Dr Pauline Duncan

Project Coordinator and Research Associate


I have a keen interest in visual and digital research methods and the role of digital technology in early learning and play. I coordinate a range of Scottish Government funded projects at STEP KE Centre which connects nomadic cultures with education. My projects include the Digital Families Programme, the STEP learning app, STEP Starter Sack Early Years Home-Play programme and Young Voices film project. My ESRC funded PhD explored drawing as a research tool for accessing children’s perspectives on play within a social semiotic framework. Other research interests include multimodality, creative pedagogy, children’s practices of communication, and children's voice. I also have the role of knowledge exchange lead within the Social Justice and Inclusion thematic hub leadership team.


  • PhD in Education funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), School of Education, University of Stirling, June 2013
  • MSc in Forensic Psychology, Department of Psychology and Applied Health Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, 2007
  • BSc in Psychology, Department of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, 2002

Responsibilities & affiliations

Social Justice and Inclusion Hub Leadership Team, Knowledge Exchange Co-lead

SACHA project (ESRC IAA) advisory panel

Reviewer for ESRC project proposals 

Member of the Digital Families Research Network (CRFR, UoE)

Member of SERA Early Years Network

Reviewer for American Educational Research Journal

Reviewer for Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.

Reviewer for the Journal of Early Childhood Research.

Reviewer for the British Journal of Educational Technology.

Reviewer for the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.


Undergraduate teaching

2023/24 BSc in Primary Education - Cognitive and Social Child Development

Postgraduate teaching

2014/15 Taught on postgraduate MSc in Research Methods course – Sources of Knowledge REDU11046 SV1

Research summary

  • Visual and digital research methods
  • Children’s drawings
  • Play-based pedagogy
  • Creative teaching and learning
  • Learning with digital technology 
  • Meaning-making
  • Social semiotics
  • Multimodality

Project activity

  • STEP Starter Sack: Early years home-play programme to support engagement in play-based learning at home for nomadic communities
  • Digital Families Programme, supporting traditionally nomadic communitities engage in flexible digital learning (Scottish Government)
  • The STEP Digital Families Learning App (Scottish Government)
  • Young Voices cultural awareness project (Scottish Government)
  • Barriers to Solutions: Democratic citizenship for Gypsy/Traveller and Roma communities (Scottish Government)
  • RoMAp: The Roma multilingual app to support mobility and social change (ESRC & Scottish Government) 
  • Children and young people's practices around new media, digital technology and learning (Scottish Government)  
  • Sparking Creative Change, interactive seminar for knowledge exchange and collaboration, funded by CHASS Knowledge Exchange and Impact grant (University of Edinburgh) http://www.ed.ac.uk/arts-humanities-soc-sci/research-ke/support-for-staff/knowledge-exchange-resources/ke-projects 
  • Digital learning for mobile families: apps for literacy development
  • Young voices in mobile cultures: an exploration of identity, education and aspirations (Scottish Government)
  • Contextures of Mobilities and Immobilities (Phase 1: Family Literacy Programme) Scottish Government Equality Fund, (STEP, University of Edinburgh)
  • Understanding Transitions, Scottish Government Equality Fund (STEP, University of Edinburgh)
  • Digital technologies for infants: understanding parent-child interactions around iPads in the home learning context (MH Seedcorn Fund, University of Edinburgh)
  • Children and the Internet of Things (Challenge Investment Fund, University of Edinburgh)
  • Educating the under 3s: Characteristics of effective practice (University of Stirling)
  • Community Childminding: A model for early intervention, commissioned by the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) (University of Stirling)
  • Children’s Creative Thinking around Construction Resources: Using Self-Initiated iPad Video Reflections for Exploring Creativity in Preschool Settings (University of Strathclyde)
  • CBeebies online: Examining the learning benefits of CBeebies online content as an additional means for parents to support their children’s learning at home, commisioned by the BBC (University of Edinburgh)

View all 50 publications on Research Explorer

Duncan, P. ‘Using digital technology and creative approaches to foster new partnerships and dialgoue with mobile cultures’, Paper presented at the Sparking Creative Change seminar, Moray House, University of Edinburgh, UK, March 2016.

Arnott, L, Grogan, D & Duncan, P. 'Exploring children's creative play with traditional and technological construction resources' Paper presented at 24th European Early Childhood Educational Research Association Conference, Crete, Greece, Sept. 2014.

Duncan, P. & Arnott, L. “Piloting Self-Initiated Video Diaries with Young Children”, Paper presented at SERA Early Years annual network meeting, University of Stirling, UK, Sept. 2013.

Arnott, L., Grogan, D. & Duncan, P. 'Children as competent and autonomous research participants: piloting self-initiated video diaries to understand young children’s perspectives of creativity' Paper presented at European Early Childhood Educational Research Association Conference, Tallinn, Estonia, August 2013.

Duncan, P., Arnott, L. & Grogan, D. “Piloting Self-Initiated Video Reflections”, HASS, School of Education Seminar Series, University of Strathclyde, June 2013.

Duncan, P. “DIY Research- A Producer’s Guide: ‘What does learning look like?’” Workshop delivered to media producers, Children’s Media Conference, ESRC Festival of Social Science, London Knowledge Lab, UK, Nov. 2012.

Duncan, P. “The Application and Analysis of Young Children’s Drawings in Educational Research”, paper presented at BERA annual conference, University of Manchester, UK, Sept. 2012.

Duncan, P. “A 4-Step Approach to the Semiotic Analysis of Children’s Drawings”, Paper presented at the International Conference on Multimodality, Institute of Education, London, UK, Aug. 2012.

Duncan, P. “Using Drawings to Access the Child’s Perspective in Research”, Paper presented at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois, Illinois, USA, May 2012.

Duncan, P. “A Critical Review of Drawing as a Method of Accessing Children’s Perspectives in Educational Research”, Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, Vancouver, BC, Canada, April 2012.

Duncan, P. “Children’s Image-making: A Social Semiotic Lens”, Laboratory for Educational Theory, International Doctoral Summer School, University of Stirling, UK, March 2011

Duncan, P. “Children’s Perspectives on Play: Exploring Drawing as a Research Tool” Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA) annual conference, UK, Nov. 2011.