Melissa Mouthaan

Melissa Mouthaan

I joined Cambridge University Press and Assessment in January 2020, where I work in the Education and Curriculum team. My academic background is in sociology and social policy, and I am interested in policy formulation processes. I completed my PhD at the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2020 where my research examined migration policymaking in West Africa.

My recent projects include working on an extensive transnational review of the state of research on textbooks and other learning materials; tracking developments and changes in curriculum in the UK nations over time and system-level responses to the Covid-19 pandemic; and researching teacher professionalism and training in relation to decolonisation. I am also a member of the UNICEF UK/UNESCO community of practice on climate change, displacement and education. I review papers for international development and public policy journals in my areas of expertise.

My past work experience includes working for Oxfam GB, UNESCO, and as a consultant for the European Commission in research and communications capacities.

In my free time I enjoy road biking, spending time at my allotment, and reading fiction novels.



Early policy response to COVID-19 in education—A comparative case study of the UK countries

Mouthaan, M., Johnson, M., Greatorex, J., Coleman, V., and Fitzsimons, S. (2021). Early policy response to COVID-19 in education—A comparative case study of the UK countries. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 31, 51-67.

Inspired by the work of David Raffe and his co-authors who set out the positive benefits gained from comparing the policies of “the UK home nations” in an article published in 1999, researchers in the Education and Curriculum Team launched a project in early 2020 that we called Curriculum Watch. The aim of this project was to collate a literature and documents database of education and curriculum policies, research and analyses from across the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK).

In this article, we draw on our literature database to make sense of the rapid changes in education policy that occurred in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the four UK nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We analyse some of the key areas of UK policy formation and content (in relation to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment) that we observed during the first six months of the unfolding pandemic. In addition, we reiterate the clear benefits of using comparative research methods in the UK context: our research findings support the idea that closeness of national contexts offers the opportunity for evidence exchange and policy learning in education.


Perspectives on curriculum design: comparing the spiral and the network models

Ireland, J. and Mouthaan, M. (2020). Perspectives on curriculum design: comparing the spiral and the network models. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 7-12.

Does one approach fit all when it comes to curriculum design? In debates on curriculum design, educators have argued that a curriculum model should take into account the differing knowledge structures of different subjects. Subjects such as maths and science are generally defined as well-structured knowledge domains, characterised by a linearity in learning objectives, and well-defined and predictable learning outcomes. Less structured subjects such as the arts and humanities could, however, benefit from models that encompass a different approach to learning. Two competing perspectives on curriculum design have emerged: the spiral model developed by Bruner in 1960, and non-linear models based on processes of learning in different knowledge domains. Research on curriculum design has tended to focus on the needs of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. Many alternative models to the spiral have come from arts-based disciplines, in particular visual arts.

This article contributes to the ongoing debate about curriculum design in different subjects. It details the key characteristics of Bruner’s spiral model, and presents the main arguments made in favour of adopting flexible and non-linear curriculum models in specific subjects. We discuss a number of alternatives to the spiral model and analyse the relative strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches. The conclusion offers a discussion of implications of our findings for further research in curriculum design.

Research Matters

Research Matters 32 promo image

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.