OVERVIEW REPORT ON PHASE III OUTLINE PROPOSALS
Provision of support prior to submission
Following publication of the Phase III specification, advice was
offered by the Directors then in post, namely Charles Desforges,
John Kanefsky and Andrew Pollard, in addition to Stephen Gorard
and other colleagues from TLRP's Research Capacity Building Network.
It appears that most applicants took up the offer to discuss their
ideas, with over 120 requests being handled by RCBN alone.
Feedback suggests that this support was much appreciated.
Common issues for discussion included specification of the learners
and learning outcomes to be researched, ways of assessing changes
in learning outcomes and the construction of designs from which
more general conclusions might be drawn.
Submission of outline applications
257 outline applications were received requesting in excess of
£132million. 252 of these were accepted for consideration
and were classified into eight broad, education sectors as follows:
- Higher education = 85 (including 20 ICT applications)
- Initial teacher education = 7
- CPD for teachers = 17 (including 1 ICT application)
- Post-16 = 30
- Community / family learning = 20 (including 3 ICT applications)
- Adult education = 25 (including 4 ICT applications)
- Workplace learning = 44 (including 8 ICT applications)
- CPD = 24 (including 2 ICT applications)
Most applications were made by teams of four or more academics
and bids from single applicants were unusual. The average
duration proposed was greater than normal for education research
projects and a significant number were for over 48 months, with
some suggesting as much as 60 months. These indicators suggest
that, as intended, Phase III attracted proposals which are larger
than usual in this field, and which may potentially offer more sophisticated
and sustained research designs.
The contribution of applications to Programme objectives
Enhance learning at all ages and stages in education, training
and life-long learning.
Most applications were explicitly focused on the enhancement of
learning – a vital distinguishing focus for the Programme
as a whole. However, in some cases, learning enhancement was
considered indirectly and more explicit consideration might be expected
in full proposals. A significant differentiator between applications
concerned approaches to the assessment of learning outcomes.
Many worthwhile applications focused on a specific age or stage
in education, training and life-long learning. However, these
were helpfully complemented by others seeking to reach across the
life-course in part, or as a whole.
Develop the capability for transforming the knowledge base
relevant to learning into effective and efficient teaching and training
Applications were variable in respect of this Programme goal.
However, where applicants were aware, the issue of knowledge transformation
was often addressed through user engagement, impact and communication
strategies. As a whole, the outline applications tended to
be relatively underdeveloped in this respect, but it was possible
to evaluate the awareness shown and the potential offered.
Enhance system-wide capacity for research based practice in
teaching and learning.
Overall, this issue was addressed relatively poorly within many
outline proposals, with little understanding being shown of TLRP's
aspiration to support the development of research capacity through
the work of projects. However, where the Programme objective
was understood, some excellent provision for capacity building was
incorporated into research designs.
Promote and extend multi-disciplinary and multi-sector research
in teaching and learning.
Three-quarters of the applications cited Education as their ‘primary
discipline'. Whilst a significant proportion of these included team
members from other disciplines or subject areas, overall the extent
of inter-disciplinary work was a little disappointing. Where
this occured, education was most commonly combined with psychology
and/or sociology. However, there were also some interesting
examples of proposals drawing from other disciplines.
Multi-sector research (interpreted across institutions and age-phases)
was reflected in the distribution of shortlisted proposals.
A number of worthwhile proposals crossed sectors within the public
services, particularly Education and Medicine.
There were also important examples of the use of multiple methods,
drawing on the strengths of different approaches at particular stages
of a research design. Some applications offered multi-national
comparison, particularly across different countries within the UK.
Phase III themes
The specification for this Phase invited bids in relation to three
themes: learners and learning; teachers, trainers and learning environments;
and learning communities. These were each very well covered, though
with particular emphasis on learners and learning. Many applications
led on one theme, with strong supplementary engagement with the
There was particularly strong coverage of issues such as identity
and learning, access and inclusion, pedagogic approaches and institutional
learning cultures, networks and communities.
The shortlisting process
Prior to consideration by the Programme Steering Committee at a
two-day meeting in May, each application was sent out for independent
assessment by a range of reviewers, most of whom provided comments
for feedback to applicants. Reviewers on most proposals usually
included two members of the Programme Steering Committee, a member
of the Directors' Team and one or more members of a small ‘College
of Reviewers' appointed to provide the Committee with additional
specialist advice (see Appendix for a list of members). At
the Steering Committee meeting three sub-groups (covering HE/Teacher
Education; Post-16, Community and Adult Education; and Workplace/CPD)
were formed to consider all the submissions in the light of the
comments received. Specialist assessors moved between groups to
contribute to discussions of applications with an ICT focus.
Each of these sub-groups identified a ‘long-list' of ‘strong'
and ‘possible' candidates for shortlisting. The Directors'
Team then reviewed these ‘long-lists' in order to provide
the Steering Committee with an overview of the potential balance
and spread of proposals in respect to the key aims, objectives and
priorities outlined in the Phase III specification. Finally, following
further discussion, the Steering Committee agreed on a shortlist
of 47 applications for the submission of full proposals. Details
of the shortlisted applications are available on the ESRC and Programme
The Steering Committee recorded its thanks to all applicants, particularly
those whom it has not been possible to shortlist. It noted
that the potential fit of each project to the Programme was an important
criterion, and a decision not to shortlist did not necessarily reflect
criticism of the intrinsic quality of a proposal.
Appendix TLRP Phase III College of Reviewers
for Outline Applications
|Professor David Boud
||University of Technology, Sydney
|Dr Paul Clark
||Institute for Learning and Teaching in HE (ILT)
|Dr Pat Davies
||University of Sheffield
|Professor Oliver Fulton
||University of Lancaster
|Dr Peter Lavender
|Professor Stephen McNair
||University of Surrey
|Professor Ian McNay
||University of Greenwich
|Mr Barrie Oxtoby
||Consultant (formerly Motor Mfrs & Traders Assoc)
|Mr Michael Tedder
||St Austell College
|Dr Craig Thomson
|Mr Ian Wheeler
||(Formerly National Training Organisation National Council)
|Professor Hannele Niemi
||University of Helsinki
|Professor Eamonn Kelly
||George Mason University