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How about looking at some real issues?

In looking beyond "specific contexts" of post-16 education, the Learning and Skills Research Centre (FE Focus, May 31) has commissioned five ambitious research themes such as non-formal learning and thinking skills.

Although this exercise will doubtless keep a handful of consultants happy, even just two themes suggest intriguing questions. For instance, is non-formal learning always going to be independent of input from thinking skills? Are some thinking skills unavoidably dependent on the previous experience of students' non-formal learning? Are formal lessons on thinking skills a time-consuming distraction?

Alternatively, the LSRC could investigate views within the context of a real college: its idiosyncratic issues, values, resources, roles and politics. Organising research around the problems tutors and students believe they actually have seems a much more exciting agenda than imposing from the outside an instance of what Stephen Jay Gould has called "grand and comprehensive theory".

N Richardson 72 Moorside Road, Huddersfield

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