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Bill Nicholl


University Lecturer Design & Technology Education

Academic Groups

E-mail Address



  • BEd (Hons) Middlesex University
  • MA Design Middlesex University


  • Contribution to Design and Technology Working Group on recent reforms of both GCSEs and A-Levels, 2015.
  • Nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in February 2009 for research in D&T Education. One of the FRSA advisors on Design and Education.
  • Editorial Board member: Design and Technology: An International Journal, since 2008.
  • Currently External examiner for Goldsmith’s College, London. Previously an external examiner for Sheffield Hallam University, Middlesex University.
  • Member of Fritish Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • Member of European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI)
  • Member of NSEAD, DATA
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)

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Bill taught in two inner London Comprehensive Schools between 1991-2000 (six years as head of department). The work of his students quickly gained a national reputation at school level, winning numerous design awards see Bill-student-outcomes.pdf. He became a lecturer at The Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge in 2000, where he helped establish the Design and Technology PGCE course.

His research interests are centred around socio-cultural approaches to creativity and in particular the role of the teacher and design pedagogy. To this end he has been involved in several research projects, both within the UK and beyond see Research-Project-Details.pdf. His work has informed policy and practice within the UK where he has trained hundreds of teachers via CPD courses across many local education authorities.

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  • Creativity and related constructs (i.e. cognition, motivation)
  • Design pedagogy
  • Teacher beliefs
  • Pupil voice

Research Students

Bill supervises students from any of the Design disciplines (eg engineering, product, industrial, 3D, Architecture) and creative disciplines more generally whose research interests correspond to those in the above "Research interests" section.

Recent Research Projects

September 2011-October 2012. Co-investigator: engaging pupils in Inclusive design in Transition Year in Ireland. In partnership with Engineering Design Centre, Faculty of Engineering, University of Cambridge. Funded by Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, National Disability Authority, Ireland. 35k

July 2010-December 2011. Co-investigator of a research project looking at engaging pupils (11-16) in Inclusive Design. 200k EPSRC.

January 2010-March 2011. Principal Investigator. Investigating undergraduate engineering and art & design students and lecturers’ beliefs about creativity, and teaching and learning in Poland. 36k Autodesk Limited.

January 2005-10. Principle Investigator looking at Creative Problem Solving in Design & Technology at Secondary Level (11-16 years). 330k GATSBY Charitable Foundation.

September 2008-9 Evaluation of the Technology Enhancement Programme (TEP). 15k GATSBY Charitable Foundation.

Impact of Research

This research has had an impact on Policy and practice both nationally and internationally. See Research-Impact.pdf.

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Creativity, teaching and learning, research methods (on PGCE)


  • Lecturer responsible for the Design & Technology Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) Course. (link to PGCE Course below)
  • Masters in Education (Med) Research in Practice Thematic route, responsible for module elective entitled: Creativity, and teaching & learning.
  • Masters of Philosophy Course Arts, Culture and Education Thematic route
  • Supervise on all courses outlined above.

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Selected Publications

Refereed Journal articles

Nicholl, B., Flutter, J.A.E., Hosking, I.M. and Clarkson, P.J (forthcoming). Transforming practice in Design and Technology: evidence from a classroom-based research study of students’ responses to an intervention on inclusive design. The Curriculum Journal Routledge

Nicholl, B., Hosking, I., Elton, E., Lee, Y., Bell, J. & Clarkson, P. (2012) Inclusive design in the Key Stage 3 classroom: an investigation of teachers’ understanding and implementation of user-centred design principles in design and technology, International Journal of Technology and Design Education. Springer, Netherlands.Doi: 10.1007/s10798-012-9221-9

McLellan, R., & Nicholl, B. (2011). 'If I was going to design a chair, the last thing I would look at is a chair'. Product analysis and the causes of fixation in students' design work 11-16 years. International Journal of Technology and Design Education 21(1), 71-92

Nicholl, B. (2009) The epistemological differences between a teacher and researcher: A Personal Journey illustrating second order action research Design and Technology: An International Journal, Vo. 14 No3, pp21-36

McLellan, R., & Nicholl, B. (2009). ‘If I was going to design a chair, the last thing I would look at is a chair’. Product analysis and the causes of fixation in students’ design work 11-16 years. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, Springer Online First™, 17 December 2009

Nicholl, B., and McLellan, R. (2008) We're all in this game whether we like it or not to get a number of As to Cs.‚ Design and technology teachers' struggles to implement creativity and
performativity policies. British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 585–600

Nicholl, B., and McLellan, R. (2007) ‘Oh yeah, yeah you gets a lot of love hearts.  The Year 9s are notorious for love hearts.  Everything is love hearts’. Fixation in Pupils’ Design and Technology work (11-16 years). Design and Technology: An International Journal, Vol. 12 No1, pp21-36

Refereed International Book Chapters

Nicholl, B., and McLellan, R. (2009) ‘This isn’t my project [work].  It’s…just do it…you just do research’.  What student voice reveals about the nature of D&T lessons in English schools and the implications this has on their motivation and learning of complex tasks. In M. de Vries &  A. Jones (eds) International Handbook of Research and Development in Technology Education, SENSE

Nicholl, B. (2007) ‘I’ve Decided To Change and It’s Just Really Too Hard To, Like, Show Teachers That’ in D. Thiessen and A. Cook-Sather (eds) International Handbook of Student Experience in Elementary and Secondary School Springer


Finney, J., Hickman, R., Morrison, M., Nicholl, B., and Rudduck, J. (2005) Rebuilding Engagement through the Arts: Responding to disaffected students. Pearson

Peer-reviewed conference papers (recent)

Jones, P., Rodgers, P. A. and Nicholl, B. (2012), "Perceptions of Creativity amongst University Design Tutors", Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Design Creativity, 18 - 20 September 2012, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, published by The Design Society, Glasgow, pp. 287 - 296, ISBN 978-1-904670-39-1.