Informing best practice in education

Fieldwork in Gambia, one of the countries where Exeter researchers investigated school partnerships.

Education policy in England encourages schools to establish partnerships with schools overseas, particularly in Africa, to help to develop understanding of other cultures. Research by Dr Fran Martin and Dr Helen Griffiths has investigated the effects of North-South study visits (visits by teachers and student teachers to organisations in The Gambia or Southern India) on visitors and on host communities, and the results have been used by schools and professional bodies to inform best practice.

Dr Martin presented the findings and proposed a new way of developing pupils’ understandings of cultural similarity and difference to the advisory group of Think Global (The Development Education Association), an education charity that promotes global learning and is a key link organisation between government policy and practice in the UK, as well as leading a webinar. An article about these ideas was circulated by Think Global to its network of NGOs, Development Education Centres, trade unions and other practitioners. The director of Think Global said that reading and discussing this article “has been included as a recommendation within the School Action Plan, for schools taking part in the Global Learning Programme”. Dr Martin was subsequently appointed as a member of the advisory council to Think Global.

Tide (Teachers in Development Education), a teachers’ network that participated in the project, has used the research findings in developing its materials and activities as well as its ethical practice. Tide now has online guidance for leaders of study informed by the research. Tide’s Director has noted that the research “challenged our thinking about commonality, difference and global learning, and influenced the way we explore these ideas, particularly with primary teachers” and has “significantly influenced” their contribution to Department for International Development Global School Partnerships courses and ‘Connecting Classrooms’ courses.


Conferences were held in in the UK, in Gambia and in India to bring together academics and practitioners to consider the implications of the research findings. Participants represented interests from government departments for education and curriculum development, the British Council, Development Education Centres, teaching unions, and NGOs such as the Red Cross and Oxfam. The European Commission Department of Culture and Education invited Dr Martin to take part in the European Union Delphi consultation, to develop strategic thinking about intercultural learning and to inform future policy.

Lifeworlds Learning (a Community Interest Company) and DEC South Yorks (a development education centre) both run yearly study visits for teachers to locations in the Global South, and worked with Dr Martin, Tide and the Geographical Association, to develop more ethical study visits, and the National Association of Head Teachers published a summary of the research in the Global Learners, Global Schools issue of their Education Leadership series. Dr Martin gave a keynote address to the annual conference of the practitioner network, Teacher Education for Equity and Sustainability (TEESNet), attended by delegates from schools, development education centres and NGOs. One delegate said the address was “Very thought provoking … made me think about the millennium goals; it addressed power and discourse and our accountability as people of privilege.”

An online learning resource which drew directly on the research findings, Frameworks for Intercultural Learning, aims to stimulate debate about issues that lie at the core of global intercultural learning. A link to the resource has been placed on the Department for International Development-funded global learning site for schools, Global Dimension.

Dr Martin has also acted as a consultant to the British Council: she advised on the development of an online CPD resource for teachers, Education for Global Citizenship. The site is designed for use by teachers in all countries participating in the Connecting Classrooms initiative. Two of her publications are used in the CPD activities: one to stimulate thinking about neo-colonialism, and other to stimulate debate about what it means to be a global citizen.