Professor Elizabeth Ann Wood, BA (Hons), PGCE, Certificate in the Advanced Study of Education, MEd, PhD

Staff profile photoProfessor of Education
Head of School
Tel: (+44) (0)114 222 8172
Fax: (+44) (0)114 222 8105
Room: 6.12, School of Education



Elizabeth’s fields of research and teaching include early childhood and primary education, focusing on the following themes: learning, pedagogy and curriculum; play and learning; policy analysis and critique (national and international); equity and diversity; teachers’ beliefs and practices; professionalism and critical perspectives in education. Within the theme of play, her research focuses on pedagogy and practice, the ways in which play has been captured in policy sites, and the construction of ‘educational play’. She draws on critical and post-structural theories to interrogate policy frameworks, and the ways in which teachers and children are positioned within policy discourses. A longstanding interest is children’s own play cultures, meanings and purposes, including how they exercise power and autonomy in different forms of play. Elizabeth is interested in respectful and ethical ways of researching and understanding play from children’s perspectives.

Because of international trends towards the expansion of early childhood and primary education, and continued interest in play and pedagogy, Elizabeth’s research aligns with colleagues in many different countries. She works with colleagues in New Zealand and Australia to develop socio-cultural approaches to researching and theorising contemporary issues such as professionalism, international policy-making and policy travel, and cultural understandings of play. She has worked with organisations such as the National Union of Teachers, and Education International to research issues of equity and diversity in policies and practices of teacher unions.



Elizabeth teaches on the MA in Early Childhood Education, and EdD programmes. She supervises EdD and PhD students in the fields of early childhood and primary education; teacher’s thinking and classroom practice; policy analysis; equity issues. She has supervised doctoral students from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brunei, Taiwan, as well as from the UK and Europe. This experience has enabled her to develop knowledge about different policy frameworks and understanding of contrasting cultural approaches to early childhood education and teacher development.

Other Experience

Elizabeth has worked on professional development action research projects with teachers in early childhood settings, primary and secondary schools, focusing on play, gender and achievement, literacy, learning in outdoor environments. She has also worked with educators in zoos, children’s museums and science museums to develop their educational provision for children.

  • Expert Panel member, Norwegian Educational Research Towards 2020, Research Council of Norway, (2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Consultant to Department for Children. Schools and Families in Learning, Playing and Interacting (curriculum guidance and professional development materials) (2009-10).
  • Consultant to National Curriculum Council (Eire) on curriculum guidance and professional development materials for Aistear (2010).
  • St Gallen Hauptschule, Switzerland. Consultant to research project on play and mathematical development (funded by the Research Council of Switzerland) 2008-10


  • Honorary Professor Stranmillis University College, Belfast
  • Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.
  • Member of editorial boards of the International Journal of Play; International Journal of Early Years Education.
  • Reviewer and rapporteur for the ESRC, Hong Kong Institute of Education Research Grants; Research Council of Norway.

Recent Funded Projects

  • 2015-16 How Initial teacher Education Prepares Teachers for Diversity in Classrooms, Report to European Commission, Public Policy and Management Institute. £9,000
  • 2015-17 New play pedagogies for teaching and learning in the early years, Australian Research Council, $AU 275,000, (EAW Co-I with Susan Edwards, PI, Joce Nuttall, (Australian Catholic University), Susan Grieshaber, (Monash University).
  • 2013-14 Videogames Research Networking: Developing videogames andplay for hospitalised children, Arts and Humanities Research Council (with Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice) £26,000
  • 2013-15 Transforming Disability, Culture and Childhood: Local, Global and Transdisciplinary Responses. UoS Transformative Social Science - Faculty Funding, £70,000 (with Profs Dan Goodley and Kathryn Ecclestone)
  • 2013 ESRC Festival of Social Sciences £1,700 (with Dr Dylan Yamada Rice)
  • 2013 Evaluation ‘Made in Sheffield’, University of Sheffield and Master Cutlers £10,0002011-12 Action Research Projects Teaching Schools Research and Development opportunity – TDA, £20,000
  • 2011-12 Action Research Projects Teaching Schools Research and Development opportunity – Teaching Development Agency for Schools.
  • 2009-11 ‘Equity Matters’, Education International £48,000
  • 2007 Developing play in the Wales Foundation Stage: an action research project. Wales General Teaching Council.
  • 2006 Developing Progression and Continuity in Play: an action research project. Cywmorth Children’s and Young peoples’ Partnership Research Grant, Wales.


Wood, E. (2013) Play, Learning and the Early Childhood Curriculum. London: Sage.

Wood, E. (2008) The Routledge Reader in Early Childhood Education. London: Routledge.

Broadhead, P., Howard, J.and Wood, E. (Eds) (2010) Play and learning in the early years, from research to practice. London: Sage.


Yahya, R. and Wood, E. (2016) Play as third space: bridging cultural discourses between home and school, Journal of Early Childhood Research. 10.1177/1476718X15616833 (Open Access)

Wood, E. and Hedges, H. (2016) Curriculum in Early Childhood Education: asking critical questions about content, coherence and control. The Curriculum Journal, DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2015.1129981 (Open Access)

Nuttall, J., Thomas, L. and Wood, E. (2013) Travelling policy reforms: re-configuring the work of early childhood educators in Australia. Special Issue on ‘Global transformations and educational work: Remaking the idea of a teaching occupation.’ Globalisation, Societies and Education.

Nuttall, J., Edwards, S., Lee, S., Wood, E., & Mantilla, A. (2013) The implications of young children’s digital-consumerist play for changing the kindergarten curriculum. Journal of Cultural -Historical Psychology, 2, 54-63.

Wood, E. (2013) Free play and free choice in early childhood education – troubling the discourse, International Journal of Early Years Education, DOI:10.1080/09669760.2013.830562

Fisher, J. and Wood, E. (2012) Changing educational practice in the early years through practitioner-led action research: an Adult-Child Interaction Project. International Journal of Early Years Education, DOI:10.1080/09669760.2012.715400

Wood, E. and Hall, E. (2011) Drawings as spaces for intellectual play. International Journal of Early Years Education, 1-15. DOI:10.1080/09669760.2011.642253

Wood, E. and Cook, J. (2009) Gender discourses and practices in role play activities: a case study of young children in the English Foundation Stage, Journal of Educational and Child Psychology, 26, 2, 19-30

Wood, E. (2009) Conceptualising a pedagogy of play: international perspectives from theory, policy and practice. In D. Kuschner (Ed) From Children to Red Hatters©. Diverse images and issues of play. Play and Culture Studies, Vol 8. Maryland: University Press of America.

Books Chapters

Wood, E. (2016) Interpretivist research in play: the illumination of complexity, in S. Farrell, S.L. Kagan, and E.K.M. Tisdall (Eds) The Sage Handbook of Early Childhood Research, London Sage. 291-303.

Wood, E. (2015) Beyond Ethics in In D. Yamada-Rice and E. Stirling (eds) Visual Methods with Children and Young People: Academics and visual Industries in Dialogue. Palgrave. 129-139

Wood, E. (2015) ‘I wonder why our dog has been so naughty?’ Thinking differently from the perspective of play, S. Robson and S. F. Quinn (Eds), Routledge International Handbook of Young Children’s Thinking and Understanding. Abingdon, Routledge . 19-30

Wood. E. (2015) The capture of play within policy discourses: a critical analysis of the UK frameworks for early childhood education. J.L. Roopnarine, M. Patte, J.E. Johnson and D. Kuschner (Eds) International Perspectives on Children’s Play. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Wood, E. (2013) The play-pedagogy interface in contemporary debates, in E. Brooker, S. Edwards, M. Blaise (Eds) The Sage Handbook on Play and Learning. London, Sage.

Wood, E. (2013) Contested concepts in educational play: a comparative analysis of early childhood policy frameworks in New Zealand and England. In J. Nuttall (Ed) Weaving Te Whāriki: Ten Years On. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Wood, E. (2010) Developing integrated pedagogical approaches to play and learning, in P. Broadhead,, J. Howard, and E. Wood, (Eds) Play and learning in the early years: from research to practice. pp 9-26
London: Sage.

Wood, E. (2010) The play and pedagogy relationship. In L. Brooker and S. Edwards, (Eds) Engaging Play. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Wood, E. (2009) Developing a Pedagogy of Play for the 21st century. In Early Childhood Education: Society and Culture, A. Anning, J. Cullen, and M. Fleer (Eds). London:Sage, 17-30 (2nd edition)

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