Agency, Context and Education (ACE)

ACE is just one of many Research Clusters at Plymouth Marjon University. Click here for details on other Research Clusters.

ACE Introduction

In the Agency, Context and Education cluster, through our EU and government funded world-class research; we are devoted to advancing our understanding of, and impact on, education, both formal and informal. Through our research-led teaching, we apply our findings to practice to inform a new generation of professionals – teachers, youth workers, criminologists, entrepreneurs.  Through our engagement with education intervention evaluations, we provide the evidence on the success of new learning, teaching and assessment tools that inform and develop professional practice. Our funded primary research is sector leading and has influenced ways in which education professionals practice internationally, for example transformative evaluation in Youth Work. We are committed to educational research that has impact and helps to transforms lives.

Scope and themes

To promote educational research that informs and develops best practice in both formal and informal education. Best practice is a purposely broad term used by the cluster to ensure our scope is inclusive of the wide range of activity in and across education that affects its effectiveness and improvement.

Research themes:

  • Educational Isolation in socio-economically deprived areas (coastal, rural and small schools). Our work in this area has recently been used by the Social Mobility Commission (2017) State of the Nation Report “Deprived coastal towns face multiple issues linked to geographical isolation, weak economies and multi-generational underemployment or unemployment. The absence of professional opportunities can make these areas less attractive to teachers with partners. Educational challenges are characterised by a lack of partnerships, difficulties recruiting staff (for core as well as specialist subjects), low student aspirations and unengaged families.” (SMC, 2017:51)
  • Youth work – new evaluative practices and the impact of youth work. We currently lead an Erasmus + project focusing on the ‘Impact of Youth Work’ in Europe.
  • Outdoor learning
  • Teaching and learning
  • Evidence based teaching
  • Education Intervention Evaluation
  • Early career teacher retention
  • Creative arts and education
  • Enterprise education


Cooper, S (2018) Participatory Evaluation in Youth and Community Work. London, Routledge.

Leather, M (2018) The water environment and informal education, in T. Jeffs & J. Ord (eds) Rethinking Outdoor, Experiential and Informal Education: Beyond the Confines. (Chapter 8) London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415703109

Ord, J & Leather, M (2018) Experiential Education: The Importance of John Dewey, in T. Jeffs & J. Ord (eds) Rethinking Outdoor, Experiential and Informal Education: Beyond the Confines. (Chapter 3) London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415703109

Luke, I & Gourd, J (Eds) (April 2018) Thriving as a Professional Teacher. Routledge: London

Jones, N, Golder, G & Luke, I (2017) Early Professional Development: Leadership development for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs). Church of England Education Office: London

Luke, I & Cade, S (2017) Big Ideas about Small Schools in Guild HE/Cathedrals Group (Eds) World Class Teachers, World Class Education. Guild HE: London

Ovenden-Hope, T & Blandford, S (2017) Understanding Applied Learning. London, Routledge.

Passy, R & Ovenden-Hope, T (2017) ‘Class of 2010: A qualitative longitudinal study of an English secondary school that became an academy’. SAGE Research Methods Cases. London, UK: SAGE. DOI 10.4135/9781473989122

MacBlain, S., Dunn, J & Luke, I. (2017) Contemporary Childhood. London: Sage.