St John’s professor receives lifetime achievement award for career in educational research

"The John Nisbet Fellowship particularly recognises those whose work has informed the improvement of policy and practice"

The St John’s winner of the world’s largest education prize has been given a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to educational research.

Professor Usha Goswami, who is a global leader in literacy research and was awarded with the $3.9 million Yidan Prize in March, has received the John Nisbet Fellowship from the British Educational Research Association (BERA).

A Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education and a Fellow of St John’s College, Professor Goswami began her career as a trainee primary school teacher. Her world-leading work on dyslexia has enabled educators to design different teaching methods and tools to help children with special needs to learn languages more effectively.

Professor Usha Goswami

She said: “I am delighted to be judged by BERA as having made an outstanding contribution to educational research over my career. Since training as a primary school teacher, I have always tried to make my research relevant to the classroom. So to be selected by the premier body for educational research in the UK as exemplifying research that improves educational practice and contributes to the public benefit is a signal honour.”

BERA has awarded the John Nisbet Fellowship since 2014 to one or more people who are deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to educational research over their career. Named in honour of the organisation’s first President, the award recognises individuals who exemplify BERA’s commitment to encouraging educational research and its application for the improvement of practice and public benefit. Professor Goswami is one of only two recipients this year. There have only been 14 previous winners, including two other Cambridge academics, Professor Andrew Pollard and Professor Mary James.  

BERA Chief Executive Nick Johnson said: “BERA is delighted to make this award to Usha Goswami reflecting her distinguished contribution to research throughout her career. As well as recognising her outstanding research career, the John Nisbet Fellowship particularly recognises those whose work has informed the improvement of policy and practice.”

The award was due to be presented next month at the BERA Conference at the University of Liverpool, but the event is cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead Professor Goswami has recorded a podcast with BERA President Professor Dominic Wyse in which they discuss her research into children’s cognitive development. A particular focus of her research is on the relations between phonology and reading, with special reference to rhyme, rhythm and analogy in reading acquisition, and rhyme and rhythm processing in dyslexic and deaf children’s reading. 

The Yidan Prize was founded in 2016 by Dr Charles Chen Yidan, a founder of the internet-based technology and cultural enterprise Tencent, and is the world’s most generous prize in education research and education development. Yidan Prize Laureates each receive a gold medal and an award of US $3.9 million, half of which is a cash prize while the other half forms a research project fund.

The BERA podcast with Professor Goswami

The John Nisbet Fellowship winners

Published: 27/08/2020

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