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  • Room 01.531 - David Keir Building

    United Kingdom


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Personal profile

Research Interests

My research interests are interdisciplinary, crossing the fields of education, psychology and sociology, focusing broadly on the roles of schools and intergroup contact interventions in promoting social cohesion. I am particularly interested in issues of identity, multiculturalism and respect for diversity; inclusivity in education and shared & collaborative models of education; educational outcomes in contexts of adversity & inequalities in education; and the promotion of community participation and voice (particularly for children and young people). I am a mixed methods researcher, and have employed a range of methodologies during my career: interviews, focus groups, and creative methods with children and adults; psychometric scale development and factor analysis; secondary and longitudinal data analysis; and multivariate statistics.

Research Statement

I am currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations within the School of Psychology, working alongside Dr Danielle Blaylock (Principal Investigator), Dr Laura Taylor, and Prof Rhiannon Turner on the impact evaluation of the PEACE IV Objective 2.1 Children and Young People Programme ("Peace4Youth"). This Objective targets young people aged 14-24 years from more marginalised and disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland and the border region of the Republic of Ireland. Projects funded under the Programme are required to show clear development of sustainable participant capabilities in relation to the three Programme outcome areas of: good relations, personal development, and citizenship. The overall objective of the evaluation is to test the intervention logic and form a view of the effectiveness and impact of the investment. To do so, the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations evaluation team has used a rigorous methodology utilising a mixed-methods, longitudinal approach focusing on multiple levels of analysis. Primary data is being collected through participant surveys, as well as focus groups with key project personnel. This data has been analysed alongside monitoring and contextual data pulled from secondary datasets. Together these sources of data allow for the exploration of individual, project level, and social factors which may influence the impact of the project.


Whilst working at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (formerly School of Education) from 2012-2018, I was involved in the following research projects:

The Shared Education Signature Project Research Study

Description: The purpose of this study is twofold: (i) to examine the impact of different types of school-school collaboration on (soft) educational outcomes and reconciliation outcomes for pupils; and (ii) to explore and examine how particular shared education school collaborations work in practice as well as reasons why some collaborations tend to generate improvements in reconciliation and education outcomes while others do not. For the first element of the research, pupils who are partaking in shared education activities (funded by the Shared Education Signature Project – see  ) will be invited to complete an online survey developed by the Centre for Shared Education at the beginning and the end of each school year for the duration of the project. The second element will involve case studies of school collaborations to ascertain their experiences of shared education in Northern Ireland, and within each case study, the views of school leaders, staff and governors, as well as parents and children will be explored. 

Research team: Dr Caitlin Donnelly (Principal Investigator); Dr Stephanie Burns; Prof Joanne Hughes; Dr Danielle Blaylock

Funder: Atlantic Philanthropies

Duration: 2015-2018

Investigating Links in Achievement and Deprivation (ILiAD)

Description: This 3 year study explores differential achievement rates amongst pupils in 7 ward areas of Northern Ireland. The areas have been selected to represent a range of demographic profiles and both characteristic and anomalous patterns of achievement. The first stage of the project involves geo-social profiling and mapping the wards in respect of educational and youth provision. This will be followed by qualitative and quantitative data collection in each of the ward areas involving pupils, parents, and a range of other educational and community stakeholders. The aim of the analysis is to explore the range of factors that can influence educational outcomes for pupils in disadvantaged areas. 

Research team: Ruth Leitch (PI), Joanne Hughes (Co-PI), Stephanie Burns, Michael Ievers, Cathal McManus, Robin McRoberts, and Ian Shuttleworth. With contributions from: Erik Cownie, Joanne Jordan, and Christine McSherry

Funder: OFMDFM (£292,563)

Duration: 2011-2015

Education Inequalities in Northern Ireland

Description: To inform the development of the Equality Commission’s planned update of its ‘Statement on Key Inequalities’, this research investigated current educational inequalities in Northern Ireland (2008-2012) - giving consideration to the levels of educational access, attainment, progression and destination across the nine equality grounds (gender, disability, age, dependant status, sexual orientation, racial group, marital status, religious belief and political opinion) as well as other grounds wherein inequalities in education have been observed, such as whether a child has been in care; children at risk of poverty; and children who attend schools of different types and sectors. The research findings should assist in understanding the contributory factors and manifestation of educational inequalities for different groups, and thus provide feedback and recommendations for policies and actions aimed at improving educational opportunities for those affected.

Research team: Stephanie Burns (PI), Joanne Hughes, Ruth Leitch, Ian Shuttleworth

Funder: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (£17, 981)

Duration: 2013-2014


PhD research (2009-2013) Understandings of ‘respect for diversity’ within primary schools in Northern Ireland 

My PhD research was funded by the Improving Children's Lives research initiative at Queen's University Belfast, and was completed at the School of Psychology at Queen's. This PhD was primarily qualitative, exploring how children who were born after the Good Friday Agreement understand the concept of respect for diversity, and the methods by which teachers and parents try to impart their own understandings of respect. These qualitative findings led to the successful development and validation of a psychometric measure of respect for diversity (using factor analysis), which can be used in conjunction with curriculum programmes that seek to promote respect for diversity.


Since 2018, I have delivered social psychology lectures to undergraduates on the BSc Psychology course at Queen's, and have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate psychology thesis students. I have also been a postgraduate personal tutor, and from 2019, will be involved in the delivery of lab demonstrations.

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Research Output

  • Sense and Sensitivities: Researching children and young people’s identity and social attitudes in a divided society

    Burns, S., Blaylock, D., McKeown, S. & Taylor, L., 2019, (Accepted) Researching peace and conflict: Field experiences and methodological reflections.. Acar, Y., Moss, S. M. & Ulug, Ö. M. (eds.). (Psychology Series).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

    Open Access
  • 178 Downloads (Pure)

    Barriers and Enablers of Education Equality for Transgender Students

    Burns, S., Leitch, R. & Hughes, J., 01 Nov 2016, In : Review of Social Studies. 3, 2, p. 11-20 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue

    Open Access
  • Prizes

    The Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Small Grant Award

    Stephanie Burns (Recipient) & Danielle Blaylock (Recipient), 2018

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Activities

    • 4 Participation in conference
    • 2 Publication peer-review
    • 1 KTP & Consultancy in kind
    • 1 Membership of peer review panel or committee

    British Psychological Society Social Psychology Annual Conference

    Stephanie Burns (Participant)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    European Conference on Educational Research (Event)

    Stephanie Burns (Reviewer)
    26 Jan 201601 Apr 2016

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

    Journal of Social and Political Psychology (Journal)

    Stephanie Burns (Peer reviewer)
    14 Jul 201624 Oct 2016

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review

    SAGE Open (Journal)

    Stephanie Burns (Peer reviewer)
    08 May 201429 May 2014

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review