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School of Education

Staff Profile

Prof Jim Ridgway

Emeritus Professor in the School of Education
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 48324

Contact Prof Jim Ridgway (email at


Jim studied psychology at Sheffield University, then worked as a programmer and systems analyst in London, until suffering a chronic attack of ennui induced by wealth and boredom.  Escaping to academia, he next worked as a research fellow at Lancaster University on a project improving the selection of jet pilots, then as a lecturer and reader in the Psychology department, teaching cognitive and applied psychology.  He joined the School of Education in 1998.  Jim now directs the SMART Centre at Durham and a large collection of publications, including curriculum materials and interactive data visualisations, can be downloaded from that website ( 

He is chair of the International Statistical Literacy Programme (ISLP) working party on statistical literacy (SL) for citizens and journalists, and is a member of the Technical Advisory Group for the Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistics Education.  Jim was a member of the OECD expert panel developing tests for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC), and has been an adviser to the group developing national tests for the Swedish National Agency.  He served on the ESRC Research Priorities Board, and on the ESRC Teaching and Learning Initiative committee.  Jim has been a co-director of the Mathematics Assessment Resource Centre, based in the USA and UK, and has been involved in the design and implementation of large scale assessment systems in the USA.  He has been a member of the Executive Committee of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction and, Co-ordinator of the Assessment SIG.

Jim is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, and a Fellow of the RSA.

Jim's research focuses on reasoning with evidence, data visualization, thinking and problem solving, equity issues, assessment, and educational change.  I am particularly interested in public understanding of arguments that involve data.

The SMART Centre creates novel interfaces to present multivariate data, and populates them with interesting data on topics such as educational attainment, sexually transmitted diseases, riots, drug and alcohol use by young people.  We study spontaneous statistical thinking, and the development of reasoning with evidence in students aged 12-18 years, and beyond.  The centre has created curriculum materials to develop thinking skills, applicable in geography, citizenship, and sociology, as well as in mathematics.  Other materials to support thinking skills include work for the Bowland Trust on plausible estimation in mathematics in KS3, and for the National Institute for Science Education in the USA on mathematical thinking for undergraduates.  They have worked with European colleagues on 4 funded projects which investigated the problems of gender imbalance in STEM subjects (including ICT), funded by Socrates and the Life Long Learning EU programmes.  Work on assessment has been wide ranging, and includes the development of computer based World Class Tests for QCA, designed to identify pupils who are particularly good at problem solving in science and mathematics (used in 20+ countries), reviews of e-assessment, design and implementation of large scale assessment systems in the USA, and acting as an advisor on national and international programmes, as well as on job selection problems in industry.  Work on educational change includes developing approaches to whole school ICT, and work on Tools for Change, funded in the USA by the National Science Foundation.  On a rather grander scale, I was co-designer and tutor on the first OECD workshop for their Global Project aimed at policy makers. 

My current interests focus on the semantic web – how recently available large data sets and dynamic visualisations can be used, how they will change political and personal decision making, and how new sorts of social science can be promoted on, about, and using the web.  A current research project (funded by ESRC) is a collaboration with the Office for National Statistics aimed at stimulating the use of 2011 census data for public debate and national policy.

Completed Supervisions (since 2008)

Dilution, corruption and redemption: authentic formative assessment in the subject classrooms of General Studies

From High School to Higher Education: Processes, Changes, and Ways to Succeed

An Investigation into the Impact of Formative Feedback on
the Student Learning Experience

Student perceptions and learning approaches of using blogs in IT education for reflection and knowledge construction

Culture & Competition - A study of Supplementary Education in Taiwan.


Indicators of Esteem

  • 2002: World Class Tests: Paper test and computer test at ages 9 and 13: March 02; April 02; July 02; November 02; March 03. Tests have been given to 10,000 students in 16 countries
  • Editoral Board: Appointed to Editorial Board of the "Statistical Journal of the International Association for Official Statistics"
  • Invited member of panel at Stockholm conference: Round table: Towards a more evidence-based participatory democracy: should statisticians do more to make it happen? Chair: Hervé Carré. Panel: Enrico Giovannini, Kjell Jansson, Jim Ridgway, Hans Rosling, Sara Wood .
  • Invited Seminar: Invited seminar at OECD Paris (Videocast transmission around the organisation at the same time) "Understanding and Promoting Public Understanding of Evidence"
  • Keynote Addresses in International Forums: Ridgway, J. (2005). Studies of the processes of task design. Keynote Address at the First Conference of the International Society for Design and Development in Education, Oxford. Ridgway, J. (2003). The evaluation of complex competencies. Keynote at the V Seminario de la Redu (focussed on the responses of Spanish Universities to the Bologna accord), Madrid. Ridgway, J. (2002). Web-based assessment. Keynote talk to 1000 teachers on Hong Kong, organized by the Hong Kong Assessment Authority.
  • Member of QCA Advisory Working Group: Member of the QCA Advisory Working Group for the Key Stage 3 ICT tests, 2004-2005
  • Membership of Research Council Committees: Member of the Economic and Social Research Council Research Priorities Board (1997-September 2001) Membership of the Steering Committee of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Initiative (1999-September 2001) Membership of the Steering Committee for the ESRC Learning Society Programme (1999-September 2001)
  • Position paper: invited to write a position paper by DCSF on /Coping with Complexity /for their Beyond Current Horizons programme.
  • Vice President: International Association for Statistics Education.


Research Interests

  • Assessment
  • Educational psychology
  • Gifted and talented children
  • Mathematics education
  • Technology in education

Research Groups

Research Projects


Journal Article

Chapter in book

  • Ridgway, J., Nicholson, J. & McCusker, S. (2011). Developing Statistical Literacy in Students and Teachers. In Teaching Statistics in School Mathematics - Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education: A Joint ICMI/IASE Study: The 18th ICMI Study. Batanera, C., Burrill, G. & Reading, C. Springer. 311-322.
  • Ridgway, J. & McCusker, S. (2008). PREMA: Evidence from Six Countries. In Promoting Equity in Maths Achievement - the current discussion. Chionidou-Moskofglou, M., Blunk, A., Siemprinska, R., Solomon, Y & Tanzberger, R. Barcelona: University of Barcelona. 23-32.
  • J. Ridgway, Z. Zawojewski, M. Hoover & D. Lambdin (2003). Student Attainment in the Connected Mathematics Curriculum. In Standards-based School Mathematics Curricula: What Are They? What Do Students Learn?. S. Senk & D. Thompson New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. 193-224.
  • J. Ridgway, M. Swan & H. Burkhardt (2001). Assessing Mathematical Thinking Via FLAG. In Teaching and Learning Mathematics at University Level- An ICMI Study. D. Holton & M. Niss Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 423-430.
  • J. Ridgway (2001). Tools for Change- Building the Knowledge Base for Macro-Systemic Change. In Information and Communication Technologies in Education: The School of the Future. H. Taylor & P. Hogenbirk Dordrect: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • J. Ridgway (2000). The Mathematical Needs of Engineering Apprentices. In Education for Mathematics in the Workplace published by Kluwer Academic Publishers (eds) Bessot, A and Ridgway, J. A. Bessot & J. Ridgway Dordrect: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 189-197.


Conference Paper


Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • General policy: assessment
  • General policy: educational change
  • General policy: thinking skills
  • Subject specialists: mathematics education
  • Subject specialists: use of computers in school