Susan Swaffield

Dr Sue Swaffield


Sue is an Associate Professor at 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 studied geography, education and mathematics in Cambridge at what was then Homerton College of Education, where she was also sabbatical president of the student union. After qualifying as a teacher with a Certificate of Education and a BEd Sue 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 a decade of working as an adviser in two very different local authorities. Sue 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, doctoral and continuing professional learning programmes with both full and part-time students. Having completed two masters degrees and her PhD while also working full-time Sue is keenly 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’. Sue was a Syndic of Cambridge University Press and Assessment for nine years, a role that with her approaching retirement she has recently relinquished.

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 influenced the thinking and practice of teachers, school leaders, academics and policy-influencers 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. Recent and current endeavour focuses on Leadership for Professional Learning though collaboration with a growing international community that comes together through an ongoing symposium series; intense structured dialogue involves the sharing and testing of ideas, leads to publications, and forges connections across the world that takes the work forward practically and academically.

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 also studies and promotes critical friendship, particularly in relation to school leaders and among graduate students.