Research

Robin Alexander’s research covers the period since 1977 when in mid-career he moved from teaching in schools and colleges to working in universities. During this period he has developed lines of enquiry in the six broad areas detailed on this page: (i) curriculum conceptualisation, development, reform, expertise and management; (ii) international, comparative and development education; (iii) pedagogy, teachers, teacher education and professional development; (iv) policy and policy-making in education; (v) primary education; (vi) talk in teaching and learning, and dialogue in education. The primary phase of education has been a constant throughout, providing both a specific focus and a context for other research and culminating to date in the wide-ranging Cambridge Primary Review.

Robin Alexander’s main grants for research, evaluation and/or development projects have been as follows: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2); Social Science Research Council (SSRC) (1); Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (1); Department for International Development (DfID) (1); European Commission (EC) (1); School Examinations and Assessment Council (SEAC) (1); Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (1), British Council (1), Leverhulme Trust (2); Nuffield Foundation (1); Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (4); Heinemann Educational (1); Pearson Education (1); University of Leeds (1); University of Warwick (1); Local Education Authorities of Barking and Dagenham (1), Birmingham (1), Buckinghamshire (1), Calderdale (1), Leeds (1), Oxfordshire (1), North Yorkshire (1), Warwickshire (1); Educational Endowment Foundation (1).

Curriculum: conceptualisation, development, reform, expertise and management

Main areas of research: curriculum reconceptualisation; curriculum development; curriculum aims; curriculum history; critique of England’s national curriculum; the primary curriculum; curriculum across cultures; primary school curriculum capacity, expertise, management and leadership; curriculum and assessment.

Project highlights: Heinemann Our World primary curriculum development project (Heinemann Educational, 1989-92); Evaluation of national curriculum assessment at Key Stage 2 (SEAC 1990-92); Curriculum-associated discourse and pedagogy in the primary school (ESRC 1991-3); Curriculum Co-ordination in Primary Schools (Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire LEAs, 1997-98); Primary education in five cultures, initial project and follow up (Leverhulme Trust 1994-8 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); the Cambridge Primary Review (Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 2006-10); the Cambridge Primary Review Trust/Pearson primary curriculum (Pearson International, 2012-15).

Key publications: ‘Teacher education and the primary curriculum’ (New Directions in Primary Education, 1982); Primary Teaching (1984); ‘Innovation and continuity in the initial teacher education curriculum’ (Change in Teacher Education, 1984); Primary Education and the National Curriculum (1989); ‘Core subjects and autumn leaves’ (New Curriculum, National Curriculum, 1990); Understanding Our World: towards a framework for curriculum planning in the primary school (1990); Curriculum Organization and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools (1992); ‘Curriculum provision: priorities and consistencies’ (The Study of Primary Education, 1992); ‘The classteacher and the curriculum’ (Teaching and Learning in the Primary School, 1994); Versions of Primary Education (1995); ‘Basics, cores and choices: towards a new primary curriculum’ (Education 3-13, 1998); Time for Change: curriculum managers at work (1998); Culture and Pedagogy (2001); The Curriculum in Successful Primary Schools: a response (2002); ‘The primary curriculum: an overdue case for reform’ (Letters to the Prime Minister, 2005); ‘Pedagogy, curriculum and culture’ (Pedagogy and Practice: culture and identities, 2008); Essays on Pedagogy (2008); Towards a New Primary Curriculum: a report from the Cambridge Primary Review (2009); Children, their World, their Education (2010), chapters 12-14; Neither National nor a Curriculum? (2012); Curriculum freedom, capacity and leadership in the primary school (2013).

See also Media / media articles by Robin Alexander and contributions to the 2010-12 National Curriculum Review listed at Publications / Policy miscellany.

International, comparative and development education

Main areas of research: comparative analysis of the relationship of culture, history, policy and pedagogy; comparative research methodology; the uses and abuses of international comparison in educational policy; defining and assessing quality in development education.

Project highlights: primary education in five cultures – England, France, India, Russia and the United States – initial project and follow up (Leverhulme Trust, 1994-8 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); theories, methods and applications in comparative educational research (ESRC, 1997-2000); the education of six-year olds in England, Denmark and Finland (Ofsted 2002-3); definitions, indicators and measures of pedagogical quality in development education (EC 2002-3 and DfID 2007-8).

Key publications: Other Primary Schools and Ours: hazards of international comparison (1996); ‘Task, time, talk and text: signposts to effective teaching?’ (School Effectiveness and Learning Achievement at the Primary Stage: International Perspectives, 1996); Learning from Comparing: new directions in comparative educational research, Volume I: Contexts, Classrooms and Outcomes (1999) and Volume II: Policy, Professionals and Development (2000); Culture and Pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education (2001); The Education of Six Year Olds in England, Denmark and Finland: an international comparative study (2003); ‘Pédagogie, culture et comparaison: visions et versions de l’école élémentaire’, (Revue Française de Pédagogie, 2003); ‘Indicators of teaching quality: a model from comparative classroom research’ (Indicators of Quality Education at the Elementary Stage, 2003); ‘L’apprentissage, la civilité et la culture: perspectives internationales’ (L’apprentissage de la civilité à l’école: regards croisées, 2004); ‘Dichotomous pedagogies and the promise of cross-cultural comparison’ (Education, Globalisation and Social Change, 2006); Education as Dialogue: moral and pedagogical choices for a runaway world (2006); Essays on Pedagogy (2008); Education for All, the Quality Imperative, and the Problem of Pedagogy (2008); ‘Towards a comparative pedagogy’ (International Handbook of Comparative Education, 2009); ‘ “World class schools” – noble aspiration or globalised hokum?’ (Compare, 2010); ‘Evidence, rhetoric and collateral damage: the problematic pursuit of “world class” standards’ (Cambridge Journal of Education, 2011); ‘Moral panic, miracle cures and educational policy: what can we really learn from international comparison?’ (Scottish Review of Education, 2012); ממצאים בינלאומיים, מדיניות לאומית ופרקטיקה כיתתית: שאלות של שיקול דעת, חזון ואמון (‘International evidence, national policy, and classroom practice: questions of judgement, vision and trust’, Educational Echoes, Israel, 2012); ‘Eine “weltklasse” Erziehung: Suprematie, Interdependenz und der Nutzen und Missbrauch von Internationalen Vergleichen’ (Kulturvergelich in der Qualitativen Forschung, 2013); ‘Teaching and Learning for All: the quality imperative revisited’ (International Journal of Educational Development, 2015); ‘Teaching and Learning for All: the quality imperative revisited’ (Routledge International Handbook of Educational Development, 2015).

Pedagogy, teachers, teacher education and development

Main areas of research: conceptualising pedagogy; models and methods for the empirical study of classroom practice; primary teachers’ pedagogical thinking and decision-making; pedagogy and policy; pedagogy across cultures; the analysis of classroom interaction and discourse; teachers’ initial training and continuing professional development; professional evaluation and self-evaluation.

Project highlights: innovation, change and continuity in teacher education (SSRC 1974-6, Nuffield Foundation 1978-80, SRHE 1982-4); CNAA enquiry into undergraduate initial teacher education (CNAA, 1979-81); post-Plowden professional ideology and classroom practice in primary schools (1981-4); primary teachers’ professional knowledge-in-action (Leeds University 1986-7); ideology and classroom practice revisited (part of the Leeds City Council PRINDEP project, 1986-91); the impact of national curriculum policy on pedagogy and discourse in primary classrooms (ESRC 1991-3); pedagogy in five cultures, initial project and follow up (Leverhulme Trust 1994-8 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); classroom talk reform (QCA 2002-3, North Yorkshire County Council 2004-6, Barking and Dagenham Council 2005-7 and other local authorities since then); teacher status (DfES 2002-6)

Key publications: The Self-Evaluating Institution (1982); Initial B.Ed Courses for the Early and Middle Years (1983); Primary Teaching (1984); Change in Teacher Education: context and provision since Robbins (1984); ‘Garden or jungle? Teacher development and informal primary education’ (Informal Primary Education Today: essays and studies, 1988); Changing Primary Practice (1989); Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools (1992); Versions of Primary Education (1995); ‘Task, time, talk and text: signposts to effective teaching?’ (School Effectiveness and Learning Achievement at the Primary Stage: International Perspectives, 1996); ‘Discourse, pedagogy and the National Curriculum: change and continuity in primary schools’ (Research Papers in Education, 1996); ‘Unfinished journey: pedagogy and discourse in school effectiveness research’ (Studies on Classroom Processes and School Effectiveness at the Primary Stage, 1997); Policy and Practice in Primary education: local initiative, national agenda (1997); Culture and Pedagogy (2001); ‘Pédagogie, culture et comparaison: visions et versions de l’école élémentaire’, (Revue Française de Pédagogie, 2003); ‘Indicators of teaching quality: a model from comparative classroom research’ (Indicators of Quality Education at the Elementary Stage, 2003); ‘Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education’ (Cambridge Journal of Education, 2004); ‘Dichotomous pedagogies and the promise of cross-cultural comparison’ (Education, Globalisation and Social Change, 2006); Education for All, the Quality Imperative, and the Problem of Pedagogy (2008); Essays on Pedagogy (2008); ‘Towards a comparative pedagogy’ (International Handbook of Comparative Education, 2009); Children, their World, their Education, chapter 15 (2010)

Policy and policymaking in education

Main areas of research: the national policy process and its impact, especially in relation to primary education and teacher education; local policy, administration and reform; international comparison in educational policymaking.

Project highlights: Course Validation in Teacher Education (Nuffield Foundation, 1978-80); Primary Needs Independent Evaluation Project (Leeds City Council, 1986-91); the UK government’s ‘three wise men’ enquiry (DES 1991-2); Evaluation of National Curriculum Assessment at Key Stage 1 (School Examinations and Assessment Council, 1990-92); Changes in Curriculum-Associated Discourse and Pedagogy in the Primary School (ESRC, 1991-93); Evaluation of the European Commission’s Support for Primary Education in India (EC, 2001-2); Primary Education in Five Cultures, initial project and follow up (Leverhulme Trust, 1994-6 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); Teacher Status Project (DfES, 2002-6); The Cambridge Primary Review (Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 2006-10).

Key publications: Change in Teacher Education: context and provision since Robbins (1984), Changing Primary Practice (1989), Curriculum organisation and classroom practice in primary schools (DfE 1992); ‘The disparity in funding between primary and secondary schools’ (House of Commons Education Committee, 1994); Policy and Practice in Primary Education: local initiative, national agenda (1997), ‘Basics, cores and choices: towards a new primary curriculum’ (Education 3 to 13, 1998); ‘Inspection and Education: the indivisibility of standards’ (An Inspector Calls: Ofsted and its effects on school standards, 1999); Culture and Pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education (2001), ‘Excellence, enjoyment and personalised learning: a true foundation for choice?’ (Education Review, 2004); ‘Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education’ (Cambridge Journal of Education, 2004); ‘Where there is no vision …’ (Forum, 2007); Essays on Pedagogy (2008); ‘ “World class schools” – noble aspiration or globalised hokum?’ (Compare, 2010); ‘Speaking but not listening? Accountable talk in an unaccountable context’ (Literacy, 2010); Children, their World, their Education: final report of the Cambridge Primary Review (2010) especially chapters 3 and 11-24; ‘Evidence, rhetoric and collateral damage: the problematic pursuit of ‘world class’ standards’ (Cambridge Journal of Education, 2011); ‘Legacies, policies and prospects: one year on from the Cambridge Primary Review’ (Forum, 2011); ‘Moral panic, miracle cures and educational policy: what can we really learn from international comparison’ (Scottish Educational Review, 2012); ‘Neither national nor a curriculum?’ (Forum, 2012); ‘The best that has been thought and said?’ (Forum, 2014); ‘Evidence, policy and the reform of primary education’ (Forum, 2014).

For media commentaries on policy see Publications/Newspaper articles.
For recent and mostly unpublished contributions to government policy reviews see Publications/Policy miscellany.

Primary education

Main areas of research: national policy, local administration, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, school management and leadership; primary teacher roles, expertise, thinking and decision making; international comparisons.

Project highlights: professional ideology, expertise and practice in primary education (1984-8 and a running theme since then); local systemic primary education reform (Leeds City Council, 1986-91); the UK government’s ‘three wise men’ enquiry (DES 1991-2); primary education in five cultures – England, France, India, Russia, the United States, initial project and follow up (Leverhulme Trust, 1994-6 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); the education of six year olds in England, Denmark and Finland (Ofsted, 2002-3); the condition and future of English primary education – the Cambridge Primary Review (Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 2006-12, and Pearson International, 2012-15).

Key publications: Primary Teaching (1984); Changing Primary Practice (1989); Primary Education in Leeds (1991); Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools (1992); Innocence and Experience: reconstructing primary education (1994); Versions of Primary Education (1995); Policy and Practice in Primary education: local initiative, national agenda (1997); Time for Change: primary curriculum managers at work (1998); Culture and Pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education (2001); The Education of Six Year Olds in England, Denmark and Finland (2003); Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review (2010); The Cambridge Primary Review Research Surveys (2010).

Talk in teaching and learning, dialogue in education

Main areas of research: the analysis of classroom discourse; the contexts of classroom discourse and their impact on classroom talk: pedagogy, policy and culture; dialogic teaching – development and evaluation; talk and social disadvantage; the wider applications of dialogism.

Project highlights: policy, curriculum and classroom discourse in the primary school (ESRC, 1991-3); pedagogy and discourse across five cultures (Leverhulme Trust, 1994-6 and 2002-4 with the University of Warwick and the British Council); developing, supporting and evaluating dialogic teaching (QCA 2002-3, North Yorkshire LA 2004-6, National College 2004, Barking and Dagenham LA 2005-7, Bolton LA 2010 – and other local authorities; classroom talk, social disadvantage and educational attainment: raising standards, closing the gap (Educational Endowment Foundation, 2014-16).

Key publications: ‘Discourse, pedagogy and the National Curriculum: change and continuity in primary schools.’ (Research Papers in Education, 1996); Culture and Pedagogy (2001), pp 391-528; ‘Oracy, literacy and pedagogy: international perspectives’ (Interactions in Language and Literacy in the Classroom, 2003); Talk for Learning: the first year (2004); Talk for Learning: the second year (2005); Talk for Learning: teaching and learning through dialogue (CD/DVD pack, 2006); Teaching Through Dialogue: the first year (2005); Education as Dialogue: moral and pedagogical choices for a runaway world (2006), Argumentation and dialogic teaching: alternative pedagogies for a changing world’ (2008); Towards Dialogic Teaching: rethinking classroom talk (4th edition 2008); Essays on Pedagogy (2008), chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7, pp 72-172, and appendix; ‘Culture, dialogue and learning: notes on an emerging pedagogy’ (Mercer and Hodgkinson, Exploring Talk in School, 2009); ‘De l’usage de parole en classe: une comparaison internationale’ (Revue Internationale d’Éducation, 2009); ‘Speaking but not listening: accountable talk in an unaccountable context’, (Literacy, 2010); ‘Dialogic pedagogy at scale: oblique perspectives’ (Resnick, Asterhan and Clarke, Socialising Intelligence, 2014).

For complete list of publications on this theme see: Dialogic teaching: an annotated bibliography.