Susan Swaffield

Dr Sue Swaffield


Sue is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education. Her teaching and research interests are within the fields of educational leadership, school improvement and assessment.

Susan Swaffield

Sue has spent all her life in education, as a student, teacher, researcher academic  - and always as a learner.

She trained as a school teacher at what was then Homerton College of Education, where she was also sabbatical president of the student union.  Sue then taught in state schools for ten years (both primary and secondary phase), including a year on exchange in Australia. Involvement in the national pilot of an initiative to celebrate pupils’ full range of achievements and to support them in recording and planning their personal development led to Sue’s decade of working in local authorities. She led professional development programmes, worked closely with headteachers to improve the quality of education in a wide variety of schools, and was involved in university-school research projects.

In 2000 Sue was appointed to the Faculty of Education as a lecturer for educational leadership and school improvement, researching in these areas and teaching predominantly on masters and doctoral programmes with both full and part-time students. Having completed two masters degrees and her PhD while also working full-time, Sue is fully aware of the demands of part-time graduate study. 

She is a past president and honorary life member of the Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment (AAIA), Associate Editor of the journal Professional Development in Education, and on the editorial advisory board of Assessment in Education: principles, policy and practice. Along with being a Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge, Sue is a Syndic of Cambridge University Press and of Cambridge Assessment, and an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, Griffith University, Brisbane.

Research interests

Sue’s enduring principal areas of research are Leadership for Learning, critical friendship, and Assessment for Learning. Much of her research is integrated with school improvement and professional learning projects, in the UK and internationally.

In 2001, together with John MacBeath and David Frost, Sue founded the values-based Leadership for Learning (LfL) Cambridge Network, and has played a lead role ever since. LfL is concerned with the connections between leadership and learning, both conceived of as activity, and has practitioner, academic and policy-influencing members in over 100 countries worldwide. The LfL framework and principles that are so prominent in Sue's work were developed through a seven-country project that she co-directed, and have subsequently been adopted in many contexts around the world, including in Ghana. The LfL Ghana programme focused on building headteachers' leadership capacity throughout the country, and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast and the Ghana Education Service. This work started in 2008, and while responsibility now lies entirely within Ghana Sue continues to support it however she can.

Sue's career long involvement with Assessment for Learning has included research and development projects large and small, a wide range of publications, and numerous presentations, courses and workshops. She studies and promotes critical friendship, particularly in relation to school leaders and school improvement, and among graduate students.  

Currently Sue is focusing on researching and supporting Leadership for Learning programmes worldwide, and on the 2019 International Leadership for Professional Learning Symposium, organised in partnership with the University of Florida Lastinger Center and with the Professional Development in Education journal. Through collaborative dialogue a diverse, international group of educational leaders will explore perspectives on professional learning (including teacher leadership), with a focus on leading and enabling sustainable professional learning cultures.