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  Projects Phase I Phase II Phase III CDA RTF
Phase III Shortlist  Specification  Director's Report  Submission
Assessment Criteria  Guidelines and Advice


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 practices.

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 others.

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 websites.

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.

Andrew Pollard
Director, TLRP

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 NIACE
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 Glenrothes College
Mr Ian Wheeler (Formerly National Training Organisation National Council)
Professor Hannele Niemi University of Helsinki
Professor Eamonn Kelly George Mason University

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