Project Design

More details on project design

Forming a group of teachers

LED professional inquiry projects are designed and costed for teacher groups of up to 20 teachers, either from a large school or an alliance or cluster. However, if you are a single school or small cluster then please contact LED at and we may be able to help you build viable groups for a specific project.

Responding to your needs

Your alliance, cluster or school may be interested in adapting one of our established generic R&D project types below to your needs and context. The R&D project or the Subject Lead projects can be focused on a school priority and / or in a specific curriculum subject or on a particular learning issue or intervention. The director of LED will work collaboratively with school leaders to meet your requirements and to allocate a university-based consultant / research mentor with suitable expertise.

Rather than offering a long list of specific professional development LED will respond to the external priorities schools are facing and to particular requests from alliances, clusters and individual schools. Through our extensive partnership with more than 1200 schools, our team of partnership tutors and our commitment to supporting head teacher and school improvement networks we aim to be made aware of priorities and respond to them promptly with high quality, research-informed, professional learning projects. The director of LED has personal oversight of all projects. To discuss the design of a project for your alliance or school contact LED Director Professor Pete boyd on

Design Principles

All of the LED professional inquiry projects share ten key design principles for professional learning and school improvement:

  1. A ‘professional inquiry’ approach to developing research-informed practice – professional inquiry adopts features of practitioner research to avoid the limitations of pragmatic evaluation (see figure 1 below)
  2. Sustained engagement from a minimum of one or two years in length – note that LED projects are designed to be long and thin to avoid excessive workload for teachers (and see principle 6)
  3. A clear focus on the impact of practice on learning and on learners – professional inquiry projects always involve analysing evidence of learning
  4. A focus on pedagogy within a curriculum subject – the curriculum and focus of R&D projects is negotiated between school leaders, the teachers involved and the consultant / research mentor
  5. Critical engagement with selected theory and research evidence – most projects involve some aspects of the high effect size interventions of feedback, collaborative learning and metacognition
  6. Built in opportunities for classroom experimentation, evaluation and sharing of findings
  7. Applying research ethics to build trust and enable collaborative critical evaluation of practice
  8. A critical perspective on social justice issues, leadership and the wider purposes of education
  9. Building the capacity and skills of participant teachers leadership of future curriculum development projects
  10. Explicit support and facilitation for the project from the senior leadership team in school

These principles are based on our experience, on research meta-review evidence around effective professional learning for teachers (TDT 2015 and on our long-standing commitment, at the University of Cumbria, to supporting teachers as inquiry-based professionals, who contribute to collective leadership of schools through curriculum development (Boyd 2016

Knowledge Exchange

All LED Research Centre consultants have prior experience as successful school teachers and most of them also have experience of school leadership and / or educational consultancy. However, all of this professional experience is in the past and although it strongly shapes our identities and values it is not the reason why we think we have worthwhile knowledge to exchange with schools and teachers. For university-based teacher educators working with expert school teachers and school leaders underpins our continued professional learning, our research activity and our teaching. As university-based teacher educators, we are interested in collaborative ‘knowledge exchange’ because we get access to the expertise of teachers and to the cutting edge of practice in schools and other educational settings.

In return we are able to broker theory and research evidence for busy practitioners and support the development of research and professional inquiry skills which provides teachers and schools with sustainable capacity for curriculum development into the future. All teacher educators at the University of Cumbria have at least five weeks of each academic year set aside for advanced scholarship and research. In addition, they have a whole system of support for scholarly and research activity as well as a rich research environment. All of this enables our university-based teacher educators them to maintain high levels of advanced scholarship or research activity and this underpins our offer in contrast to freelance consultants and commercial CPD providers. LED resources and consultants are supported and peer reviewed by active professional researchers with overall direct oversight by a professor.

LED is a university-based research centre. In REF 2014, the most recent national research audit, 94% of our educational research was judged to be at 2* (internationally recognised) or 3* (internationally excellent). This means that we bring something distinctive to add to your alliance or school – we recognise that you already have plenty of expert school teachers and expert school leaders.  We want to work with you, bringing our offer of advanced scholarship and research, to learn collaboratively through knowledge exchange in pursuit of developing research-informed practice.

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