This project evaluated the impact of key national policy levers (e.g. funding, targets and inspection) on teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) e.g. learner outcomes and motivation in the new Learning and Skills System (LSS).
The LSS brings together for the first time all post-16 education and training (except HE) under 1 organisation - the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) with its 47 local LSCs.
This system has been described as the Government's post-16 'learning revolution' and needs to be subjected to independent, critical scrutiny.
The research was be conducted by 2 teams of researchers, 1 in the North East and 1 in London, each working with 2 local LSCs and partner organisations.
We explored how the LSC's policy levers and rhetoric about TLA e.g. 'learning to learn', 'best practice' affect practice in 3 areas - 14-19 provision, basic skills provision and work-based learning. The project used the over-arching theory of a 'policy trajectory' to study policy and practice at macro, meso and micro levels, where we conducted 83 policy interviews.
Findings were compared with national and European policies and literatures on post-16 TLA in order to illuminate 'best practice' and improve policy and the quality of learning.
The research primarily employed a case-study approach in 4 local LSCs involving 100 one-day visits to 24 sites.
Relevant organisational, local, regional and national statistics provided a strong quantitative analysis of learning outcomes.
The last 15 months of the project focussed on analysis, testing of emergent findings and dissemination. Throughout the project the teams built research capacity among partners through the open, democratic sharing of expertise and new knowledge to ensure that outcomes last beyond the life of the research.
At the heart of this project were the interactions between policy and learning outcomes, between the policy interviews and the visits to the learning sites.