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Principal Investigator

David Whitley is Lecturer in English at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, where his teaching and research interests focus primarily on poetry, film and children’s literature.


Debbie Pullinger is the project's full-time researcher, based in the Faculty of Education, where she also teaches on the Children and Literature course. Her doctoral project, completed in 2013, was on orality and textuality in poetry written for children. Debbie worked in primary teaching, in educational publishing, and as a freelance writer before returning to academia in 2009.

Project consultants

Julie Blake, Education Director of the Poetry Archive, Director of Poetry by Heart, Director of Full English
Educational Consultancy and a Research Associate of Bristol University

Michelle Ellefson, Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

John Gordon, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of East Anglia

Andrew Motion, poet, former poet laureate and Director of the Poetry Archive, Professor of Creative
Writing, Royal Holloway, University of London

Morag Styles, Professor of Children’s Poetry, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

The Cambridge Poetry Teaching project

In 2010, we ran a small-scale local study of teachers perceptions of poetry teaching across the education system, from Key Stage 1 through to university degree courses.  One of the most interesting findings was the wide variation in attitudes towards memorisation and recitation. We were particularly struck by the fact that, for some teachers, notably in the older age group, the poetry they had in their memory appeared to be a rich and cherished resource – both for teaching and for life.  We then discovered that although there are currently some signs of reviving interest in poetry memorisation and recitation and in their possible reinstatement on the curriculum, there has been almost no research from any disciplinary perspective, on their effects of poetry learning, or on how it might best be embedded within pedagogy. Here, it seemed, were some pressing questions awaiting investigation. We are therefore delighted that the Leverhulme Foundation is funding this timely piece of research.