The essential purpose of this book is to provide conceptual and methodological insights into the small-scale, applied educational research activity that has come to be known in recent years in the UK as ‘practitioner-based enquiry’.
It is perhaps ironic that as the publicly funded schools sector of the education system has been subject to increasingly centralized political controls, manifested in six major pieces of legislation under the Conservative governments of 1979-97 and emergent Labour Party legislation post-May 1997 (Unwin and Brown, 1998), and all that is implied for curricula and organization, the higher education sector has expanded, changed and diversified to an unprecedented extent in the same period. Since the incorporation of the former polytechnics into ‘new’ universities in 1992, the enlarged university sector and remaining institutes of higher education have become much more market-oriented and consumer-led in respect of courses offered and students enrolled. An indicative feature of this trend has been the provision of both award-bearing and short courses for the ‘practitioner’ in such fields as schoolteaching, nurse education and social work, and technical training for the police, armed forces and similar groups.
Departments of education and health studies, responding to imperatives as diverse as ‘Project 2000’ in nurse education, and the drive for ‘competences’ in the initial training of secondary school teachers (DfE, 1992), have been at the forefront of course developments which have established the professional concerns of practitioners as the raw material to be reconstituted in a teaching-learning process that contrasts markedly with content-oriented and direct instruction-based models that characterize much of the conventional higher education environment.
There are several strands to the emergence of PBE approaches to teaching