Professor Kate Pahl B.A., M.A., Cert Ed., Ph.D.

Photograph of Kate PahlProfessor of Literacies in Education
Tel: (+44) (0)114 222 8112
Fax: (+44) (0)114 279 6236
Room: 8.03, School of Education


Research Projects

Current Research Projects


Kate is the Principle Investigator of the AHRC/ESRC Connected Communities funded consortium ‘Imagine’ Project. The project is called, ‘The social, historical, cultural and democratic context of civic engagement: imagining different communities and making them happen.’ The shorter title of the project is ‘Imagine’. This is a Connected Communities Programme investment of £2.2M (funded by ESRC). Grant number ES/K002686/1.

The ‘Imagine’ programme is a five-year project running from 2013 to 2017 which brings together a range of different research projects working together across universities and communities. The universities involved include Kate Pahl at Sheffield (lead), Angie Hart at Brighton, Sarah Banks at Durham and Paul Ward at Huddersfield, with further involvement from the universities of Edinburgh, Kent, Birkbeck, Stirling, Westminster, Warwick, and partners from the University of Crete, University of Osnabruck, Germany, Dalhousie University, Canada and Malardalen University, Sweden. International partners include Etienne Wenger and Bev Traynor, Susan Hyatt, Indiana University, Harvinder Bedi, Development Support team, Pune, India, Eric Lassiter, Marshall University USA and Lynda Cheshire, University of Queensland, Australia.

Kate is leading the consortium, but also directs the Sheffield part of the project, which is on the ‘Cultural context of civic engagement’. With partners across the region, including The Hepworth Wakefield, Museums Sheffield, and the Site Gallery together with community partners in Rotherham including Rotherham Youth Service and local artists, poets and writers, this part of the project will explore how revisiting the past shapes imagining the future, with a focus on Park Hill flats, histories of the steel industry and textile industry in Rotherham, literary and aesthetic explorations for better imagined futures and work with young people to develop new ways of creating hopeful visions.

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Taking Yourselves Seriously

Kate Pahl has been awarded £78,895 from AHRC follow on funding for a project called ‘Taking Yourselves Seriously: artistic approaches to social cohesion’. This aims to explore how artistic methodologies contribute to social cohesion, drawing on a previous project that looked at what artists did when they worked with communities. The project has been developed collaboratively with ARVAC (Association for Research with the Voluntary and Community sector) and Sheffield City Council and Rotherham MBC social cohesion teams. The project team will work in three settings: Pitsmoor Adventure Playground in Sheffield, Clifton School in Rotherham and Rotherham United Community Sports Trust, to develop an understanding of how artistic methodologies can support and develop spaces for social cohesion in community and educational contexts. We aim to produce a set of resources informed by artistic methodologies for community researchers to use to support social cohesion in communities.

The project team includes poets Andrew Mcmillan and Helen Mort, artists Steve Pool and Zahir Rafiq, cohesion advisors Mike Fitter (Sheffield) and Waheed Akhter (Rotherham), Mark Payne and Anthony Williams from the School of Education together with Zanib Rasool, (Rotherham United Community Sports Trust) Patrick Meleady (Pitsmoor Adventure Playground) and critical friend and advisor John Diamond, Edge Hill University with Katy Goldstraw RA, also Edge Hill University, Kate Pahl is PI. The project will run from the 1st February 2017 for one year.

For more information please email:

Previous Research Projects

Ways of Neighbourhood Working and Knowing: ESRC seminar series. Kate is Co-I on a seminar series looking at ways of knowing in neighbourhoods. She recently organized a seminar called Ways of knowing in neighbourhood working: Policy V. Zine’ – St Mary’s Church, Sheffield, 1st October 2015

Co-producing legacy: What is the role of artists within Connected Communities projects? Kate is the PI on this research project which will explore how artists work within the AHRC Connected Communities programme. The programme has encouraged arts and humanities academics to work in different ways with communities to co-produce research across a range of disciplines. Many academics have worked with artists to realize ideas and help with a community engaged approach to research. At the same time artists have framed, challenged and theoretically informed engaged research. Helen Graham, Steve Pool and Amanda Ravetz make up the project team. The team will work with Castlefield Art Gallery, A-N The Artists Information Company, Arts Council England and the AHRC Connected Communities leadership fellows to generate and disseminate findings. The project lasts for one year, from February 2014 to June 2015 and is an AHRC Connected Communities development grant.

Community Arts Zone: Kate is a co-applicant with Dr Jennifer Rowsell, Brock University and Kris Gutierrez, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA in a project called Community Arts Zone funded by SSHRC Canada. The proposed research will be conducted across four contexts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Set within economically struggling and disadvantaged communities (Boulder, CO; Rochester, USA; Rotherham, UK, and St. Catharines, ON), the research teams in each context will complete arts projects and multimodal units of study across age and grade levels through community partnerships. Built on the concept of modal learning, researchers in each context will participate in arts initiatives that ask children and youth to develop expertise in different modes of expression and representation. The project will run from July 2013 to end June 2015.

Research for Community Heritage - Portals to the Past: Kate was involved with the All Our Stories Research for Community Heritage AHRC/HLF project as a co-investigator. Bob Johnston, archaeology, was the PI. This involved supporting a project called ‘Portals to the Past’. Young people in Rawmarsh worked with song writer Ray Hearne, together with academics from the University of Sheffield, the local archives, libraries, Youth Service and schools to explore the heritage of Rawmarsh through literary texts, archaeology, drama, poetry and visual art.

Communication wisdom: a study of the uses of fishing in youth work. This was a joint project with the School of English at Sheffield and Johan Siebers from the University of Central Lancashire. The aim was to better understand how the reflective space of fishing provides a place for the intergenerational communication of a specific type of know-how that is still important today: wisdom. Working with the youth service in Rotherham, this project re-engaged young people in intergenerational learning and wisdom and enabled them to reflect on the complex meanings that lie dormant beneath the surface of a familiar activity. The project was funded through the AHRC Connected Communities programme from February 2013 to January 2014.

Transmitting Musical Heritage: Kate was the PI on a project with Fay Hield, Music and Richard Steadman-Jones, School of English. The research was delivered through a process of co-production involving three researchers from the music department (Dr Fay Hield, John Ball and David Judge) working alongside three community music organisations in Sheffield - Soundpost, Babel Songs and Arts on the Run. The research was funded by the AHRC’s Connected Communities research programme and runs from February 2013 – end January 2014. To find out more about this project see the Transmitting Musical heritage website. The film can be watched here, which was shown at the AHRC Connected Communities Summit in July 2013.

Ways of Knowing: Kate is involved in the ‘Ways of Knowing’ project which is funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme from February 2013 for one year. This project will be exploring the different ‘ways of knowing’ which emerge from collaborative, participatory or action research. For more information about this project visit our blog:

Making Meaning Differently: Policy Briefing: Community Governance in an Age of Decentralisation. Kate was asked to prepare a policy briefing and a film for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on representation in community governance. People from community groups with different perspectives and experiences shaped the research. Her project involved working with a group of young people from Rawmarsh to make films about representation. The project ran from November 2012 – end April 2013 and was funded through the AHRC’s Connected Communities Programme. See The final report.

Language as Talisman: Kate was awarded a Development Grant from February - November 2012 from the AHRC's Connected Communities programme to do a study called Language as Talisman in partnership with the Youth Service in Rotherham together with Jane Hodson, Richard Steadman-Jones and Hugh Escott, from the English Department at the University of Sheffield, as well as David Hyatt, School of Education. The project focused on language in community contexts and included a research review of the literature on language and dialect in Rawmarsh, Rotherham as well as a community project to engage families and young people in creating stories, poems, films and other linguistic forms on the theme of language in the community. You can see the report here:

Every Object Tells a Story: Kate was also involved in the Every Object Tells a Story project, which was funded through the AHRC Diasporas Migration and Identities Research programme.



The experience of being on Kate’s courses is to become immersed in visual, ethnographic, participatory and innovative approaches to research. Students understand the field of literacy and language in relation to communities, identities and creativities. All courses taught by Kate encourage a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary approach to the subject of literacy and language in home and community contexts.

Kate directs the EdD in Literacy and Language. This is an exciting doctoral programme that gives students a research-led approach to studying literacy and language using theory from a wide variety of sources. Literacy is understood as a situated social practice, linked to space, place and identity. Kate’s contribution is to develop research skills that are visual, participatory and creative, so that students can develop their own research projects in community settings. Her research students work in the areas of visual methodologies, the New Literacy Studies, ethnography, multilingualism, multimodality, creativity, museums and art education.


  • On the editorial board of Literacy, the UKLA journal (Blackwells)
  • On the editorial board of The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy (Sage)
  • On the Editorial Review Board for Reading Research Quarterly.
  • On the Editorial Review Board for Language Arts

View full list of publications