Research Excellence Framework: Impact pilot exercise Example case studies from English Language and Literature

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Research Excellence Framework: Impact pilot exercise

Example case studies from English Language and Literature

November 2010


  1. This document provides some examples of case studies submitted to the impact pilot exercise that the English Language and Literature panel scored highly, and that indicate good practice in terms of the pilot submissions.

  1. They are presented here in a revised format to that in which they were submitted. The original template required the impact arising to be described first, followed by the underpinning research and ending with evidence for both previous sections1.

  1. The expert panels recommended that the sections in the template should be reversed, starting with a clear description of the research and justification that it is of high quality, followed by an explanation of how it led to the impact and what that impact was. It was also recommended that the references to the research should be separated from references to ‘user contacts’ and external sources of corroboration.

  1. For the purposes of publishing these examples, therefore, we invited participating institutions to revise the case studies that had been identified as suitable for publication2. A revised template and guidance were provided to ensure clear presentation of the evidence for publication. Further refinements to the template and guidance for the full REF will be made subsequently.

  1. The examples published were selected from among the highest-scoring case studies submitted to the pilot, to show a range of types of impacts that were submitted, and to provide examples of good practice from among the pilot submissions.

  1. The examples do not represent model case studies that should be replicated in REF submissions. As the range of published examples is intended to show, there are many and diverse ways in which impacts arise and can be described for assessment in the REF.

Topography, Ecology and Culture (University of Cambridge)

  1. Short summary of the case study

Dr Robert Macfarlane’s research focuses on interrelations between landscape, nature and culture. As an essayist, broadcaster and public speaker, Dr Macfarlane (born 1975) communicates this research far beyond academic audiences to reach a general public through his engagement with the traditions of nature writing. His work has led to enhanced public awareness of the natural world and engagement with issues concerning the destruction of habitat. A significant dimension to such impact has been its influence on the broadcast and print media, which have devoted ever more space and attention to the agenda represented by Macfarlane’s work.

2.Underpinning research
The underpinning research is Dr Macfarlane’s body of work on the interrelations between topography, ecology and literature, which he conducted at Cambridge as a Fellow of Emmanuel College from 2002 and as a University Lecturer from 2006, both to date. His research is particularly focused on the tradition commonly known as ‘nature writing’ in Britain, Ireland and the US, and he has played an important role in both analysing the historical development of this tradition and encouraging the resurgence of British nature writing over the last decade.
Dr Macfarlane has published two books on the relationships of landscape with memory and literature and is currently writing a third. The first book, Mountains of the mind: a history of a fascination, was written during 2002 and published in 2003. The book offers insights into the transformation of mountain landscapes in the European imagination over the past three centuries. The second book, The Wild Places, was published in 2007 after four years of research into the wild places that remain in Britain and Ireland. The book is a mixed-genre work of travelogue, history and ecology, which tests competing ideas of wildness (literary, philosophical and ecological) against different kinds of landscapes.
Dr Macfarlane has published numerous influential essays on topography, ecology and literature during the period. Between May and September 2005 he published twelve essays in The Guardian investigating the relationship between a specific writer and his or her landscape. The essays were subsequently grouped together under the title Common Ground.

Another area of Dr Macfarlane’s research relates to the relationships between climate change, environmental consciousness and literature. Dr Macfarlane both analyses the role literature has to play in increasing public awareness of climate change, and writes to this effect. His work includes a series of essays for The Guardian on climate change and in particular on the role writers can play in helping the public to imagine the impact of climate change, and an essay contribution to Burning Ice: Art & Climate Change.

3. References to the research
(i) Authored books and articles:

Mountains of the mind: a history of a fascination (London: Granta, 2003)

The Wild Places (London: Granta, 2007)

‘Turning Points’, in Burning Ice: Art and Climate Change, ed. David Buckland (Cape Farewell, 2007), pp. 170-172.

(ii) Essays:

Common Ground essay series (London: The Guardian, May to September 2005)
(iii) Introductions to new editions of nature writing/topographical classics

John Christopher, The Death of Grass (Penguin Modern Classics, 2009)

John Stewart Collis, The Worm Forgives The Plough (Vintage Classic, 2009)

William Daniell, A Voyage Round The Coast of Great Britain (Folio Books, 2008)

Jim Perrin, The Climbing Essays, (Llandysul: Gomer Press, 2006)

JA Baker, The Peregrine (New York: NYRB Classics, January 2005)

4. The contribution, impact or benefit
Dr Macfarlane’s research into the interrelations between topography and literature has been disseminated through books, newspapers, radio and magazines, leading to enhanced public awareness of and engagement with issues concerning nature and the destruction of habitat.
Throughout his academic career, Macfarlane has been committed to communicating his work beyond an academic audience and, more generally, to the principle that literature should have a role to play in increasing public engagement with environmental issues. Macfarlane has worked with climate-change/consciousness-change organisations including TippingPoint and Cape Farewell and in June 2007 he co-convened ‘Passionate Natures’, a conference that brought together poets, writers, activists, conservationists, scientists, photographers to discuss the activist potentials of the arts on the environment. ‘Passionate Natures’, was open to members of the public and was covered by the Guardian and the Times Higher Education Section, and by Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme.
Macfarlane’s research has also contributed to a resurgence of ‘nature writing’ in Britain. He has written introductions to eight topographical books and has been working with HarperCollins to create a library of classics from this tradition, each one chosen and introduced by him. The Guardian essay series Common Ground has been read over 200,000 times online and has inspired the founding of a new publishing imprint, Little Toller Books, dedicated to re-issuing ‘lost classics’ of the nature writing tradition.
The reach of Macfarlane’s research’s impact is evidenced by sales figures: c.60,000 copies of his Mountains of the Mind (2003) in the UK, with continuing annual sales of 7,000 to 10,000; c.50,000 copies of The Wild Places (2007) in the UK, 8,000 in the US, with 8,000 in various translations into Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish, and continuing annual sales between 6,000 and 10,000). Another measure of reach comes through The Wild Places being serialized as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in September 2007 (estimated audience, BBC figures: 1.2 million). In September 2009 it was the subject of a half-hour programme by James Naughtie (estimated audience, BBC figures, 1.3 million). The book was also adapted into an hour-long film, screened on BBC 2 on 10 February 2010 with an estimated audience of 1.5 million (printing viewers’ enthusiastic letters afterwards, Radio Times captioned Macfarlane’s photograph ‘The next David Attenborough?’.
The significance of Macfarlane’s impact is witnessed by public recognition of his work. The Wild Places was awarded three prizes in 2007-8 and shortlisted for six others. It was so extensively reviewed in print and broadcast media in the UK, Europe and the USA that the record of the clippings service of the UK publisher alone runs to several hundred pages. Chosen as a Book of the Year over twenty times in the British press, 2007-8, it continues to receive regular mentions and discussions in print and on radio, and has been a popular selection for numerous book groups in the UK. During the impact period Dr Macfarlane has been invited to give over 50 public lectures at venues including schools, bookshops and literary festivals, amounting to a total audience of c.5000 members of the public. Particularly notable audiences have included the Royal Geographical Society (800), Nottingham High School (2000) and the Edinburgh Festival (250).
Indicators: Prizes: Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature (2007); The Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award (2008); The Grand Prize, Banff Mountain Festival (2008; joint winner). Shortlisted for six other prizes: The Dolman Best Travel Book Award; The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; The Independent Booksellers’ Award; The British Book Awards Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award; The Orion Book Award. Book sales figures (listed above). Invited lectures (as listed above). Radio broadcasts: Macfarlane broadcast five radio essays entitled ‘Wild China’ on BBC Radio 3 in June 2008 (repeated June 2009), and five further radio essays, entitled ‘Five-day Walk’ on Radio 3 in November 2009. BBC audience figures. Publisher’s clippings file. Hundreds of letters a year from members of the public.

5. References to corroborate the contribution, impact or benefit
External corroborating sources
‘As these fine books [three inc The Wild Places] show, a renaissance in British nature-writing is now well underway. Their authors join some distinguished company, including Richard Mabey, Fraser Harrison and the late John Fowles, but they can do so unabashed. The only shadow is an unavoidable suspicion that our cultural appreciation of nature is gradually increasing in tandem with its destruction – and with it, our own.’

‘Quite rapidly, a gifted but unruly flock of British writers have found fresh ways to tell stories about humankind's connection to – or disconnection from – an ever-more fragile earth. A new issue of Granta magazine devoted to The New Nature Writing captures many of the hybrid forms – blends of memoir, ecology, meditation and travelogue – that have resurrected a mode long considered moribund. In 1938, Evelyn Waugh voiced the views of a generation of urban scoffers when he invented William Boot of Scoop, plugging away haplessly at his nature notes: ‘Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.’ Remarkably, the questing vole has had the last laugh. Granta editor Jason Cowley has harvested contributions from many of the most influential of the new naturalists: Richard Mabey; Mark Cocker; Kathleen Jamie; Robert Macfarlane; and Roger Deakin.’

Sunday Times

‘When, perhaps 500 years from now, historians manage to gain some perspective on our restless and greedy age, they may identify a group of figures who, like the Celtic hermit-saints of the post Roman period, kept going the flame of a compelling belief – in this case, that the human spirit should be constantly refreshed by exposure to the natural world. They might rediscover the work of Henry David Thoreau, Annie Dillard or the ethics of the ‘deep ecology’ movement. From our own shores and our own time, they may dust off the lyrical writings of Richard Mabey, the late Roger Deakin, Kathleen Jamie, Mark Cocker or Alice Oswald, and find in them an ancient wisdom given new urgency – the transcendent joy that can be gained from hours spent in close scrutiny of a river, from watching rooks flood the evening sky or from listening to the rise and fall of the wind high in a canopy of beech. Robert Macfarlane and his beautifully pitched The Wild Places can be placed at once at the centre of this vibrant literary school.’

As manifested in higher education courses:

The new Exeter MA in ‘Nature, Writing and Place’,

‘Devoted to the history and practice of writing about the environment, this unique MA is designed to help you produce writing of outstanding quality as you develop an appreciation of how writers from Shakespeare to Heaney to Macfarlane have related, shaped and responded to the notion of place.’
The new Essex MA in ‘Wild Writing: Literature, Science and the Environment’,

‘The programme’s core module, The Wild East and Beyond, offers a full-year focus on writing about the environment, organised by themes such as migrations, birds, water, coasts, and trees.  Indicative writers for these themes include Mark Cocker, Robert Macfarlane, Ronald Blythe, Richard Mabey, and Garry Kilworth.  A special feature of the module will be field trips led by writers themselves.  Assessment can be via essay or creative writing.’

Recent invitations to lecture:

Numerous invitations to lecture, including:

‘The Nature Writing Tradition’, University of East Anglia (public event), May 9th, 2009.

‘Wildness and Imagination’, Oxford Literary Festival, April 5th 2008

‘The Panoramic View’, South Bank Centre, September 2007

‘In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The World’, Edinburgh Literary Festival, August 20th 2007

Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace (Kingston University)

1. Short summary of the case study
In February 2007 Erica Longfellow, drawing on research completed by Thomas Betteridge, began a three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant (No. 6238), supervising a KTP Associate (Suzannah Lipscomb) as a research curator at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), a large charitable organisation that manages the five non-residential royal palaces. This KTP represents an innovative partnership between a university humanities department and a heritage institution that aimed to carry out cultural research to inform an exciting new interpretation for visitors to the Tudor palace at HCP (‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’) along with a new website and publications, and to strengthen links and consensus between 'public history' presented at HCP and the academic community. The project has achieved three key impacts:

  1. substantially increasing income from visitors to Hampton Court Palace (HCP)

  2. enriching public appreciation of Henry VIII and Hampton Court Palace

  3. enhancing the role of research throughout HRP’s operations.

2.Underpinning research
The research for this project was undertaken by Thomas Betteridge (Lecturer 1998-2000, Senior Lecturer 2000-2003; Reader 2003 - 2006) and the KTP Associate Suzannah Lipscomb (2007-2010), and exploited by Erica Longfellow (Lecturer 2000-2004; Senior Lecturer 2004-present). From 1998 to 2004 Betteridge undertook pioneering research on the cultural milieu of Henry VIII’s court, disseminated in the monographs Tudor Histories of the English Reformation (1999) and Literature and Politics in the English Reformation (2004) (LPER). Betteridge’s work is part of a new wave of court studies that has aimed to recast the debate about Henry VIII beyond the question of whether Henry was a good or bad king. Instead, Betteridge and others have investigated the socio-political and cultural milieu of the court as a group of political individuals with Henry at its centre. ‘The Henrician court of the 1530s was a new institution’ (LPER, 68), composed of influential ‘new’ men empowered by a king who insisted on his ultimate and absolute authority. Betteridge focused particularly on how this new model of the court affected the strategies of writers aiming to influence the king’s policies for religious change.
Lipscomb carried this research forward, further investigating the stories of individuals at the court as well as considering how this political model is reflected in material culture. Lipscomb and Betteridge are editing a collection of essays on the material culture of the court, performance and reaction, drawn from the ‘Henry VIII and the Tudor Court’ conference at HCP in summer 2009. The collection draws together contributions from leading academics from history, art history, material culture, and literature, including Eamon Duffy, Susan Brigden, G.W. Bernard and Steven Gunn. Together the essays move the study of Henry VIII beyond moralising about the king’s own actions and towards a wider assessment of the impact of Henry and his courtiers on politics, culture and religious change in the period. Lipscomb’s essay in this collection furthers the study of influential individuals at the court by reconsidering the fall of Anne Boleyn as a crisis in Henry VIII’s masculinity, an argument she also promulgated in an innovative popular study of Henry VIII, 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII (2009).
‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’, the new visitor experience at HCP, draws directly on Betteridge’s and Lipscomb’s findings, and thus in itself provides a new research model for how the humanities can inform public engagement with heritage institutions. Lipscomb acted as a research advisor for every aspect of ‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’, writing text for various media, designing new Tudor-inspired visitor costumes and warders’ uniforms, and briefing staff and volunteers on research findings. For example, Lipscomb’s cultural research revealed how the Privy Council of Henry’s closest advisors worked in practice, enabling the Council Chamber to be opened to the public for the first time with an innovative multimedia display that immerses visitors in key debates of the time. Lipscomb recounts the research findings of this experiment in translating cultural research into public engagement in an article in The Public Historian.

3. References to the research
Research Outputs:

Thomas Betteridge, Tudor Histories of the English Reformation (Ashgate, 1999) (peer-reviewed and published by a highly-regarded independent academic press)

Thomas Betteridge, Literature and Politics in the English Reformation (Manchester UP, 2004) (peer-reviewed and published by a highly-regarded university press)

Public History:

Suzannah Lipscomb, 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII (Oxford: Lion, 2009)
Research Grants:

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (No. 6238) between Kingston University and Historic Royal Palaces, funded by the AHRC. Total project cost £170,502. KTP funding 50% (£85,251). The project lasted for three years and finished in February 2010. Erica Longfellow (KU) was the Lead Academic and Kent Rawlinson (HRP) was the Company Supervisor. The grant was one of the first KTPs in the humanities and the only three-year KTP in the humanities. The final report was rewarded an ‘A’ for outstanding.

4. The contribution, impact or benefit
Longfellow researches social history and cultural production in early modern England, and together with Betteridge she aimed to exploit Betteridge’s research in a series of grant applications made jointly with HRP. In February 2007 Longfellow began a three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant (No. 6238), supervising a KTP Associate (Lipscomb) as a research curator at HRP.
The KTP had two aims: to carry out cultural research to inform an exciting new interpretation for visitors to the Tudor palace at HCP (‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’), and to strengthen links and consensus between 'public history' presented at HCP and the academic community. In achieving these aims the KTP offers a pioneering model for the application of humanities research—literary, historical, and cultural—to a project that impacts both a company’s financial position and its engagement with the public. ‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’ includes new live interpretation, refurbished interiors, interactive displays, and multimedia elements, all inviting visitors to imagine themselves as courtiers attending the wedding of Henry VIII to Kateryn Parr at the Palace in 1543. This new visitor experience immerses members of the public in an experience of the court drawn directly from the model explored in Betteridge’s work and furthered in Lipscomb’s. Lipscomb conducted original cultural research to inform the new interpretation, and also translated her research into text for written interpretation, a new website, a Henry VIII twitter feed and an in-house publication, Henry VIII: 500 Facts. She also delivered historical briefings for front-of-house staff and appeared on television and radio and in person to promote the new visitor experience.
The launch of ‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’ and the accompanying media and promotional activities have helped HRP achieve its goal of stabilising income streams from domestic family visitors. HCP has seen a 43% increase year-on-year in day visitors in the six-month period of April-September 2009 (an additional 115, 287 visitors), compared to a 12.8% increase at comparable London attractions. Income is forecast to increase 22%, or £11.038 million. The number of visitors from the domestic market increased sharply, from 50,000 in July-August 2008 to 77,000 in July-August 2009.
In addition to attracting new visitors, the new visitor experience has enhanced public awareness of Henry VIII and the Tudor court. Which? named Hampton Court Palace as ‘Top Heritage Day Out’ in the southeast, with interpretation that ‘all heritage attractions should aim for’. Visitor expectations were exceeded for almost two-thirds (62%) of visitors. Visitors commented that it was ‘a living Tudor world’, ‘like you’re back in the time of Henry VIII’. Visitor surveys also show an increased level of awareness of the changes in Henry VIII over the course of the reign. In addition, 78% of visitors (98,000) will tell others that they should visit, so that the high number of visitors in 2009 will most likely translate into powerful recommendations and visits in the future. These figures indicate the importance of quality, research-based interpretation for maintaining high visitor numbers and particularly repeat visits from the local and domestic markets, and thus increased community engagement with HCP as a heritage institution.
Lipscomb achieved the second aim of the KTP by implementing a strategy to build links with the academic community and position HRP as a research institution, including:

  • an interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel, including Longfellow, Betteridge and leading academics from other HEIs and national cultural institutions.

  • a highly successful academic conference on Henry VIII, co-sponsored with Kingston University and Oxford Brookes University

  • a well-attended public talks series by leading specialists on Henry VIII, sponsored by History Today

The success of these ventures has significantly changed the culture at HRP. The KTP has demonstrated that research can produce both an enhanced reputation and commercial success. The CEO, Michael Day, commented that HRP has ‘found ways to value and promote academic research and relationships alongside commercial success as mutually important components of successfully achieving our charitable Cause.  At a practical level, we have been able to transform our palaces for visitors and undertake events such as academic conferences with equal flair and energy.  The KTP has played a significant role in this change process.' The cultural change has affected projects across the organisation, including a redesigned visitor experience at Kensington Palace and a similar KTP with Norma Clarke (Researcher, 1998-2002; Senior Lecturer, 2002-2008; Professor, 2008 – present) to revitalise the Baroque Palace at HCP. This cultural change is beginning to impact the valuing of research partnerships at other heritage institutions, and Lipscomb and Longfellow have both been sought as consultants.

5. References to corroborate the contribution, impact or benefit
‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’, permanent re-presentation of the Tudor route at Hampton Court Palace, funded by Knowledge Transfer Partnership Grant between Kingston University and Hampton Court Palace, validity of historical research verified by Research Advisory Panel

Historic Royal Palaces, ‘Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts’ website,

Brett Dolman, Suzannah Lipscomb et al., Henry VIII 500 Facts (London: Historic Royal Palaces, 2009)

Suzannah Lipscomb, ‘I am Henry VIII’ twitter feed,

The Henry VIII talks at Hampton Court Palace, co-sponsored by History Today, speakers including Eamon Duffy, Philippa Gregory, and David Starkey, April – October 2009.

External Sources:

bdrc (Market Research Agency), Hampton Court Palace Visitor Survey, Summer 2009

Which?, June 2009

Communication with CEO of Historic Royal Palaces

The impact of Literacy Research on informing policy-making and improving public services (Lancaster University)

1. Short summary of the case study
The Literacy Research Centre at Lancaster University is a major partner in the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC). We work to understand the role of literacy in all areas of social life and to improve communication and collaboration between researchers and educational practice. Projects have focused on literacy in contexts involving, for example, young people in prison, disaffected people in education, job seekers and people in health care settings. Our research outputs frequently have immediate impact, as they often take the shape of, for example, raising awareness of user issues and making recommendations regarding changes to public service practices/guidelines or improved educational attainment among disadvantaged groups. Our work has shaped national curricula relating to literacy and directly contributed to the development of teaching staff and other professionals, thereby, for example, helping the government achieve its national target for adult literacy early.

2.Underpinning research
From 2002 to 2009, the Literacy Research Centre was funded by the then Department for Education and Skills as part of a national research and development consortium, the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) to support the major government initiative Skills for Life. SfL was a high profile government policy; it was regularly reviewed and achieved its targets. Barton was on the national NRDC management team and a member of the Quality Management Team, ensuring the impact on policy and practice of the research and development projects.
Based on earlier underpinning research at Lancaster (e.g. Books 1, 3) and established networks (e.g. RaPAL and Workplace Basic Skills), and being part of ALPHA/UNESCO network, we were specifically included in the original consortium and seen as one of the few expert groups in the UK able to inform the development of the new policy, and having the networks to impact immediately on the field of practice.
From 2002 to 2009, we carried out 25 research projects, total funding £3,009,352, at Lancaster and produced 21 NRDC reports (17 in the period 2005-9), as well as 12 academic and practitioner-oriented articles and 5 books. The work was led by Barton and carried out by members of the LRC (Prof. M. Hamilton, Prof. R. Ivanic, Dr. U. Papen, Dr. K. Tusting, Dr. C. Satchwell, Dr. A.Wilson, Dr. K. Pitt, R. Hodge, P. Davies, Dr. Y. Appleby, L. Pearce, Dr. M.L Tseng, K. James, Dr. S. Walters). There were 2700 downloads of NRDC reports in 2009. The LRC is identified with: close textured research into language and everyday social practice; research that is focused on learners’ experience; and experienced working in sensitive areas, such as health, offenders and homelessness; plus a 25 year track record of linking research and practice. We work with a coherent theory of impact, starting with local activities and moving out to regional and national in order to have an effect on policy, and involving stakeholders in all stages of a participatory research process.
Examples include:

  • Enabling literacy and ESOL teachers/managers to review and improve the way health is integrated as a topic in their teaching (e.g. how students manage the language and literacy demands of health care) (Report 9);

  • Engaging new learners, based on supporting practitioners to carry out their own projects to improve their practice (Report 10);

  • Improving the literacy levels of young offenders (14);

  • Enabling more people in the Skills for Life priority groups to access education including homeless people (7);

  • Enabling disaffected young people and other ‘at risk’ groups to engage and progress in education (8, 12);

  • Improving teaching methods, particularly by demonstrating the effectiveness of embedding language and literacy work in other learning (13);

  • Improving teaching and support for speakers of other languages learning English, by drawing on their existing knowledge and improving the social support for their learning.

3. References to the research
Underpinning research outputs includes:

  1. D. Barton & M. Hamilton, Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community, London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

  2. D. Barton, R. Ivanić, Y. Appleby, R. Hodge, K. Tusting, Literacy, Lives and Learning. Routledge, 2007.

  3. D. Barton, Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Second edition 2007.

  4. U. Papen, Adult Literacy as social practice: more than skills. Routledge, 2005.

  5. K. Pitt, Debates in ESOL teaching and learning: cultures communities and classrooms. Routledge 2005.

  6. K. Tusting & D. Barton, Models of Adult Learning. Leicester: NIACE, 2006.

NRDC reports aimed at policy and practice. All project reports were part of a peer review process whereby they were reviewed by at least 2 academic reviewers, 2 practitioners and by the Strategy Unit before publication. Reports are available in hard copy and online and are included in section 5 for corroboration purposes.
Grants funded by Department for Education and Skills:

Principal Investigator


Award £


David Barton

NLRC - Ethnographic Project


Apr 02-Mar 05

David Barton

NLRC - Central Management Costs


Jan 02 - Mar 08

Mary Hamilton

NLRC – Teacher Researcher Programme Model


Sep 02 - Mar 05

Mary Hamilton

NLRC - Educational Research MA Development


Jan 02 - Sep 02

Uta Papen

Literacy and Health


Oct 03 - Jul 06

Murray Saunders

NLRC - Skills for Life


Oct 03 - Mar 05

Grants funded by National Literacy Research Centre:

David Barton

Practitioner Guides


Jun 05 - Mar 07

David Barton

Creating a resource for policy practitioners and researchers


May 05 - Mar 07

Mary Hamilton

Practitioner Projects


Oct 03 - Aug 06

Grants from other funders:

Roz Ivanić


Literacies for Learning in FE


Jan 04 - Aug 08

4. The contribution, impact or benefit
Research carried out at the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, 2002-2009, has had a major impact on the government’s Skills for Life (SfL) policy and practice. Twenty one reports (17 in 2005-9) are aimed primarily at the English SfL strategy, where they are used in teacher training and professional development and circulated across government departments. The impact of these included changes to public service practices/guidelines and/or improved educational attainment among disadvantaged groups (for example, the Public Service Agreement target for adult literacy was met two years early; see More specifically, they have had impact in the following ways:

  • Our work has a central role in the revised adult National Curricula for England both for Literacy and for English for Speakers of Other Languages and national revisions of the subject specifications for teacher training. Our books are listed as core reading in curriculum guidance documents, and referred to in training materials for teacher training and professional development (see underpinning research books 1-6) and in forthcoming teacher handbooks.

  • Practitioners were involved in projects at all stages to ensure impact on practice, through advisory groups of stakeholders, online user consultations, trialling of materials in training and dissemination meetings.

  • We worked in ways to ensure impact. The Developing Practitioner Guides project had 3 stages: provide digests of our research findings; work with groups of practitioners to develop implications for teaching; put on events to cascade new methods of working. The guides were then published and are available through the NRDC website. For instance, the first guide  was produced in consultation with practitioners at Cumbria Professional Development Unit and further consultations with practitioners at The Adult College, Lancaster, and an expanded regional follow-up (Oct – Dec 2005). Meetings at SfL national conferences ensured the relevance of the guides, and practitioners were involved as critical readers.

  • We have made direct contributions to professional development and practice in the SfL workforce. We have run local, regional and national events on specific policies such as Individual Learning Plans, embedded skills, personalisation, working with offenders. We contributed to major evaluations of SfL that impacted on the quality of public policy delivery and future targets (Reports 11, 16).

  • We also presented our work at the Home Office, the Department for International Development, Downing Street, Department of Health, and Barton was a featured speaker at a House of Lords reception (Nov 2005) leading to discussions of effective practice with Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat teams.

  • We have worked for and advised policy makers in Scotland, Ireland and Wales regarding adult literacy.

  • Internationally our work is drawn upon in the Unesco Decade of Literacy and the Literacy and Assessment Monitoring Programme (LAMP), most recently in the reports The global literacy challenge (Unesco Paris 2009) and The next generation of literacy statistics (Unesco Institute of Statistics 2009) (See report 15). We have addressed teacher groups and policy makers in Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway.

5. References to corroborate the contribution, impact or benefit
NRDC reports aimed at policy and practice.

Reports are available in hard copy and online.

  1. Reisenberger, D. Barton, C. Satchwell, A. Wilson, C. Law and S. Weaver, (2009) Engaging homeless people, Black and Minority Ethnic and other priority groups in Skills for Life. London: NRDC.

  2. R. Hodge, D. Barton and L. Pearce (2009) Progression: moving on in life and learning. London: NRDC.

  3. Uta Papen and Sue Walters. Literacy, learning and health: Research report. October 2008

  4. Mary Hamilton and Kathryn James. The practitioner-led research initiative (PLRI): Impact report. February 2007, revised January 2008

  5. K. Tusting & D. Barton, (2007) Programmes for unemployed people since the 1970s: the changing place of literacy, language and numeracy. 58 pages.

  6. Barton, Appleby, Y., Hodge, R., Tusting, K. & Ivanic, R. (2006) Relating adults’ lives and learning: participation and engagement in different settings. 40 pages.

  7. Helen Casey, Olga Cara, Jan Eldred, Sue Grief, Rachel Hodge, Roz Ivanič, Tom Jupp, Desiree Lopez and Bethia McNeil. “You wouldn't expect a maths teacher to teach plastering…”: Embedding literacy, language and numeracy in post-16 vocational programmes – the impact on learning and achievement. November 2006

  8. Jane Hurry, Laura Brazier, Kate Snapes, Anita Wilson. Improving the literacy and numeracy of disaffected young people in custody and in the community. February 2005

  9. Barton & U. Papen (eds.) (2005) Linking literacy programmes in developing countries and the UK. 100 pages.

  10. Paul Davies. Study of the impact of the Skills for Life learning infrastructure on learners: Interim report on the qualitative strand. February 2005

External sources to corroborate.

NRDC carried out systematic evaluation and monitoring of projects through a Quality Management Group (QMG). The NRDC reported directly to the Department for Education and Skills SfL Strategy Unit which reported to the Cabinet Office. All research grants were initially reviewed and approved by the QMG and then by the SfL Strategy Group. Overall impact of NRDC research is discussed in:

  • J. Vorhaus, (2006) Four years on: NRDC Annual Report 2005-6. London: NRDC

  • J. D. Carpentieri, (2008) Five years on: Research, development and changing practice, NRDC 2006-7. London: NRDC

See for all individual reports and practitioner guides. Also see department of Business, Innovation and Skills website for effectiveness of Skills for Life Strategy

  • Media interest. Research reported in Times Educational Supplement (19/5/06); Times Education (22/5/09, 11/6/04, 20/5/05). Barton in New Statesman round table panel on Adult skills (28/3/05), also on Radio 4, Radio 5, local radio, and overseas, passim.

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