Christine Counsell

Director of Education, Inspiration Trust
Speaking at


Understanding and improving curricula: what can and can’t research do?

With schools (and soon inspectors) taking new interest in curriculum, school leaders are asking how to make use of their freedoms to interpret curriculum agendas. Discussions about ‘what works’ in a forum such as ResearchEd invariably relate to pedagogy, learning or assessment and frequently draw on empirical research drawn from fields such as cognitive science. On what sources of authority or forms of warrant should schools or teachers draw regarding curriculum? What kinds of curriculum-relevant research exist and (heresy warning) how far should we look to educational research at all for answers on choices and blends of content? This session examines the scope and limits of research that might assist us in holding sensible conversations about curriculum. It urges clarity about the kinds of questions that particular types of research can and cannot answer. Christine will advocate some under-used types of research that illuminate curriculum questions in practical ways and she will point to the dangers of appealing to ‘evidence’ before asking fundamental questions about the origin, nature and purpose of the knowledge we choose to teach.


Christine Counsell is Director of Education at the Inspiration Trust, a Multi-Academy Trust in Norfolk. Formerly teacher-trainer for 19 years at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, she built school-based subject mentor communities that read enough to properly own an ITT course. She is currently a member of Ofsted’s Curriculum Advisory Panel and served on the DfE’s workload review group in 2016. Author, editor, blogger and international consultant on curriculum and teaching, Christine has specialised in supporting history teaching in post-conflict zones.