Curriculum making

Curriculum and curriculum making has been an important strand of educational research at Stirling since 2007, when ESRC funding was secured for a project on curriculum making in schools and FE colleges.

Subsequent funded research into the development of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Government, 2010-11) and Teacher Agency (ESRC, 2011-12), and associated publications (including the seminal work on teacher agency) have cemented Stirling’s reputation internationally as a leading centre for curriculum studies.

The establishment of the Stirling Centre for Research into Curriculum Making has consolidated further Stirling’s position as a world leading hub for curriculum studies.

The network brings together international curriculum scholars from Europe, North America and Australasia, including formal partnerships with Western University (Canada) and Linnaeus University (Sweden). Activity has included hosting the European Conference on Curriculum Studies in 2017, taking on the editorship of the influential Curriculum Journal in 2018 (Lead Editor Priestley, Review Editor Smith), and significant input to national curriculum policy and capacity-building work with schools and teachers in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Curriculum research has generated new knowledge about complex patterns of curriculum making, including identification of barriers, drivers, and unintended consequences of policy.

Our researchers

Leadership of the group is provided by Professor Mark Priestley (curriculum making and teacher agency) who can be contacted on

Active group members include:

The group includes several doctoral students, including funded studentships on topics such as curriculum making by Shanghai Geography teachers (Xin Miao), Citizen Science (Claire Ramjan), Creativity and Assessment (Barbara Schuler), Peer Mentoring in HE (Carole Harmon), and curriculum provision/transitions Matthew Sutherland).


Recent/current funded research and knowledge exchange includes:

  • a Nuffield-funded project on curriculum making in Scottish secondary schools (2019-21)
  • two British Council projects on the implementation of the new Croatian national curriculum (2018-2019)
  • the Scottish Government’s Rapid Review of National Qualifications 2020 in the aftermath of the cancellation of examinations due to COVID-19 controversy (2021)
  • a Carnegie Trust project to research the Epistemic Socialisation of Scottish History Teachers (2018)
  • a SSERC-funded project to develop STEM champions in schools (2020-21)
  • two knowledge exchange projects funded by the Educational Achievement Service, South East Wales, to build school leadership capacity for curriculum making
  • three cohorts of experienced headteachers undertaking a three day course on curriculum making as part of the Education Scotland Excellence in Headship programme.


The most recent publication to emerge from the group is: Priestley, M., Alvunger, D., Philippou, S. & Soini, T. (2021). Curriculum making in Europe: policy and practice within and across diverse contexts. Bingley: Emerald.

This is an edited collection that reflects the international profile of group members and the Stirling Centre for Research into Curriculum Making.

Other recent publications include:

Mannion G, Sowerby M & I’Anson J (2020) Four arenas of school-based participation: towards a heuristic for children's rights-informed educational practice. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.

Xenofontos, C., Fraser, S., Priestley, A. & Priestley, M. (in press). Mathematics teachers and social justice: A systematic review of empirical studies. Oxford Review of Education.

Shapira, M. & Priestley, M. (2020). Do schools matter? An exploration of the determinants of lower secondary school subject choices under the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Review of Education, 8[1], 191-238.

Hizli Alkan, S. & Priestley, M. (2019). Teacher mediation of curriculum making: the role of reflexivity. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 51[5], 737-754.

Priestley, M. & Xenofontos, C. (2020). Curriculum making: key concepts and practices. In J. Biddulph & J. Flutter (Eds.), Unlocking Research: Designing the curriculum. London: Routledge.

Priestley, M. & Drew, V. (2019). Professional Enquiry: an ecological approach to developing teacher agency. In: D Godfrey and C. Brown (eds.), An Eco-System for Research-Engaged Schools (pp. 154-169). London: Routledge.

Priestley A (2020) Care experienced young people: Agency and empowerment. Children and Society, 34 (6), 521-536.

Bradfield KZ & Exley B (2020) Teachers' accounts of their curriculum use: external contextual influences during times of curriculum reform. The Curriculum Journal, 31 (4), 757-774. 

Bradfield K, Xenofontos C, Shapira M, Priestley A & Priestley M (2020) An exploration of curriculum reform in the Republic of Croatia: Mentors and principals. The British Council. Stirling.

Priestley, M. Shapira, M. Priestley, A. Ritchie, M. & Barnett, C. (2020). Rapid Review of National Qualifications Experience 2020. University of Stirling/Scottish Government.

Smith J (2020) Community and Contestation: A Gramscian Case Study of Teacher Resistance. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 52 (1), 27-44. 

Smith J (2019) Curriculum coherence and teachers' decision-making in Scottish high school history syllabi. Curriculum Journal, 30 (4), 441-463.

Humes, W. & Priestley, M. (2021). Curriculum reform in Scottish Education: Discourse, Narrative and Enactment. In: M. Priestley, D. Alvunger, S. Philippou. & T. Soini, Curriculum making in Europe: policy and practice within and across diverse contexts. Bingley: Emerald.

Policy and practice

Groups members are active in policy and practice arenas, for example:

  • membership of the Scottish Educational Council (Priestley)
  • membership of the Scottish Government Curriculum and Assessment Board (Priestley)
  • membership pof the Welsh Government Curriculum and Assessment Group (Priestley)
  • membership of the Forth Valley and West Lothian Regional Improvement Collaborative Management Board (Drew)
  • membership of the Working Group to design new standards for the teaching profession in Scotland (Drew)
  • knowledge exchange on Literacy (Bradffield) and Numeracy (Xenofontos) for Scottish local authorities and the Forth Valley and West Lothian Regional Improvement Collaborative
  • curriculum development capacity building for Education Scotland and several Scottish local authorities (Priestley and Drew)

Research Spotlights

Student concentrating on exam
Research Spotlight

Education and the Curriculum for Excellence

How education experts at Stirling are helping to ensure young people get the best possible education.