Head of autism research and development at Abbot’s Lea School is awarded a PhD

Abbot’s Lea School’s head of autism research and development has successfully completed her doctoral studies, with the award of the highest possible academic qualification, a PhD, further enhancing the school’s focus on research and evidence-based practice. 

Dr Sara Muršić completed her doctoral thesis titled ‘Exploring the implementation of augmented reality in primary schools: Research on engagement and experience of pupils associated with ADHD and their neurotypical peers in using augmented reality learning tools’. 

The aim of the research was to explore engagement and experience of learning with augmented reality (AR) learning game scenarios for pupils in Years 4-6 in four local primary schools. 

The research carefully analysed the interaction between pupils associated with the label of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and their peers on individual and collaborative tasks. The AR-enabled learning materials were designed to explore various levels of kinaesthetic elements and digital content and find optimal balance between the two. 

Dr Muršić, originally from Croatia, moved to Liverpool in 2017 to complete her PhD at Edge Hill University. Prior to this, she was studying in Latvia where she gained a master’s degree in educational treatment of diversity. 

Abbot’s Lea School appointed Dr Muršić in 2020 to lead its autism research and development function of the school. 

Sara’s role is imperative at Abbot’s Lea School as she works with the staff, students and their families to implement innovative support methods in order to improve the lives of children and young people with autism and other complex learning differences. 

Sara is building relationships with other research practitioners around the world, putting their findings into practice and improving the education of students at the school. 

She is also responsible for quality assuring all strategic school development plans with empirical evidence, so that the programmes of education, specialist support, development of life skills and the use of the learning environment is optimised. 

Speaking about her PhD, Dr Muršić said: “It takes courage and dedication to do a PhD in a foreign language, but it was a great preparation for my current strategic job of overcoming boundaries and changing perceptions about neurodiversity in the local and international community. My academic background now helps me bridge the gap between research and practice, which is something every school needs.” 

Headteacher, Mrs Ania Hildrey, said: “A huge congratulations to Dr Sara Muršić! We are all very proud of her and this success is testament to Sara’s professional expertise, her academic credentials and acumen and, very crucially, her absolute hard work and dedication. 

“Evidence-based practice is an incredibly important aspect in education and Sara’s exceptional achievement will further enhance our school’s offering to current and prospective students, whilst also cementing our position locally, nationally and internationally as a forwarding-thinking specialist school.  

“Overall, whilst the role of research and development in schools is rare, in our setting it is invaluable as it challenges us in our beliefs (at times limiting!) and it supports our journey of becoming an international centre of excellence for autism education, research and professional development.” 

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