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 Helen Knowler

Helen Knowler

Honorary Lecturer in Education


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I am honorary Lecturer in Education collaborating with colleagues in GSE on a range of research projects. I teach and research in the field of Special Educational Needs and Inclusive Education and my specific expertise is in Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs in mainstream education settings.  My current focus relates to the prevention of permanent exclusion of pupils from school and I collaborate with education professionals to develop ethical and sustainable approaches to preventing exclusion. I specialise in developing research that is collaborative and participatory and I have a particular interest in the development and use of visual research methods in Education Research. To date I have collaborated with teachers, senior leaders, Local Authorities and Alternative Provision providers, as well as with children and young people at risk of permanent school exclusion. 



BEd (Hons) with QTS English Studies

MA (Ed) Inclusive Education



I worked at Exeter until June 2021 having joined from the University of Bristol where I worked for eight years.  During my time at Bristol I was the Programme Coordinator for the MSc Education (Special and Inclusive Education) reflecting my teaching and research interests in Inclusive Education. I was the Director of the Inclusion and Special Education Network (ISEN), a supportive space for researchers, students and education professionals to meet and discuss issues that impacted on their work. In 2015 I was awarded the University of Bristol Award for Education in recognition for my commitment to the development of an inclusive learning environment and excellence in my focus on the student experience in my own teaching. I now work as a Senior Lecturer in Special Educational Needs, Disabilty and Inclusion Studies at the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton. 

My previous experience as a classroom teacher and as a Local Authority Advisor brings a breadth and depth of professional teaching experience which is essential to my work with education professionals.


Research group links


Research interests

I am interested in ethical and sustainable ways to prevent permanent school exclusion for pupils identified as having Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs in mainstream education contexts across primary and secondary phases. I am particularly keen to explore the ways that teachers work with curricula, pedagogies and relationships with this group of learners and enjoy developing participatory and collaborative approaches to designing and doing research.  I have an interest in teachers' experiences of working with learners in the SEMH needs category and the ways that teachers learn to successfully include pupils who find school a difficult place to be. I am currently working on a projects  exploring 'off rolling'  with my colleague Dr Elizabeth J Done. We want to learn more about how various education professionals including SENCOs, senior leaders and Educational Psychologists negotiate difficult decision making in relation to permanent exclusion. 

Research projects

2021 University of Bristol Faculty of Engineering Award (£5000) with Dr Irina Lazar: Inclusive Engineering Education 

2021 ESRC IAA award  (£2336) (with Dr Sarah Cole) Gender based violence prevention in schools: working with boys and young men

2020-2021  Exeter Engaged Research Award (£5000) Anti -racist intial teacher education - collaboration with No More Exclusions and UCL Institute of Education 

2020-21 Education Incubator Award (£5000) Cultural Community Mentoring Project

2019  Research Insipired Inquiry Led Learning Grant  (£3000) - Education Incubator Funding: Using student developed media-rich content to produce inclusive learning materials for teaching research methods on ELE

2015 - 2018 ERSC Impact Award (£18,700) Developing an Outdoor Curriculum for pupils at risk of school exclusion

2015 - 2017 University of Bristol Teaching Fellowship Award (£10,000) Lesson Study in International HE contexts

External Engagement and Impact


I am a qualified teacher and experienced tutor at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. I teach on modules related to Inclusive Education, Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs, Special Educational Needs, Behaviour in Schools and Research Methods.

I have a successful track record of doctoral supervision and to date have supported PhD and EdD students in the following areas: feminist methodologies, poststructural theorising on Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs in schools, creative and participatory research and Inclusive research and Intersectional research.  I have worked with postgraduate researchers on topics such as the deployment of teaching assistants, parental involvement in Education, ADHD and 'challenging' behaviour, quality in special education provision and Outdoor Learning.

I am committed to the use of inclusive approaches to Teaching, Learning and Assessment in my own practice. I enjoy designing and implementing interactive and participatory activities to develop critical and reflective engagement in the students I support.




Supervision / Group

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