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Peer-to-Peer Review in Schools – a case study of collaborative school improvement in the face of local competition


Southampton Education School

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Prof MC Dyke , Prof A Kelly Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Almost all the maintained secondary schools, special schools, PRUs and FE colleges located in the City of Southampton (CoS) Unitary Authority have agreed to collaborate in a process of peer-review as part of a collaborative approach to improving the quality of education for young people across the City of Southampton.

During a peer review leaders from 2-3 schools/colleges in the city will form a review team and pay a visit to the receiving school/college with a focus for the review selected by the receiving institution. One Head from a Special School described the process as a chance to have experienced minds help her in “getting to the bottom of the things that keep you awake at night”

The proposal is to conduct an embedded case study (Yin, 2003) of the peer-to-peer process undertaken in the City of Southampton, with each peer review event forming one of a series of embedded units of analysis (UoAs) within the overall case that is the current Peer-to-Peer Review Process undertaken in CoS schools and colleges.

It is highly likely that there would be more peer review events scheduled during the period of data generation, than would be appropriate for the proposed doctoral study. The selection of peer review events as UoAs would be determined by consultation with participants, and after careful justification from a rich exploration of the context surrounding the case. This would include an analysis of secondary education in CoS, a thorough understanding grounding in the peer-review process itself, and a perspective on the nature of school partnership in the local context where many of the collaborating schools and colleges are, at least in part, in competition with one another as well as a cooperating with one another. This would be informed by previous work on local education collaborations undertaken by members of former iterations of the LEEP Research centre (e.g. Muijs & Rumyantseva, 2014)

Data generation would involve many of the typical methods associated with case studies:
• observation of review meetings and activities (such as learning walks);
• interviews (semi or unstructured) with key participants within each UoA, the case and context;
• analysis of documentation associated with the Peer-to-Peer Process and individual peer review events, including the final review reports produced by the review team and responses produced by the receiving institution.

The aim is that participatory approaches will be utilised, so that the participating school and college leaders, as key stakeholders within the study context, will be able to shape the research design and instruments that support the data generation process. This would have a complementary and strategic outcome in the form of research skills development within the CoS partnership as an important legacy of the project.

Funding Notes

• This funding will provide up to £21k per scholarship, three instalments of £7k per annum.
• Part-time students are eligible subject to the satisfaction of visa conditions. The amount of funding will be reduced pro-rata, and the time over which the award is given can be increased pro-rata, provided that the total award is no more than £21k.
• The student should start on or before December 1st 2018.
• The first year’s funding will be allocated initially, with subsequent funding subject to satisfactory progress of the student.
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