Dr Kieran Balloo


Academic and research departments

Department of Higher Education.


Areas of specialism

Regulation of learning; Assessment and Feedback; Research methods pedagogy; Higher order thinking skills

Affiliations and memberships

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Awarded 2015

Academic networks


Research interests

Indicators of esteem

  • Recipient of Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions Seal of Excellence Award for project proposal being judged to deserve funding if not for budget limits


My teaching

My publications


Balloo Kieran (2018) In-depth profiles of the expectations of undergraduate students
commencing university: a Q methodological analysis,
Studies in Higher Education 43 (12) pp. 2251-2262 Taylor & Francis
Research shows that undergraduate students have many expectations of their university as they commence studying. The current study utilised Q methodology to gain an in-depth understanding of these expectations by examining shared viewpoints between groups of students. First-year undergraduate psychology students ranked statements in their induction week on expectations of university regarding teaching and assessment approaches, lecturer behaviour, organisational and resources support and issues relating to student autonomy. Factor analysis of these ranks revealed three profiles of expectations that were labelled and interpreted holistically in qualitative detail: Expecting to put in the hard work and be supported by tutors, Expecting a different experience to high school and Expecting to strike a balance between university and everyday life. These profiles demonstrate that students? expectations should not be discussed in homogeneous terms. Recommendations are made for educators in terms of understanding discrepancies between expectations and the service which will be provided.
Balloo K, Pauli R, Worrell M (2017) Undergraduates? Personal Circumstances, Expectations and Reasons
for Attending University,
Studies in Higher Education 42 (8) pp. 1373-1384 Taylor & Francis
Undergraduate students are likely to have a range of reasons for attending university and expectations about their education. The current study aimed to determine the most prevalent reasons and expectations among students, and how these differed based on their personal circumstances. First-year undergraduate psychology students completed a questionnaire on reasons for attending university and expectations of university regarding assessment, teaching, learning and organisational resources. Improving career prospects was found to be the most important reason for attending university. The most important aspect of assessment was receiving feedback clarifying things they did not understand. Being good at explaining things was the most important teaching quality. Reasons and expectations were also found to differ depending on students? gender, age group, caring responsibilities, application route, fee status and whether English is their first language. Implications for educators are discussed in terms of bringing student experiences more in-line with their expectations.
Balloo K, Pauli R, Worrell M (2016) Individual Differences in Psychology Undergraduates?
Development of Research Methods Knowledge and Skills,
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 217 pp. 790-800 Elsevier
Not all psychology undergraduates appear to benefit from participating in research methodology classes. This longitudinal study
tracked how students? knowledge of research methods developed throughout their three-year undergraduate psychology degree.
Card sorting procedures measuring knowledge of research methods terminology were repeated at four time-points across three
years then analyzed using multidimensional scaling. There was no significant improvement in students? research methods
structural knowledge after a year, but there was by the end of students? second year. Knowledge did not improve after students?
final year of study. Various metacognitive and motivational variables were significant correlates of research methods knowledge
and research skills. Structural knowledge of research methods terminology appears to be developed from formal methodology
training and is not improved upon after completion of a final year research project dissertation. Improving metacognitive skills
and increasing motivation for methodology classes may be linked to better development of research methods knowledge and
research skills.
Balloo Kieran, Pauli Regina, Worrell Marcia (2018) Conceptions of research methods learning among psychology undergraduates: a Q methodology study, Cognition and Instruction 36 (4) pp. pp 279-296 Taylor & Francis
A range of conceptions held about research methods learning have previously been identified. The current study aimed to examine in-depth shared conceptions among undergraduate psychology students. Utilising Q methodology, which links both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to uncover the subjective viewpoints that a group of individuals hold towards a particular domain, participants ranked statements reflecting different conceptions of research methods learning. Ranks were then factor analysed and four distinct profiles of student conceptions were identified, labelled and described in qualitative detail: Research methods as integral to psychology, Research methods as a digression from psychology, Research methods as disconnected from psychology and Research methods as beneficial to psychology. Some of the perspectives displayed a clear understanding about the reasons for undertaking research and learning about research methods in psychology, whereas other standpoints saw research as being something that was difficult to relate to the practice of psychology. Findings are considered in terms of how some conceptions appear to be more beneficial or problematic to hold than others and recommendations are made to educators about how they could support students to change their views.
Balloo Kieran, Evans Carol, Hughes Annie, Zhu Xiaotong, Winstone Naomi (2018) Transparency Isn't Spoon-Feeding: How a Transformative Approach to the Use of Explicit Assessment Criteria Can Support Student Self-Regulation, Frontiers in Education 3 (69) 69 pp. 1-11 Frontiers Media S.A.
If little care is taken when establishing clear assessment requirements, there is the potential for spoon-feeding. However, in this conceptual article we argue that transparency in assessment is essential to providing equality of opportunity and promoting students? self-regulatory capacity. We begin by showing how a research-informed inclusive pedagogy, the EAT Framework, can be used to improve assessment practices to ensure that the purposes, processes, and requirements of assessment are clear and explicit to students. The EAT Framework foregrounds how students' and teachers' conceptions of learning (i.e., whether one has a transactional or transformative conception of learning within a specific context) impact assessment practices. In this article, we highlight the importance of being explicit in promoting access to learning, and in referencing the EAT Framework, the importance of developing transformative rather than transactional approaches to being explicit. Firstly, we discuss how transparency in the assessment process could lead to ?criteria compliance? (Torrance, 2007, p. 282) and learner instrumentalism if a transactional approach to transparency, involving high external regulation, is used. Importantly, we highlight how explicit assessment criteria can hinder learner autonomy if paired with an overreliance on criteria-focused ?coaching? from teachers. We then address how ?being explicit with assessment? does not constitute spoon-feeding when used to promote understanding of assessment practices, and the application of deeper approaches to learning as an integral component of an inclusive learning environment. We then provide evidence on how explicit assessment criteria allow students to self-assess as part of self-regulation, noting that explicit criteria may be more effective when drawing on a transformative approach to transparency, which acknowledges the importance of transparent and mutual student-teacher communications about assessment requirements. We conclude by providing recommendations to teachers and students about how explicit assessment criteria can be used to improve students' learning. Through an emphasis on transparency of process, clarity of roles, and explication of what constitutes quality within a specific discipline, underpinned by a transformative approach, students and teachers should be better equipped to self-manage their own learning and teaching.
This book examines the learning and development process of students? scientific thinking skills. Universities should prepare students to be able to make judgements in their working lives based on scientific evidence. However, an understanding of how these thinking skills can be developed is limited. This book introduces a new broad theory of scientific thinking for higher education; in doing so, redefining higher-order thinking abilities as scientific thinking skills. This includes critical thinking and understanding the basics of science, epistemic maturity, research and evidence-based reasoning skills and contextual understanding. The editors and contributors discuss how this concept can be redefined, as well as the challenges educators and students may face when attempting to teach and learn these skills. This edited collection will be of interest to students and scholars of student scientific skills and higher-order thinking abilities.
Balloo Kieran (2019) Students? Difficulties During Research Methods Training Acting As Potential Barriers to Their Development of Scientific Thinking, In: Redefining Scientific Thinking for Higher Education: Higher-Order Thinking, Evidence-Based Reasoning and Research Skills pp. 121-162 Palgrave Macmillan
Students are likely to develop scientific thinking skills through participation in research methods training courses, so any difficulties experienced during these courses might then act as potential barriers to the development of these skills. This chapter begins by reviewing common difficulties experienced by students during this training, which are categorised into the following themes: Affective Issues with Research; Negative and Naïve Conceptions of Research; and Cognitive Complexity of Research. Some of the pedagogical approaches to dealing with students? issues are briefly discussed before presenting a qualitative phenomenological investigation of the undergraduate experience of research methods training. This chapter ends by discussing practical implications of the investigation?s findings to aid research methods instructors in reducing the chances of barriers forming.

Additional publications