ESCalate Bulletin No. 3 (1 November 2001)


  1. Introduction
  2. Small Grants scheme
  3. UCET Conference
  4. Expertise Database
  5. ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme: Phase III Update
  6. Departmental Visits
  7. Contacts Conference in April
  8. News for colleagues teaching history education programmes
  9. Invitation to Contribute to the Bulletin
  10. Book reviews


This month's bulletin is a little later than usual. The editor succumbed to the 'flu around the beginning of the month, and so that delayed publication. Perhaps the extra time has made this Bulletin a bit longer than usual, or maybe being confined to one's solitary bed makes for later garrulousness?

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Small Grants scheme

Don't forget that the deadline for the next round of small grants approaches fast (30th November). We are interested in receiving a good range of applications from around the country and from different sectors of Education. If you have any queries, please contact me on 0117 9287040, or Liz on 0117 9287058. The forms are fairly basic, and what we are looking for is a good rationale (why is the project useful?), a clear statement of the work intended (what you are planning to do) and a budget which says how you will be spending the money. We give a third the money up front, and the rest against interim and final accounts.

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UCET Conference

ESCalate will be attending the UCET conference again this year, and we shall be hosting a pre-dinner reception on Friday. We look forward to meeting contacts and members of Education and CE departments there. Do come along and have a drink with us, and meet other Escalators

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Expertise Database

We are often approached by departments or organizations who want help in some particular aspect of teaching and learning. Managing groupwork, assessment of workplace learning, subject review, are examples of a few recent queries. We are anxious to extend our database of experts. If you know of someone who has conducted workshops or seminars with which you have been impressed, please let us have their name. I shall then get in touch with them, inform them of the recommendation, and ask them whether they are willing to have their names added to the database.

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ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme: Phase III Update

(This report has been provided by John Kanefsky at the University of Exeter)

The ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme's Phase III will focus on post-compulsory education: FE, HE, work-based learning (including CPD) and lifelong / adult learning. The remit also covers people moving between learning sectors, including transitions from school, and teacher / trainer education. Current funding is over £11 m. from HEFCE, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive, but this may increase as a result of discussions with other research funders.

The core Programme objective of undertaking research in support of raising learners' achievement (broadly conceived) will be unchanged in Phase III. Research as a partnership between policy makers, practitioners and researchers will also be a continuing theme. Projects will be required to have detailed Communication and Impact Plans showing how they will transform research evidence collaboratively to maximise its impact on practice and contribution to policy-making. It is expected that a wide range of project sizes will be welcomed.

Consultation Activities

During 2001 we undertook wide consultation on the research priorities for Phase III. This included seminars, a web / paper questionnaire, focus groups with learners from a range of backgrounds, and inputs from a number of organisations.

There was a good deal of congruence between the questionnaire responses and the issues raised in the six regional seminars. The topics raised most frequently for the research agenda were:

  • improving capacity to teach basic, key and transferable skills;
  • enhancing the use of ICT, e-learning and multimedia approaches to teaching;
  • motivation, especially for disadvantaged and disengaged learners;
  • 'what works' regarding teaching methods / learner support;
  • training, including work-based learning, training cultures and trainers' skills;
  • transitions between types and phases of learning including school to FE/HE and to work, and in adult learning;
  • learning processes, including learner identity / autonomy and learning styles;
  • the relationship between formal and informal learning at all ages, particularly the integration, validation and recognition of informal learning;
  • the effects of accountability systems (especially assessment).

Users and beneficiaries, learners and potential learners found their voice in 13 focus groups. Their research agenda featured:

    • identifying the characteristics of good teaching
    • how to spread best practice
    • the design of multi method / multimedia learning environments
    • identifying cutting edge teaching developments
    • promoting learners' self image / confidence
    • assessment for learning.

The pre-eminent theme from the consultation was research to promote inclusion, focussing on the needs of learners 'at risk', 'the casualties of schooling' and those not well served by current provision. We were advised to pay especial attention to learners who are currently 'non-participant' or 'inactive' and those most limited in achievements relevant to the learning society.

Next Steps

We are incorporating all the advice we have received into a Phase III Research Specification, which we plan to issue with a two stage Call for Proposals in early January. Outline applications will be due in early April. Initial guidance on likely themes will be posted on the website by end-November.

The Specification and Further Particulars will identify core priorities. They will set out what will be needed and when from applicants. They will give detailed guidance on the type, size and structure of bids thought most likely to be successful and describe how applications will be reviewed and evaluated.

We are holding workshops and other meetings in January and February 2002 to discuss the Specification and Outline Proposals with intending bidders. We will also be assisting with capacity / partnership building; our Research Capacity Building Network will play a strong role in the latter. Details will be posted on our website at, or email to be included on our mailing list.

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Departmental Visits

Dr Sonia Blandford, an associate Director of ESCalate based at Oxford Brookes University, is organizing a round of departmental visits during the Spring and Summer terms. The aim of the visits will be to meet contacts and colleagues, to answer questions, to encourage colleagues to apply for our small grants scheme, to persuade colleagues to participate in the Learning Exchange, and to meet contacts, interested colleagues and Heads of Departments. The visits will be undertaken by the management team. Sonia will be contacting you shortly to ask you when a visit would be most convenient for you.

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Contacts Conference in April

A date for your diaries. Following consultation among colleagues, it has been agreed to hold a contacts conference on 18th April 2002 at Scarman House, Warwick University. The conference is intended for departmental contacts for a representative if the contact is not free on that day. We felt that Warwick is fairly central, and is within easy reach of Birmingham International for colleagues who fly in from Scotland or Northern Ireland. We shall provide overnight accommodation (free) on the night of the 17th for anyone who has to travel a long distance. However, we shall need early confirmation of numbers for this option, which is not a cheap one!

The day as planned sounds exciting. We are hoping to get some excellent speakers to lead sessions and the outline of the day is envisaged as follows. The topics suggested may have to be focussed more tightly after consultation with the speakers, but the broad topics will stay as is.

  • 9.45 - 10.45 First speaker Theme: 'Policy changes and how these have affected and will affect Education and the professional development of teachers and lecturers'
  • 10.45 - 11.45 Panel comprising representatives from Scotland Northern Ireland Wales and England. Theme: of the future of initial teacher education: implications for learning and teaching in HE.
  • 11.45 12.15 Coffee
  • 12.15 -1.15 Third speaker Theme: On developments in teaching and learning in HE generally, and point out particular aspects of relevance to departments like Education and CE which are highly vocational in nature, have many mature and part-time students etc
  • 1.15 - 2.15 LUNCH
  • 2.15 - 3.15 Drawing together the strands from the morning: what staff development issues has the morning's session pointed up/ how can ESCalate be involved in facilitating exchanges in learning and teaching expertise/ what is the role of contacts in making Escalate work Facilitated by a member of ESCalate's advisory committee
  • 3.15- 4.00 Drawing up a concordat for contacts /groups for half an hour then plenary

Exact details of the programme and the speakers will be available in the January bulletin. Early indication of the need for overnight accommodation would be appreciated. All costs of the conference will be carried by ESCalate, except for travel.

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News for colleagues teaching history education programmes

A workshop: Teaching With Contemporary and Historical Census Data

Will be held on Thursday, 31st January 2002, at Manchester University

This workshop is part of a major JISC funded project which aims to develop the Contemporary and Historical Censuses Collection (CHCC) into a major networked resource for teaching. There is no registration fee for the workshop and lunch will be provided. The project team are also able to make a £25 contribution to travel costs. A programme for the day is available at:

If you are interested in attending this workshop

please complete the on line booking form at:

More information about the materials being written is available at:

General information about the project can be found at:

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Invitation to Contribute to the Bulletin

All colleagues are invited to submit copy for the bulletin: it may take the form of a reference to a development that you fell we need to air; it may be to advertise a book you have written or contributed to; it may be to publicise your event; it may be to ask colleagues for their views on a problem you face. Whatever it is, send it along. If you prefer to have your contribution anonymous that is fine. It would be great to hear from you.

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Book reviews

The first book for review has been received. It is by Greg Light and Roy Cox, 'Learning and Teaching in Higher Education', published this year by Sage. A few of you said you might be interested in reviewing books: if this one seems to be of interest please e-mail me and I shall send the copy (which you can keep, of course).

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