Professor Karen Guldberg

Dr Karen Guldberg

School of Education
Professor of Autism Studies
Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research and Head of Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN)

Contact details

School of Education
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Dr Karen Guldberg is Professor in Autism Studies, Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) and Head of the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN) at the School of Education, University of Birmingham.

Karen’s research and teaching focuses on autism studies in education, and on inclusive practice in education and provision.  

Karen's most recent publications include the book Developing Excellence in Autism Practice: Making a Difference in Education (Routledge).The book gives an overview and synthesis of current knowledge of relevance to the development of excellence in autism education. By situating understandings of autism within a ‘bio-psycho-social-insider’ framework, the book offers fresh insights and new ways of thinking that bring together global pedagogic practice, research, policy, and the insider perspective. Karen has published a range of peer-reviewed studies on the need for new methodologies in the field, on autism pedagogy and technology enhanced learning for autistic pupils. 

Karen’s research has involved working in partnership with schools, practitioners and parents. Karen has been Principal-Investigator (P-I) or Co-Investigator (C-I) on 30 research or Knowledge Exchange projects. Funders have included ESRC, EPSRC, the EU, and charitable organisations, such as the Autism Education Trust and the John and Lorna Wing Foundation. Karen has led Impact Case Studies submitted to REF 2014 and REF 2021. 

Karen led the development of the Autism Education Trust (AET) partnership school-based training as well as the adaptation of this to Early Years. Over 270,000 educators have now completed this professional development programme. She is currently working in partnership with the AET and leading the re-development of these materials.


  • PhD in Education and Autism Studies, University of Birmingham
  • PG Certificate, Learning and Teaching in HE, University of Birmingham 
  • MEd (Autism Children) with Distinction, University of Birmingham
  • MA Women’s Studies, University of West of England
  • Post Graduate Certificate of Education, Early Years, University of West of England 
  • BA Joint Honours, Social Anthropology & Linguistics, University of Manchester 


Karen worked as a teacher across a range of educational settings before joining the University of Birmingham. This included working in mainstream schools, a special school and in outreach work supporting teachers of autistic pupils in mainstream schools. She has also worked in psychiatric hospitals as a social therapist. On arriving at University of Birmingham in 2001, Karen was tasked with developing and running a web-based programme for practitioners and parents caring for or working with autistic individuals. This programme was launched in 2002. 

Linked-In profile


Karen co-directs the MA Inclusion (Autism Children) degree. This course is a Masters level programme that usually educates 150 students a year.

Prior to this, she developed and ran the 'webautism programme' a web-based undergraduate programme for practitioners and parents/carers. Karen also contributes to other teaching in the School of Education. Karen received the Head of School's Excellence in Teaching Award (2008) and won a University of Birmingham Teaching Fellowship in 2010. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2013). 

Postgraduate supervision

Karen has supervised 10 PhD students to completion, and currently supervises 13 students, most of whom focus their research in autism education.

Current doctoral students


An overview of some of her research may be found on the webpage Excellence in Autism Research and Practice

Karen has been Principal-Investigator (P-I) or Co-Investigator (C-I) on 30 research or Knowledge Exchange projects. Funders have included ESRC, EPSRC, the EU, and charitable organisations, such as the Autism Education Trust and the John and Lorna Wing Foundation. Karen has led Impact Case Studies submitted to REF 2014 and REF 2021.

Recent grants include:

UKRI(2019-2020) Investigation of the causes and implications of exclusion for autistic children and young people.

UKRI (2020-2021) Developing best practice for schools working with marginalised autistic pupils and their families.

ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (2020-2021) Creation of a film and resources that capture the implications of lockdown on autistic children, young people and their families.

ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (2020-2021) Autism and school exclusion: A digital resource for school leaders and teachers.

Other grants and projects include, but are not limited to:

Principal Investigator: Meeting the needs of pupils with autism in Qatar: the way forward. Funded by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Qatar. February 2017- November 2017.

Principal Investigator: Scientific Review of the ‘Benchmarking Autism Services Efficacy,’ (BASE) report by Dillenburger, McKerr, and Jordan (2015). Funded by the John and Lorna Wing Foundation, February 2017- November 2017.

Principal Investigator: Transforming educational practice in autism: enhancing the skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers in the UK, Italy and Greece. Funded by Erasmus Plus KA 2 Strategic Partnerships, September 2014-September 2017.

Co-Investigator: SHARE-IT: School-Home Autism Research Environment through Intelligent Technologies. Funded by EPSRC, February 2013-August 2014.

Principal Investigator: SHAPE, Shaping the future of technology use in the classroom. Funded by ESRC, May 2012-July 2013. Co-Investigator: ECHOES 2: Improving children’s social interaction through exploratory learning in a multimodal environment. Funded by EPSRC/ESRC, TLRP programme, November 2008-May 2012. Graded outstanding.

Co-Investigator: ‘Autism outcomes study: Educational provision and outcomes for people on the autism spectrum.’ Funder: Autism Education Trust, 2011.

Other activities

Karen is Norwegian and is conducting work for the Norwegian Research Council with collaborators in Norway, for a project led by Dr Kristin Skeide Fuglerud at Norsk Regnesentral.


Recent publications


Guldberg, K 2020, Developing excellence in autism practice: Making a difference in education. 1 edn, Routledge, Taylor & Francis, London, London.


Papoudi, D, Jørgensen, CR, Guldberg, K & Meadan, H 2020, 'Perceptions, Experiences, and Needs of Parents of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children with Autism: a Scoping Review', Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Guldberg, K, Achtypi, A, D'Alonzo, L, Laskaridou, K, Milton, D, Molteni, P & Wood, R 2019, 'Using the value creation framework to capture knowledge co-creation and pathways to impact in a transnational community of practice in autism education', International Journal of Research and Method in Education , pp. 1-16.

Porayska-Pomsta, K, Alcorn, AM, Avramides , K, Beale, S, Bernardini, S, Foster, ME, Frauenberger, C, Guldberg, K, Good, J, Keay-Bright, W, Kossyvaki, L, Lemon, O, Mademtzi, M, Menzies, R, Pain, H, Rajendran, G, Waller, A, Wass, S & Smith, TJ 2018, 'Blending human and artificial intelligence to support Autistic children’s social communication skills', ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, vol. 25, no. 6, 35.

Guldberg, K, Parsons, S, Porayska-Pomsta, K & Keay-Bright, W 2017, 'Challenging the knowledge transfer orthodoxy: knowledge co-construction in technology enhanced learning for children with autism', British Educational Research Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 394-413.

Mengoni, S, Irvine, K, Thakur, D, Barton, G, Dautenhahn, K, Guldberg, K, Robins, B, Wellsted, D & Sharma, S 2017, 'Feasibility study of a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (Kaspar RCT): a study protocol', BMJ open, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 1-10.

Ashbee, E & Guldberg, K 2017, 'Using a 'collaborative contextual enquiry' methodology for understanding inclusion for autistic pupils in Palestine', Educational Review, pp. 1-19.

Guldberg, K 2016, 'Evidence-based practice in autism educational research: can we bridge the research and practice gap?', Oxford Review of Education, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 149-161.

Guldberg, K, Parsons, S, Porayska-Pomsta, K & Lee, R 2015, 'Digital Stories as a method for evidence-based practice and knowledge co-creation in technology-enhanced learning for children with autism', International Journal of Research and Method in Education , vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 247-271.

Guldberg, K, Molteni, P & Logan, N 2013, 'Autism and multidisciplinary teamwork through the SCERTS model', British Journal of Special Education, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 03-149.

Guldberg, K, Mackness, J, Makriyannis, E & Tait, C 2013, 'Knowledge management and value creation in a third sector organisation', Knowledge and Process Management, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 113-122.

Porayska-Pomsta, K, Frauenberger, C, Rajendran, T, Smith, T, Pain, H, Menzies, R, Foster, M & Guldberg, K 2012, 'Developing technology for autism needs an interdisciplinary approach', Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing.


Guldberg, K 2017, Enhancing the impact of research and knowledge co-production in Higher Education through communities of practice. in Communities of practice: Facilitating social learning in Higher Education. Springer.

Conference contribution

Porayska-Pomsta, K, Anderson, K, Bernardini, S, Guldberg, K, Smith, T, Kossyvaki, L, Hodgins, S & Lowe, I 2013, Building an intelligent authorable serious game for autistic children and their carers. in D Reidsma, H Katayose & A Nijholt (eds), Advances in Computer Entertainment: 10th International Conference, ACE 2013 Boekelo, he Netherlands, November 2013 Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS), vol. 8253, Springer, pp. 456-475.


Guldberg, K, Ashbee, E, Kossyvaki, L, Bradley, R & Basulayyim, A 2017, 'Meeting the needs of pupils with autism in Qatar: moving forward', 8th World Innovation Summit for Education, Doha, Qatar, 14/11/17 - 16/11/17 pp. 1-82.

View all publications in research portal


Karen’s research is in the areas of Technology Enhanced Learning for children with autism; the training needs of practitioners in the field of autism and on notions of 'good autism practice'.

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