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Alison Twiner


Research Associate

E-mail Address


  • PhD The Open University, 2008-2011
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology: (First) Loughborough University, 1999-2002

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Member of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction

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I am a Research Associate currently working on the ‘Virtual Internships Project’ (VIP, 2019-2021). Together with industry partners, this project is exploring how technology can be used to engage young people meaningfully with the world of work, particularly working with schools in areas of low social mobility.

I also work as a Research Associate at the Open University, within the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. Whilst at the OU I have worked on a number of ESRC-funded projects, exploring the educational use of interactive whiteboards, and of portable technologies on school field trips (EPSRC), the language of organic food promotion and the school dinners debate, and social work writing practices.

I locate my work at the intersection of Psychology and Education. My work contributes to new sociocultural research around re-theorising meaning-making trajectories as considered through close attention to interactions and exchanges which are intended, and those that are instantiated. Such a view is rendered salient by a dialogic view of educational interactions as a process.

Academic Area/Links

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Research Topics

My research interests focus on the language and interactions used for meaning making, predominantly in the context of teaching and learning interactions, which is a big challenge for contemporary education in the 21st Century. I am also interested in the use of technology, as well as the use of dance, in facilitating and resourcing meaning-making activity. I have expertise in analysing the processes of language and communication in knowledge building. Specifically, I have developed an approach to data analysis incorporating sociocultural discourse analysis and multimodal analysis, to allow attention to the detail of interactive exchanges, whilst also being able to explore changes, developments and contributions and who initiates such moments as they evolve over time. Such an approach allows attention to the mediational means within communication, including the use of technologies, and how concepts of provisionality and revisitability are enacted in the classroom.

Although the bulk of my work has been located within a formal educational context, I have also more recently taken the opportunity to explore meaning-making processes in the applied and professional context of social work writing. As my own expertise lie in Psychology, I have also worked in teams of Applied Linguists, to address issues of contemporary concern and debate, around school dinners and organic food promotion, and writing in social work practice.

Current Research Project(s)

  • 2019-2021: Virtual Internships Project (VIP). (Funded by BT and Huawei)

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Principal and Recent Publications

Leedham, M., Lillis, T. & Twiner, A. (under review) Exploring the core ‘preoccupation’ of social work writing: A corpus-assisted discourse study. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies.

Lillis, T., Leedham, M. & Twiner, A. (2019). ‘If it’s not written down it didn’t happen’: Contemporary social work as a writing intensive profession. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice. (in press)

Whitelock, D., Twiner, A., Richardson, J.T.E., Field, D. & Pulman, S. (2018). What does a "good" essay look like? Rainbow diagrams representing essay quality. Proceedings of TEA Conference 2017, Springer.

Whitelock, D., Twiner, A., Richardson, J.T.E., Field, D. & Pulman, S. (2015). OpenEssayist: A supply and demand learning analytics tool for drafting academic essays. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, ACM, pp. 208–212.

Twiner, A., Littleton, K., Coffin, C. & Whitelock, D. (2014). Meaning making as an interactional accomplishment: A temporal analysis of intentionality and improvisation in classroom dialogue. International Journal of Educational Research, 63, 94-106.

Gaved, M., Collins, T., Mulholland, P., Kerawalla, L., Jones, A., Scanlon, E., Littleton, K., Blake, C., Petrou, M., Clough, G. & Twiner, A. (2010). Using netbooks to support mobile learners’ investigations across activities and places. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(3), 187-200.

Twiner, A., Coffin, C., Littleton, K. & Whitelock, D. (2010). Multimodality, orchestration and participation in the context of classroom use of the interactive whiteboard: A discussion. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 19(2), 211-223.

Littleton, K., Twiner, A. & Gillen, J. (2010). Orchestration with the interactive whiteboard. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 5(2), 130-141.

Twiner, A., Cook, G. & Gillen, J. (2009). Overlooked issues of religious identity in the school dinners debate. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(4), 473-488.

Gillen, J., Littleton, K., Twiner, A., Kleine Staarman, J. & Mercer, N. (2008). Using the interactive whiteboard to resource continuity and support multimodal teaching in a primary science classroom. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(4), 348-358.