Karen photo

Dr Karen Gravett

Associate Professor in Higher Education; Associate Head (Research); Director of the PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in HE and AFHEA pathway.
BA (Hons), MA, PhD, GradCert, MCLIP, PFHEA

Academic and research departments

Surrey Institute of Education.


Affiliations and memberships

Principal Fellow of Higher Education Academy (PFHEA)
Awarded 2022
Co-director of the Language, Literacies and Learning research group
LLL research group
Honorary Associate Professor
The Centre for Digital Learning and Assessment, Deakin University, Australia
Society for Research in Higher Education
Elected member of the Governing Council
Member of the Editorial board
Teaching in Higher Education; Learning, Media and Technology
Co-convenor of the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE)
Learning, Teaching and Assessment network (2019-2022)
Associate Editor
Higher Education Research & Development (2019-2022)
Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals.
Awarded 2008


Research interests

Research projects


Postgraduate research supervision

Postgraduate research supervision




Gravett, K. (2023). Relational Pedagogies: Connections and Mattering in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury.

Gravett, K. and Lygo-Baker, S. (2024). Affective encounters in higher education. Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2024.2332427

Gravett, K. and Ajjawi, R. (2022). Belonging as situated practice. Studies in Higher Education 47 (7), 1386-1396. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2021.1894118

Gravett, K., Taylor, C. and Fairchild, N. (2024). Pedagogies of mattering: Re-conceptualising relational pedagogies in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education 29 (2), 388-4032. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2021.1989580 

Gravett, K. (2022) Feedback literacies as sociomaterial practice. Critical Studies in Education, 63 (2), 261-274 https://doi.org/ 10.1080/17508487.2020.1747099


Gravett, K. and Winstone, N. E. (2022) Making connections: Authenticity and alienation within students’ relationships in higher education. Higher Education Research and Development 41 (2): 360-374.

In the context of a marketised higher education system, meaningful interpersonal connections remain of paramount importance to many students. Using a story-completion method, we examine how relationships impact upon students’ experiences of higher education, and explore the importance of relational pedagogies. We draw upon data from a longitudinal study in which students were invited to complete stories that enabled them to draw upon experiences and discourses surrounding relationships at university. Following the story completion stage, participants reflected on the stories they had written and discussed their experiences during semi-structured interviews. Our data suggest that meaningful connections are crucial to accessing support. However, most notable within the data are two outstanding themes that recur within the students’ stories and interviews: the importance of achieving authentic connections with others, and the experience of alienation when interactions are not genuine, or when communication breaks down. We explore these themes and examine their significance in relation to concepts of caring, and mattering, within higher education, and we discuss the implications for both staff and institutions.

Gravett, K. and Kinchin, I. M. (2020) Revisiting ‘A “teaching excellence” for the times we live in’: posthuman possibilities. Teaching in Higher Education 25 (8), 1028-1034

This article proposes a rethinking of the contested concept of teaching excellence within higher education. In order to do, so we engage posthumanist theory to reconsider teaching excellence from a new perspective that shifts the gaze beyond the measured individual to explore our intra-actions within a wider context. Taking Skelton’s original conception of teaching excellence as a starting point, we explore what a values-based concept of excellence might look like, re-imagined for the present times we live in, and we ask whether there is room for a more expansive perspective of teaching excellence which reconsiders the relationality and fluidity of our practice.

Gravett, K. (2022) Feedback literacies as sociomaterial practice. Critical Studies in Education, 63 (2), 261-274 https://doi.org/ 10.1080/17508487.2020.1747099

Feedback remains a fundamental and challenging aspect of higher education policy and practice. Increasingly research has sought to understand how to more effectively develop students’ feedback literacy in order to improve individuals’ engagement with assessment feedback. To date, work within this area has been underpinned by cognitive and affective conceptions of feedback literacy, and feedback is commonly conceptualised as a binary, dialogic, relationship between feedback giver and recipient, within a humanist perspective. Drawing upon a rich literature that foregrounds the value of social, materialist, and posthuman perspectives in order to look again at educational contexts and practices, this article explores a wider re-conceptualisation of feedback literacy and of learning and teaching interactions. Moving forward from both a transmission-focused depiction of feedback, and a student as proactive recipient conception, I suggest that students’ engagement with feedback is a sociomaterial practice, and that students’ agency is complicated by factors that exist beyond a human to human interaction. As such, this article offers a new and alternative viewpoint that deviates from mainstream discussions of feedback literacy, and ends with a consideration of what a sociomaterial perspective can offer researchers and practitioners in order to progress work within this key area.

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M. and Winstone, N. E. (2020) Frailty in transition: Troubling the norms, boundaries and limitations of transition theory and practice. Higher Education Research and Development 39 (6) 1169-1185

This article focuses on ‘transition’ and how it is understood within higher education. Drawing on data from concept map-mediated interviews at two institutions, we examine the conceptions of transition held by academic and professional staff, who work to support students’ learning into and through higher education. We suggest that normative understandings of transition often draw upon a grand-narrative that orchestrates and reiterates a stereotypic understanding of students’ experiences. Often this narrative involves students’ interpellation into a field of discourse where the subject is constructed as both homogeneous and in deficit: ill-prepared, lacking in independence, as vulnerable and in need of support. However, this study suggests that beneath this discourse lies a more nuanced picture: one where students’ experiences can be conceptualised as diverse and fluid. Moreover, we employ the concept of pedagogic ‘frailty’ to expose the significance of the environments and wider contexts in which students ‘transition’, and to explore the impact of systemic tensions upon students’ experiences. This article further argues that future research should shift discussions away from the deficits of students, and examine how we can make underlying environmental and systemic challenges more explicit, in order to widen our understanding and discussions of these constraints.

Gravett, K. and Kinchin, I. M. (2020) Referencing and empowerment: exploring barriers to agency in the higher education student experience.Teaching in Higher Education 25 (1), 84-97

This article examines the challenges experienced by students when developing referencing practices. There has been minimal research into students’ development of their referencing skills, with referencing often considered a mechanistic skill and not worthy of attention. This paper argues that, rather, referencing is an area of practice imbued with issues of power and identity and that the difficulties students experience in this area are leading them to exhibit a lack of agency – ultimately, a form of educational ‘frailty’. Worried about plagiarism and confused by feedback, rather than developing the independent research skills we would wish, students look for instruction, and report feelings of anxiety. These themes are explored using questionnaires and interviews with a small number of undergraduate students. Based on the findings, this article concludes by making recommendations for widening our understanding of the difficulties students encounter, the need for further discussion and potentially greater scaffolding and support.

Gravett, K. and Kinchin, I. M. (2021) The role of academic referencing within students’ identity development. Journal of Further and Higher Education 45 (3), 377-388.

This article examines teachers’ perspectives on a neglected area of practice: academic referencing. Commonly considered a simple skill to learn, we suggest that instead a study of referencing practices enables us to glean valuable insight into the challenges experienced by students when developing a learner identity. Drawing on interviews with academic staff, this article depicts teachers’ experiences as they support students with referencing and academic literacy practices. However, the intentions of teachers to develop students are shown to be at variance with student outcomes, as students appear increasingly disengaged from an area of academic practice that they find mysterious and opaque, and as staff report an increase in the number of cases of plagiarism and academic misconduct. We conclude with a consideration of the need to widen understanding of the complex challenges experienced by students when grappling with citation practices. Moreover, we contend that the development of academic literacy practices can play a key role within students’ development of a learner identity, and can impact upon students’ sense of belonging and becoming into and through higher education.

Heron, M., Gravett, K. and Yakovchuk, N. (2020) Publishing and flourishing: Writing for desire in higher education, Higher Education Research & Development, 40 (3), 538-551. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1773770

In the current performative climate of higher education, where academic outputs are highly valorised, professional academic writing has become ‘high stakes’ and is often framed as fraught with tension and anxiety. In this article, we contest the phrase ‘publish or perish’ and argue that is not necessarily helpful or, indeed, always true. Through interviews involving critical incidents with a team of academics, the authors found that tensions in experiences of scholarly writing do indeed exist. However, participants also reported on the affordances of the process of professional academic writing in terms of developing ideas, collaborations, and creating spaces for creativity and desire. We emphasise the juxtaposition of the value of creation with the value of the finished product and argue that writing for publication needs to be highlighted as a process permeated with learning opportunities for both early career researchers and more experienced academics.

Kinchin, I. M. and Gravett, K. (2020) Concept mapping in the age of Deleuze: Fresh perspectives and new challenges. Education Sciences, 10(3), 82.

This conceptual paper offers a reconsideration of the application of Novakian concept mapping to higher education research by putting to work the Deleuzian concept of the rhizome. We ask: what does thinking with Deleuze’s concepts offer researchers interested in concept mapping, and what conceptual, and terminological, obstacles might be created through such a reconceptualization? We have focused on the rhizomatic principles of mapping and tracing in the context of concept mapping. We contend that Deleuze offers a fresh line of flight with the potential to deterritorialise the discourse surrounding concept mapping, thus widening its applicability and increasing its accessibility to researchers who do not necessarily share the same arborescent concept mapping heritage: with its roots in science education. Exploring the overlap between rhizomatics and concept mapping also allows for the reappraisal and blurring of the boundary between structural and post-structural discourses—breaking down an unproductive binary in the literature.

Winstone, N. E., Balloo, K., Gravett, K., Jacobs, D., and Keen, H. (2020) Who stands to benefit? Wellbeing, belonging, and challenges to equity in engagement in extra-curricular activities. Active Learning in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787420908209

Students’ engagement in extra-curricular activities can play a significant role in their development of a student identity, as well as leading to a greater sense of belonging and wellbeing. However, individual characteristics such as sociability may influence the likelihood of students engaging in extra-curricular activities. We collected mixed mode data from two online surveys to explore students’ perceptions of the impact of engagement in extra-curricular activities on their experience at university, as well as the mediating role of engagement in extra-curricular activities in the relationships between extraversion and wellbeing and sense of belonging to the University. Our data demonstrate that extraversion is positively associated with both belonging and wellbeing, and that engagement in extra-curricular activities also mediates these relationships. Our qualitative data uncover further nuances in engagement with extra-curricular activities; while many perceived outcomes are positive, some students express regret at opportunities missed, and find it challenging to balance extra-curricular activities and their studies. Taken together, these findings indicate that not all students stand to benefit equally from engagement in extra-curricular activities. Providing a range of opportunities that are accessible to a wide range of students may promote equity in participation in extra-curricular activities.

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M., Winstone, N. E., Balloo, K., Heron, M., Hosein, A., Lygo-Baker, S., and Medland, E. (2020) The development of academics’ feedback literacy: Experiences of learning from critical feedback via scholarly peer review. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 45 (5), 651-665.
https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1686749 .

The emerging literature related to feedback literacy has hitherto focused primarily on students’ engagement with feedback, and yet an analysis of academics’ feedback literacy is also of interest to those seeking to understand effective strategies to engage with feedback. Data from concept map-mediated interviews and reflections, with a team of six colleagues, surface academics’ responses to receiving critical feedback via scholarly peer review. Our findings reveal that feedback can be visceral and affecting, but that academics employ a number of strategies to engage with this process. This process can lead to actions that are both instrumental, enabling academics to more effectively ‘play the game’ of publication, as well as to learning that is more positively and holistically developmental. This study thus aims to open up a dialogue with colleagues internationally about the role of feedback literacy, for both academics and students. By openly sharing our own experiences we seek to normalise the difficulties academics routinely experience whilst engaging with critical feedback, to share the learning and strategies which can result from peer review feedback, and to explore how academics may occupy a comparable role to students who also receive evaluation of their work.

Gravett, K. (2021) Troubling transitions and celebrating becomings: from pathway to rhizome. Studies in Higher Education 46 (8), 1506-1517. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1691162

Student transitions are a central part of higher education policy and practice internationally. However much of the work within this important area is underpinned by unquestioned and limited assumptions of what transition as a concept might mean. Moreover, too often understandings of transition defer to narratives that sustain a stereotypic understanding of students’ experiences. This study contributes to a major shift in our understanding of the notion of transition. In order to do so, I draw upon Meyer and Land’s theory of threshold concepts, and from the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, to contest established understandings of students’ experiences. I propose a new approach to re-theorising and doing transition comprising three intertwined perspectives: transitions as rhizomatic; transitions as troublesome; and transitions as becoming. The article ends with a consideration of how these concepts could impact upon practice and offers an agenda for further research.

Gravett, K. and Winstone, N.E. (2021) Storying students’ becomings into and through higher education. Studies in Higher Education 46 (8)

This article employs a new approach to understanding student transition. This area of theory and practice has developed a huge global significance. However, transition as a concept is under-theorised, and a discourse that reiterates stereotypic narratives of students’ normative and linear trajectories can be seen to permeate the field. Drawing on data collected using story completion methods, together with semi-structured interviews, we examine this stereotypic discourse that surrounds stories of transition. Our data suggest that this narrative exists in tension with a more nuanced picture: one that depicts the diversity, fluidity and complexity of students’ lived experiences. In order to better understand these experiences, we employ a theoretical approach that conceptualises transitions as troublesome, as rhizomatic, and as becoming. We argue that this approach offers the potential to look beyond normative narratives that surround student transition, and to celebrate students’ becomings in a more rich and generative way.

Gravett, K. (2019) Story completion: Storying as a method of meaning-making and discursive discovery. International Journal of Qualitative Methods.

This article focuses on a method of data collection that exists in the margins of qualitative research: story completion. Story completion has a background of usage within disciplines such as psychology, feminist theory, and psychotherapy. However, this method is still uncommon and underutilized and has not been widely put to work as an approach for qualitative education research, despite its rich potential as a tool for accessing participants’ meaning-making. In this article, I argue that story completion can serve as an interesting and flexible method for researchers across the disciplines, particularly for those looking to adopt a post-structuralist lens, concerned with discursive discovery: the surfacing of discourses individuals draw upon to write. I introduce and explain a divergent approach to doing story completion from that described elsewhere in the literature, where a story completion exercise is enhanced by the addition of a traditional semi-structured interview. I also share an experimental approach to data analysis: using a rhizomatic perspective to analyze story completion data. Ultimately, I argue that story completion, the story-mediated interview, and a more experimental analytical approach offer exciting new directions for qualitative researchers to pursue.

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M. and Winstone, N. E. (2020) ‘More than customers': Conceptions of students as partners held by students, staff, and institutional leaders. Studies in Higher Education 45 (12), 2574-2587. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1623769

Students as partners (SaP) practices are emerging in today’s universities as a means to offer a more participative agenda, and to transform institutional cultures within an increasingly economically driven higher education context. This study contributes to understandings of partnership approaches, which largely still remain under-theorised, through exploring the conceptualisation of SaP by institutional leaders, staff, and students. Drawing on data from concept map-mediated interviews, this article offers a counterview to recent studies that have depicted staff understandings of SaP to be firmly located within a neoliberal discourse. Rather, our interviews portray surprising overlaps within students’ and leaders’ conceptualisations of SaP, depicting recurrent themes of communication, dialogue, community, and enabling students to escape neoliberal constructions: to become ‘more than customers’. This article ends with a consideration of how investigating the ways in which students and staff conceptualise SaP can be valuable, as partnership approaches become further prioritised in institutional strategies.

Gravett, K. and Winstone, N. E. (2019) 'Feedback interpreters': the role of learning development professionals in facilitating university students’ engagement with feedback. Teaching in Higher Education 24 (6), 723-738 https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1498076.

Understanding how students engage with assessment feedback is a key concern of higher education professionals. Research commonly represents the perspectives of students and academic staff, yet little consideration is given to the role of learning development staff, despite these individuals supporting students when interpreting and implementing feedback. We report the findings from interviews with learning developers working in a UK University, exploring their insights into the barriers students confront when engaging with feedback, and into the role of learning developers within the feedback landscape. This study suggests that, while many challenges exist for staff and students in the context of assessment feedback, learning development professionals are able to provide a meaningful source of guidance, in partnership with academic staff, and are able to promote students’ development through dialogic interactions. Hitherto these interactions have not been fully explored, yet they provide powerful insight into the hidden processes of feedback recipience.

Gravett, K. and Gill, C. (2010) ‘Using online video to promote database searching skills: the creation of a virtual tutorial for Health and Social Care students’. Journal of Information Literacy 4(1), 66-71.https://doi.org/10.11645/4.1.1469

In recent years, online tutorials have become well-established tools for the delivery of information literacy training as information professionals continue to seek new and more effective ways to reach audiences. However, the rapid transience of technologies, and the ongoing need to maximise the efficiency of services, mean that the question of how best to exploit the online medium needs further exploration. This paper focuses on a project at the University of Surrey Library to develop a new approach to online instruction. The goals of the project were to explore how the addition of video might create a more engaging user experience, and how the online video tutorial might therefore both improve existing information literacy training as well as offering a ‘just in time’ point of support. This paper examines the practical challenges involved in creating useful and accessible content and compares different software solutions for producing and editing video, audio, screencasts and subtitles. Further, it also examines the specific issues encountered when using external content, including database modifications and e-copyright issues. Finally, it touches upon the feedback collected so far in order to begin the evaluation of the resource. Using video can maximise the impact of e-learning tools, helping online tutorials to deliver information in a more personal and immediate way. However, when allowing for the time investment in creating and managing such resources, both their role alongside alternative information literacy approaches and their lasting value must be carefully considered.

Gravett, K. (2021) 'Learning from feedback via peer review: Using concept maps to explore the development of scholarly writing literacies' in Muresan, L. M. and Orna-Montesinos, C. (eds.). Academic literacy development: Perspectives on multilingual scholars' approaches to writing. Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan.

Writing for publication is a key part of an academic career. However, this practice can be fraught, particularly at the peer review stage. How academics develop from these experiences becomes an interesting area to examine. This chapter reports on data collected using concept map-mediated interviews. These data suggest that academics develop effective strategies to learn from feedback over time. For example the critical feedback authors experience often have a positive impact upon themselves and their work. Feedback can be a generative process, fostering self-growth. However, the interviews also highlight complex tensions within the peer-review process, particularly relating to the pressures upon scholars from around the world to publish in English, with the emotive nature of the review process, and with the monologic method of delivery of reviewer feedback.

Gravett, K. (2021) Disrupting the doctoral journey: re-imagining doctoral pedagogies and temporal practices in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education 26 (3), 293-305. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2020.1853694

This article reconsiders narratives of the doctoral journey. It aims to contribute to a small but growing body of work which offers an irruption to widely accepted notions of learning as a linear pathway with a fixed end-point. The article engages two of Deleuze and Guattari’s many generative concepts: rhizome and becoming. In doing so, it explores the value of attending to the multiple and messy becomings that researchers experience, as they evolve throughout a doctorate and beyond. It focuses on how such an unsettling may be foregrounded by the increasing prevalence of new forms and possibilities for doctoral study, and it explores the textual implications of disrupting assumptions regarding doctoral writing. The article closes with considering what such a re-theorising might offer for our understanding of doctoral study and doctoral writing, as well as for the broader concepts of time, learning and change within higher education.

Ali, X., Tatam, J., Gravett, K. and Kinchin, I. M. (2021) Partnership values: An evaluation of student-staff collaborative research. International Journal of Students as Partners, 5 (1), 12–25.

This research study contributes to understandings of partnership approaches through an evaluation of student-staff research partnership projects that took place within a higher education institution. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews with both the staff and students involved in the twenty research projects, our data were analysed to surface the underpinning values that informed the partnership process. As a result, this article offers an opportunity to evaluate partnership projects in context, as well as to explore how partnership may serve as force for potential disruption and innovation in higher education. We conclude with a consideration of how investigating the ways in which students and staff conceptualise student-staff partnership can be valuable, and with recommendations for others considering similar partnership projects.


Gravett, K. and Ajjawi, R. (2022) Belonging as situated practice. Studies in Higher Education 47 (7), 1386-1396. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2021.1894118

This article offers a rethinking of a fundamental area of higher education research and practice: the concept of belonging. Extending the considerable international research attending to belonging, we suggest that normative narratives often contain a number of omissions. Such omissions include a consideration of the experiences of those students who may not wish to, or who cannot belong, as well as a questioning of the very boundaries of belonging. Crucially, our reconceptualization occurs within the context of the post Covid-19 times in which we now live. Such times have seen a rapid move to emergency remote teaching, and, we suggest, offer an opening in which belonging can no longer be taken-for-granted as uniform and, as located within fixed times and spaces. Engaging generative concepts from the work of Massey, and Braidotti, and drawing upon Adam’s notion of timescapes, we propose a reframing of belonging as situated, relational and processual. Within this lens, belonging can be understood as a sociomaterial practice that shifts within, across and beyond online and face to face timespaces. At the end of this article, we examine the implications of such a reframing for educators seeking to develop belonging, and we also offer suggestions for further research.

Dippold, D., Heron, M. and Gravett, K. (2021) International students’ linguistic transitions into disciplinary studies: a rhizomatic perspective. Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-021-00677-9

This paper offers a reconceptualisation of international students’ transitions into and through UK higher education. We present two case studies of students which explore their transitions in terms of their academic speaking skills from pre-sessional courses into their disciplinary studies. Students describe how the development of their confidence and performance in academic speaking was contingent on a number of factors and micro-moments, and how this progress into and within disciplinary studies often involved regression and discomfort. Nevertheless, they also talked of developing strategies to overcome challenges and the resultant learning. We argue that transitions to disciplinary studies in terms of academic speaking can be more helpfully understood as non-linear, fluid and rhizomatic. This study offers valuable insights for individuals and institutions to move away from a fixed student lifecycle perspective to consider instead how reciprocal, embedded and on-going support for international students may better reflect students’ experiences.

Tai, J., Bearman, M., Gravett, K. and Molloy, E. (2021) Exploring the notion of teacher feedback literacies through the Theory of Practice Architectures. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2021.1948967

Feedback literacy research has largely focussed on learner processes and how teachers can support them. However, a sociomaterial perspective on feedback as a situated practice foregrounds the interplay between actors, resources, contexts, and structures, requiring a repositioning of teachers as entangled with others within practice. This merits further exploration of teacher feedback literacies.

We undertake this exploration of teacher feedback literacies through the Theory of Practice Architectures, which enables us to interrogate the structures which influence the possibilities for feedback practices and illustrate them in a constructed exemplar. This approach highlights the interrelatedness of teacher and learner practices, and that knowing not only one’s own role, but how practices are co-produced, is part of feedback literacies.

Teacher feedback literacies might then be considered as learning to negotiate, align and resist with/in/against the structures which continue to re-make and reproduce ‘old ways’ of doing feedback. This creates a notion of teacher-learner feedback literacies, where teacher feedback literacies are not a separate capability, but entangled and embodied knowing and acting. Efforts to develop feedback literacies must turn to embedded but explicit experiential learning about feedback. Teachers and students should be prepared for possibilities in emergent interactions, rather than following feedback formulae.

Balloo, K and Gravett, K. (2021) 'I’m not sure where home is’: narratives of student mobilities into and through higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 42 (7): 1022-1036. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1959298

The concept of a typical pathway to becoming a student is a pervasive narrative within higher education, with moving away from home to live at university framed as the “traditional student experience”. In response, recent literature has begun to trouble the thinking around student mobilities. Building on this work, this study draws upon semi-structured interviews with students who have moved away from home into university residences in order to surface the multiplicity and diversity of mobilities and transitions. Engaging with concepts from posthumanist and poststructuralist theory, we propose a reconceptualisation of students’ mobilities and transitions as rhizomatic, and as ongoing becomings. In doing so, we also examine the materiality of students’ experiences, acknowledging the role of the more-than-human within students’ mobilities. As a result, we extend the emerging work attending to more complex depictions of students’ mobilities, and examine the implications of acknowledging the heterogeneity and granularity of students’ experiences. 

Gravett, K., Taylor, C. A. and Fairchild, N. (2024) Pedagogies of mattering: Re-conceptualising relational pedagogies in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education 29 (2): 388-403. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2021.1989580

This article engages posthuman theory to propose a rethinking of the theory and practice of relational pedagogies within higher education (HE). There has been renewed emphasis within HE discourses on the significance of relationships within learning and teaching as a means to offer a counter-view to an uncaring marketised HE system. This article argues the need to build on and extend the current framing of relational pedagogies. It argues for an ethically affirmative reframing, through a posthuman, feminist materialist theoretical lens. The theory we elaborate is put to work through illustrative examples from our experiences and practices as educators which illuminate how and why relational pedagogies, considered as pedagogies of mattering, need to involve the nonhuman and more-than-human. Our examples sketch potential shapes for a pedagogy of mattering across three key areas of teaching in higher education: curriculum; teaching and learning, and assessment.

Kandiko Howson, C., Kinchin, I. M and Gravett, K. (2022) Belonging in science: Democratic pedagogies for cross-cultural PhD supervision. Education Sciences, 12 (2), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12020121

This research used Novakian concept mapping and interview techniques to track changes in knowledge and understanding amongst students and their supervisors in the course of full-time research towards a laboratory science-based PhD. This detailed longitudinal case study analysis measures both cognitive change in the specific subjects that are the topic for research and in the understanding of the process of PhD level research and supervision. The data show the challenges for students and supervisors from different national, ethnic, cultural and academic backgrounds and traditions with a focus on how this impacts the PhD research process and development. Working cross-culturally, and often in a setting different from either the student or the supervisor’s background and training, can lead to a lack of common language and understanding for the development of a pedagogically-oriented supervisory relationship. Documenting change in knowledge and understanding among PhD students and their supervisors is key to surfacing what the joint processes of mutual democratic research and of supervision may entail. One of these key processes is a student’s developing sense of belonging (or non-belonging). Specifically, this paper engages belonging as a lens to explore the practices of working across national, cultural, ethnic and diverse academic backgrounds, for both supervisors and students. Doctoral study is understood as a situated context in which belonging also acts as a gateway for who can join the global scientific community.

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M. and Winstone N. E. (2022) Evolving Identities: A Collaborative Autoethnography in Supervising and Being Supervised by Colleagues. In Sin Wang Chong and Neil Johnson (Eds) Landscapes and Narratives of PhD by Publication. Springer.
Gravett, K., Baughan, P., Rao, N. and Kinchin, I.M. (2022) Spaces and places for connection in the postdigital university. Postdigital Science and Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-022-00317-0

This study focuses on the spaces and places for learning and teaching connections in higher education. Using a photovoice research method, we ask: what role do spaces and places play in offering opportunities for learning and teaching connection, and what do they tell us about the evolving practices of teachers in contemporary higher education? While considerable attention has been paid to the learning spaces of students, we argue that less attention has been devoted to the spaces in which educators learn. Our findings are considered against a backdrop of the ongoing disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that opportunities for interaction have assumed even greater significance, and the ways in which we use and understand teaching spaces are in flux. As such, our data highlights how the move to digital and hybrid learning is blurring the boundaries of spaces and places, reorienting what it means to teach and to learn in a postdigital higher education landscape. We engage sociomaterial and spatial concepts to examine how spaces entangle with university teachers’ experiences, and we explore the shifting nature of interaction and space in post-pandemic times.

Gravett, K. (2022) Different voices, different bodies: presence-absence in the digital university. Learning, Media and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2022.2150637

The move to digital, and now hybrid, education has defamiliarised teaching practices and unsettled experiences of what it means to be and to engage at university. In this article, I examine what new questions evolving teaching and learning practices provoke with regards rethinking notions of the body, and concepts of presence and absence. Interweaving theories of performativity, of strangeness, and of agency as a cutting together/apart, I explore a specific example of online course design, a Small Private Online Course. I consider the dispersed and fragmented subjects and bodies that evade enclosure within the course, and the ontological implications for thinking about how subjects, bodies and materialities are cut, performed and made strange: what it means to ‘be online’. I suggest that such a rethinking is necessary if we are to meaningfully conceptualise engagement, and to move beyond limited, but durable, assumptions that pervade contemporary discussions around digital learning.


Gravett, K. (2006) The cataloguing of e-books at the University of Surrey. Serials, 19 (3), pp.202–207. http://doi.org/10.1629/19202

Many libraries are investing more and more in e-books, yet the bibliographic implications for managing these resources are only just becoming apparent. This case-study focuses on the experience of the University of Surrey after the decision was taken to import and create MARC records for e-books. It explores the relationship between electronic resources and 'core' holdings, and the role of the library catalogue as the primary source of information. Further, it examines the practical challenges faced by staff when cataloguing electronic material, including whether to create 'hybrid' or separate records for print and electronic copies, and considerations surrounding the content and granularity of records.Cataloguing e-books can be an effective way of helping users to discover these new resources. However, it is becoming clear that libraries will need to re-evaluate traditional procedures as they examine the new priorities of these unique resources.

Kinchin, I.M., Balloo, K., Barnett, L., Gravett, K., Heron, M., Hosein, A., Lygo-Baker, S., Medland, E., Winstone, N. and Yakovchuk, N. (2022) Poems and pedagogic frailty: uncovering the affective within teacher development through collective biography. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/14740222221147483
Gravett, K. and Carless, D. (2024) Feedback literacy-as-event: relationality, space and temporality in feedback encounters. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 49 (2), 142-153. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2023.2189162

Research on student and teacher feedback literacies is currently a flourishing sub-field of higher education, as scholars seek to address the durable and dissatisfying dilemmas that feedback processes represent. To date, however, higher education scholarship has been dominated by cognitive and humanist conceptions of feedback literacies, with the focus primarily placed upon how teachers and students might become more feedback literate. Drawing upon the broader fields of academic literacies, and upon relational thinking and sociomaterial theory, we engage the idea of literacy-as-event as a means to understand feedback literacies as unbounded, relational encounters: emergent moments that happen as people and things come together. Our theorisation is elaborated via an exploration of student-staff feedback encounters, where we suggest that a relational approach to feedback literacies provokes new questions for educators: guiding us to look at both what happens and what might be missing from feedback interactions. Given that research helps to construct the ways in which we see the world, and the ways in which we think about concepts of student engagement, we suggest that critical approaches to thinking about literacy practices are essential if we are to understand a diversity of students’ learning experiences, and to support students effectively.

Heron, M., Gravett, K. and Ahmad, A. (2023) Doctoral literacy practices as sites of connections, competition and discomfort. International Journal of Educational Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2023.102175

Due to a changing higher education sector, doctoral literacies are evolving. Students are increasingly expected to navigate a diverse range of literacy practices beyond the traditional monograph. Engaging ideas from the fields of Academic Literacies and New Literacy Studies, this study sought to explore what doctoral literacy practices students are engaged in and how these are acquired. Findings revealed that whilst some students maximised opportunities for making material and relational connections, others experienced unfamiliarity and discomfort due to the often tacit expectations of doctoral literacy practices. The contributions of this paper lie in the surfacing the range of doctoral literacy practices and highlighting the need for the doctoral community to make doctoral literacy practices visible and familiar.

Gravett, K., Heron, M. and Ahmad, A. (2023) The doctorate unbound: relationality in doctoral literacy research. Literacy. http://doi.org/10.1111/lit.12325

What do literacy events look and feel like for doctoral students, and how do these events overlap intertextually, materially and relationally? The last three decades have seen a rapid diversification in doctoral education where new opportunities for study, combined with an increasingly competitive landscape, have disrupted what it means to undertake a doctorate, as well as reshaping the literacy practices that comprise doctoral experiences in new ways that have not been fully explored. To understand literacies in new ways, we put to work the construct of literacy-as-event, and engage ideas from assemblage theory, to theorise the relationality of literacy practices. Crucially, our study seeks to examine how literacies are emergent and entangled within a wider network of relations. This article draws on data from interviews involving critical incidents with 12 doctoral students, in order to unpack the literacy moments, beyond the thesis, that comprise students' experiences. Our data suggest that we can understand doctoral literacies, not as bounded occurrences, but as assemblages of practices. We contend that thinking with concepts of assemblage and of event offers new insights into the evolving experiences of doctoral students, as well as offering an enriched understanding of literacies and literacy research.

Gravett, K., Ajjawi, R. and O'Shea, S. (2023) Topologies of belonging in the digital university. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2023.2256342

Belonging is a complex relational concept. It has been shown to be processual, emergent, and dynamic. And yet this relationality, and complexity, sits in tension with increasingly voluble calls to measure, manage and maintain students’ sense of belonging to an ostensibly fixed space of higher education. This article reports on research that invited students to not only define how they experience belonging, but also to surface belonging’s relationality: how it is entangled with material spaces and artefacts, and enacted through evolving behaviours and communities. Our data depict the modulations of belonging, which disrupt dominant discourses of simplicity, stability and uniformity. Engaging the generative concept of social topologies, we offer a rethinking of both space and belonging as material and relational. These findings enable us to consider more nuanced perspectives about how belonging is both understood and also enacted, surfacing the complex tapestries of belonging and non-belonging experiences within education, as well as the increasing departure from a coherent delineated conception of ‘the university’. Given the diversity of both learners and the spaces in which they learn, interrogating the nature of belonging is urgently needed if we are to understand students’ diverse experiences of education in more meaningful ways.

Gravett, K., Ajjawi, R., Bearman, M., Holloway, J., Olson, R., and Winstone, N. (2023) Belonging as flickering and in flux in academic work: a collective biography, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2023.2258095

In this article, we explore the concept of belonging and its utility as a means for understanding academics’ experiences of working in the academy. Transformative changes have reorientated academic work in recent years and continue to do so as we grapple with what it means to work and live in a post-digital, post-covid, world. We engage a collective biography methodology to highlight the embodied spatial-material assemblages in which belonging can be (un)made, the ways in which belonging may stick, slip and slide, as well how we might support colleagues to deal with the fragility and fluidity of academic work. Collectively, we sketch a portrait of the currents, spaces and relations of belonging that sit uncomfortably alongside common conceptions of belonging as linear, or as an internal, individual, emotion. This study therefore offers new possibilities for enhanced understandings of belonging as mobile, flickering and processual, that are generative within education and beyond.

Ajjawi, R., Gravett, K. & O’Shea, S. (2023) The politics of student belonging: identity and purpose. Teaching in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2023.2280261

Belonging is considered to be a positive foundation for students’ well-being and success at university; however, in this article, we argue that it is time to think about belonging more critically. This research highlights how students experience and create multiple belongings. Drawing upon empirical data from interviews and video blogs with students in the UK and Australia, we identify how calls for integrated, uniform, approaches to building belonging in universities are unhelpful. Instead, we foreground the situated and political ways in which students make and curate meaningful and purposeful connections and safe spaces. Our research points to the personalised nature of belonging. We show how individual learners often enact belonging in ways that disrupt or challenge institutional assumptions and expectations. We advocate for critical discussions between staff and students related to the affordances of embracing the multiple ways students choose to belong, at different times and in different spaces.

Heron, M., Dippold, D., Gravett, K., Ahmad, A., Aljabri, S., Ghosh, P., Kabooha, R., Makram, M., Mousawa, D., Mudhaffer, A., Ucar Longford, B., Wang, L., Zhou, J. and Zhu, F. (2024) Building a community of practice through a doctoral research group. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education. https://doi.org/10.1108/SGPE-10-2023-0098


The purpose of this paper is to highlight the role an intentional and cohesive research group for doctoral researchers and supervisors can play in surfacing and de-mystifying many of the implicit doctoral literacy practices involved in doctoral study.


This participatory, collaborative project, involving 11 doctoral researchers and three supervisors, was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, doctoral researchers and supervisors engaged in a discussion which resulted in a shared concept map. The concept map was then used as a prompt for stimulated recall interviews in which the participants reflected on the connections and peer learning afforded by the research group.


Drawing on ideas from Communities of Practice theory, the data revealed that the research group, including both supervisors and doctoral students, developed knowledge, relational connections and an awareness of a range of doctoral literacies.

Practical implications

This paper makes suggestions for how those in doctoral education can develop and embed research groups into institutional practices.


This study demonstrates the significant role a research group which is structured, intentional and guided plays in supervisors’ and doctoral students’ development of doctoral literacies and the fundamental intellectual and relational connections afforded by participating in such communities.

Gravett, K. and Lygo-Baker, S. (2024) Affective encounters in higher education. Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2024.2332427

In this article, we examine how thinking with affect theory offers fertility within higher education studies to see and do teaching and learning differently. For many educators in universities, the idea that teaching is a cognitive process of information transmission is still taken-for-granted. These beliefs are visible through the persistence of nomenclature such as ‘content’, predictable learning ‘outcomes’, and by the dominance of linear teaching aids (such as PowerPoint slides) across the sector internationally. An alternative conception of what teaching and learning is, and does, posits the classroom as a space of emergent relational connections in which learning is experienced as an affective force that constitutes being-in-the-world. To sketch shapes for understanding the affective encounters of teaching and learning, we think with the concept o f inconvenience from the work of cultural theorist Lauren Berlant. We offer three illustrative examples of how teaching might be understood as an opportunity to surface, to welcome, and to problematise the inconvenience of others. Our argument is that an engagement with the affective in education can help us in understanding how power relations make themselves felt within the affective currents of educational encounters, as well as enabling educators to recraft their teaching in creative and meaningful ways. We conclude by contending that critical theories of affect can enhance educators’ work towards fostering social justice in the classroom, as well as in moving closer to an enriched understanding of the discomfort and challenge of what it means to teach and to learn.

Fairchild, N., Gravett, K. and Taylor, C. A. (2024) Pedagogies of Mattering in Higher Education: Thinking-with Posthumanist and Feminist Materialist Theory-Praxis. In Towards Posthumanism in Education: Theoretical Entanglements and Pedagogical Mappings
Edited ByJessie A. Bustillos Morales, and Shiva Zarabadi.

‘Pedagogies of mattering’ employs posthumanist and feminist materialist theory to rethink the practice of relational pedagogies in higher education. In their original article, the authors developed the theoretical underpinning of pedagogies of mattering and produced new insights for exploring how posthumanist and feminist materialist theory could be used to articulate alternative ways to experience curriculum, learning and teaching, and assessment. Building on the original article this chapter extends the authors’ conceptualisation of pedagogies of mattering in relation to six new concepts: love and kindness; belonging and power; creativity and criticality. These are not stand-alone or paired but are concepts-in-relation. We acknowledge we have enacted agential cuts in choosing to focus on these concepts and enacted a cutting together-apart in grouping them. We do so as these six new concepts are relational to our earlier work and build on them here to provide new instantiations to exemplify how pedagogies of mattering can provide a more expansive conceptualisation of higher education pedagogy and practice. The examples in this chapter highlight how affirmative and caring relationships include a broader range of actors, and tune into the objects, bodies and spaces. These human and non-human bodies constitute the material mattering of learning and teaching as an in-situ practice of relationality in higher education.