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Policy, Professionalism, Leadership and Lifelong Learning Research Group

Group Info

Policy, Professionalism, Leadership and Lifelong Learning Research GroupMembers of this group are engaged in researching the interlinked areas of policy making and implementation, leadership in formal and informal settings, the nature and importance of professionalism in relation to policy and practice, and the nature of adult learning and learning in the workplace – life long learning. Our work draws on a wide range of methodologies and theoretical perspectives from across the social sciences, but there is a strong thrust of ethnographic research in our work. 

A central area of interest for policy research has been the effects of recent educational policy implementation on those involved at different levels of the education system, whether teachers, further education lecturers, education managers and administrators, parents, or learners of all ages. There has also been inquiry into the role of research in relation to teachers' professional development, and in so-called evidence-based policymaking.

Leadership research has focused on the implications of national training provision and national policies for leadership development practice and professional learning. Central areas of interest are the nature and effectiveness of alternative leadership models, leadership in the context of extended schooling, and leadership in professional development. We are also developing a strong interest in the wider field of leadership and practice in non-formal educational settings, notably youth work, and approaches to professional development through work-based learning and learning in the workplace. A strong international focus is developing in our work.


Dr Lesley Anderson

Dr. Lesley Anderson's research interests include the organisation of schools, autonomy and resource management. She is currently undertaking a case study of the management of change relating to the category and funding of two schools as they take on Academy status. She is also carrying out a mapping exercise of maintained school types and classifications. At doctoral level, Lesley is working with five students. The foci of their studies are:

  • Students’ participation in the decision-making process in secondary schools in Kenya;
  • The use of reaction evaluation by Primary National Strategy consultants to support development of their training skills;
  • The evaluation of leadership development programmes in the context of European corporate universities;
  • The role of secondary school head teachers as leaders in the education system;
  • Private sector development of Children’s Centres.

Dr. Anderson is also the convenor of the Leadership and Management line of the EdD

Trevor Arrowsmith

Trevor Arrowsmith, is a third year PhD Research Student who is researching understandings of distributed leadership in education and their implications for the role of secondary school head teachers in England.  His work is strongly influenced by the political underpinnings of government policy on the role of the head teacher and national training policies as epitomised in the National Porfessional Qualification for Head teachers run by the government-funded  National College for School Leadership.  His specific research questions are:

  • What do head teachers do to establish DL?
  • What do head teachers do to maintain and extend DL?
  • What is the impact of (1) and (2) on the role of the head teacher?

Trevor has presented papers on his work at conferences of the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society, and has published in Management in Education.

Professor Nigel Bennett

Professor Nigel Bennett is currently leading a funded research project on the work of Advanced Skills Teachers in England, which is focused on the relationships between ASTs and subject leaders, the models of teaching, learning and professional development they employ in their work, and the extent to which their work is guided by wider school and local authority development planning.  Deborah Cooper and Dr. Christine Wise are also members of the project team, along with independent consultant Dr. Peter MacDonald-Pearce and Alan Sutton of Leicester University. He is also publishing in the fields of school middle leadership and distributed leadership.  He is currently leading on the development of a series of research projects in the field of extended schools that will involve colleagues from the faculty of Health and Social Care and the Business School. His doctoral students are working on:

  • Students’ participation in the decision-making process in secondary schools in Kenya;
  • Distributed leadership and headship in English secondary schools;
  • The impact on practice of the Leadership Programme for Serving Head teachers;
  • Leading and managing continuing professional development in small rural primary schools;
  • The developing role of heads of department in secondary schools in the Irish Republic.

Professor Anna Craft

The Aspire Pilot (Feb06-Feb07) with Peter Twining and Kerry Chappell explores teenagers’ aspirations for future learning systems that they believe would nurture their creativity and engagement with learning.  With a substantial e-dimension the project involves the identification of virtual environments in which prototypes of learning systems can be evolved, with the support of creative experts as a resource to the young people involved. 

Possibility Thinking Phase 3 (May06-July07) in collaboration with Principal Investigators Pam Burnard (Cambridge), Teresa Grainger (Canterbury Christ Church) and a research assistant Kerry Chappell documents possibility thinking in children aged 4 – 7, and the pedagogies which appear to foster it. 

Project Supervisor to ResCen Project at Middlesex University an artist-led investigation of their own creativity.

Creative Action Research Awards Programme, 2006-2007, funded by Department for Education and Skills

Jonathan Hughes

Jonathan Hughes is involved in a research project comparing the experiences of three providers in the West Midlands that promote access to adult further and higher education for disadvantaged groups. The three providers are The Open University, Staffordshire University and the West Midlands Region of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). The Open University research focuses on the experiences of two groups of students: one group in the Staffordshire area who were studying Openings courses and a second group in Birmingham taking courses leading to an Early Years Diploma. This experience is compared with that of Staffordshire University’s Partnership Programme, which involves work with a large consortium of further education colleges, and with research work undertaken within the WEA’s extensive links with networks of community organisations, trades unions and local authorities. The research aims to promote better understanding and to encourage solutions that address disadvantage, discrimination and stigma with regard to education, qualifications and life chances.

He is also completing a doctorate that examines the impact of policy discourse on older learners, using discourse analysis and locating the study within a Foucauldian theoretical perspective.  His conclusion is that older learners are being excluded from the policy discourse and that lifelong learning as an inclusive perspective is ceasing to have validity.

Professor Martyn Hammersley

  • Research ethics and regulation
  • Third edition of Ethnography: Principles in Practice
  • Questioning Qualitative Research
  • Qualitative Research, Complexity and Causality
  • The Dialectics of Research

Roger Harrison

Co-director of the "Learning for leadership" project, investigating the nature and role of learning in the formation of leader identities. Funding from the national Centre for Excellence in Leadership.

Co-director of the "Assessment of Workplace Learning" research project, funding from the OU Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Bob Jeffrey

The Creativity and Performativity in Teaching and Learningresearch project (Primary Schools Mar06 - Feb08) with researcher Elena Zezlina-Phillips and Dr. Geoff Troman of Roehampton University is investigating how English national policies to develop creativity and policies to raise levels of achievement through improving performance relate to one another, how they are incorporated into primary schools' organisation and pedagogy and the effects of any tensions between the policies for teachers, learners and parents.

The Identity, Career and Commitment of Primary Teachers in Performativity Cultures with Dr. Geoff Troman and Andrea Raggl of Roehampton University (Jan05 - Dec06) focuses on primary teachers' sense of self and identity and how these are changing in the current circumstances, the importance of teaching in their lives and teachers' views of the 'satisfiers' and 'dissatisfiers' in teaching, and how they secure a balance between them. The project also focuses on teachers' views of how their classroom teaching and relationships with pupils have been affected by the introduction of performativity cultures, their views of working in performative cultures, in terms of staff relationships, and what changes they believe would enhance their commitment.

Methodology – Mainly revolving around ethnography but the two most recent publications concern researching policy and cross national methodology.

Julius Jwan

Julius Jwan is a second year PhD research student His research is looking at levels of student participation in school decision making in Kenyan secondary schools, which he is exploring through observation, interview and focus groups. He has presented papers on his work at conferences in Africa.

Rajni Kumrai

Rajni Kumrai is currently involved in two research projects.  She is co-managing  an externally funded “Upstream” Research project  on the Connexions Service in Milton Keynes . The aim of the Project is to examine the factors that determine young people’s chances to enter education, employment and training and the relationship between Sure Start programme, The Children’s Fund and the Connexions Service.  She is also undertaking research on British government youth policy reforms and issues of social inclusion.  She will shortly be presenting a paper at an international conference in this area.

Dr Maggie Preedy

Dr Maggie Preedy is currently involved in three research projects and has just completed the evaluation of a major national in-service education programme.

The Learning for Leadership study explores how educational leaders learn in both informal and informal learning and the ways in which this learning is applied to their practice. The project is supported by a studentship, funded by the Centre for Educational Leadership and the University's Research Funding and Development Committee. She is undertaking this work with Roger Harrison

Her study of Senior Leadership Teams examines how senior leadership teams interpret their roles and the ways in which leadership is distributed across the team.  It is based on case studies of leadership teams in six schools, This study is being carried out jointly with Lesley Kydd.

Her Collaborative Learning On-line project is being conducted in collaboration with Marion Cartwright in association with the OU's Practice Based Professional Learning CETL.

Her evaluation study of National College for School Leadership 's Together We Can Fly,  a programme of team development resources for use by head teachers, was carried out in collaboration with Nigel Bennett and Wendy Newton. This has included a survey of headteachers and case studies of selected schools. The study explores how CPD materials are adapted to meet specific school needs and examines the benefits of professional development models that are based on group, rather than individual, development.

Dr Fiona Reeve

Dr. Fiona Reeve is joint Project Director of a home international comparison of foundation degrees in England and higher national certificates and diplomas (HNC/Ds) in Scotland, being conducted with Professor Jim Gallacher and Robert Ingram of Glasgow Caledonian University. She has particular responsibility for the research undertaken into FDs in England.

These two types of provision can be seen as examples of ‘short cycle work related higher education’. Although this approach is becoming increasingly important internationally, there are now major differences between Scotland and England in the ways in which this type of provision has been developed and is being implemented. This provides the opportunity for a ‘home international’ comparison which can be of considerable value in our understanding of both policy and practice.

The first stage of this study explored the emergence of differing policy agendas and frameworks in the two countries. The second stage of the study is exploring the process of implementation of the different forms of provision in Scotland and England.

Later stages of the research will involved detailed work with case studies and will focus on investigating the student experience and that of key stakeholders such as employers.

Sandy Sieminski

PhD Student and staff member is researching the effects of performativity on teachers in Further Education Colleges and the influence of top down policies on professionalism and career.

Natallia Yakavets

Natallia is a first year PhD research student who completed her M.Res degree last summer.  Her M.Res research examined the role of the primary school headteacher in creating and influencing school culture, and she is developing this theme for her doctorate, examining practice in secondary schools in the context of the extended schools policy.  Natallia has presented papers on her M.Res research at conferences at Penn State and Stirling Universities.


Professor Nigel Bennett

Subject leaders in schools facing challenging circumstances

This project was an extension of an earlier major literature review of school “middle leaders” carried out by Nigel Bennett, Christine Wise, Philip A. Woods and Wendy Newton for the National College for School Leadership in 2003-4.  It updated the review and drew some conclusions about possible professional development activities, contributing to a wider NCSL project. 

Funded by the NCSL:  £8865:  August 2004 – September 2005.


Study of the development of the Advanced Skills Teachers Programme

With Dr. Christine Wise, Ms. Deborah Cooper, Dr. Peter MacDonald-Pearce (consultant);  Alan Sutton (University of Leicester)

This project was commissioned by the NCSL to explore the extent to which advanced skills teachers in English secondary schools were exercising a leadership role in the development of classroom practice and their impact on existing school and local authority structures. It ran from July 2005-October 2006.

Funded by the NCSL: £29,983.

Professor Anna Craft

Finding the Keys to Learning.

Pupil-voice project supporting children from Y3 to Y5 inclusive in learning to become researchers. Funded by Creative Partnerships.  Budget:  £9,000. April 2008 – July 2008


Dance Partners for Creativity.

Exploring the co-development of creativity at the interface between dance and lower secondary education.  Funded by AHRC. Budget:  £165K. April 2008 – March 2010



Devising metrics by which aspiration to transform learning and teaching can be documented.  Funded by QCA, SWGate and the OU. Budget:  £23K. September 2007 – October 2008

Talk to Learn

The project involves using film and research approaches in a collaboration between researchers, a film-maker and staff across seven departments of the school collecting and analysing data on pedagogy.  Funded by Arts Council, England.  Budget:  £10K. November 2007 – March 08

Dr Linda Haggarty

Thinking and practice of beginning science and mathematics teachers

with Dr Keith Postlethwaite from Exeter University funded by the Leverhulme Trust £65,000


Roger Harrison

Research studentship:  Learning for Leadership.

Successful application to ESRC for CASE studentship, in partnership with the National Youth Agency, to examine policy action dialogues between stakeholders at different levels within a Local Authority.


Bob Jeffrey

Creativity and Performativity Policies in teaching and Learning in primary schools (CAPITAL).

Principal Investigator and co-directed by Geoff Troman at Roehampton University. ESRC project employing 1.3 FTE from March 2006-August 2008 worth £202,000


The identity, career and commitment of primary teachers in performativity cultures

with Dr. Geoff Troman Principal Investigator. ESRC £160K. Jan 2005 - March 2007.


Dr Maggie Preedy, Roger Harrison, Professor Nigel Bennett.

The Learning for Leadership

study explores how educational leaders learn in both informal and informal learning and the ways in which this learning is applied to their practice.  Ann Pegg is the research student working on this project. Funded jointly by the OU RFDC and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (£10,000): 2005-8


Evaluation of Together We Can Fly

With Prof. Nigel Bennett, Ms.Wendy Newton

This project was commissioned by the National College for School Leadership in order to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of a major team-development programme that they had developed and run. The evaluation ran from 2003-5.  Funded by the NCSL:  £28,500


Dr Fiona Reeve

A study of differing national models of short-cycle work related higher education in Scotland and England

The study is a comparative project researching Higher National Diplomas in Scotland and Foundation Degrees England. It will examine and explore the following issues:

  • the demand drivers and how far they differ
  • the differing policy and funding frameworks
  • the different types of provision which have emerged and the roles of different stakeholders in shaping this provision
  • the consequences of these models for the experiences of the learners involved
  • the outcomes for businesses.

Funded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Council for Industry and Higher Education, Universities UK and the Sector Skills Development Agency.  Total funding is £61,500 over 2 years.