Teacher-researcher collaboration in animal-assisted education: Co-designing a reading to dogs intervention

Jill Steel*, Joanne M. Williams, Sarah McGeown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Animal-assisted Education (AAE), including Reading to Dogs (RTD), is an area of growing interest internationally across all phases of education, and increasingly considered an innovative approach to improving pupil outcomes. As creating RTD interventions necessitates a combination of expertise from the fields of education and human-animal interactions, finding effective ways to achieve collaboration in RTD intervention design is imperative.

We sought to develop and work within a collaborative framework in order to co-design an AAE intervention, drawing upon researcher and teacher knowledge, experience and expertise. Our specific collaboration had the goal of co-designing an RTD intervention focused on supporting primary-aged children’s reading and wellbeing. This paper describes the co-design process, and our evaluation of the collaborative process and framework.

Three teachers, from different school contexts and educational authorities, and a researcher engaged in a structured co-design process to create the RTD intervention. A three-phase co-design framework was developed, implemented and evaluated. The framework ensured that theoretical and empirical research (via the researcher) and professional and pedagogical expertise (via three teachers) informed the intervention design.

The three-phase framework – initial preparation, recruitment and online platform creation, and intervention co-design – enabled a productive and meaningful collaborative process which led to the development of an RTD intervention informed by a synthesis of research and practice. In our evaluation, the collaborating teachers were very positive about the framework, reflecting that it provided effective facilitation of the co-design and observing that working with teachers from other authorities offered a valuable and motivating learning opportunity.

The co-design of interventions by researchers and teachers offers a way to synthesise theoretical and empirical research insights with professional and pedagogical expertise. It can help to create interventions that are research-informed but also more likely to be acceptable to the education community and feasible for classroom practice. This framework could be drawn upon by researchers, teachers and school leaders across a range of disciplines who seek to develop AAE and other interventions collaboratively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
JournalEducational Research
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • intervention design
  • collaboration
  • co-design
  • reading to dogs
  • animal-assisted education
  • professional learning


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