Evidence for a class revolution;Research focus;Briefing;News amp; Opinion

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
With pound;12.5m for some 20 projects, it is the largest-ever UK research programme. John Kanefsky outlines where the money is going

ACADEMICS across the country are celebrating awards made as part of the UK's biggest-ever education research programme.

The aims of the pound;12.5 million Teaching and Learning Research Programme - commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council - are ambitious and wide-ranging.

The programme wants to produce benefits for learners at all ages and in all settings - from pre-school to lifelong learning. It also plans to develop the evidence base for teaching and learning, and encourage collaboration between teachers, learners and researchers.

All projects will feature partnership with teachers and other research "users", who will help to ensure that the right questions are asked and the findings communicated widely.

Funding has come from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Office, the Welsh Assembly and the Department for Education and Employment. It is being allocated in two phases:

Phase I

There will be funding of pound;1.9m for four research "networks" and two "career development associates" - academics who are in the early stages of promising research careers. Each of the networks will get up to pound;450,000 while the two associates will have their salaries paid for three years. The successful bids came from:

Professors Mel Ainscow (Manchester University), Tony Booth (Canterbury Christ Church) and Alan Dyson (Newcastle): Understanding and developing inclusive practices in schools. Aim: to improve the attainment of marginalised learners by looking at common elements in their experience, overcoming barriers to their achievement, and sustaining improved practices in local authorities and schools.

Professor Robin Millar (York), Dr John Leach (Leeds), Dr Jonathan Osborne (King's College, London) and Dr Mary Ratcliffe (Southampton): "Evidence-based practice in science education". Aim: to enhance performance in school science through research-based practice. The network will promote the use of re-search evidence by teachers, wherever this will improve teaching.

Professors Helen Rainbird (University College Northampton), Karen Evans (Surrey), Phil Hodkinson (Leeds) and Lorna Unwin (Sheffield): "Improving incentives to learning in the workplace". Aim: to make workplace-learning more effective through understanding incentives to learn, and improving training practice in a wide range of work settings.

Professor Jean Rudduck (Homerton), Dr Madeleine Arnot (Cambridge), Dr Michael Fielding and Professor Kate Myers (Keele): "Consulting students about teaching and learning: process, impact and outcomes". Aim: to enhance pupils' motivation, commitment and attainment by paying attention to their perspectives on teaching and learning. This network will work with teachers to communicate new types of classroom practice, where taking account of student perspectives can make a difference.

The two career development associates are Julia Flutter (Homerton) and Mark Newman (Middlesex University). Julia Flutter is also conducting research into pupils' perspectives on learning and will be linked to the above network on consulting students. Mark Newman is investigating the professional development of nurses and will be comparing the effectiveness of two curricula: a new problem-based curriculum, and a more traditional one.

Phase II

Up to 15 large projects will share pound;8.5m over the next five years under Phase II. Each will research one or more aspects of the three big questions which were identified through an extensive period of UK-wide consultation with teachers, trainers, researchers and learners:

how to increase motivation and engagement in learning ;

how to use advances in research to promote learners' practical achievements; and

how to achieve continuous improvement in learning communities.

Teams of researchers and their partners have until late January to submit bids for projects to start in September 2000 and run for three or four years.

The programme expects that many teams will look at cross-sectoral issues and bring in experts from a wide range of disciplines.

By 2004 the programme should have produced a substantial body of evidence on what works and what can be made to work in teaching and learning. The programme is determined to communicate its results effectively.

A substantial part of the funding will therefore be spent disseminating findings as widely as possible in formats useful to teachers.

John Kanefsky is assistant director of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme and is based at the School of Education, University of

Exeter. Details of the programme can be obtained from its website www.ex.ac.ukESRC-TLRP or Dr Kanefsky tel. 01392 264978, Email j.w.kanefsky@exeter.ac.uk

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