Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Contact Details

Research Students

Dr Ruth Swanwick

Associate Professor in Deaf Education

I am an Associate Professor in Deaf Education and a member of the Childhood and Inclusive Education Academic Team. My research and teaching centres on deafness, language and learning and the development of pedagogies and professional understanding in deaf education. I am particularly interested in bimodal bilingual learning in deaf children and what this area of research can contribute to modern language teaching and research. 

Research Interests

My research centres on deafness, language and learning and the development of pedagogies and practitioner understanding. I am interested in deaf children's bimodal and bilingual language experience and the use and the role of sign language in education. I have published on deafness and bilingualism from a teaching and learning perspective and guest edited three Journals ‘special issues’ on this topic. My funded research includes a collaborative ESRC funded project looking at deaf children's early literacy experiences in the home. I led a Nuffield funded project on the role of sign language for deaf children with cochlear implants and a British Academy project on approaches to critical thinking and reflective practice across the national training provision for teachers of the deaf.  My current work centres on the development of a theoretical model of bimodal bilingualism and learning which situates deafness and language learning within a plural view of language and culture in society. I have secured a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to take this work forwards.  


I am programme leader for the MA in Deaf Education in the School of Education. I teach and assess all of the modules for this programme and coordinate regional training and support for the programme tutors. The MA in Deaf Education is an on-line distance education course leading to the mandatory Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) qualification. This programme recruits nationally and prepares suitably qualified deaf and hearing practitioners to work with deaf students across a range of educational settings.

PhD Supervision

I wish to encourage research students (EdD or PhD) to work with me on topics related to deafness, language and learning. This includes deaf children’s language development, literacy, learning and bimodal bilingual pedagogies as well as the development of professional roles and expertise in deaf education.

Key Publications

Journal Articles

  • Swanwick, R., Kitchen, R., Jarvis, J., McCracken, W., O'Neil, R., & Powers, S. (2013) “Following Alice: theories of critical thinking and reflective practice in action at postgraduate level.”, Teaching in Higher Education,. : 1-14.

    Published online: 11 Sep 2013.

    This paper presents a flexible framework of principles for teaching critical thinking and reflective practice skills at the postgraduate level. It reports on a collaborative project between four UK institutions providing postgraduate programmes in deaf education. Through a critical review of current theories of critical thinking and reflective practice in higher education, the authors identified and constructed frameworks of principles for relevant skills. They selected a set of learning activities for the institutions to trial to target those skills. Students evaluated how successfully the activities promoted the skills. The investigators evaluate the methodology and provide a critique of the framework of principles. Findings reveal that the framework of principles is a robust model for the development, design and evaluation of bespoke learning activities targeting critical thinking and reflective practice skills.

  • Swanwick RA; Kitchen R; Clarke PJ (2012) “Practitioner Talk on Deaf Children's Reading comprehension: Analysing Multiple Voices”, Deafness and Education International. 14.2: 100-120.

  • Swanwick RA; Marschark M (2010) “Enhancing Education for Deaf Children: Research into Practice and Back Again”, Deafness & Education International,. Vol. 12.No. 4: 217-235.

    Decades of research on educational and basic scientific questions relating to deaf children have yielded a wealth of knowledge about how they learn and develop as thinking, social, problem-solving individuals. However, we currently lack channels for communication from teachers to researchers about the priorities in education and from researchers to teachers about scientific progress that might be effectively utilized in the learning context. As a result, research often fails to address educational priorities, knowledge gained from relevant investigations is rarely translated into practice, and decision-making is often governed by administrative expedience rather than evidence. To address this situation, this paper identifies the current research priorities relating to deaf education and research outcomes that appear likely to have a significant impact on the development of educational practice. Practitioner priorities also are identified, and explanations for the gap between research and practice are analyzed. Ways in which the gaps between research and practice can be addressed are proposed. The goal is to provide a catalyst for broad-based discussions about how to include teachers in educational research planning and create genuine and effective partnerships between researchers and teachers to enhance educational outcomes for deaf pupils.

  • Swanwick RA (2010) “Policy and practice in sign bilingual education: development, challenges and directions,”, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 13.2: 147-158.

  • Watson L; Swanwick R (2008) “Parents' and teachers' views on deaf children's literacy at home: do they agree?”, Deafness & Education International. 10.1: 22-39.

    This paper compares the views of parents and teachers of the deaf on deaf children's literacy at home. We made DVD recordings of 12 young deaf children (aged 3-5) sharing books with their parents at home. Six families used British Sign Language (BSL) as their main means of communication and for interacting around books, and six used spoken language. Each dyad shared one book of their choice and they all shared Where's My Teddy? (Alborough, 2002), which was a book chosen by the researchers. One month later, the parents were shown the recording and asked for their views on it and on their child's literacy development. The teacher of the deaf working with each family was shown the same recording and asked similar questions. Results revealed that the parents and teachers of the deaf held some views in common, but focused on different aspects of literacy development. Implications for practice include developing a shared understanding of the routes to literacy that individual deaf children will follow

  • Swanwick RA; Watson L (2007) “Parents sharing books with young deaf children in spoken English and in BSL: The common and diverse features of different language settings”, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 12.3: 385-405.

  • Swanwick RA; Swanwick R; Clarke P; Kitchen R “A design-based approach for research into deaf children’s reading comprehension”, Hillary Place Papers. 1.1

    Author URL [hpp.education.leeds.ac.uk]

    Design-based methodologies provide a paradigm for educational research which enables us to see beyond what is or is not working, to develop practices and interventions that ‘work better’ (Kelly et al., 2008, p3). This paper explains the design-based methodology and explores the use of this approach to research deaf children’s reading comprehension in order to make a significant contribution to theory and impact on practice. The research context is presented and current paradigms are reviewed. The issues of researching deafness and reading in a way which takes into account the resources of the individuals and the potential of the context are illustrated and a rationale for using a design-based model is presented. The paper examines and reflects on the use of this methodology for investigating deafness and reading comprehension drawing on a current work in progress into Deafness and Reading for Meaning (DreaM) at the University of Leeds.


  • Swanwick RA; Swanwick R; Dammeyer J; Hendar O; Kristoffersen A; Salter J; Simonsen E (2014) “Shifting contexts and practices in sign bilingual education in northern Europe”, In: Marschark M; Knoors H; Tang G (eds.) Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Oxford University Press. 465-494

© Copyright Leeds 2015