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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Dr Jonathan Tummons

Associate Professor, Deputy Head of School in the School of Education

Contact Dr Jonathan Tummons (email at


I am an ethnographer of education, and am interested in using ethnographic methods to explore the everyday practices of students and teachers in a variety of contexts in higher and further education.

My current research draws on the recent work of Bruno Latour (his Modes of Existence project) within education research (I have written blogs about this ongoing research which you can find here and here). I have published extensively in this field and the most recent papers can be found here and here. Other elements of my work also draws on communities of practice theory (the focus of my latest book, Learning Architectures in Higher Education); and actor-network theory (my most recent work using ANT can be found here.)

I am currently co-investigator for two funded projects: "Becoming a Professional Through Distributed Learning: a Sociomaterial Ethnography" - a three-year research project led by Professor Anna MacLeod, Dalhousie University, CA, funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and "Cadaver as Practice" - also led by Anna MacLeod and funded by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In this research, we are using extensive amounts of video as well as textual data of medical students' practice to explore how they learn in clinical and simulated contexts.

Between 2013 and 2016, I acted as co-investigator for "Medical Education in a Digital Age: an institutional ethnography". This was a three-year research project led by Professor Anna MacLeod, Dalhousie University, CA, funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This project explored the ways in which a medical education curriculum can be delivered on a distributed basis across two campuses using a range of technologies. Project details can be viewed at:

I also research and write about professionalism and professional standards in teacher education, with specific reference to the post-compulsory education sector in England. This is the focus of a book that I have recently edited. My research has recently been featured in a report from the OECD (you can download the OECD report here.) I am a member of the Ofsted Further Education and Skills Research Reference Group, a platform to inform and advise concerning research relevant to the Ofsted inspection framework for the Further Education and Skills sector: you can read the first report from the group here.) I am also a member of the advisory panel for the Ofsted reliability study for assessing the quality of provision within Further Education colleges.

I am currently teaching postgraduate modules relating to social theory, curriculum theory, and qualitative research methodologies.

I sit on the organising committee for the Oxford Ethnography and Education conference, and am happy to hear from anyone who is interested in presenting their work there.

Completed supervisions

‘Fish out of water?’ A case study exploring low-income students’ experiences of an elite university.

The Study of Teacher Written Feedback: The Effectiveness of Electronic Feedback on Student Writing Revisions.

Graduating from care: A narrative study of care leavers' journeys into and through university

The Formative Potential of Standards-Based Grades and Report Cards.

Information for prospective doctoral research student supervisions

I would be pleased to hear from potential research students with an interest in conducting research in matters relating to learning, teaching and/or assessment in further, higher or adult education; I am also interested to hear from prospective students who are interested in employing communities of practice, literacy as social practice or actor-network theory approaches within these or other subject areas.

Indicators of Esteem

  • Editing:

    I am an associate editor for Higher Education Research and Development, and for Review of Education.

    I am also a member of the editorial boards for Ethnography and Education, for Research in Post-Compulsory Education and for Studies in the Education of Adults.

  • External Examining and Advising:

    I have recently examined PhD and EdD theses at the universities of East Anglia, Exeter, Huddersfield, Lancaster, Leicester, Plymouth, and Griffith [Australia]. Other external roles include: University of Central Lancashire (external examiner for Doctorate in Education); Universities of Derby and Greenwich (external examiner for PGCE (PCET)); Open University (external advisor for Childhood and Youth qualifications); Institute of Risk Management (external advisor for professional qualifications).

  • Invited Conference Papers:

    Curriculum as Accomplishment: Tracing human and non-human actors in the delivery of educational curricula. Presented at Le Sujet de L’Acteur. An anthropological outlook on Actor Network Theory. Centre for Advanced Studies, Univeristy of Cologne, 2013. The papers from this symposium were published in 2014 and details are available here.

    Breaking Boundaries? Interdisciplinary perspectives on using technology for learning and participation in society [ESRC-funded seminar series]. Department of Education and Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, 2014.

    ICTs and the Internet as Field and Framework. Presented at Rethinking Educational Ethnography. University of Borås, 2015. Selected papers from this conference were published in 2017 and details are available here.

  • Peer reviewing:

    Studies in Higher Education; Higher Education Research and Development; International Journal of Educational Research; Ethnography and Education; Culture, Pedagogy and Society; Research in Post-Compulsory Education; Medical Education.

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy:


Research Interests

  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Communities of Practice
  • Further, Higher and Adult Education
  • Modes of Existence
  • Professional learning and development

Research Groups

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Authored book

  • Tummons, J. & Ingleby, E. (2014). The A-Z of Lifelong Learning. McGraw Hill: Maidenhead.
  • Tummons, J., Orr, K. & Atkins, L. (2013). Teaching Higher Education Courses in Further Education Colleges. SAGE/Learning Matters: London.
  • Curzon, L.B. & Tummons, J. (2013). Teaching in Further Education: an outline of principles and practice. Continuum: London.
  • Tummons, J. & Duckworth, V. (2012). Doing your research project in the Lifelong Learning Sector. McGraw Hill, Maidenhead.
  • Duckworth, V., Flanagan, K., McCormack, K & Tummons, J. (2012). Understanding Behaviour 14+. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill.
  • Tummons, J. (2011). Assessing Learning in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Exeter: Learning Matters.
  • Powell, S. & Tummons, J. (2011). Inclusive Practice in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Learning Matters; Exeter.
  • Tummons, J. (2010). Becoming a Professional Tutor in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Exeter: Learning Matters.
  • Duckworth, V. & Tummons, J. (2010). Contemporary Issues in Lifelong Learning. McGraw Hill: Maidenhead.
  • Tummons, J. (2009). Curriculum Studies in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Learning Matters; Exeter.

Edited book


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • Kits, O., Angus, C., Macleod, A & Tummons, J. (2013), Open access to qualitative grant data in an interdisciplinary Canadian ethnographic research study, 12: 19th Qualitative Health Research Conference. University of Alberta, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, University of Alberta, Edmonton 785-786.

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