Public Release: 

BERA/SAGE 2012 recognize excellence in the application of research in practice


London (06 September 2012) - The winners of the 2012 BERA/SAGE Practitioner Research Awards were announced at the annual British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference in London on the 6th September. For the sixth year running the BERA/SAGE awards recognized practitioners who have demonstrated excellence in the application of research in practice, in a research-based practice in the under 18 setting and research-based practice in the over 18 setting.

The winners were:

  • For the research-based practice in over 18 setting - Dr Sheine Virtue Allyvenne Peart, with an education project on the experiences of Black males in further education.

  • For the research based practice in under 18 setting - Jill McManus, with a research project that influenced the decision of a secondary school to change its policy on ability grouping.

    Each winner received £500 in prize money, plus a selection of SAGE books.

    "SAGE truly values the strong relationship we have with BERA and are delighted to be involved in presenting their annual awards for the sixth year running. We believe strongly in supporting the intrinsic value of education and these awards go a great way to recognize the value of using research in the workplace for education practitioners" said Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director, SAGE. "Many congratulations to both Jill McManus and Sheine Peart on their outstanding and unique research projects."

    We interviewed the two winners to find out more:

    Dr Sheine Virtue Allyvenne Peart, School of Education, Nottingham Trent University

    What is your project?

    "Having watched the experiences of my brothers, cousins and pupils I taught in schools and students I taught in FE colleges and being personally, professionally and academically aware of how so many Black boys fail in schools and have a difficult journey through compulsory education, I wanted to explore if the same experience of failure and hostility was replicated in the further education sector."

    Describe what your research project aimed to do

    "The project aimed to determine how Black students perceived and experienced education in the FE sector. It explored their emotional journey and relationship to FE as well as their academic achievements. It aimed to determine if the FE experience provided different opportunities for Black students to succeed in and enjoy education."

    Where and who were involved in the research?

    "The research took place in two large FE colleges in the East Midlands over a period of 15 months. In the first instance I needed to gain access to the research site. Although I worked in one of the colleges where the research took place I needed the support of the Principal to provide permission for me to complete the research. I also needed the support of the tutors who could have, if they chose, easily undermined the research. I had to secure this same support in the second research college. I worked by myself as a researcher, but without the open, willing and enthusiastic involvement of the men and boys who took part in this project, this research could not have happened."

    What was your methodology?

    "I used phenomenological inquiry to complete the research. By using a variety of different research instruments, focus group sessions (I completed group sessions with 3-5 students who talked through their experiences of FE); individual interviews (in these sessions I explored in more detail points that were raised in the focus groups); observations (this was principally used as a triangulation tool and I wanted to see if what was said matched what happened. I completed both classroom based and social area observations); photo-records (this was to find out more about what FE meant to the young men and they photographed images that symbolized FE for them); and documentary analysis (I reviewed their exam and course achievement records) I built up rich multilayered data which informed me of the students lived experience of FE."

    What were the chief findings?

    The research project highlighted the absence of a dedicated support structure to meet the social, cultural and academic needs of Black male students in college. While the students appeared to enjoy FE more than schools, Black students still achieved at a lower level relative to their White peers. As a direct result of my research, a Black male student support group, 'Black on Track' has been established in the research college. A longitudinal research project will also run alongside the group to explore the impact of a dedicated Black male student support group to the students' experience of college.

    How do you feel winning the BERA/SAGE award?

    I am delighted and honored to win the BERA SAGE Award. It feels like I have been formally recognized and admitted to the educational research community. For me, it has provided a vehicle beyond my immediate environment for the voices of young black men to be heard. This is the most significant aspect for me and I very much appreciate the interest shown in this research. This award will enable me to extend my networks and work collaboratively with other organizations, extending research for the greater good.

    Jill McManus, Institute of Education, South Tyneside

    What is your project?

    This project was initially designed to look at the impact of ability grouping on academic progress on pupil progress and motivation. However, the early findings of this project provided compelling evidence of the adverse effects on some groups of pupils and this precipitated the decision of the school to change to a mixed ability system. The change gave rise to a rare opportunity to compare the impacts of different systems of grouping by ability within a single school and hence to evaluate the effects of putting research into practice.

    Where and who were involved in the research?

    The research followed the progress of two cohorts of pupils from Year 7 to Year 11. One cohort of pupils had been placed in ability bands at the start of Year 7 whilst in the other pupils were in mixed ability groups. An approach was adopted which analyzed data at group rather than individual level and particular attention was focused on borderline students. It was considered that if differences emerged between these pupils then this would suggest that placement into higher or lower ability group had had an impact.

    What was your methodology?

    Overall we used a case study approach which used mixed methodology in order to consider both the academic attainment and social inclusion issues in the same study. We analyzed data at a group rather than at an individual level, paying particular attention to borderline pupils. Where possible the school's own academic and pastoral data were used and other methods such as lesson observation and pupil interviews were used as part of usual school practice. It was deemed important to be able to report the findings in the schools own terminology to enable staff to evaluate the evidence more easily and relate it to their own findings. It was also hoped that by doing this it would facilitate the research findings into practice.

    What was the impact/effect of the study?

    The critical finding was that it was allocation to a particular group, rather than the experience of being in that group that gave rise to the issues with motivation and engagement with learning that were found in the middle of lower ability groups. It was these findings about the disadvantages of ability grouping that prompted the change to mixed ability. The study showed that mixed ability system resulted in improvements in many areas that had been causing concern. As a result of this work, therefore, the change to mixed ability grouping system has become established as school policy. Some further data analysis has been carried out regarding the impact of setting in one core subject at KS4 and this work may be extended in the light of concerns abut progress at KS4.

    How do you feel winning the BERA/SAGE award?

    Really delighted and honoured. I am very pleased to have had my work recognized in this way. Winning this has been a real boost to my enthusiasm to continue and my confidence to take my ideas forward. The BERA award is a great recognition of the contribution that can be made by practitioner-researchers and their privileged position in helping to build bridges between educational research and work-place practice.


    SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.

    The British Educational Research Association (BERA) encourages the pursuit of educational research and its application for both the improvement of practice and the public benefit. BERA works to see that the best quality evidence from educational research informs policy -makers, practitioners and the general public and contributes to economic prosperity, cultural understanding, social cohesion and personal flourishing. BERA does this by

  • Supporting and promoting the highest quality educational research.
  • Informing policy and practice.
  • Promoting knowledge and understanding within and beyond the field.

    BERA is a member-led, internationally renowned organisation with UK and non-UK based members. Over 1700 member secure BERA's place as the home of educational researchers in the UK.

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