University of Dundee University of Dundee
Text only

Peering between the lines

The School of Education, Social Work and Community Education

The School of Education, Social Work and Community Education started life in the Dundee Campus of the former Northern College of Education and has been offering teacher education since 1906.

In 2001, following a merger with the University of Dundee, the Faculty of Education and Social Work was formed. Now the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, the School has come a long way since it first offered teacher education a century ago.

In the first of our regular School Research Profile features, Contact learns a thing or two about their research. For example ...

Do school children learn from their peers? Dundee researchers and more than 130 schools and 5000 students across Fife hope to provide some answers in one of the biggest studies of the value of peer learning ever carried out.

Led by Professor Keith Topping in the School's Centre for Peer Learning, the two-year, ESRC funded, 363,700 study will investigate whether schoolchildren benefit from learning from their peers in reading and mathematics.

The researchers also hope to find out whether a lot of or a little peer learning is more effective and whether school children learn more from those in the same age group or a different age group.

The project involves collaboration with the University of Durham and has been described as having international importance.

Professor Topping said, "This is the largest randomized controlled trial of its kind in the UK and covers a whole authority - it sets standards in how research might be done in education."

With an ambition to further the agenda of promoting social inclusion, raising achievement and enhancing quality of life for people of all ages, the School is heavily focused on interdisciplinary research. It has a number of collaborative teams working with other researchers around the University, in national and international universities, and various other relevant agencies, such as government departments.

The agenda is one of influencing policy support and practice, where the School has seen some successes. For example, the America Reads initiative launched by Bill Clinton during his presidency was influenced by research of the Dundee Peer Learning group. Indeed, Clinton has described Professor Topping as "an outstanding educational researcher" for his contribution.

More recently, a pilot Scotland Reads project was launched by First Minister Jack McConnell. The Dundee team is now working with the Scottish Executive, Learning and Teaching Scotland and Project Scotland to evaluate the project, which involves the deployment of volunteers as reading tutors in primary and secondary schools, with the intention of rolling out the programme across Scotland in the near future.

Research in the School crosses all areas of education and social work, from researching the needs of people with intellectual disabilities to assisting the community in influencing policies and services that affect them.

For example, the White Top Research Unit led by James Hogg is internationally recognised for its research into the needs of people with profound and multiple intellectual disabilities and their families, ageing and lifespan development. Its sister unit, PAMIS, recently launched a major new project called 'Healthy Lifestyles' to enhance the well-being of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their parents/carers.

Among other bids, Jennifer Harris has recently secured 365,000 from the ESRC for a 3 year project on disabled people and technology. Elizabeth Leo works in the area of leadership and is taking forward projects within Dundee similar to those she is involved with in London. Child Protection across Scotland is taken forward by Brigid Daniel, who has recently founded the Scottish Child Care and Protection Network.

a picture of the ESW Group

Meanwhile, the Centre for Research into Community Learning and Development is providing new avenues for working with communities to increase their skills so that they have the confidence to engage in democratic processes.

Professor Topping, Associate Dean for Research at the School, said, "Led by the professoriate, the School has sharply increased its research capacity and profile."

As well as world-class research, the School also has an excellent history of providing undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications and continuing professional development in education, social work and community education.

The Dean Liz Gillies said, "Research within the School has grown enormously and we look forward to moving to the city campus to further expand our interdisciplinary collaborations with other disciplines. We have come a very long way since 1906!"

More information the School can be found at and about research at

Next Page

Return to October 2006 Contact