Study with us

CRADLE’s doctoral program is an international network of students researching assessment and digital learning. Students can receive joint supervision from CRADLE researchers and leading local and international researchers, and benefit from mutual support within a collaborative research environment.

Doctoral opportunities with CRADLE

CRADLE offers a strong program of doctoral opportunities with a range of study options – we have full-time and part-time students, on campus and off-campus students, and even cotutelle students.

We’re looking to hear from engaged and dedicated students who would like to undertake studies in the field of assessment and digital learning. To submit an expression of interest, please get in touch with us.

Prospective students will work on a project that considers assessment and learning in the changing settings and increasingly digital context of education, and will contribute evidence to inform assessment research, policy and practice.

We welcome projects that align to CRADLE’s current programs of research, and also encourage students to consult our list of proposed doctoral topics listed below.

CRADLE’s research program seeks to establish what works to improve learning in higher and professional education. Our current areas of research include:

  • the digital world and its impact on learning and teaching
  • feedback and feedback practices
  • learning in and for the workplace
  • evaluative judgement
  • assessment security and academic integrity
  • inclusion and belonging in a digital world
  • representation in and beyond assessment.

Throughout this research we use cross-cutting approaches, including innovative methodological and theoretical approaches and knowledge transition.

Email the CRADLE team

Learn more about becoming a PhD student

Find out about scholarship opportunities

Doctoral scholarship opportunities

Applications for CRADLE’s Doctoral scholarship scheme for 2021 are now closed. Please stay tuned for further announcements relating to the scholarship scheme.

Find out more about additional scholarship opportunities to study with CRADLE.

Scholarship information

This scholarship is open to domestic and international students residing in Australia only. It will be awarded on a full-time basis, and will be based at CRADLE’s Melbourne CBD location, Deakin Downtown. The successful applicant will work on a project that considers assessment and learning in the changing settings and increasingly digital context of education, and will contribute evidence to inform assessment research, policy and practice. We welcome submissions that align to CRADLE’s research themes, and also encourage applicants to consult our list of proposed doctoral topics.

CRADLE’s research program seeks to establish what works to improve learning in higher and professional education. Our current areas of research include:

  • academic security and academic integrity
  • assessment design (including self/peer, authentic and programmatic)
  • feedback and feedback literacy
  • developing evaluative judgement
  • assessment in a digital world
  • digital identities
  • inclusion and belonging in a digital world
  • learning in and for the workplace
  • representation in and beyond assessment
  • quality standards.

Throughout this research we use cross-cutting approaches, including innovative methodological and theoretical approaches and knowledge transition. Our team of leading higher education researchers includes Alfred Deakin Professor David BoudProfessor Phillip DawsonProfessor Margaret BearmanAssociate Professor Rola AjjawiDr Joanna Tai and Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre. We collaborate with Deakin faculties and divisions, along with a range of industry partners and international collaborators.

Scholarship applicants must meet Deakin’s PhD entry requirements, enrol on a full-time basis and hold a honours (first class) degree or an equivalent standard masters degree with a substantial research component. The successful applicant will be enrolled through the Faculty of Arts and Education and will receive a top-up of $5000 per annum over three years.

Learn more about Deakin's research degree pathways

All expressions of interest (EOI) must be submitted to the Faculty of Arts and Education, although potential applicants should contact a CRADLE supervisor aligned with their preferred project topic before submitting an EOI.

Learn more about the Faculty of Arts and Education's EOI process

For all other enquiries please contact CRADLE Research Manager Dr Helen Walker. 
Email Dr Helen Walker
+61 3 9244 5448


    Developing evaluative judgement in university courses

    How can learners develop the ability to make judgements about their own learning? How can it be fostered in different contexts? How does it develop over time?
    With Professor David Boud.

    Ensuring feedback influences learning

    What strategies and models are effective in enabling feedback processes to have a positive impact on student’s subsequent work? What types of feedback processes can be effectively incorporated across programs? How can students influence the kinds of feedback most useful for their own learning?
    With Professor David Boud.

    Developing feedback literacy for study, work and life

    ‘Feedback literacy’ is the capability to seek out, understand and make use of feedback, as well as making productive use of emotions throughout the process. It’s important not just at university, but in life and work in general. But how can we develop feedback literacy in learners, and how can we help learners deploy their feedback literacy?
    With Professor Phillip Dawson.

    Assessment security and online assessment

    As assessment has rapidly shifted online, many educators have expressed concerns about cheating. A range of assessment designs and technologies have been deployed in response. This project involves an investigation of the effectiveness of those approaches at addressing cheating, as well as their potential harms and benefits.
    With Professor Phillip Dawson.

    Learning to work in a digitally-mediated world

    Workplaces are increasingly mediated by big data, analytics and artificial intelligence. This has implications for universities and for learning-on-the-job. How do learners, teachers and institutions navigate a world with new kinds of knowledge practices? 
    With Professor Margaret Bearman.

    Changing feedback and assessment practices

    Feedback and assessment practices often tend to revert to what is familiar. This PhD project will consider how contexts and practices can evolve to support new ways of doing. This project could have a digital learning focus, if this is of interest.
    With Professor Margaret Bearman.

    Feedback and power

    The relational aspects of feedback are increasingly coming to be recognised as crucial in how learners make sense of and incorporate feedback. This research seeks to extend understandings of the role of trust and relationships in feedback conversations by examining it as a construct across different disciplines and learning environments. The research asks how is trust and power negotiated within feedback conversations and how is this mediated through technology to influence the effects of feedback.
    With Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi.

    Assessment, authenticity and professional identity formation

    Taking part in assessment not only drives students’ learning of knowledge, skills and attitudes, but it also shapes their professional identity. This occurs as students take part in authentic practices of the community, engage with standard and criteria and receive feedback on their work. This research asks: How do assessment practices influence students’ professional identity formation? Other angles might include what makes for authentic assessment and how to design assessment for inclusion.
    With Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi.

    Inclusion and belonging in higher education

    Higher education is in the grip of social acceleration, which can lead to alienation in relationships with educational processes being depicted as a technology or instrument, put to work to bring about pre-determined ends, rather than a deep and transformative experience. Relationships of students to space and time and to buildings, objects, interactions, forms of practice – and, therefore, to forms of knowledge – need to be closely examined. This research seeks to explore notions of belonging and social inclusion in higher education.
    With Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi.

    Inclusive assessment

    Assessment in higher education must ensure that a diverse student population can demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes. This project aims to explore student experiences of inclusive assessment, and the affordances and limitations of current and emerging assessment designs, within the context of technology-enabled postsecondary environments.
    With Dr Joanna Tai.

    Peer learning in higher education

    The benefits of peer learning for knowledge and skills are well described. There are emerging descriptions of peer learning contributing to desirable graduate learning outcomes such as evaluative judgement. This project seeks to explore and characterise the situations in which peer learning, including but not limited to peer assessments, feedback, and discussion, contribute to students’ learning. This project can be undertaken in a specific disciplinary context or in a broader postgraduate education setting.
    With Dr Joanna Tai.

    Equity in employability

    Students from low socio-economic status backgrounds do not benefit from Higher Education in the same way as their more advantaged peers, and there is growing concern that strategies intended to improve graduate employability can further disadvantage them. This research seeks to understand the factors that support and hinder engagement of students from LSES backgrounds with employment-related activities and eventual graduate outcomes, including the design of learning and assessment, and interactions between students, teachers and employers.
    With Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre.

    Opportunities for differentiation in learning and assessment design

    Students need self-knowledge and evaluative judgement to portray their unique achievements and professional identity to different audiences. However, learning and assessment design provides students with limited opportunities to consciously develop or evidence their unique graduate identity, and there is often a gap between what is assessed, and the unique experiences and personal narratives that inform job recruitment decisions. This research will examine alignment between how learning and assessment are designed, experienced and valued.
    With Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre.

    Note: each doctoral student has at least two supervisors. Please contact the person named for each topic for information about it

Current doctoral students

Our doctoral students conduct research across a range of themes in assessment and digital learning.

Rebecca Awdry

PhD topic

Rebecca Awdry is undertaking her PhD on the top of assignment outsourcing, including assignment bidding sites, bespoke essay mill services, peer-to-peer sharing sites and obtaining work from others. She is exploring the applicability of criminological theories of deviance to contract cheating in higher education. Rebecca is conducting an international research component to establish whether there are differences in outsourcing behaviours across different languages. Professor Phillip Dawson and Associate Professor Wendy Sutherland-Smith are supervising the work.


Rebecca has spent 13 years working within higher education in Wales, England, Oman and Australia. Her roles have focused on the areas of improving academic quality, academic policy and governance, teaching and learning practices, and learning analytics.


  • NVQ in Management, Level 5, National Centre for Business UK
  • BScEcon (Hons) in Sociology and Criminology, 2.1, Cardiff University
  • MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Distinction, Cardiff University

Christoffer Bjerre Haase

PhD topic

Christoffer Bjerre Haase is investigating how clinical reasoning in general practice is influenced by data intensification. Data intensification refers to the trend towards more data, faster access to data and increased integration of data through big data approaches, personalised/precision medicine, machine learning, health apps and wearables. The data intensification is currently developing faster than our knowledge can assess the generated data. This project investigates how doctors cope with uncertainty and trustworthiness of data in the clinical and diagnostic setting.


Christoffer is a medical doctor and PhD fellow from Deakin University and the University of Copenhagen. Based on the philosophy of science and evidence-based medicine, Christoffer is interested in the inter-relations between understandings of data and the concepts of diagnosis, and the ways science and societal discourses influence those concepts. Christoffer is also undertaking research in overdiagnosis and the concept of evidence-based medicine.

Juan Fischer

PhD topic

Juan’s research explores how science students can develop evaluative judgement capabilities throughout their undergraduate studies. Using a Practice Theory framework, he is interested in how students engage in evaluative judgement practices inside and outside classrooms, and understanding how this might influence the development of their evaluative judgement.  At CRADLE, Juan is supervised by Dr Joanna Tai, Associate Professor Margaret Bearman and Alfred Deakin Professor David Boud.


Prior to commencing his PhD with CRADLE, Juan undertook a Master’s in education at Monash University, where he also collaborates as a research assistant. His minor Master’s thesis addressed the conceptions of assessment held by academics at a faculty of science, which led him to propose the doctoral research project he is currently developing. Before moving to Australia, Juan worked for four years as a research assistant at Icesi University in Colombia, where he had obtained a Bachelor in Social Psychology (Hons).

Cedomir (Chad) Gladovic

Master of Education (Research) topic

Chad’s research explores the significance of the concept of evaluative judgement in its ability to transform learners into professionals. Chad is supervised by Professor Phillip Dawson and Dr Joanna Tai.


Chad is a senior academic in the Built Environment Degree Programs Department at Holmesglen Institute. He has a strong interest in student-centred education including curriculum, delivery and assessment design. He strongly believes that educational experiences can be transformational for students. He is also interested in educational technology and the integration of online delivery with curriculum and pedagogical objectives.


  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Built Environment), Holmesglen Institute
  • Bachelor of Construction Management and Economics, Holmesglen Institute
  • Master of Facility Management, Deakin University

Lasse Jensen

PhD topic

Lasse Jensen is enrolled as part of a joint PhD collaboration between Deakin University and the University of Copenhagen. In his PhD project Lasse investigates what students do when they participate in online courses, in particular the actions they take in relation to dialogic assessment feedback. At CRADLE he is supervised by Associate Professor Margaret Bearman and Professor David Boud.


Since 2008 Lasse has been working in the higher education sector, mostly within education strategy, educational technologies, and communications. Previous projects have focused on MOOCs and open education, public/global health education, international humanitarian education, and the use of virtual reality technologies in education and training.


  • Master of Disaster Management, University of Copenhagen
  • Master of Arts in Cognitive Semiotics, Aarhus University
  • Bachelor of Arts in Information Studies, Aarhus University

Olsi Kusta

PhD topic

Olsi’s PhD project explores the developments induced by imaging and data-intensive technologies, what is known as digital pathology, in diagnostic and knowledge practices regarding cancer diseases at departments of pathology. The empirical approach in this research seeks to trace the collective practices involving digital pathology as an assemblage of technologies, practices, and actors. The theoretical perspective of this project revolves around science and technology studies, sociology of medicine, and philosophy of science. The purpose is to understand the opportunities and challenges prompted by digital pathology through a critical study of its clinical and epistemological impact in cancer diagnostics and treatment. This project is a joint PhD Program between University of Copenhagen and Deakin University. At Deakin, Olsi is supervised by Professor Margaret Bearman and Associate Professor Radhika Gorur.


Olsi Kusta has graduated from Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tirana, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and sociology, specialized in the latter. As of 2019, he holds a master’s degree (MA) in science and technology studies (STS) from the University of Vienna. Main research interests focus on innovative and data-intensive technologies and their influence on clinical and biomedical settings, knowledge practices, and their impact on medical education. In his master thesis, he studied the impact of a virtual microscope in teaching histopathology courses at the Medical University of Graz, Austria.

Jessica Lees

PhD topic

Jessica Lees is enrolled as part of a joint PhD collaboration between Deakin University and the University of Copenhagen. In her PhD project Jessica will investigate how learning touch-based practice (eg physiotherapy, midwifery) is altered/affected in an increasingly digitally mediated environment. She is supervised by Professor Linda Sweet from the Faculty of Health, and CRADLE supervisors Professor Margaret Bearman and Professor Torsten Risor (Copenhagen).


Jessica has been working in the higher education sector since 2016 primarily focusing on effective and meaningful community engagement. Jessica has a keen interest in global health and the Sustainable Development Goals. She continues to pursue these areas of interest through her involvement in project work with the Universitas 21 where she has lead the development of The Global Learning Partnership, a project for interprofessional and international student electives in developing countries. Jessica has clinical experience working as a physiotherapist in a major tertiary hospital, professional sport and in private practice.


  • Doctor of Physiotherapy (DPT), University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor Health Science (Comp Med), Charles Sturt University
  • Adv dip. Myotherapy, RMIT

Sarah Lambert

PhD topic

Sarah’s PhD research explores how open education programs (including use of open technologies) are used to support the access, progress and success of students from various equity groups who typically struggle or are excluded from higher education. Sarah’s supervisor team includes Professor David Boud (primary), Professor Phillip Dawson and Dr Nadine Zacharias, Equity Fellow, from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).


Sarah’s research builds on 16 years practice in technology-enhanced learning within higher education settings. Motivated by equity and social justice concerns, her most recent work has developed MOOCs and open education programs bringing accessible information to a wide international audience including: science-based medical information about our most common medical problems; lessons to support stressed maths learners transitioning to higher education; and digital literacies training as preparation for online study in higher education. Sarah also provides consultancy on the strategic development of distance education (online) programs.

Susie Macfarlane

PhD topic

Susie MacFarlane is undertaking her PhD investigating higher education students’ teamwork and collaboration, supervised by Professor David Boud and Dr Rola Ajjawi. She also conducts research in assessment feedback, educational technologies and multimedia, and social inclusion.


Susie is a Senior Lecturer and researcher working with the Deakin Learning Futures Health Pod team, undertaking capacity building and organisational change projects at Deakin University. She is thrilled to be working with committed and passionate colleagues in the higher education sector working to enhance the student experience, and is particularly interested in understanding systems and approaches that promote both educators’ and students’ agency and intrinsic motivation.


  • Bachelor of Science (Hons), Monash University
  • Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University

Bianka Malecka

PhD topic

Bianka Malecka’s PhD research investigates the impact of ipsative feedback on the development of student feedback literacy. Bianka’s supervisory team includes Dr Rola Ajjawi, Dr Joanna Tai and Professor David Boud.


Bianka’s research builds on 20 years’ practice as an English language instructor in tertiary institutions in Poland and Australia. She currently teaches a direct entry course at UNSW Global in Sydney. Bianka’s recent projects include exploring the effects of e-portfolio on students’ writing skills (English Australia Action Research programme) and increasing student engagement with feedback through backfeed.

Abbas Mehrabi

PhD topic

Abbas Mehrabi’s PhD research explores sustainable assessment practices in first-year academic writing contexts, particularly assessment and feedback practices that assist first-year undergraduates not only to adjust to their new academic setting but also to develop lifelong learning behaviours. He is particularly interested in understanding the interplay between assessment, learning and teaching approaches towards academic writing in the first-year curriculum within a discipline-specific framework. Abbas is supervised by Dr Rola Ajjawi and Professor David Boud.


Abbas has an Education background with over seven years’ experience in teaching and research activities, centring mainly on theoretical and practical issues in second language teaching. Prior to commencing his PhD journey, he was a research fellow at the Language Research Centre in Isfahan, Iran, where he conducted a number of research projects which resulted in published papers and conference presentations. Abbas also taught academic writing to senior undergraduates at Isfahan University, Iran, for four years.

Darci Taylor

PhD topic

Darci Taylor is undertaking her PhD investigating how higher education students conceptualise personal goals in the context of their placement learning experience. Darci also conducts research in staff–student partnerships and the changing nature of the higher education workforce. Darci is supervised by Professor David Boud and Professor Phillip Dawson.


Darci has spent the last 15 years working in higher education in a variety of roles that have seen her develop her research, learning and teaching, management and leadership capabilities – positioning herself as a ‘third space’ individual able to meet the changing demands of a contemporary higher education sector. She is currently a lecturer in the Deakin Learning Futures Health Pod with key responsibilities in curriculum development, online learning design and strategic project implementation.


  • Bachelor of Arts/Science (Hons), University of Melbourne
  • Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), Monash University
  • Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Monash University

Lincoln Then James

PhD topic

Lincoln Then James’s PhD explores the impact of higher education on students’ ability to make sense of information and make decisions in line with their life and career goals, i.e. their ability to self self-author. Lincoln’s research interests lie in career education, curriculum development and student learning. His supervisors are Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi, Dr Joanna Tai and Associate Professor Denise Jackson (external, Edith Cowan University).


Lincoln has worked in higher education since 2013, in a multitude of roles including student mentoring, marketing, teaching, and curriculum development. Currently he is employed as a Learning Designer in Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law, and teaches in MWL101 Professional Insight, a first-year career education unit for Bachelor of Commerce students.


  • Bachelor of Arts/Commerce (Honours), Deakin University
  • Graduate Certificate of Higher Education Learning and Teaching, Deakin University

Damian Castanelli

PhD topic

Damian’s PhD explores the tension between assessment for learning and assessment of learning in the context of specialist postgraduate medical education in anaesthesia. Damian’s supervisors are Professor Margaret Bearman (primary), Professor David Boud, and Professor Liz Molloy from the University of Melbourne.


Damian is a Consultant Anaesthetist at Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Damian is a full-time clinician with experience providing educational and clinical supervision for trainee anaesthetists. Past projects have involved the development of training and assessment tools for procedural skills, and implementation of updated curriculum and workplace-based assessment for anaesthesia training in Australia & New Zealand. Damian has previous research experience, including both qualitative and quantitative investigation of workplace-based assessment in anaesthesia training.


  • Graduate Certificate in Educational Research Methodology, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Master of Clinical Education, University of New South Wales
  • Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery, University of Melbourne
  • Fellow, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

Tegan Miller

PhD Topic

Tegan’s research explores concepts in the feedback space. Her PhD topic is investigating the effects of student feedback literacy on peer feedback. Tegan is supervised by Professor Phillip Dawson and Dr Joanna Tai.


Tegan is a new face to the higher education sector. She graduated from her Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) in 2019 at Deakin University, where her fourth-year research centred on emotion regulation in romantic dyads. Fresh to the field, Tegan has a strong fascination with the student experience of feedback at University. Her interests lie in student agency, peer feedback, and online feedback delivery.


  • Bachelor of Psychology (Honours), Deakin University

Karla Wells-Duerr

PhD topic

Karla Wells-Duerr is undertaking her PhD exploring how belonging for higher education students studying online is facilitated.  Karla’s supervision team comprises Professor Jo Coldwell-Neilson, Dr Elicia Lanham and Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi.


Karla is an Instructional Designer with the Deakin Learning Futures Pod team in the Faculty Science, Engineering and Built Environment.  She currently works on both staff facing and student facing learning enhancement and on building learning design capability with academic staff.  She has 15 years experience working in the higher education sector and has developed an understanding and interest in the student experience both as a student and from her work. Karla is interested in online learning, agency, identity, inclusive practices and creating place.  She has also been involved in research on supporting students introduction to study and on learning to make connections in first year of university.


  • Bachelor of Arts (Sociology & Literature), Deakin University
  • Master of Adult Education (Global), Monash University in conjunction with Linkoping University, the University of British Columbia and Western Cape University
  • Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Learning and Teaching, Deakin University.

Contact us

To get in touch about the doctoral study opportunities available through CRADLE, please contact us.