MA International Education (Curriculum and Pedagogy) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
School Improvement

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC70882
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit explores notions of educational leadership in relation to school effectiveness and improvement, through the focussed study of specific theories, models and concepts, applying these to real-world issues and debates through case studies from across the globe.

Our students come from diverse international backgrounds, and are hence encouraged to share and discuss their differing experiences, as well as relate their new knowledge and understanding to their own national contexts. In this sense, the unit adopts a truly international perspective.

Our teaching team draws on their own experiences of school improvement in different international contexts, as well as their own and wider research, as a powerful pedagogical tool. We welcome a number of internationally renowned guest speakers, and local educational leaders, to enrich our syllabus, and link theory to practice, in meaningful ways.


This Unit aims to develop your knowledge and critical understanding of current theories, concepts, and models in the field of school effectiveness and school improvement internationally.

give you the opportunity to develop skills of critical analysis and reflection in evaluating and applying these theories, concepts, and models in relation to current and future issues and debates within the field.

equip you with the ability to understand, strategise and contribute to the policy and practice of school improvement across, and involving, systems, communities and families, and within diverse educational contexts.

Learning outcomes

This unit provides students with a consistent range of opportunities to apply their learning around school effectiveness and improvement to questions of practice through case study analysis and scenario-based learning, both in class and in the final assessment.

Through this approach – linking theory, research and practice – students are equipped with a combination of relevant conceptual understandings and practical knowledge that might be brought to bear in any education-related professional role – whether as a school-based practitioner or leader, an educational policymaker or an educational researcher. These skills are also transferable to a diverse range of other fields and professions.


Syllabus (indicative curriculum content):

Weeks 1 and 2: Understanding Theories, Concepts and Models

The relationship between school effectiveness and school improvement 

Central models and theories of school improvement 

The role of data in school improvement

Weeks 3 and 4: Analysing International Issues and Debates

The role of the OECD and PISA on school performance

Conceptualisations of quality of education

The relationship between school effectiveness, improvement and curricula

Weeks 5 and 6: A Focus on the System

Initiating, implementing and embedding change across the school system

School-to-school collaboration 

Weeks 7 and 8:  A Focus on School Communities

Understanding school improvement from a socio-ecological perspective

Conceptualisations of place, space and community in school improvement


Weeks 9 -11 A Focus on the Role of Children, Young People and Families

Student voice as school improvement

The role of parents in governance

Week 12: Future Challenges

Conceptualising school improvement and effectiveness to meet future global challenges.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures (2 hours per week, every other week – Weeks 1, 3,5,7,9, 11)

These are face-to-face, and are facilitated by the unit team, guest lecturers from the wider department and colleagues from local schools. New knowledge is introduced in the lectures, though discussion. Q&A to support and assess learning remains a key feature through the use of all-student response systems to gauge understanding (for example via collaborative digital tools such as Padlet, Menti, and others).

Seminars (2 hours per week, every other week – Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 12)

These are face-to-face, and are facilitated by the unit team. The seminars take a much more scenario-/project-based, workshop format. Students are encouraged to apply the new knowledge and learning from the previous week’s lecture to a range of real-world case studies and scenarios. Students engage in individual, paired and whole-class discussion tasks to support and consolidate their learning.

Tutorial (15-20 minute slot, Week 10)

These are face-to-face and facilitated by the teaching team. They provide students with an opportunity to discuss their final assignments, as well as ask any questions or seek further support.

Knowledge and understanding

Understand the major international pressures for improved schooling 

Understand the range and complexity of school improvement efforts and their interactions with education systems, school communities, children, young people and families 

Understand the current possibilities, limitations and challenges within school improvement, and be able to speculate as to how these might play out in a global future

Understand the complexity of the relationship between theory, research and practice within school improvement approaches

Intellectual skills

Identify and understand the extent to which a range of education and non-educational factors might enable or constrain international school improvement approaches.

Critically analyse and evaluate key concepts, theories and leadership models underpinning international approaches to school improvement.

Apply and synthesise knowledge and understanding to the development of innovative solutions to school improvement issues, in relation to schools, their pupils, families and communities, and the wider system.


Practical skills

Apply your learning to reflections upon school effectiveness and school improvement in your own and other educational contexts.

Conduct desk-based research around school improvement policies, practices and research.

Be able to review the work of your peers, identifying strengths and making constructive suggestions for improvement where appropriate.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Be able to present your ideas orally, in ways that articulate a clear argument, are persuasive and where your claims are evidenced and justified.

Critically analyse appropriate policy documents, reports, school case studies and academic literature.

Develop novel approaches and creative solutions real-world and complex problems, while recognising the limitations that leaders, policymakers and wider institutions must navigate in implementing these.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Oral assessment/presentation 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided via Turnitin

Recommended reading

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 12
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 126

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Claire Forbes Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course unit is compulsory for students on the MEd Educational Leadership 

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