Research Staff Interests

Prof Harry  Torrance


Harry Torrance gained his PhD from the Centre for Applied Research in Education, University of East Anglia, where he studied with Barry MacDonald, Jean Rudduck and Lawrence Stenhouse. He was Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, working with Roger Murphy (1982-89) and Lecturer, Reader and Professor at the University of Sussex (1989-2003) prior to moving to MMU in 2003. He is an elected Academician of the UK Academy of Social Sciences.

Research Interests

Research interests include:
the inter-relation of assessment, teaching and learning;
testing and educational standards;
the role of assessment in educational reform and policy development;
qualitative research methodology;
the development of applied research and the relationship between research and policy;
research governance and research management.
He has undertaken many research projects investigating these topics funded by a wide range of sponsors.

Research Projects

Selected funded projects:

2014-15 HEFCE £158,000
Investigating the expectations and attitudes towards postgraduate taught (PGT) STEM study in Engineering
with David Lambrick (Engineering, MMU) and Yvette Solomon (ESRI)

2008-09 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) £10,000
Consultancy to ESRC Strategic Review 2010-2015: 'Meta review of ESRC Key Research Challenge: Education for Life': preparation of 10,000 word review paper.

2007-08 ESRC £10,000
Consultancy to Review ESRC Investment in Educational Research: preparation of 10,000 word review paper.

2006-07 ESRC via TLRP Thematic Development £5,000
Reviewing Reviews (with Sebba, University of Sussex)

2005-2006 ESRC £46,536
Investigating Effective Strategies for Maths Teaching at Key Stage 3 (with Una Hanley)

2003-2005 Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) £226,000
The Impact of Different Modes of Assessment on Achievement and Progress in the Learning and Skills Sector

2003 Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) £39,000
Research Review of the Impact of Summative Assessment on Students' Motivation to Learn in the Learning and Skills Sector

2002-2005 EU Socrates/Minerva Programme, £41,000
Internet-based Assessment in Higher Education (Director of project at Sussex 2002-3; continued as co-director, with Dr. John Pryor (Sussex) to completion in 2005)

1997-99 ESRC £69,000
Investigating and Developing Formative Teacher Assessment in Primary Schools (with Pryor, University of Sussex)

1993-96 ESRC £113,000
Teacher Assessment at Key Stage 1: accomplishing assessment in the classroom

1989-97 British Council/Overseas Development Agency (ODA), c.£350,000
Evaluation of the Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project (with B. Cooper and C. Lacey)


Torrance H. (ed 2012) Educational Assessment and Evaluation (Four-Volume Set in the Routledge 'Major Themes in Education' series) Routledge, 2052pp

Torrance H. (ed 2010) Qualitative Research Methods in Education (Four-Volume Set) Sage, 1680pp
QI Review

Torrance H. (2005 et al) The impact of different modes of assessment on achievement and progress in the learning and skills sector Learning and Skills Research Centre, 115pp Final Report

Torrance H. & Pryor J. (1998) Investigating Formative Assessment: teaching, learning and assessment in the classroom Open University Press 184pp

Torrance H. (ed 1995) Evaluating Authentic Assessment: problems and possibilities in new approaches to assessment (ed and author of Introduction and two other chapters), Open University Press, reprinted 1996, 173pp

Refereed Journal Articles

Torrance H. (2017) The Return to Final Paper Examining in English National Curriculum Assessment and School Examinations: Issues of Validity, Accountability and Politics. British Journal of Educational Studies 66(1) pp 3-27 Open Access here

Torrance H. (2016) Experimenting with Qualitative Inquiry Qualitative Inquiry published online 23 May 2016 DOI: 10.1177/1077800416649201

Torrance H. (2015) Blaming the victim: assessment, examinations, and the responsibilisation of students and teachers in neo-liberal governance. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education on-line first

Torrance H. (2014) Qualitative Research in the UK: short term problems, long term issues. Qualitative Inquiry 20(9) pp 1110-1118: special issue on Challenges for Qualitative Inquiry as a Global Endeavour edited by Uwe Flick (Free University of Berlin

Torrance H. (2013) The Practice of Educational and Social Research International Review of Qualitative Research 6(3) pp 323-336

Torrance H. (2012) Triangulation, respondent validation, and democratic participation in mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 6(2) pp 111-123 (special issue on Triangulation)

Torrance H. (2012) Formative Assessment at the Crossroads: conformative, deformative and transformative assessment. Oxford Review of Education 38(3) pp 323-342

Torrance H. (2011) Using Assessment to Drive the Reform of Schooling: time to stop pursuing the chimera? British Journal of Educational Studies 59(4) pp 459-485

Wyse D. & Torrance H. (2009) The development and consequences of national curriculum assessment for primary education in England. Educational Research 51(2) pp 213-238

Torrance H. (2008) Building Confidence in Qualitative Research: engaging the demands of policy Qualitative Inquiry 14(4) pp 507-527

Torrance H. (2007) Assessment as Learning? How the use of explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and feedback in post-secondary education and training can come to dominate learning. Assessment in Education 14(3) pp 281-294

Jacklin A., Robinson C. & Torrance H. (2006) When lack of data is data: do we really know who our looked after children are? European Journal of Special Educational Needs 21(1) pp 1-20

Torrance H. (2003) Big Change Question: As national policymakers seek to find solutions to national education issues, do international comparisons such as TIMMS and PISA create wider understanding, or do they serve to promote the orthodoxies of international agencies? invited contribution to discussion symposium in Journal of Educational Change 4 pp 419-425

Torrance H. & Pryor J. (2001) Developing Formative Assessment in the Classroom: using action research to explore and modify theory. British Educational Research Journal 27(5) pp 615-631

Book Chapters

Torrance H. (2018) 'Evidence, Criteria, Policy and Politics: the debate about quality and utility in educational and social research' in The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research 5th Edition (eds Denzin & Lincoln) SAGE Publications pp 766-795

Torrance H. (2015) 'Investigating Research Power: Networks, Assemblages, and the Production of "Big" Social Science' in M. Perez, G. Cannella, P. Pasque (eds) Critical Qualitative Inquiry Foundations and Futures Routledge pp 265-284

Torrance H. (2014) 'Open Learning, Open Assessment? Learning, Assessment and Certification in a Global Education Competition' in Peters M, Araya D. & Besley T. (eds) The New Development Paradigm: Education, Knowledge Economy and Digital Futures Peter Lang

Torrance H. (2014) 'Philosophy is not enough: inserting methodology and politics into the space between science and democracy' in Reid A, Hart P. & Peters M. (eds) A Companion to Research in Education Springer

Torrance H. (2012) 'Assessing Educational Reform: accountability, standards and the utility of qualifications' in Lauder L, Young M, Daniels H, Balarin M, & Lowe J. (eds) Educating for the Knowledge Economy? Critical Perspectives Routledge

Torrance H. (2011) 'Qualitative Research, Science and Government: evidence, criteria, policy and politics' in Denzin N. & Lincoln Y. (eds) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research 4th Edition, Sage, pp569-580

Torrance H. (2009) 'Pursuing the Wrong Indicators? The Development and Impact of Test-based Accountability' in Ryan K. & Cousins B. (eds) The Sage International Handbook of Educational Evaluation Sage pp483-498

Torrance H. (2009) 'Using Assessment in Education Reform: Policy, Practice and Future Possibilities' in Daniels H., Lauder H. & Porter J. (eds) Knowledge, Values and Educational Policy London, Routledge pp218-236

Torrance H. & Pryor J. (2008) 'The social construction of success and failure in classroom assessment in England' in Krüger H, Helsper W, Foljanty-Jost G, Kramer R. & Hummrich M. (eds) Family, School, Youth Culture: International Perspectives of Pupil Research Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Oxford, Peter Lang Publishers, pp219-237

Torrance H. (2008) 'Building Confidence in Qualitative Research: Engaging the Demands of Policy' in Denzin N & Giardina M (eds) Qualitative Inquiry and the Politics of Evidence Walnut Creek, Ca, Left Coast Press pp55-79

Torracne H. (2006) 'Globalising empiricism: what, if anything, can be learned from international comparisons of educational achievement?' in Lauder H, Brown P, Dillabough J-A and Halsey A.H. (eds) Education, Globalisation and Social Change Oxford, Oxford University Press pp824-834

Torrance H. (2006) 'Research Quality and Research Governance in the UK: from methodology to management?' in Denzin N. & Giardina M. (eds) Qualitative Inquiry and the Conservative Challenge: Contesting Methodological Fundamentalism Walnut Creek, Ca, Left Coast Press pp127-148

Torrance H. (2004) 'Using Action Research to Generate Knowledge about Practice' in Thomas G. & Pring R. (eds) Evidence-based Practice in Education Open University Press, pp187-200

Research Reports

Consultancy Report on the 'Social Brain and the Curriculum' (with Maggie MacLure) Royal Society of Arts May 2010, 18pp

Meta Review of ESRC Key Research Challenge: Education for Life. Final Report of a consultancy commissioned by ESRC Strategic Research Board (November 2008) 20pp

Overview of ESRC Research in Education. Final Report of a consultancy commissioned by ESRC Strategic Research Board (February 2008) 30pp

The Trajectory and Impact of National Reform: curriculum and assessment in English primary schools Primary Review Research Survey 3/2 (with Wyse D. & McCreery E.) (2008) Cambridge: University of Cambridge Faculty of Education 25pp ISBN: 978-1-906478-22-3


link to eSpace publications

Journal & Book Series Editorships & Editorial Board Membership

Series editor of series of books on research methods: Conducting Educational Research for the Open University Press; thirteen titles in print

Series editor of a series of books on assessment: Assessing Assessment for the Open University Press; nine titles in print

Member of the editorial boards of:

  • Assessment in Education (1994-present)
  • Cambridge Journal of Education (2000-present)
  • International Journal of Educational Research (2004-present)
  • Educational Research (journal of the NFER, 2005-present)
  • International Review of Qualitative Research (2007-present)

formerly co-editor of the:

  • British Educational Research Journal (2000-2003)

formerly member of the editorial board of the

  • British Educational Research Journal and
  • Journal of Curriculum Studies (1990-1993)

Keynote Addresses or Prestigious Public Lectures

Torrance, H. (2010) 'Using Assessment to Drive the Reform of Schooling: an idea whose time has gone?' Keynote lecture to Annual Conference of the New Zealand Association for Educational Research (NZARE), University of Auckland, 6-9 December download here

Evidence of Impact on Policy and Professional Practice

Member of the 'Bartholomew Report' Panel reviewing ESRC Doctoral Training Centres, see:

Consultancy Report on the 'Social Brain and the Curriculum' (with Maggie MacLure) Royal Society of Arts May 2010, 18pp download here

Overview of ESRC Research in Education. Final Report of a consultancy commissioned by ESRC Strategic Research Board (February 2008) 30pp download here

International Recognition

Appointed member of the ESRC Peer Review College.

Referee for various sponsors including Nuffield Foundation, British Academy, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Research Council of Hong Kong, the World Bank and the Estonian Science Foundation.

Major Awards, Prizes & Honorary Degrees

Elected Academician of the UK Academy of Social Sciences

Conference Papers

Torrance, H. (2010) 'Science, funding and politics in the development of educational research: towards a political economy of educational research.' Paper presented in symposium Inciting the social imagination: Education research for the public good, Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Educational Research (AARE), University of Melbourne, 28 November-2 December

Torrance, H. (2010) 'What role for democratic participation in mixed methods research?' presented to plenary Issues and Controversies in Mixed Methods Research, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (ICQI), University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA, 26-29 May

Torrance, H. (2009) 'Reviewing Reviews: moderating the debate about systematic reviews' presented to plenary Standards for Reporting Qualitative Inquiry organized by Torrance, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (ICQI) University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA, 20-23 May

Torrance, H. (2009) 'Spanning Boundaries in Qualitative Research: implications for policy and practice' presented to Qualitative Research SIG symposium American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, San Diego, USA, 13-17 April

Torrance, H. (2008) 'Education policy as a special case of theory: Correlation, causation and the legitimation of intervention' prepared for symposium Paradigms Lost and Found - Forms of Theory in Special Education and Their Consequences at AERA, New York, 24-28 March

Torrance, H. (2007) 'Building confidence in qualitative research: managing the demands of policy' presented to symposium on Standards of Evidence in Qualitative Inquiry AERA Annual Conference, Chicago, 9-13 April

Teaching Interests

Curriculum Theory
Assessment and Evaluation
Research Methods

Taught Courses

MRes & EdDoc

Areas of Post-graduate Supervision

Citizenship education.
Black and ethnic minority school experience and achievement.


Position/Post: Head of Research
Tel: 0161-247-2320
Location: Brooks 1.06