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We specialise in co-participatory action research with young people, teachers and artist educators, using creative arts methods.

1. Story Exchange project: How does drama and story empower youth voice?

This case study shares the findings of a two-year project led by Story Makers Company at Leeds Beckett University and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Teacher Development Fund to provide more equitable opportunities for expressive arts. Seven primary schools in Bradford utilised drama pedagogy to bring the curriculum to life through an oral storytelling and story making approach called Drama Worldbuilding (Stephenson, 2023). The ambition was to place an explicit focus on children’s diverse literacies,  languages and socio-emotional learning, creating an imaginative, culturally relevant curriculum for children in Years 3 and 4 across schools.

IMPACT: The project has impacted on 3100 children to date and is being developed across 8 Primary schools in Doncaster.

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Research Publication
Stephenson, L., 2023. Collective creativity and wellbeing dispositions: children's perceptions of learning through drama. Thinking Skills and Creativity, p.101188.

Stephenson, L., 2022. Empowering Voice through Drama. Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Teacher Development Fund.

Stephenson, L. and Lofthouse,R., 2023. A pedagogy of professional noticing and co-inquiry: Embedding drama for oracy across the primary curriculum. Impact. Chartered College of Teaching 18. pp. 36-39. ISSN 2514-6955

2. How is youth voice expressed through the creative arts?

This research took place across 2 years and was led by Dr Lisa Stephenson and Mhairi Beaton at Leeds Beckett University. Working with colleagues from creative sectors across the Leeds Cultural Education Partnership and young people we examined how different art forms (dance, theatre, music, art) were perceived to enable a sense of voice.

IMPACT: This research framework has informed further work across Leeds Local Cultural Education partnership, including the Youth Manifesto Leeds 2023.

Research publications:
Stephenson, L. and Dobson, T., 2020. Releasing the Socio-Imagination: Children’s voices on Creativity, Capability and Mental Wellbeing. Support for Learning. 35(4).  Available online:

3. Drama and Wellbeing: How does drama activate collective creativity and wellbeing?

Drawing from longitudinal action research as an artist–teacher–researcher in a primary school, the practice of Drama Worldbuilding is explored as a pedagogy of critical hope because it focuses on activating collective creativity and purposeful action. The research draws from theories of affect, wellbeing and immersive play to conceptualise new links between creativity, change making and wellbeing.


IMPACT: This dispositional model has been developed and embedded across all Story makers work with schools, both Nationally and Internationally. It is a best practice case study for OECD Futures of Education.


Research publications
Stephenson, L., 2023. Collective creativity and wellbeing dispositions: children's perceptions of learning through drama. Thinking Skills and Creativity, p.101188.

Stephenson, L. (10.02.23) Collective Creativity and Wellbeing through story. Arts Council England. Creativity Exchange blog for Children’s Mental Health Week.

Stephenson, L. (16.0.22) Positive Connections Smiley Talks (371.000 views)
Stephenson, L., 2021.  Creative Spaces for Wellbeing. The Emotional Curriculum Podcast 

4. arted: How can artist educators support creative curricula in education for teachers and parents?A trans-national research project

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Our Erasmus+ funded project  ran over 3 years and involved partners in Iceland, Italy, Germany, Greece and Austria.  We produced four intellectual outcomes and related research articles which will improve children’s wellbeing through promoting artistic practices in schools.

IMPACT:The arted transnational project has been successful in developing not just a set of high-quality professional learning materials but has designed an innovative approach to arts-based learning that ensures that the intellectual outputs created by the consortium will have relevance for a wide range of teachers across sectors, career stages and national contexts in a sustainable manner. It is a best practice case study for OECD Futures of Education.

Research publication: 
Stephenson, L., Thorkelsdóttir, R., Dunbar K.L., karameris, K., Jónsdóttir, J., 2023.Creative Pedagogy as a Practice of Resistance: Charting Artist Educators’ practices within trans-European Education Policy. JasED 


Dobson, T. and Stephenson, L., 2022. A trans‐European perspective on how artists can support teachers, parents and carers to engage with young people in the creative arts. Children & Society, 36(6), pp.1336-1350.

Further reading:
Stephenson, L. (06.04.22) Story making: Drama in primary with the Story Makers Company. Drama and Theatre Magazine


Stephenson, L.  and Dobson, T. (01.03.22) Drama in Troubled Times. Drama and Theatre Magazine


Dobson, T. and Stephenson, L. (15.11.21) Building back better arts education: Schools Weekly

5. Story Makers Press; How can co-creating and publishing stories with children reflect their realities?

Our award winning university-based publishing company works with children to publish fiction which capture their voices and represents marginalised groups.  To date we have published four works of fiction with accompanying Teachers’ Guides, creating new methodologies and research insights.

IMPACT: This approach impacted on schools across Bradford and was submitted as part of a successful case study for REF 2021.

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Research Publication

Stephenson, L., 2023. Story Making in brave spaces of wilful belonging.  Co-creating a novel with British-Pakistani girls in Primary School. Research in Drama Education

Dobson, T., Stephenson, L. and De Arede, A., 2019. Disrupting aetonormativity: involving children in the writing of literature for publication. English in Education.  Available online:

Stephenson, L., 2019.  Story Makers: A New Generation. Pen and Inc magazine, Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s books.

Stephenson, L. and Chetty, D (14.09.2020) Race and children’s literature Talking Race Series
Story Makers Press Radio Interview with children from Girlington and Beeston Primary School 

6. Immersive storymaking: How can online/offline story making pedagogies support young people’s wellbeing and critical thinking? How can it create an interdisciplinary curriculum?

Our groundbreaking ‘Story weaving’ methodology, combines a range of arts methodologies on and offline with virtual reality, enabling users to upload and share their story creations online. It has been applied across a number of research projects, with different age ranges to support active curriculum and community engagement. 

Funders include National Lottery Heritage Fund, Communities Can Funding, National Lottery and Leeds 2023


IMPACT: This curriculum approach was used across Lambeth schools as a recovery wellbeing curriculum during Covid. It has been utilised by schools as a curriculum model across as part of Leeds 2023 City of Culture and Rotherham Children’s Capital of Culture.

Research Publication

Stephenson, L., Daniel, A. and Storey, V., 2022. Weaving critical hope: story making with artists and children through troubled times. Literacy, 56(1), pp.73-85.

Stephenson, L. (24.05.21) Immersive Story Making in Troubled Times. United Kingdom Literacy Association


Reimagining Home Saving Anksi: Local News Release 

7. Story making and creative writing: How does drama pedagogy activate creative writing?

Our two-term school-based project, Funded by United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA)  involved working with a local theatre education group to train teachers to use drama to motivate pupils to write

Agentic Writing across the Primary Curriculum: Using Dramatic Enquiry in a Community of Writers - UKLA


IMPACT: This approach impacted on schools across Bradford and was submitted as part of a successful case study for REF 2021.


Research Publication

Dobson, T. and Stephenson, L., 2017. Primary Pupils’ Creative Writing: Enacting Identities in a Community of Writers.  Literacy. 51(3), pp.162-168.  Available online:

Dobson, T. and Stephenson, S., 2017. “Teachers can use drama to bring writing to life for children.”  The Conversation.  Available from:


Dobson, T., and Stephenson, L., 2020. Challenging boundaries to cross: primary teachers exploring drama pedagogy for creative writing with theatre educators in the landscape of performativity.  Professional Development in Education.  46(2), pp.245-255.  Available online:


Dobson, T. and Stephenson, L., 2019. “I think it fits in”: Using Process Drama to Promote Agentic Writing with Primary School Children.  Literacy. 53(2), pp.69-76. Available online from:

Dobson, T., Stephenson, L., De Arede, A., 2019. Shifting Power in Children’s Literature: Story Makers Press.  BERA Blog.  Available online only from:

Arts Evaluations

Our funded evaluation analysed the impact of creative therapy interventions across 20 schools in Lambeth across 1 year, in partnership with schools, communities and specialists across this demographic. 

Stephenson, L and Gridley, N (2022) ‘Moving from intervention to integration’: an evaluation of early interventions into mental health and wellbeing across Lambeth schools with a focus on creative therapies.

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