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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith, CELTA, BSc, MA, PhD, PGCert, FHEA

Assistant Professor in the School of Education
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 40177
Room number: ED128
Telephone: 0191 334 0177

Contact Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith (email at


I joined the School of Education at Durham University in 2018. Prior to this I was Senior Research Fellow in the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth at the University of Warwick, where I completed my PhD and Research Excellence Academy Fellow in the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University. I have worked on a range of projects funded by the ESRC, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Nuffield Foundation amongst others and carried out research consultancy for organisations including Nord Anglia Education Ltd and the Bridge Group.

Drawing on my multi-disciplinary background (anthropology, literary studies, sociology) my work primarily utilises critical sociology of education to focus on educational identities, progression, and contexts, with a social justice focus. My research is characterised by an anti-reductionist stance to educational questions, emphasising the importance of evaluative, relational and contextual dimensions of education. In my research I am often concerned to foster dialogue and integrated theorising across domains and approaches, as one route to linking social, philosophical and policy concerns in education. I am motivated to develop real-world applications of this research to foster inclusive learning opportunities across the life course. My research experience to date has led to particular areas of expertise in educational inequalities and inclusion, progressive understandings of academic ability and gifted education, and the development of inclusive digital learning platforms, particularly through the application of narrative pedagogy, and visual and transformative learning theories.

I have a particular interest in the epistemic and methodological affordances of narrative and auto/biographical approaches to educational questions. I am a member of the Scientific Committee of the Life History and Biography Network of the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) and I created the NCL+ Advanced Award in Digital Storytelling at Newcastle University. A current EIT Health funded project, A Narrative Approach to Improve Citizen’s Ageing and Well-being, uses narrative-based learning in the field of healthcare education. This European consortium has been awarded funding for a further two years until December 2020:

Information for prospective doctoral students

I welcome enquiries from potential postgraduate research students interested in any of these areas: sociology of education, social inequalities/widening participation to university, social mobility and intergenerational transmission, psychosocial theory, epistemology of educational research, gifted education and academic ability, education policy, narrative-based learning and inquiry, adult and lifelong learning, healthcare education.

Indicators of Esteem

  • Advisory board membership: Emerald Open Research, Journal of Global Education and Research.:
  • Awards and nominations: BERA award-winning symposium, Community Led Educational Reform: looking at school engagement, out of school activities, co-defining a future and responding to poverty (2017); twice nominated for Research Supervisor of the Year (Newcastle University 2018).
  • External PhD examining: Cumbria, Canterbury Christ Church.
  • Grant reviewing: HEFCE Catalyst N8 Policing Research Partnerships Small Grants Round (2016-17).:
  • Honorary positions: Visiting Fellow, University of Warwick Institute of Education (2010-2012); Honorary Research Fellow, University of Cumbria Faculty of Education (2012-2015).
  • Invited presentations:

    'Poverty Proofing the School Day', Leeds Beckett (2017); Giftedness and the logic of neoliberalism: economic value as a determinant of expectations’, Institute for Research in Social Phenomena, University of Samara, Russia (2017); 'Research with young people - negotiating gatekeepers’, Youth Matters Conference, Newcastle University,(2016); ‘Narrative methods in educational Research: family practices and beliefs in relation to academic giftedness’, Teacher Education Advancement Network Conference, University of Cumbria(2013).

  • Reviewing: Routledge, Emerald, Sage, Thinking Skills and Creativity, International Journal of Research and Method in Education, International Studies in the Sociology of Education, European Educational Research Journal, Gifted and Talented International.:
  • Scientific committee membership: European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Life History and Biography Network. :


Research Interests

  • Sociology of Education
  • Education Policy
  • Gifted Education
  • Narrative and Auto/biographical Methods
  • Adult education

Research Groups

Research Projects


Journal Article

Authored book

  • Mazzoli Smith, L. & Campbell, R. J. (2012). Families, Education and Giftedness: Case Studies in the Construction of High Achievement. Sense.

Chapter in book


  • Mazzoli Smith, L, Tiplady, L, Todd, L & Wysocki, L (2020). Fighting against poverty: Case studies of school action. Poverty Proofing the School Day evaluation update 2019/20. Newcastle University.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L. & Todd, L. (2016). Poverty Proofing the School Day: Evaluation and Development Report. Newcastle upon Tyne, Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University.
  • Laing, K., Mazzoli Smith, L. & Todd, L. (2015). Evaluation of Gateshead MASH: Final report. Newcastle University.
  • Laing, K. & Mazzoli Smith, L. (2015). Supporting the Progression of Looked After Young People to University: Evaluation of the Choices Together Programme. Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle University.
  • Laing, K., Mazzoli Smith, L. & Todd, L. (2014). Fair or Foul? Towards practice and policy in fairness in education: short report. Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle University.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L. & Eyre, D. (2011). Survey of Overseas Gifted Education Centres (Identification and Programmes). Nord Anglia Education Ltd.
  • Muijs, R. D., Mazzoli Smith, L., Hewston, R. & Campbell, R. J. (2007). The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY): Second Annual Post-18 Survey of Students. Occasional Paper No. 20. University of Warwick.
  • Robinson, W., Campbell, R. J. & Mazzoli Smith, L. (2006). Developing Expertise: School-based Case Studies. Occasional Paper No. 12. University of Warwick.
  • Campbell, R. J., Muijs, R. D., Mazzoli Smith, L., Hewston, R., Neelands, J., Robinson, W. & Eyre, D. (2006). Engagement with School, Identity and Self-esteem: Some Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Students in England. Occasional Paper No. 11. University of Warwick.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L., Campbell, R. J., Eyre, D., Muijs, R. D., Neelands, J. & Robinson, W. (2006). The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth: Pilot Survey of Members’ Parents, Occasional Paper No. 9. University of Warwick.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L., Campbell, R. J. & Hewston, R. (2006). The Second Annual Survey of the Workloads and Support Needs of Gifted and Talented Coordinators in Secondary Schools in England. Occasional Paper No. 15. University of Warwick.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L., Campbell R. J. & Muijs, R. D. (2006). What’s so Different about Gifted and Talented Students? Gifted and Talented Students and Psychosocial Adjustment. University of Warwick.
  • Mazzoli Smith, L., Campbell, R. J., Eyre, D., Muijs, R. D., Neelands, J. & Robinson, W. (2005). The First Annual Survey of NAGTY Students, Occasional Paper No. 7. University of Warwick.