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John Nisbet Award Winner

Patricia Broadfoot, Professor

After undergraduate studies in Sociology and a PGCE, Patricia’s first job was as a teacher in a Jamaican High School. This experience led to an abiding interest in the Sociology of Education and the beginnings of a research career that linked the study of assessment and comparative education. Subsequently working for the Scottish Council for Research in Education -then chaired by Professor Nisbet – she was involved in early pilot work in schools on ‘Pupil Profiles’ – work that was to lead to the major Government initiative in the 1980’s to introduce Records of Achievement and the co-directorship of the National Evaluation of the programme. Her 1979 book: ‘Assessment, Schools and Society’ proved the foundation for a sustained research engagement with the role played by assessment as a policy tool, especially in the contrasting settings of education in England and France, work which culminated in her !996 book ‘Assessment, Education and Society’ and the award of a D.Sc from Bristol University in 1999. 

Having been appointed lecturer at Bristol University in 1981, Patricia subsequently set up the Centre for Assessment Studies which hosted a range of research projects relating to assessment policy and practice. A series of long-term, ESRC-funded projects traced the impact of the National Curriculum and Assessment in English schools and provided the basis for empirical comparative studies of the ethos and very different educational practice in France and Denmark. A parallel interest in the relationship between assessment and learning led to the creation with colleagues, of an on-line assessment tool – the Effective Lifelong Lerning Inventory – ELLI – which is now used around the world. The scale of interest in ELLI has led to Patricia’s recent work on the potential of technology-enhanced assessment to underpin a paradigm shift in contemporary assessment thinking and practice. 

A former President of both BERA and the Comparative and International Education Society, Patricia contributed as a member of the Assessment Reform Group to its sustained efforts to translate research into policy and practice. She served on the ESRC Council from 2001 to 2006, chairing its International Advisory Committee and the Research Resources Board. Since 2008, Patricia has been the inaugural Chair of the Governing Board of the largest longitudinal household study in the world – ESRC’s ‘Understanding Society’. This has encouraged her to pursue the interest derived from her ESRC experience, in the future role of social science and the potential of large data sets to transform educational and social research. 

She is a Founding Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences and was recently elected a member of its Council. 

Patricia was awarded a CBE for services to Social Science in 2006. 

For further details, please see Patricia’s page on the University of Bristol web-site.

Patricia Broadfoot's contributions

BERA John Nisbet Fellowship

Since 2014 BERA has awarded the John Nisbet Fellowship to one or more people who are deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to educational research over their career. Named in honour of...

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