Dr Jo Shah, BA (Hons), MA, PGCE (PC), PhD, SFHEA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Dr Jo Shah, BA (Hons), MA, PGCE (PC), PhD, SFHEA.

Job title

Programme Leader, Learning Skills


I moved from established freelance careers in publishing and film, to education in 2001. My journey into academia coincided with the start of my doctoral studies at the Institute of Education, UCL as I transition from a ten year pedagogic career in the Further and Higher Education Sector (FHE) where I oversaw, taught, and mentored on a range of creative arts and teacher education provision. For my PhD I adopted a qualitative longitudinal approach to extend focus into institutional level policy enactment, and the lived experiences and long-term outcomes of GCSE failed, low level vocational media learners. 

My first role at Central was as Pathway Leader for the PGCE Media Studies with additional teaching responsibilities for the PGCE Drama, later moving into management of the former Learning Centre which comprised of services for the support of learning, disability, and specific learning differences (SpLDs). My current work at Central includes programme leadership of Learning Skills (which offers informal learning development to Central’s full student body) and teaching Screen Studies on the MA Acting for Screen. In addition to this, I also sit on a number of internal boards and committees and represent the institution on two working groups as part of the University of London Refugee Activities and Initiatives Forum. Outside of Central, I work in the role of Visiting Lecturer at a number of institutions including the University of Arts London.

Since joining Central, my research has continued developing in interdisciplinary directions, and can be aligned with the sociology, social policy, media education fields. I hold particular expertise in person-centred research that incorporates visual anthropology and narrative approaches to interrogate and re-conceptualise societal positioning(s) of the individual and their self-identity formation - and my current research is strongly focused on the conceptualisation of socialisation as 'social performance'.

I hold a diverse academic engagement portfolio, which includes memberships of the Society for Artistic Research (SAR), British Sociological Association (BSA), Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA), UCL Centre for post-14 Education and Work, the TATE affiliated Digital Maker Collective, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, and the British Association of Film, Television, and Screen Studies (BAFTS). I also sit on the Board of Researchers for COMMON and fulfil reviewer engagements for the British Educational Research Association Journal (BERJ), Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE), and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

I am currently working on a number of funded projects including a drive towards the decolonisation of the creative arts curriculum, co-development of a screen studies multimodal resource, and researching educational access and outcomes for students of colour in community and formal educational settings.  I have recently brought together the various strands of my practice and research to establish the Social Performance Network, which is an evolving community of practice that exemplifies a digitally convergent and socially engaged platform, that is focused on connecting understandings of 'social performance' and inequality using concepts of ‘social theatre’. The network works collaboratively with academic and practitioner communities from within the Arts, Humanities, and Social Science disciplines to extend dialogue and practice that interrogates, explores, and reconceptualises socialisation, to consider its impact on the way we live and formulate our self-identities.

The network's first public event entitled "Performing Race" (#PerformingRace) was hosted by Central in November 2018. In 2019, the network engaged in a series of events, including panels for COMMON and Project Ovation on class and gender at the TATE and as part of the VAULT Festival, an exhibition at Central Saint Martins, UAL entitled ‘Am I the “IT” in BrITish?’ as part of the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum movement, and through a #PerformingRace follow on event entitled Disorienting race: re(lationally) choreographing resistance at Carnegie School of Education, Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality (CRED), Leeds Beckett University for WhiteSpaces in May 2019. Follow the Social Performance Network on the web or via twitter @socialperforma2 for up to date information on events, activities, and projects.


Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Acting for Screen, MA

Teaching Areas

  • Screen Studies 
  • Contextual Studies
  • Representation and Hegemony
  • Socio-cultural and critical theories
  • Equality and Inclusion
  • Qualitative Research Design
  • Contemporary pedagogies 
  • Learning Development

Areas of Expertise

  • Media and Film Education
  • English Further Education (practice and contexts)
  • Social policy ecologies
  • Sociological perspectives on social inequality
  • Britishness in postcolonial contexts
  • Social Performance (Shah, 2018)
  • Desocialisation (Shah, 2018)
  • Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR)
  • Person-centred approaches to research 

Research Areas

  • Decolonisation
  • Social Performance
  • Educational access and opportunity
  • Education and lived experience
  • Self-identity formation
  • Representing identity and experience
  • The Screen - theory and practice
  • Creative arts, pedagogies and practice
  • Digital inclusion  


Outside of academia, I am an engaged artist who uses improvisation and multimodal platforms including spoken word and photography-based art to conceptualise issues of identity and diaspora. 


Shah, J. (2018) ‘Decolonising the Creative Arts Curriculum in White Spaces’, in Progress in Education, (NSP, NY)

Shah, J. (2017) ‘Informal Learning in a Digital Landscape: A Higher Education Drama Conservatoire Case Study’, in Informal Learning: Perspectives, Challenges, and Opportunities, (NSP, NY)