Practitioner Research Programme (PRP)

ETF MPhil and MA short course research programme

Calling all Maths, English and ESOL practitioners and those involved in teaching embedded Maths and English. Do you have a good research idea but need some support and some thinking time to make it happen? Do you want to develop your teaching skills by conducting research into your own practice? Do you want to develop your research skills or deepen your understanding of the relationship between educational research, theory and practice? Do you want to become a part of a growing community of research active practitioners bringing about change and improvement across the sector? If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then the ETF Practitioner Research Programme could be for you!

We are committed to seeking opportunities to give sector practitioners the time and space to reflect, experiment, apply, and generate their own research evidence in order to improve their and their colleagues’ practice and ultimately outcomes for learners.

For several years, the ETF has delivered a Practitioner Research Programme in partnership with SUNCETT at the University of Sunderland. The programme offers you time and space, as well as expert research training and support from a renowned team of FE specialists. Over a period of residential (pandemic permitting) development workshops (paid for by the ETF) you will be guided to refine and develop your research idea. If you have no previous experience of research but are willing to work towards a successful outcome, this programme is as much for you as it is for teachers with previous experience of research. We are particularly interested to support practitioners who have been part of wider ETF practitioner research projects such as our and OTLA other practitioner-led development activities.


The MA Short Course and MPhil

There are two opportunities available to apply for and both programmes will accept applications from any region of England, any type of provider and any type of practitioner role, including those who lead curriculum development and delivery. The only criteria are that you must be employed in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector (usually delivering education funded by the ESFA, and not in a School, Sixth Form or University) and your work should normally include delivery at Levels 2 or 3. For guidance on eligibility please contact the application team at SUNCETT by emailing

  1. The ETF MPhil programme. Based on the hugely successful Research Development Fellowship (RDF) Programme which has been offered since 2009. This programme offers the same first year experience as its forerunner the RDF. In addition, participants now have the option to continue for a second year and gain a full MPhil research degree through the University of Sunderland. The second year is open to applicants who have undertaken the RDF in the past five years, subject to discussion with the Sunderland team. The ETF is supporting all costs on the programme as in previous years with the exception of expecting a contribution to enrolment and graduation fees for the second year, currently charged at the subsidised rate of £500 in total.
  2. The MA Short course is intended for practitioners who would like the opportunity to initially develop their research ideas. This programme, also delivered in partnership with SUNCETT, allows practitioners the opportunity to explore research into teaching practice on a slightly smaller scale, and also attracts bursary support.

We are keen to support development across all parts of the FE and Training sector and will consider any research theme related to maths, English or ESOL contained in applications, as long as the educational problem or issue has clearly been identified by the applicant(s) as being an area of educational practice in need of improvement and that this is reflected in their organisation’s improvement plan. The ETF has however identified some priority areas for which it would particularly welcome applications:

  • Developing learners’ maths or English (including ESOL learners) abilities, or supporting the improvement of teaching, learning and assessment in these subjects.
  • The embedding of maths and English across all settings in the FE and Training sector.
  • The teaching of embedded maths or English and supporting learners with poor language / numeracy skills in vocational learning
  • Developing effective teaching methods; such as active learning, collaborative learning, joint curriculum planning, assessment theory and practice, curriculum design, development, implementation and evaluation and the creation of an inclusive and representative curriculum or teaching approaches for practitioners in basic skills.

It is also an expectation of the programme that senior leadership backing from your employer is secured, and it is preferred that the research work being undertaken is related to development priorities for your organisation as demonstrated (for example) in quality improvement planning documentation or self-assessment reporting.

We want participation on the programme to be as diverse as the sector it serves. We particularly welcome applicants from underrepresented groups including those with disabilities and/or from a BAME background, and will work to overcome any barriers applicants may face throughout their participation on the programme.

The application process for the 2021/22 PRP is now open.


Practitioner Research Programme evaluation report

In 2019, the ETF commissioned SQW to undertake an evaluation of the Practitioner Research Programme, which is delivered on the ETF’s behalf by the University of Sunderland Centre for Excellence in Teaching Training (SUNCETT). The report presents the findings of the evaluation.

The Practitioner Research Programme aims to raise awareness and understanding of research within FE practitioners, supporting them to develop and test their own research ideas. It promotes evidence informed practice by prompting practitioners to develop their teaching ability through conducting research and deepening their understanding of the relationships between educational research, theory and practice. It also aims – through the participation of practitioners in the programme – to create a growing community of research active practitioners who will be bringing about change and improvement across the sector.

The report looks at the impact the programme is having on participants, their organisations, students and the wider sector, and reports participants’ views on how it could be improved even further for future cohorts. A summary of the main findings are presented at the beginning of the report.