Key Research Interests and Expertise

Anna Robinson-Pant has conducted ethnographic studies and policy-focused research in the field of adult literacy, informal learning, gender and international development - including for over three decades in Nepal. In the UK context, she has led several action-orientated research projects with international students on their experiences in higher education, and with children and teachers in Norfolk primary schools on participation and voice. She is committed to finding ways of developing a more inclusive research community both within UEA and more broadly to address North-South inequalities in academic publishing and research.  This has included exploring ways of engaging practitioners and policy makers in research processes, ensuring research outputs are accessible and developing approaches for working collaboratively across disciplines, cultures and languages.


1. Adult learning, literacy, sustainable development and social change: exploring the synergies

Building on her long-established contribution to adult literacy and international development, Anna aims to raise the profile of participatory and ethnographic research approaches in the international development policy arena. She has undertaken regular commissioned research and advisory roles for NGOs and international development agencies (particularly UNESCO). At UEA, she set up the Literacy and Development Group (LDG) in 2003 with colleagues from the School of International Development, to enhance research and teaching in this area.  The group helped to take forward theoretical debates on literacy and development through facilitating conversations across disciplinary boundaries and within a wider community of researchers through international conferences and linked publications. In 2016, the UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation was established at UEA in collaboration with partner universities in Ethiopia, Nepal, Egypt, Malawi and the Philippines. The UNESCO Chair aims to develop understanding about how adult learning – particularly for women and young adults – can help address inequalities in the poorest communities of the world.

Research projects (selected)

2020: ‘Adult literacy and learning for social change: innovation, influence and the role of non-state actors’, UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report Background Paper (Research Co-ordinator of case studies)
2019 – 2021: UKRI GCRF Global Research Translation Award: ‘Meeting the SDGs: creating innovative infrastructures and policy solutions to support sustainable development in Global South communities (GS-DEV)’ - Family literacy, indigenous learning and sustainable development: https://www.uea.ac.uk/research/about-uea-research/oda-research/grta/family-literacy
2019 – 2020: ‘Family literacy and capacity building in Ethiopia, Nepal and the Philippines’, GCRF-UEA Rapid Response Fund
2019: ‘Adult literacy and learning for sustainable development in Ethiopia’, GCRF-UEA Rapid Response Fund
2018 – 2019: ‘Inclusive Education Systems’ (British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE)-funded Project with partners in Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines), https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2020.1769382
2018 – 19:  ‘Intercultural learning and gender relations among migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking populations: a participatory action research project’ (UEA/ESRC Rapid Response Impact Fund, with NGO partners in Norwich, UK)
2018: ‘Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation’ (UEA HEIF-funded) to develop the impact and dissemination strategies of UNESCO Chair research projects with UNESCO Paris and UIL Hamburg.
2016: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), ‘Literacy programmes focusing on health and gender equality’ (commissioned paper for UN International Literacy Day 2016): http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002456/245698e.pdf
2015-2016: ‘Bridging the gap in women’s literacy’, BAICE-funded capacity development grant
2014-2018: Co-Investigator (for Adult learning theme) on ESRC-funded ‘What Works Wellbeing evidence programme: Work, Learning and Wellbeing/ (P.I. Daniels)
2014: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning commissioned research paper on ‘Literacy programmes for sustainable development and the empowerment of women’: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000230162
2013-14: Global Research Coordinator for IFAD-UNESCO study on ‘Learning knowledge and skills for improving rural livelihoods’ in Egypt, Cambodia and Ethiopia: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245765E.pdf
2009: ‘Literacy Inequalities’ (British Academy conference grant, with Aikman, Maddox and Rao, see Basu, Maddox and Robinson-Pant, 2010)
2008: Research paper for the Mid-term Review of UN Literacy Decade, published as part of: Literacy in the World Today, Paris, UNESCO [Report of the Director-General of UNESCO on the Implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade])
2005: Commissioned set of papers on ‘The Benefits of Literacy’ for the UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006 (see also Robinson-Pant, 2008. ‘Why literacy matters’)
2003: Commissioned UNESCO policy briefing report on ‘Adult Education and Indigenous Peoples’ for presentation at the CONFINTEA Mid Term Review, Bangkok (with Nitya Rao)
2003: Commissioned research on ‘Overview of learning programmes for literacy and vocational skills for women’ for Gender and Education for All: The Leap to Equality, UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 (UNESCO)
2003: Research Co-ordinator for series of case studies on NGO literacy programmes for indigenous groups in Malaysia, Nepal, India, Thailand and New Zealand (Asian and South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education)

2. Intercultural learning, academic literacies and the internationalisation of higher education

Anna’s research has focused on deepening theoretical understanding and methodological debate around internationalisation through comparative analysis of the assumptions and methods in applied linguistics, anthropology and education. Through her editorial roles and her university teaching, she became interested in researching academic literacies, intercultural perspectives on learning and teaching and the geopolitics of academic publishing and knowledge production. As Editor of the journal Compare (2004-2009), she was particularly keen to find ways of overcoming the discursive and practical barriers faced by writers in the Global South. With funding from the British Association for International and Comparative Education, she established a mentoring programme based on academic literacies approaches for new contributors to Compare (see Lillis, Magyar and Robinson-Pant 2010).  She also conducted research with international research students on their academic experiences in the UK, including several action-orientated research projects with Dr. Anna Magyar (see Magyar and Robinson-Pant, 2011) and leading to a study on recruitment agents as ‘literacy mediators’ (Magyar and Robinson-Pant, 2017).  Her first book based on research with international students in a UK university, Cross-cultural Perspectives on Educational Research (Open University Press), won the BMW Group Award for Intercultural Learning 2007 (Theory Category). Researching across Languages and Cultures (co-authored with Dr. Alain Wolf, 2017) developed these ideas further through research with doctoral students and researchers in universities outside the UK.  As with her research on literacy and development, Anna has taken a social practice lens to analyse academic literacies and educational research practices in the university context, with a view to enhancing supervision practice, and developing new dialogic spaces.

Research projects (selected)

2014: ‘The role of recruitment agents in the internationalisation of higher education’ (Society for Research in Higher Education)
2012-13: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Preparing for academic study in a second language: how can we improve the experience and engagement of international Masters students in the Faculty of Social Science?’ (with Anna Magyar)
2009: ‘Internationalising educational research cultures and graduate trainin’g (BAICE funding, with Madeleine Arnot, CEID Cambridge)
2008-9: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Addressing the needs of first year international research students and their supervisors: an academic literacies approach' (with Anna Magyar)
2007- current: Compare/BAICE Supporting new writers’ programme development and implementation, including holding ‘Writing Champion’ symposia for journal editors and established academics, and workshop/mentoring programme for junior scholars in the UK and countries of the Global South (with Magyar and Compare editors)
2005-6: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Improving the experiences of international research students’ (with Nalini Boodhoo).

3. Children’s participation in educational decision making

Aiming to bring her experience of participatory research on communicative practices in development into the UK context, Anna co-directed action research projects with children and teachers in Norfolk primary schools on participation and voice with Sue Cox. ‘Children Decide: Power, participation and purpose in the primary classroom’ involved children conducting action research with their class teachers on decision-making. This project built on findings from an action-oriented project on school councils: ‘Empowering Children through Visual Communication’. Both projects were funded by CFBT Educational Trust.  An ESRC seminar series on ‘Children as Decision Makers’ brought together educators, activists and researchers working in countries in the Global South and North to share and reflect on approaches to facilitating children’s participation in educational contexts: Cox, S., Dyer, C., Robinson-Pant, A. and M. Schweisfurth (2010) Children as Decision Makers in Education: Sharing Experiences Across Cultures, Continuum: London (edited volume).

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