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Reports Curriculum Investigation Grant research reports

Exploring task design as an enabler of leading teaching in secondary schools

This investigation of how theories of task design can support teaching offers tools to help teachers to develop pupils’ motivation and agency in relation to their subject.

This report, on one of the three research projects to receive the British Curriculum Forum’s Curriculum Investigation Grant for 2018–2019, investigates whether task design, as an element of curriculum theory, can be of practical, sustainable use as a tool for leaders, and as a means of generating tools that teachers can use in leading and teaching the school curriculum.


This collaborative curriculum development project drew on a historical-cultural  perspective to develop two research tools:

  • one to inquire into task design as enacted in the classroom by the teachers
  • one to support teachers’ inquiries into what mattered to them as they planned,
    taught and assessed.

Teachers were encouraged to communicate the values that motivated them and shaped their teaching, and to explore how they theorised their practice in relation to task design and pedagogy.

It found that four predominant concerns mediated the process the teachers used and
how they understood their roles.

  • The teachers planned lessons with the goal of enabling pupils’ understanding rather than their recall of factual knowledge.
  • The teachers’ long-term goal was to enable pupils to become agentic in relation to the subject knowledge and skills.
  • The teachers saw their work as relational – a concern most often expressed as an aim to ‘bring out the best’ in pupils.
  • The teachers shared the long-term goal of wanting pupils to care about the subject for its own sake and for its importance to society.

About the authors

Lorna Shires

Oxford Brookes University

Lorna Shires is prinicipal lecturer in teacher development at the School of Education, Oxford Brookes University.

Mat Hunter

Icknield Community College

Mat Hunter has served as both headteacher and governor of Icknield Community College in Watlington, Oxfordshire, since September 2011.