Obituary

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Donald McIntyre, Professor Emeritus at Cambridge, believed the major function of educational research was to inform policy and practice. He was also convinced that the quality of education depends on what teachers do in class and how they make sense of what they do, make their many different decisions, establish relationships with pupils, manage their classrooms and facilitate pupils' learning.

In recognising a gap between research and practice, he did not, as others do, blame the irresponsible behaviour of researchers or teachers. Instead, he set out to undertake and encourage systematic and penetrating research that generates new understandings of classroom realities, indicates how teachers might be able to improve their classroom practice and makes enough sense to persuade them to take the suggestions seriously.

This implied a critical dialogue between researchers and teachers and a contribution from teachers to the joint enterprise of elucidating ways of resolving their concerns. Those who have engaged in such dialogue will remember his supportive and generous spirit, selfless giving of his time, commitment to sound argument and evidence, clarity in debate and outstanding insight. These are just some of the qualities he also displayed with his Masters and doctoral students, many of them practising teachers and all of them privileged to have him as supervisor.

Teacher education was a major strand of Donald's professional life. From 1969 to 1985, as a Reader at Stirling University, he established programmes that were research-informed and innovative in the traditional Scottish teacher education culture, previously the bailiwick of the colleges of education.

There he established worldwide links with teacher educators. After moving to the Readership at Oxford, his leadership and collaboration produced significant research output, built on the ideas developed at Stirling, and established the Oxford internship programme.

In 1996 he moved to the chair at Cambridge. There he continued with his scholarly activities, but also persuaded the university to unify three separate elements into one faculty of education and deliver a handsome new building with fine facilities.

Donald McIntyre was self-critical, thrived on hard work and expected the same of others. He was educated at Burntisland Primary, George Watson's College and Edinburgh University. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Dundee and Edinburgh universities.

His death at home last month was sudden. At the celebration of his life that followed his cremation in Cambridge, we laughed about his questionable driving skills and dress sense, and his difficulties with administrative detail and deadlines. Then we sang with gusto Burns's "A man's a man for a' that" and agreed about our great good fortune in having been part of this extraordinary man's life.

Sally Brown, professor emeritus, University of Stirling.

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