The Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) was set up in 1997 by a group of individuals from further, adult and higher education who had met together at a workshop on research in FE in 1996. A planning group was formed which established the regional basis, the collaborative approach and the network form of organisation. An inaugural conference took place in Blackpool in December 1997 which was addressed by leaders from colleges and policy bodies as well as by academics and included examples of practitioner research. This continued for a further six annual conferences, which typically grew in size and range of activities. FEDA (forerunner of LSDA) supported the conferences and subsequently the network not only by its professional organisation of the conference but also by creating an associated Research Journal, developing an R&D Toolkit and engaging its regional offices. The latter provided leadership and logistical support which enabled meetings and one-day conferences to take place across the country.

For four or five years, funding was also provided through its LSC grant for small-scale, collaborative studies on locally-determined issues, combining the expertise of practitioners and researchers of various kinds. The varied topics chosen and methods used are described in an evaluative report Collaborative Research in Practice published by the Learning & Skills Research Centre in 2004. On some topics, sustained work over several years enabled expertise to develop on issues of national importance. These included studies of 14-16 year olds in colleges, adults’ learning journeys in skills for life and surveys of the experience of part time and recently qualified staff.

130904 Colab Res in P - cover image

The annual national conferences continued and gave rise to annual awards for best papers, which were subsequently published as a book, Readings in Post Compulsory Education, in 2004. In 2006 the LSDA was replaced by two new organisations: the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) and the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA). LSRN groups in some regions have continued independently and a national planning group sustains the Network by working with a range of supportive organisations.  Annual research events have been held in London since 2007, most recently supported by Pearson College, NIACE, LSIS, C&G and IfL.  In 2010, the story of the growth and development of LSRN was featured in a journal article by two of the founders of LSRN[1].   And in 2011, one of the authors with a regional convenor published an article on the role of practice-research networks featuring LSRN[2].

[1] Hillier, Y and Morris, A (2010) Critical practitioners, developing researchers: the story of practitioner research in the lifelong learning sector.  Journal of Vocational Education & Training, Volume 62, Issue 2, 2010.  Available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13636820903427553#.Ua4ZwEDU-3w

[2] Appleby, Y and Hillier, Y (2011) Exploring practices – research networks for critical professional learning.  Studies in Continuing Education, Volume 34, Issue 1, 2011.  Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0158037X.2011.613374

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