions across Scotland, and reflecting industrial practice, an increasing number of assignments are completed within groups. While this allows students to build on their team working skills and gain valuable experience of working in a team environment, this provides challenges for educators in assessing group members on an individual level. This gives rise to issues of transparency, fairness and confidentiality for both students and educators.

This project evaluates current practise across Scotland for assessing group work and aims to create a working accepted model of peer assessment.


Stories at the Dentist

January 2013 – August 2014. Funded by EPSRC, RCUK Digital Economy (in the wild)

A major challenge facing the health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities is the level of anxiety experienced by both the disabled patient and the dentist. When a patient with intellectual disabilities is anxious, they may become defensive and exhibit challenging behaviour when the dentist attempts to treat them. As a result of this, the procedure may have to either be abandoned or the patient sedated. The need for sedation is a common problem in dentistry as patients with intellectual disabilities often require a general anaesthetic for simple dental treatment. This carries increased risks, a longer recovery time and increases the cost of the procedure to the NHS.

One reason for patients’ anxiety is the difficulty in communication between patient and dentist. In particular, it can be difficult for dentists to provide patients with intellectual disabilities with information about the treatment they require in a way that they can understand. An inability to understand what is about to happen or to express feelings makes a visit to the dentist frightening and stressful. In addition, it is considered good practice to obtain informed consent or assent from all patients. However, clinicians are often unsure if a patient with intellectual disabilities has understood explanations of procedures. It is difficult for people with intellectual disabilities to understand how abstract information relates to them with the result that, compared to the general population, patients with intellectual disabilities find it significantly more difficult to make healthcare decisions.

See for further information on this project.



April 2011 – December 2012. Funded by EPSRC, RCUK Digital Economy (in the wild)

Chronicles is a tablet application that allows people who are unable to physically speak, to tell stories. Stories are stories in a novel way to support the re-telling of a story in multiple ways, depending on the audience and situation.


Echoes II

November 2009 – November 2011. Funded by: TLRP (EPSRC/EPSRC) RES-139-25-0395

ECHOES is a technology-enhanced learning environment where 5-to-7-year-old children on the Autism Spectrum and their typically developing peers can explore and improve social and communicative skills through interacting and collaborating with virtual characters (agents) and digital objects. ECHOES provides developmentally appropriate goals and methods of intervention that are meaningful to the individual child, and prioritises communicative skills such as joint attention.

For further information on the ECHOES research project, see


PhD Research

Investigating the generalisation of sharing skills in children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Participatory Research.

November 2008 – November 2012. Funded by EPSRC.

You can download my thesis from:

In the typically developing population, appropriate social skills and behaviours can be learned through observation and imitation of adult behaviour. The importance of these skills have long been emphasised as the basis of learning by all children. One of these skills, sharing, is a associated with the development of positive social relationships.

Affecting more than 500,000 people in the UK, Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are a collection of developmental disorders of varying severity, with behavioural manifestations changing with the severity and age of a particular individual. ASC includes established difficulties in social interaction, social communication and a rigidity of behaviour and thought.

Empirical research and literature reviews have indicated that sharing skills are an area of difficulty, currently addressed by teachers within education. Current literature shows few studies that are designed to promote the generalisation of these social skills. Work in this area is typically with higher-functioning individuals with Asperger Syndrome or educated in mainstream schools, with limited work conducted with lower functioning individuals with additional learning disabilities. There is a lack of technological interventions (or interventions in general) that have been designed using a user-centred participatory research approach.

A computer system was created to support children with Autism Spectrum Conditions to acquire sharing skills and provide opportunities for subsequent generalisation of these behaviours. The focus is on providing an opportunity for the involvement of stakeholders in the design and development of this system, followed by evaluation within a special-educational location with a group of low-functioning children with ASC.