John Elliott

Emeritus Professor, Professor

  • 1.17 Lawrence Stenhouse Building

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Personal profile

Key Research Interests

Professor Elliott is well known internationally for his role in developing the theory and practice of action research within the broad field of education and training, as a means of bringing about sustainable innovation and change through engaging teachers and trainers as active participants in creating knowledge about how to effect change. John Elliott has directed a number of funded collaborative classroom research projects with teachers and schools. These include the Ford Teaching Project (1972-74), funded by the Ford Foundation, and the TTA funded Norwich Area Schools Consortium (NASC) on the 'curriculum and pedagogical dimensions of student disaffection' (1997-2001). 

In the mid-70s John Elliott founded a collaborative action research international network (CARN) which still flourishes to this day and extends across the professions and other educational providers. He is a founding editor of the ‘Educational Action Research Journal’, which has strong links with CARN. In his role as pedagogical consultant to the OECD’s ‘Environment and School Initiatives’ Network (ENSI), he played a major role in fostering internationally an action research approach to the development of curricula that enabled students and teachers to actively participate in the creation of locally useful environmental knowledge as a community resource. 

In addition to his work in the field of curriculum development and action research, Professor Elliott has been associated for many years with the theory and practice of ‘democratic evaluation’, developed in education policy contexts under the leadership of his colleague Professor Barry MacDonald. The development of ‘democratic evaluation’ is an approach to the evaluation of innovatory policies and programmes that strives to capture the experience of innovation from a diversity of perspectives and give all the major stake-holders an authentic voice in determining quality.

In the mid -1980’s John Elliott was a member of a major Home Office sponsored review of  Police Probationer Training [pdf file, 89kb] and was subsequently co-leader of the development of a new national police training curriculum. More recently (2001-03) he co-directed a further Home Office sponsored review of the Police Learning Requirement in the light of the governments’ ‘working together’ philosophy for the public services, and its community cohesion agenda. Furthermore, Professor Elliott co-directed an evaluation of the vocational training of General Medical Practitioners and is the author and editor of a number of well-known publications in the fields of curriculum and teacher professional development, and has served as a consultant to national and international organisations.

For much of the 21st century Professor Elliott has focused on developinjg a hybrid model of teacher research that synergises the ideas of Lawrence Stenhouse with the Japanese method of lesson study and Marton and Booth's pedagogical theory of variation. This is evidenced in many of the publications cited below as PURE entries. The inspiration for this focus came from evaluations of Lesson Studies he was commissioned to undertake in relation to curriculum reforms underway in Hong Kong.


Major projects include: 

Recent doctoral students

Malcolm Noble (EDU, second supervisor 50%)

James Skinner (EDU, second supervisor 40%)

Stephen Hildich (EDU, second supervisor 50%)

Hammissou Ousseini (EDU, second supervisor 40%)

Miles Secker (EDU, second supervisor, 20%)

Magda El Abbar (EDU, first supervisor)

Bradley James (EDU/PSI, second supervisor)



Recent Books

Elliott, J, (1991) Action Research for Educational Change, Open University Press: Milton Keynes.

Elliott, J, (1993) (ed)  Reconstructing Teacher Education, Falmer Press: London. 

Elliott, J, (1998)The Curriculum Experiment.  Meeting the Challenge of Social Change,  Open University Press: Milton Keynes. 

Altrichter, H and Elliott, J, (2000) (eds)  Images of Educational Change, Open University Press: Milton Keynes. 

Day, C, Elliott, J, Somekh, B, and Winter, R (2002) (eds) Theory and Practice in Action Research, Symposium Books: Oxford.

Elliott, J (2007) Reflecting Where the Action Is: The Selected Writings of John Elliott, World Library of Educationalists, Routledge: London and New York.

Elliott, J and Norris, N (eds) (2012) Curriculum, Pedagogy and Educational Research: the work of Lawrence Stenhouse, London & New York: Routledge.

Recent Chapters in Books

Elliott, J (1996) 'Curriculum Study' in A Guide to Educational Research (ed) P. Gordon, The Woburn Press: London.

Elliott, J (1997) 'School-based Curriculum Development and Action Research in the United Kingdom' in International Action Research:  A Casebook for Education Reform (ed) S. Hollingsworth, Falmer Press: London.

Elliott, J (2000) ‘Towards a synoptic vision of educational change in advanced industrial societies’ in Images of Educational Change  (eds)  H Altrichter and J Elliott  Open University Press: Milton Keynes. 

Elliott, J and Ebbutt D (2000) ‘Practice-based inquiry as a capacity-building strategy in a distance-learning context:  The problems and potentials’ in Perspectives on Teacher Education and Transformation in Namibia (ed) L Dahlstrom, Gamsberg Macmillan, Namibia.

Elliott, J and Morris, P (2001) ‘Educational Reform, Schooling, and Teacher Education in Hong Kong’ in New Teacher Education for the Future:  International Perspectives (eds) Y C Cheng,  K W Chow, K T Tsui, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong and Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands. 

Elliott, J (2001) ‘Restructuring Educational Research for the Third Way’ in Taking Education Really Seriously: Four Years Hard Labour (ed) M Fielding, RoutledgeFarmer: London and New York. 

Elliott, J (2001) ‘The Crumbling Shrine: the National Curriculum and the Proposals to Amend it’ in The National Curriculum and its Effects (eds) C Cullingford and P Oliver, Ashgate: Aldershot.

Elliott, J (2001) ‘Characteristics of performative cultures:  their central paradoxes and limitations as resources for educational reform’ in The Performing School (ed) C Husbands, Routledge: London

Elliott, J (2002) 'What is Applied Research in Education?' in The Teacher as Researcher (ed) G Bagakis, Athens: Metaichmio Publications

Elliott, J and Chan, KK (2003) 'Curriculum Reform East and West:  Global Trends and Local Contexts' in Reforms of Curriculum and Instruction in Hong Kong and Shanghai:  A Paradigm Shift, (ed) Law Hau Fai, Edmond, Hong Kong Institute of Education

Elliott, J (2004) 'Using research to improve practice:  the notion of evidence-based practice' in International Handbook on the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers (eds) C Day and J Sachs, Open University Press: Maidenhead

Elliott, J (2005) ‘Reflections: Personal and Professional’ in Curriculum Change in Secondary Schools, 1957-2004 (ed)  N Evans, Abingdon: Routledge.

Elliott, J (2007) ‘Reinstating Social Hope through Participatory Action Research,’ A Tribute to the Life and Work of Orlando Fals Borda, Columbia, Bogota: Universidad de la Salle.

Elliott, J (2007) From ‘human capital’ theory to ‘capability theory’ as a driver of curriculum reform: a reflection on the educational implications of the work of Amartya Sen in the light of John Dewey’s account of educational values, in Somekh, B & Schwandt, T (Eds) Knowledge Production:Research Work in Interesting Times, London & New York: Routledge.

Elliott, J (2008) Constructing a Professional Knowledge-Base for Teacher Education Through Action Research, in Ming-Fai Hui & David L Grossman (Eds) Improving Teacher Education through Action Research, New York & London: Routledge.

Elliott, J (2009) Research-based Teaching, in Gewirtz S, Mahoney P, Hextall, & Cribb, A (Eds)   Changing Teacher Professionalism, London & New York: Routledge.

Elliott, J (2009) Connecting Action with Research, in Short, E.C and Waks, L.J. (Eds) Leaders in Curriculum Studies: Intellectual Self-Portraits, Rotterdam/Boston/Taipai: Sense Publishers.

Elliott, J (2009) Building Educational Theory through Action Research, in Somekh, B and Noffke, S (Eds) The SAGE Handbook of Educational Action Research, Thousand Oaks (Calif), London, New Delhi, Singapore: SAGE Publications Inc.pp.28-38

Elliott, J (2009) Educational Evaluation as Mediated Mutual Learning, in Ryan, K.E and Bradley Cousins

Elliott, J (2010) Giving Birth to School Academies: Power, Politics and Community Voice, in Gunter, H (Ed) The State and Education Policy, London:Continuum Books.

Elliott, J (2011) Values in Education and Lifelong Learning, Encylopedia of the Sciences of Learning, Springer-ESL.

Elliott, J (2012) Teaching Controversial Issues, the idea of the ‘teacher as researcher’ and contemporary significance for citizenship education, in Elliott, J and Norris, N (Eds) Curriculum, Pedagogy and Educational Research: The work of Lawrence Stenhouse, London and New York: Routledge.

Elliott, J and Norris, N (2012) The Stenhouse Legacy, in Elliott, J and Norris, N (Eds) Curriculum, Pedagogy and Educational Research: The work of Lawrence Stenhouse, London and New York: Routledge.

Elliott, J (2015) ‘Lesson and learning study and the idea of the teacher as a researcher’ in Wood, K and Sithamparam, S (Eds) Realising Learning, London and New York: Routledge.

Elliott, J. & Brown, M (2015) Why we should give low grades to Gove's exams in What's next for education?: Advice to the next government from the New Visions Group.. The New Visions for Education Group

Elliott, J. (forthcoming 2016) Teaching for historical understanding: some thematic continuities with the work of Lawrence Stenhouse: Reflections on chapters by Rachel Foster, Rob Somers and Paula Worth in MasterClass in History Education : Transforming Teaching and Learning . Counsell, C., Burn, K. & Chapman, A. (eds.). London: Bloomsbury Books, Chapter 10

Recent Official Evaluation Reports

Elliott, J & Yu, C (2008) “Learning Studies as an Educational Change Strategy in Hong Kong:an independent evaluation of the ‘Variation for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning’(VITAL) Project”, funded by the Dept for Education and Manpower, Hong Kong. Published by the Centre for Learning Studies, HK Inst Educ.

Elliott, J (2001-4) “Progressive and Innovatory Primary Schools” (PIPS) programme of School-based Lesson Studies, funded by the Quality Education Fund (QEF) of Hong Kong. Published by the Nebter for Learning Studies, HK Inst of Educ. 

Recent Articles in Refereed Journals include:

Elliott, J, (1997) 'Quality assurance, the educational standards debate, and the commodification of educational research' in The Curriculum Journal, Vol 8, No 1.

Elliott, J and Ebbutt, D, (1998) 'Practice-based Inquiry in the BETD In-service Programme - some key issues' in Educational Action Research Vol 6, No 2.

Elliott, J, (1999) 'Evidence-based practice, action research and the professional development of teachers' in Goldsmiths Journal of Education Vol 2, No 1.

Elliott, J, (1999) 'Introduction:  global and local dimensions of reforms in teacher education in Teacher Education Reforms in an Age of Globalization'.  Special issue of Teaching and Teacher Education, An International Journal of Research and Studies.

Elliott, J, (2000) 'Sustainable Society and Environmental Education - Future Perspectives and Demands for the Educational System' in The Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol 29, No 3.  Special Issue on Environmental Education.

Elliott, J, (2000) ‘Revising the national curriculum:  a comment on the Secretary of State’s proposals’ in Journal of Educational Policy, Vol 15, No 2.

Elliott, J, (2000) ‘Doing action-research:  doing practical philosophy’ in Prospero, Vol 6 Numbers 3 and 4.

Elliott, J, (2001) ‘Making Evidence-based Practice Educational' in British Educational Research Journal, Vol 27, No 5.

Elliott, J, (2002) 'Working 'against the grain':  conversation pieces from the academy about the experience of sustaining collaborative research with teachers', in Pedagogy, Culture and Society.  Special edition on Pupil Disaffection.

Elliott, J, (2002) 'What is applied research in education?' in Building Research Capacity, Issue 3, July 2002

Elliott, J. (2002) 'The Impact of Intensive 'Value for Money' Performance Auditing in Educational Systems' in Educational Action Research, Vol 10, No 3

Elliott, J. (2002) 'The paradox of educational reform in the evaluatory State:  implications for teacher education' in Prospects, quarterly review of comparative education, Issue No 123, vol XXXII, no 3, September 2002

Elliott, J. (2003) 'Collecting, Analyzing, and Reporting Data in Action-Research:  Some Methods and Techniques Used in the Assessment for Teaching and Learning Project at HKIEd' in Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education & Development, Vol 6, Special Issue 1, September/October 2003

Elkins, T and Elliott, J (2004) ‘Competition and control: the impact of government regulation on teaching and learning in English schools’ in Research Papers in Education, Vol 19, No 1.

Elliott, J (2005) ‘Becoming Critical: the failure to connect’ in Educational Action Research, Vol 13, No 3.

Elliott, J (2005)  ‘The Teacher as a Member of a Networked Learning Community’ in Learning for Democracy, Vol 1, No 3.

Elliott, J (2006) ‘Educational Research as a Form of Democratic Rationality’ in Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol 40, No 2.

Elliott, J (2007) ‘Assessing the quality of action research’ in  Research Papers in Education, Vol 22, No 2.

Elliott, J and Kushner, S (2007) ‘The need for a manifesto for educational programme evaluation’ in   Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol 37, No 3.

Elliott, J and Lukes, Dominik (2008) ‘Epistemology as Ethics in Research and Policy: The Use of Case Studies’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol 42, Supplement 1.

Elliott, J & Ching-Tien, Tsai (2008) What might Confucius have to say about action research, Educational  Action Research Journal, Vol. 16 Issue 4.

Elliott, J (2008) ‘The Birth of a School Academy in North Norwich: a case study’, Forum Vol 50 No 3.

Elliott, J (2010) Building Social Capital for Educational Action Research: the contribution of Bridget Somekh, Educational Action Research Journal, Vol.18 No.1.

Elliott, J (2010) Lesson and Learning Study: a globalising form of teacher research, Revista Interuniversitaria de Formacion del Profesorado, 68 (24.2) Agosto.

Elliott, J (2011) The Seesaw Curriculum: it’s time that educational policy matured, Forum Volume 53,Number 1/ 15

Elliott, J (2015) Educational action research as the quest for virtue in teaching, in Educational Action Research Journal. 23, 1, p. 4-21 18 p.

Elliott, J. (2015) Towards a comprehensive pedagogical theory to inform lesson study: an editorial review in International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 4, 4, p. 318 - 327

Elliott, J (2012) Developing a science of teaching through lesson study, International Journal of Lesson and Learning Studies, vol.1. no.2. 


Guest Editor of Special Editions

Elliott, J and Zamorski, B, (2002) (eds)  Pedagogy, Culture and Society.  Special Edition on Pupil Disaffection.

Elliott, J (2004) (ed) Research Papers in Education Policy and Practice, Vol 19, No 1.  Special Issue Making teachers more accountable:  case studies of the modernization process in six countries.

Journal Editorships

Chief Editor, International Journal of Lesson and Learning Studies (2011-2017). Currently Associate Editor.

International Editorial Board of Teaching and Teacher Education, an International Journal of Research Studies (until 2008).

Editorial Board of Research Papers in Education (until 2008).

Editorial Board of The Curriculum Journal.

Adviser to the Editorial Board of Investigacion en la Escuela

Adviser to the Editorial Board of Revista Interuniversitaria de Formacion del Profesorado



Professor John Elliott is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of East Anglia, UK and a founding member and former director of the internationally acclaimed Centre for Applied Research in Education (CARE) at UEA. He also served as Dean of Education from 1992-95.

He is well-known internationally for his role in developing the theory and practice of action research in the contexts of curriculum and teacher development. He is a former President of the British Educational Research Association (1989–90), and more recently, President of the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS). For a decade Professor Elliott was pedagogical consultant to the OECD programme on ‘Environment and School Initiatives’ (1989–98). In November 2000 Professor Elliott was appointed Local Council Member of Norfolk Learning & Skills Council for a four year period, extended until 2006, after which he became Higher Education representative on the Norfolk 14-19 Strategy Group. In addition, John was formerly an Advisory Professor to the Hong Kong Institute of Education (2001-2006), and consultant to the Hong Kong Government on the strategic development of its curriculum reforms. He was also a Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, an Honorary Professor at the University of Sheffield, and  a Visiting Professor at the University Campus, Suffolk. 

Professor Elliott is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and in 2009 was elected by Eastern Region Fellows to the newly formed Fellowship Council. He was subsequently re-elected as an ‘At Large’ member of the Council until 2014. In this connection he initiated and convened the Norwich Area Fellows Education Forum in partnership with CUE EAST (the East of England Universities Community Engagement project based at the UEA). The Forum focussed on community factors that shape educational outcomes in Norwich. 

John was awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Hong Kong Institute of Education (2002), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2003), and the University of Jonkoping, Sweden (2014). In 2011 he was conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS). Furthermore, Professor Elliott was for many years a regular participant in the influential Cambridge Conference. This conference mets periodically to review the state of the art in the field of Educational Programme Evaluation, and to forge new directions. John co-convened the last conference, with Saville Kushner in July 2004, at St. Edmunds College, Cambridge. 

From 1984-86 John was a member of the Home Office Review Police Probationer Training (1986 HMSO) that was based in CARE at UEA under the leadership of Professor Barry MacDonald. He subsequently led a team that collaborated with the Home Office Central Planning Unit to develop a new National Curriculum for Probationer Training. In 2002-03 he and Professor Saville Kushner (UWE) were commissioned by the Home Office to undertake an Independent Review of the Learning Requirement for Police Probationer Training. The report was published in 2003.

John Elliott also has a long history of participation in school governing bodies, as either a local government, parent or community representative. Until recently he was a community governor of a national challenge school and represented it on the governing body of the Kett Sixth Form Consortium it contributed to. From 2001-2007 he was a member of the Norfolk Learning and Skills Council and was involved in reviewing 14-19 provision across the county. At the national level Professor Elliott plays an active role in influencing the policy community through his involvement with the New Vision Group, an educational think-tank that regularly addresses policy issues with Ministers and Civil Servants. He co-ordinated a submission from the NVG ‘curriculum aims’ sub-group to the House of Commons DCSF Selection Committee’s review of the National Curriculum. 

Professor Elliott’s major work on ‘Action Research for Educational Change’ was published in 1991 by the Open University Press and subsequently reprinted many times. More recent publications include ‘Reflecting Where the Action Is: The selected works of John Elliott’ in the Routledge World Library of Educationalists (2007), in addition to co-editing (with Professor Nigel Norris) a book on the work of Lawrence Stenhouse, founder of CARE (‘The Stenhouse Legacy’, 2012). A more detailed list of his publications is available in the ‘research’ section.

Appointments and Consultancies

  • Pedagogical consultant OECD ‘School Initiatives and the Environment Network’ in 19 countries (1986-99).
  • Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) funded Seminar series ‘Capturing the essence of effective performance’ (October 1998).
  • Consultant to the Ministry of Education in Malaysia on the Professional Development Programme for English Language Trainers (October 1999).
  • Academic Advisor to the Home Office Modernisation Project Steering Group (2000-02).
  • Academic Advisor to the Home Office Probationer Training Programme Steering Committee (2000-02).
  • Appointed Local Council Member of Norfolk Learning & Skills Council for a 4-year period (initially 2000-04, extended to 2007).
  • Consultant to the Chief Executive of the Curriculum Development Institute, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Responsible for overseeing the strategic development of the reforms, particularly with respect to research and development projects (2000-06).
  • School Governor. Heartsease High School, Norwich, and Kett Sixth Form Centre Management Committee (2004-08)
  • Higher Education Authority, Republic of Ireland. Research Infrastructure Review (2006).
  • Member of Norfolk 14-19 Strategy Group (2006-10).
  • School Governor. Sewell Park College, Norwich (2008 – 2012).
  • Governor of Kett Sixth Form College, Norwich (2009-10). 

Special Honours

  • Fellow for the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA).
  • Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS).
  • Appointed Advisory Professor of Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education for a 3-year period (2000-03). Term was extended to 2006.
  • Honorary Doctorate for Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education (2002).
  • Selected for inclusion in Who’s Who (2002).
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Barcelona, Spain (2003).
  • Visiting Professor, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K. (from 2003).
  • Associate, Von Hügel Institute, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, U.K. (2004-08).
  • Honorary Professor, University of Sheffield, U.K. (from 2004).
  • Biographical details included in Debrett’s ‘People of To-day’ (2005).
  • Elected President of the World Association for Lesson Studies (2009-10).
  • Honorary Co-Director of the Centre for Learning Study at the Hong Kong Institute of Education from 9 July 2012 to 14 January 2013.
  • Visiting Professor, University Campus, Suffolk.
  • Honorary Doctorate for Education, University of Jonkoping, Sweden (2014).

Teaching Interests

Professor John Elliott currently contributes to post-graduate degree courses and modules within the School of Education and Lifelong Learning. He also designed and taught on the History and Philosophy of Education core module as part of the BA in Education. From 2014 he has been Course Director for the part-time MA module on Developing Innovative Pedagogies through Lesson Study.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

External positions

Ex Committee and Council of the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS).