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Mr Tom Gerken

PhD Researcher

Cass School of Education and Communities

Tom Gerken is a PhD Researcher and former BBC journalist, currently studying a multidisciplinary PhD in Education, Psychology and Performing Arts. He is also actively involved in the RadioActive101 project.

  • ED 1.10
    Cass School of Education and Communities
    Water Lane

    Tom has been studying his PhD at UEL since September 2014 and aims to submit his thesis in September 2017. His thesis is concerned with substance misuse, related mental health and participatory radio - specifically the development and investigation of a participatory radio programme as a tool to improve psychosocial dimensions (e.g. self-confidence, self-motivation and self-efficacy) and engagement of at-risk youth.

    Tom has an undergraduate degree in Journalism from Cardiff University and a postgraduate degree in Radio Production from Bournemouth University. He worked as a journalist for the BBC before moving to UEL in 2014.


    Tom's PhD research comprises a multidisciplinary approach across the Cass School of Education and Communities, the School of Psychology, and the School of Arts and Digital Industries (ADI) at the University of East London. Under guidance and supervision, a group of ‘at-risk youth’ (aged 16-21) create and listen to a radio over the course of 6 weeks. This radio programme is created using a peer-led, participatory radio approach as part of a psychosocial intervention – an intervention which targets specific psychosocial dimensions (e.g. self-confidence, self-motivation and self-efficacy).

    This is informed by previous research concerning the participatory radio educational intervention RadioActive101 - a community based internet radio project created to address inclusion, employability and active citizenship as an educational intervention (Ravenscroft, Balica et al. 2015, Ravenscroft, Rainey et al. 2015). This PhD research seeks to add to the knowledge in this area by adapting this intervention to specifically investigate psychosocial dimensions (eg self-confidence, self-motivation and self-efficacy), engagement, and the emergence of 'active discourse spaces' - pedagogical spaces in which participants appear to think more critically about issues which affect them, and how these pedagogical spaces can be brought about.

    The psychosocial intervention consists of weekly meetings with at-risk youth, where participants learn radio skills and engage in critical, reflective and questioning dialogue surrounding substance use and related mental health (active discourse). The outcome of this dialogue is to positively influence specific psychosocial dimensions (eg self-confidence, self-motivation and self-efficacy). Meetings will conclude with the creation of short audio recordings. These recordings will combine to create a radio programme, which participants listen to at the conclusion of 6 weeks.


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