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Unit information: Policy and Research in Education in 2020/21

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Unit name Policy and Research in Education
Unit code EDUC20004
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sands
Open unit status Not open

Education and Social Change



School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will develop students’ understanding of the complex ways in which education policy, practice and research interact. Students will explore a range of case studies that demonstrate the contrasting aims, values and purposes that drive different kinds of policy interventions. Drawing on different disciplinary perspectives, they will consider how to assess the intended and unintended consequences of policy for practice. They will examine the role of research evidence in bringing about changes in practice and holding policy to account.

The aims of the unit are to enable students to:

  • understand the role policy plays in the pursuit of education reform and the key levers it draws on to bring about change;
  • recognise the complexity of policy processes and the main tools of analysis used to describe them;
  • appreciate how and why education policy has both intended and unintended consequences as it is put into practice;
  • assess the role of research in analysing and influencing education policy and practice.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. describe the complexity of policymaking processes and the range of intended and unintended consequences they may lead to;
  2. identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of different policy approaches and the theories of change they espouse;
  3. assess the role of research in mapping policy effects, contributing to the development of policy and practice, and evaluating outcomes;
  4. critically review a range of source materials that are relevant to the study of the interactions between education policy, practice and research.

Teaching details

This unit will be taught using a blended approach consisting of a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities including seminars, lectures, reading and discussions.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: ILO 1-4 : 500 word poster summarising key concepts introduced in the unit. Summative assessment: ILO 1, 2 & 4 : 10 minute audio-recorded individual PowerPoint presentation analysng a selected policy, setting it in its contexts of influence, text production and practice. (25%)

ILO 1-4 : 2,000 word reflective and analytical piece of writing in the form of an essay, portfolio or series of blog posts, developing a discussion of the selected policy in assignment one, locating it in its wider thematic context and critically considering its impact, later implications and legacy. (75%).

Reading and References

Braun, A., Ball, S., Maguire, M. & Hoskins, K. (2011) Taking Context Seriously: Towards Explaining Policy Enactments in the Secondary School, Discourse, 32(4), pp.585-596.

Bridges, D., Smeyers, P. & Smith, R. (2009) Evidence-Based Education Policy. Oxford. Wiley-Blackwell.

Henry, M., Lingard, B., Rizvi, F. & Taylor, S. (2013) Education Policy and the Politics of Change. London: Routledge.

Nutley, S.M., Walter, I., & Davies, H. T. O. (2014) Using Evidence : How Research can Inform Public Services. Bristol, U.K: Policy Press, 2007.

Saunders, L. (2007) Educational Research and Policy-Making. London: Routledge.

Weiss, C. (1979) The Many Meanings of Research Utilization. Public Administration Review. 39(5), pp. 426-431.

Whitty, G., Anders, J., Hayton, A., Wisby, E. & Tang, S. Research and Policy in Education: Evidence, Ideology and Impact. London: Bedford Way papers.