Research & Development

One of the main areas of work in the St Ambrose Barlow Teaching School Alliance is Research and Development. A variety of work is undertaken whereby staff and pupils work with internationally recognised academic institutes to carry out research projects. The aim is for high quality and worthwhile research to take place in the school environment which informs future educational reform and organisation.

Current Research

Expansive Education

St Ambrose Barlow and teachers from across our alliance work closely with Bill Lucas and his team at Winchester University on Expansive Education. We are fully committed to and have undertaken many research projects looking closely at the impact it has on teaching and learning.

What is Expansive Education?

  • Expanding goals for learning, beyond success in examinations
  • Individual intelligence is expandable, not fixed
  • Learning opportunities also happen outside the classroom
  • Teachers are learners, seeking and investigating better outcomes

Expansive education is an umbrella term coined to describe teachers, schools, colleges and organisations that are committed to focusing on the development of useful, transferable habits of mind throughout mainstream education. Other words for 'habits of mind' include 'capabilities', 'competences', 'attributes' and 'dispositions'. Those interested in expansive education tend to use this kind of language as part of a conscious attempt to be more precise about what young people are learning as well as knowledge and skills. Those interested in expansive education believe that the idea that education must be centrally about expanding young people's capacity to deal with real-world complexity and uncertainty and want to explore ways in which this vision can be turned into a practical reality.

Expansive education is not the property of any one organisation but a phrase to describe the common ground which exists between many pioneering organisations, schools, colleges, universities and practitioners. The kinds of habits of mind it is promoting include but are by no means limited to:

  • Mindfulness
  • Optimism
  • problem-solving
  • reflective practice
  • resilience
  • resourcefulness
  • responsible risk-taking
  • self-awareness
  • self-reliance, and thinking interdependently
  • adaptability
  • collaboration
  • courage
  • creative thinking
  • creativity
  • emotional self-management
  • empathy
  • finding humour
  • imagining
  • inquisitiveness
  • intuitive thinking

The learning dispositions listed above taken together constitute the kinds of all-round capabilities expansive educators seek to cultivate in all young people.

It is a feature of expansive education that the processes of learning are themselves considered to be important and that, wherever possible, they need to be visible. Sometimes referred to as 'meta-cognition' or 'meta-learning', the process of learning is itself an important aspect of expansive education. For we know from decades of research that students who are more meta-cognitively aware become better learners and achieve and attain more.


SLICE Curious Minds

The Specialist Leaders in Cultural Education Programme (SLICE) was devised in response to Darren Henley's recommendations in his review of Cultural Education. Curious Minds are embarking on a two year programme of investment and activity funded by the Department for Education to put in to practice recommendations from the report. This involves Teaching School Alliances playing a key role in increasing access to and raising the standard of cultural education for children and young people in the North West. The SLICE programme is one such initiative.

At the induction, we provided the SLICEs with the context and landscape of the cultural sector in the North West. They met a range of national portfolio organisations, including 20 Stories High, Blackburn Museum and Manchester City Galleries and were presented with the challenges of working with schools from an NPO perspective. Our work going forward with them will feature the following activity: raising awareness, promoting and championing the value of creativity and culture in schools; partnering with learning teams in a cultural organisation on a peer mentor basis - including work shadowing and shaping school/education offers so they are appropriately aligned to school need; offering guidance for trainees and peers on the use of cultural partners to deliver the curriculum; undertaking a piece of action research on the value of culture for learning; staying abreast of the cultural offer to schools in their local region and sharing it; identifying other cultural champions in the alliance, nominating them for further opportunities with Curious Minds and the cultural sector; being a peer support and advocate for Artswork and Arts Award.

As part of this role, SLICEs will be given the opportunity to have the activity accredited on a masters pathway in Cultural Education by Edge Hill University, developed by Curious Minds. We believe this presents an exciting opportunity to build the capacity of schools to integrate arts, culture and creativity more strategically in the delivery of formal and extracurricular learning

RCUK School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI)

The School-University Partnerships Initiative is a three-year initiative to create structured and strategic mechanisms for HEIs to work in partnership with secondary schools and FE colleges. This partnership working will support researchers' direct engagement with students and bring contemporary and inspirational research contexts into formal and informal learning, in order to enhance and enrich the curriculum.

The aims of the School-University Partnerships Initiative are to:

inspire the next generation by facilitating engagement between secondary school students and researchers to bring contemporary research into formal and informal learning contexts to enhance the curriculum and raise ambition;

reach secondary school students from a diversity of backgrounds and abilities and engage the widest possible range of teachers and schools in ways which have maximum impact on teaching quality and learning;

provide researchers (particularly those in the early stages of their career) with opportunities and training to engage with secondary school students and develop their transferable skills as outlined in the Researcher Development Framework (RDF);

support secondary schools and HEIs to work together to create structured, strategic, sustainable and equitable mechanisms for school-university engagement which increases the breadth and quality of interactions between researchers and students.

The University of Manchester

Principal Investigator: Dr Roz Cooper

The University of Manchester's RCUK School-University Partnership work will create and embed a Research Gateway for Schools and Colleges to support secondary schools, colleges and the University to work together in bringing contemporary research to life with young people from all backgrounds.

Examples of projects to be delivered include: a single online 'brokerage' service that links trained 'public-engagement active' research staff with schools and colleges who seek the input of researchers into areas of the curriculum.

using the collections and objects in the University's public spaces, such as, the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, John Ryland Library and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, to bring young people into contact with PhD and early career researchers; a programme of interactive and practical activities, delivered on campus and in school, showcasing the institution's breadth of discipline areas; web-based resources providing young people and their advisers with exciting, relevant and age-tailored information on research as a career; support for learners undertaking the Extended Project Qualification to get an early taste of the research process through undertaking primary research inquiries.

The University will work in partnership with a diverse range of schools and colleges across the region, including four other local Teaching Schools and institutions targeted as part of its extensive widening participation strategy.

The Research Gateway for Schools and Colleges will also build an infrastructure of training, reward, evaluation and dissemination to embed this work within the institution.

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