Reporter 443, 22 November 1999

Learning researchers head back to school

University researchers are spearheading the largest research programme the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has ever launched.

The ESRC has set up four research networks to develop and enhance the understanding of how people learn - and Leeds is at the heart of two of them.

Dr John Leach in the School of Education and new director of the Lifelong Learning Institute Professor Phillip Hodkinson are to both play integral roles in the ESRC programme.

Dr Leach is focusing on science education, with colleagues from York, King's College, London and Southampton. They will work closely with teachers in primary and secondary schools to develop the flow of information between teachers and science education researchers.

They will also investigate how best to improve school pupils' learning 'about science'. Dr Leach said ideas such as risk, which often appear in media reports about science, are widely seen as crucial for better public understanding of science.

Professor Hodkinson is part of a £400,000 drive to investigate work-based learning through five inter-linked projects with researchers from Surrey, Sheffield and Northampton.

He will also be studying events in schools, examining how teachers in twenty different subject areas learn. This will include assessment of formal imputs such as teacher training and continuing professional development.

"Secondary schools have seen a period of enormous and rapid change," said Professor Hodkinson. "Looking at how and what they learn will be very interesting."

The three year research networks both aim to develop better and stronger links between researchers and practitioners, said Professor Hodkinson. New theoretical perspectives produced by the University researchers will provide the foundation for evidence-based guidelines to improve learning for all.

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