Doing Research about Education

By Geoffrey Walford | Go to book overview

7

More than the Sum of Its Parts? Coordinating the ESRC Research Programme on Innovation and Change in Education

Martin Hughes


Introduction

Between 1991 and 1996 I acted as coordinator of the research programme on 'Innovation and Change in Education: The Quality of Teaching and Learning', which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This was a major programme of educational research which aimed to increase our understanding of teaching and learning in the context of the reforms introduced by the 1988 Education Reform Act. The programme consisted of 10 projects, based at various centres in England and Scotland, and involved many of the UK's leading educational researchers. My role as coordinator was to ensure that the programme achieved its full potential, in terms of both its contribution to academic knowledge and its value for non-academic users. As Howard Newby, then Chief Executive of ESRC, put it at our first programme meeting: my role was to ensure that the programme amounted to 'more than the sum of its parts'.

This chapter provides a first-hand account of my experiences as programme coordinator. My aim in the chapter is to provide some insights into the issues raised by programmatic research, and to describe how these issues were addressed within the 'Innovation and Change' programme. In this respect, the chapter is adding to what is virtually a non-existent literature. Despite the growing importance of research programmes in the social sciences, there are surprisingly few published accounts which focus on the nature and problems of this way of organizing research (two notable exceptions are Kushner, 1991, and Martin, 1995).

The chapter starts by describing how the 'Innovation and Change' programme was set up and how I came to act as coordinator. It then focuses on some of the main aspects of the coordinator's role and how these were addressed: these include working with projects and with the ESRC, creating coherence across a disparate set of projects, and disseminating through the media. The chapter concludes with some implications for research programmes in general. Throughout, the focus is on the coordination process, rather than on the academic output from the programme. Readers wishing to know more

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