New action research looking at the link between knitting and nurturing

19th June 2017

This week we introduce the work of Carol Kennedy, who conducted a small scale research study to investigate how knitting could benefit pupils and staff working within the nurturing structure available in her secondary school. Her artcile is freely available here

The article is a great example of action research, where a practitioner introduced a new activity to support pupils and wished to identify whether the activity was indeed providing benefits to students.

NGN encourages all teachers and practitioners to conduct similar small-scale research projects as it can help monitor and evaluate the impact of their work, identify areas of improvement and communicate the added value of their work across the school.  


The study
Carol conducted a small-scale study in a Pupil Support Department in a Scottish secondary school where she runs nurturing sessions once a week for two year groups of pupils.  Over the course of one academic year she tried out knitting with a number of girl pupils as a calming activity, to see if this might be a useful addition to the behavioural tools and strategies they already use. 

The aim of the study was to explore staff perceptions regarding:
a) Their experiences of knitting beside pupils who can be resistant to more routine behaviour support strategies and
b) Whether knitting had an impact on pupil stress levels and learning.
To this end, she interviewed five members of staff and also included her own reflections in the study.


The outcomes
The main themes that emerged from the interviews included:  

  • Soothing:  The knitting was described as ‘calming and therapeutic’.
  • Closeness: Carol summed this up: ‘the tool of the knitting can provide opportunities for both easy conversation and also remove the need for any conversation.  What seems clear, whether by pupils accepting closer contact through guided hand over hand instruction, or just being around the adult is that there is an ease to the interactions which is potentially beneficial.’
  • Engagement: staff and pupils felt both engaged in the knitting because it brought pleasure and satisfaction, but also because it allowed them to create something that evolved over time and thus sparked curiosity and engagement.
  • Gender: a few staff mentioned that although only female pupils were involved in the study, they thought that boys could benefit from it too and that is was something they should try out.
  • Readiness to learn: knitting was related to patience and developing frustration tolerance “when things went wrong with knitting”, which led to “getting [pupils] to realise that this is really it`s not a big problem we can easily sort that…”.   

How might crafting support learning? Crafting could support pupils with certain skills that are based on frustration tolerance.  It may also aid transitions between learning activities.  The social nature of the closeness and enhanced relationship experienced during knitting could potentially help pupils experience success in turn taking, asking for help and having positive interactions with others.

What role did it play in managing pupil stress? The activity was a calm and soothing one, perhaps related to simple focus and repetition, stillness and sound of the knitting. Staff felt that the soothing nature of the activity helped create a feeling of safety and a reduction in anxiety needed prior to meaningful learning. The level of engagement that was experienced helped to create interest and motivation.

How did the knitting affect relationships? Staff identified positive effects from the ease of conversation and lack of pressure, being part of a group positively and without expectations.


Overall, the small scale study Carol conducted allowed her to identify the outcomes of knitting on pupils and staff. The research highlighted the positive influence of knitting on developing closeness between pupils and staff, feeling engaged and enjoying the activity, and potentially benefiting the pupils’ readiness to learn.

The study helped Carol clarify the outcomes of this new activity and provided her with evidence that knitting had a positive impact on the pupils attending the nurturing structure, thus supporting the idea that knitting should be continued.


If you would like to know more about Carol’s research, you can access the full article here. For specific questions on her work, you can contact her at For general questions regarding nurture research, you can contact Dr Florence Ruby at