Ambition Institute launches new research team

March 9, 2023

Introducing our new research team, led by Dr Sam Sims, to advance our collective knowledge of what makes for effective professional development and how we can tackle educational inequality through expert teaching and leadership.

The quality of teaching makes the biggest difference to what a child achieves. And the evidence points to professional development being a cost-effective and sustainable way to help teachers and leaders to keep getting better, and improve outcomes for their pupils (Zuccollo and Fletcher-Wood, 2020).

But there is still more to learn about what makes teaching and school leadership truly effective, and there are gaps in the evidence on what works in professional development.

Evidence is at the heart of what we do at Ambition, so to help address these gaps we have established a new research team. We will work with partners and educators to answer important questions facing the sector, help teachers and leaders to address disadvantage, and show the impact of evidence-informed teaching.

Meet the new team

  • Dr Sam Sims – Research Lead

Sam joins Ambition alongside his role at the UCL Institute of Education, where he is a quantitative education researcher. Sam has been widely published in journals including Learning and Instruction; the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness; and American Educational Research Journal. (@Drsamsims)

  • Dr Briony Banks – Senior Research Scientist

Briony is a cognitive psychologist, with research interests in learning, concepts and language. Her research has been published in journals including Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; Cognitive Science; and Behaviour Research Methods. (@BanksBriony)

  • Dr Stefanie Meliss – Senior Research Scientist

Stefanie is a cognitive scientist, with research interests in motivation, memory and data science. Her research has been published in journals including Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience; Frontiers in Psychiatry; and Behaviour Research Methods. Alongside her role at Ambition Institute, she also works at the University of Reading. (@Stefaniemeliss)

  • Jen Curran – Research Scientist

Jen is a social scientist, with research interests in how good professional development can improve retention and wellbeing for teachers. Jen is currently conducting doctoral research in education at Northumbria University, and also teaches on Ambition Institute programmes and at Northumbria University. (@jennimc_d)

The team is supported by existing research and design expertise from Jennifer Barker, Senior Dean of Learning Design and Research; Hannah Cheetham-Joshi, Dean of Impact; and Peps Mccrea, Dean of Learning Design.

Our first piece of research looks at the benefits of modelling in teacher professional development, with actionable insights for teacher educators across the sector. The full research paper will be released on 14 March.