Laura McGuire works as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology. Currently she sits on the steering group committee for the new UN Interdisciplinary and Intergovernmental Panel of Behaviour Change for Sustainable Development (IPBC) and for the first report for this committee she will be leading on the chapter ‘Education for Sustainable Development’.
The main thrust of Laura’s research is to find ways to circumvent the value-action gap when it comes to climate change i.e. the gap between what people report as their important values and what they actually do in their everyday behaviour. A large part of her work is focused on developing new measures of implicit attitudes which might be more predictive of actual behaviour.
A major strand of Laura’s research is to examine the importance of education in the development of these implicit attitudes and she has designed a new climate change education initiative which she is currently running in primary schools. Laura recently won an Emerging Scholar Award in recognition of her pioneering work to improve climate change education, awarded by the Sustainability Research Network.
Before Laura began her career as a researcher (first at the University of Manchester, then at Edge Hill University) she worked as a secondary school teacher for over ten years. She taught English and Drama in a number of schools across the North West of England, as well as teaching in sixth form colleges.
Immediately prior to joining Edge Hill, she worked at the University of Manchester for seven years as a Research Assistant on a number of major projects including projects on how to mitigate the effects of climate change and on the exploration of possible racial and ethnic biases in education. Since then, her research in sustainability and climate change has reached a major international audience – she co-presented her research (along with Professor Geoffrey Beattie) on why we need to target implicit, automatic associations in the fight against climate change at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in July 2015. She also jointly contributed to the second edition of the United Nations International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice Report along with 40 authors, both academics and practitioners, from across the globe, including the U.S., Australia, Europe, Nigeria, Sweden, South Africa, Canada, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. In addition to this, the Chinese rights of her new book, co-authored with Professor Geoff Beattie ‘The Psychology of Climate Change’ have been sold to the Shanghai Education Publishing House and will be translated into Chinese for Mainland China in 2020. It was also converted into an audio book as part of a new initiative by Taylor & Francis. Her work has also been featured at the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018.
As mentioned above, Laura’s main research interest is exploring the role of education in shaping our values, our attitudes and our behaviour in a number of domains, but particularly in the area of climate change. She is interested in the effectiveness of different kinds of approaches to education and in the design of new educational initiatives (arts-based/education-based/combined arts and education-based) on attitude change (both implicit and explicit) and on behaviour change – both the immediate effects and the effects that these initiatives have in the longer term on shaping individuals attitudes and behaviour. The new research award will allow her and her collaborator to explore the efficacy of these different approaches to this topic. Her position on the steering committee of the IPBC will also be a very effective mechanism for allowing this work to reach an international audience.
Part of her research has also been to explore the efficacy of different types of campaigns on shaping people’s everyday behaviour, including their behaviour as consumers. In addition to that she is interested in the long-term barriers that prevent climate change mitigation and in her co-authored book ‘The Psychology of Climate Change’ she explored some of these important issues. A major part of this book was to identify why campaigns aimed at both adults and children didn’t work and what she is interested in doing is investigating what a successful campaign aimed at children and their values to the environment might look like.
Laura worked as a secondary school teacher for over ten years before beginning her career as a researcher. She taught English and Drama in a number of schools and colleges across the North West of England.
During her time at the University of Manchester she ran a confidence course in parallel with the first year ‘Group Skills’ module. Her role was to train any students with particular concerns or anxieties about public presentations to be more confident in their ability to present, using a combination of drama and psychology (this drew upon her PGCE, her experience in acting, as well as on psychology).
Since joining Edge Hill University, and whilst working for her PhD, she worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Here, Laura taught on the Essential Skills module within the Department of Psychology, focussing on basic research practices including research writing, research methods (both quantitative and qualitative), bibliographic searches etc. She also worked on the Group Working and Communication Skills component of this module where students carried out a piece of original empirical research on human social behaviour; they then presented their research to their peers. Her role was to help supervise these students and, in addition, she worked with students who were nervous about presenting their work to a large audience. This part of the role was essentially helping students gain confidence using a range of confidence building exercises and helping them develop their presentation skills. She also worked on the second year Applying Psychology module where students designed an application of psychology and again they presented their work to the year as a whole. In addition, she helped supervise the Dragons’ Den component of the third year Reflections and Future Directions module where students designed and present a commercial application of psychology to a set of Dragons from the world of marketing and television. She also gave advice to third year students on research methods, again, including both quantitative and qualitative analyses for their chosen final year dissertation projects.