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Lecturer’s PhD continues an unexpected academic journey

News Page 21st February 2020

Graduands were beaming with delight at last weekend’s winter graduation ceremony, but one may have been smiling more broadly as receiving her PhD concluded a surprising professional journey.

Tanya Richardson is a Senior Lecturer in Early Years who originally saw her degree as just a ‘tick in a box’. But she was quickly bitten by the academic bug and continued along that road, culminating in her PhD.

Tanya came to University of Northampton 11 years ago on the back of a national push to increase standards in early years provision, including extra workforce funding from the government.

Sensing that things were on the up for the profession which she already worked in – she owned her own nursery at this point – Tanya enrolled on the University’s Early Years Foundation degree.

Tanya explains: “I took the Foundation programme because I had been out of formal education for a while and wanted to ease myself into being a student. I admit that initially I didn’t see studying for a degree as that big a deal – I had a lot of experience in the sector and felt at the time that needing to have a qualification saying so was a bit of a ‘box ticking’ exercise.

“But I surprised myself by how quickly and how much I enjoyed studying and digging deeper into an area I felt strongly about. Becoming an academic nursery professional just felt right, so I quite happily continued.”

Tanya’s PhD* looked at whether the quality of the environment children are taught in (indoor nurseries, outdoor schools or forest schools) impacted on the quality of their speech and language development.

Rigging children up with GoPros, she recorded what they were saying and worked with speech analysts to work out how they were speaking and if and how this correlated with their learning environment.

For this, she made a ‘research first’ as there was no existing tool best suited to analysing her data. Before conducting her research, Tanya had to interview people to develop her own.

Tanya concludes: “I want to say thank you to all who have played a part in my reaching this point – I never thought I would ever get this far! I am immensely grateful for support and the wonderful opportunities that have been given me. Who knows what exciting times lie ahead on this wonderful journey.”

Find out more about Early Years at the University of Northampton.

*PhD to be published.

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