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Durham University

Research & business

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Prof Jim Ridgway

Emeritus Professor in the School of Education
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 48135
Room number: BU212
Emeritus Fellow of University College

Contact Prof Jim Ridgway (email at


My first degree was from Sheffield, in psychology. I worked as a programmer then as a systems analyst in the City for three years, until I was way over my boredom threshold. So…onto a master’s degree in mathematical psychology at Stirling, from whence to be a research fellow at Lancaster doing work on a project analysing tests designed to select fast jet pilots. My Ph.D was based on this research (nice getting paid while doing it…). Then on to a lecturing job at Lancaster and promotion to Reader. The assessment theme has persisted through my work, and long standing interests in computers and changing human systems resurfaced. I found I was doing more and more research in education – obviously, teaching cognitive psychology was help here – notably on problem solving and on the uses of computers.

I’m really interested in doing research which has a positive impact on people’s lives – this means you have to work at lots of levels from the microstructure of (say) problem solving tasks or kids interacting with computers, through analyses of classroom processes to systems issues such as embedding sustainable curriculum change. You also have to work with a range of people with complementary skills. The introduction of the national curriculum was a massive retrograde step for anyone interested in problem solving, so I decided to do all my work in mathematics education in the USA, with groups at Harvard, Michigan State and Berkeley, all funded by the US National Science Foundation – so spent about 2 months a year in the USA for 10 years (January is not the best month in California, but Hey! Someone has to be there). My ‘computers in schools’ stuff continued in the UK.

I joined the School of Education in 1998, and direct the SMART Centre – for publications, including curriculum materials and interactive data visualisations see We create novel interfaces to present multivariate data, and populate 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. We have worked with European colleagues on 4 funded projects which investigated the problems of gender imbalance in STEM subjects (including ICT). 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), and reviews of e-assessment, as well as on job selection problems in industry. Work on educational change included 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 research focuses on reasoning with evidence, data visualization, thinking and problem solving, equity issues, and educational change. I am particularly interested in public understanding of arguments that involve data. Following on from ESRC-funded research creating interactive displays of census data, we worked collaboratively with the House of Commons Library to develop an interactive data visualisation that presented a huge amount of information at constituency level ahead of the 2015 General Election. A current EU-funded project involves five countries in creating teaching materials at school and undergraduate levels that use data on inequality, migration, poverty and crime in a programme to develop statistically literate citizens - see This is all about user engagement with Open Data – 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.

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.




Research Groups

School of Education

Research Projects

School of Education

Research Interests

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

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2016: Invited seminar:

    Data Visualisation, presented at Statistics Portugal (Porto) F2F and via a webinar to Statistics Portugal (Lisbon)

  • 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.


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

Journal Article



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