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About Ivor Goodson

About Ivor Goodson

Ivor Goodson has worked in universities in England, Canada and the USA, and held visiting positions in many countries, notably at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Sciences Po - L'Institut d'études politiques (IEP) de Paris and Stanford University in the USA. As Professor of Learning Theory at the Education Research Centre, the University of Brighton, UK, he conducted large-scale research projects and currently is International Research Professor at the University of Tallinn, Estonia and currently Senior Research Associate at the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, Brighton, UK.

Ivor Goodson was awarded the John Nisbet Fellowship in 2018 for ‘his outstanding contribution to education research and his application to the improvement of practice and public benefit’ by the British Educational Research Association.

In 2020 he was presented with a Festschrift entitled Storying the Public Intellectual (edited by Pat Sikes and Yvonne Novakovic. London and New York: Routledge). He has also recently been made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Ivor was also awarded: the Michael Huberman award at the American Educational Research Association for his work on teachers' lives, an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Gothenburg and Laureate of the Phi Delta Kappan Society in the USA.

Ivor’s most recent research projects include:

  • RAIPE III project 'Programa Marco Interuniversitario Para Una Política De Equidad Y Cohesión Social En La Educación Superior' research project – funded by the EU and looking at equality and social inclusion in Latin America.
  • Learning Lives: Learning, Identity and Agency in the Life Course’,ESRC Teaching & Learning Research Programme with G. Biesta & F. Macleod, University of Exeter; J. Field, University of Stirling; P. Hodkinson, University of Leeds), www.ivorgoodson.com/improving-learning-through-the-lifecourse
  • Professional Knowledge in Education and Health (PROFKNOW); Restructuring Work and Life Between State and Citizens in Europe – University of Brighton – UK, University of Gothenburg - Sweden, National and Kopodistorian University of Athens - Greece, University of Joensuu – Finland, University of Barcelona - Spain, University of the Azores – Portugal, St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University – Ireland, University of Stockholm – Sweden. http://cordis.europa.eu/result/rcn/51693_en.html


Ivor Goodson grew up in a village on the outskirts of Reading in Berkshire. His parents were working people: his father was a gas fitter and his mother worked in a munitions factory for a period and later as a dinner lady.

He trained in economic history at the University of London and conducted doctoral work on Irish immigrants in Victorian England. However he became increasingly drawn to the new comprehensive schools that were being built by the Labour government that had been elected in 1964 and in 1969 went back to train as a teacher at the Institute of Education in London. In 1970 he began teaching in comprehensive schools and taught history and social studies. The schools he taught in, Countesthorpe and Stantonbury Campus, were leading innovative comprehensive schools. The focus was on developing alternative pedagogies which would further social inclusion.

Ivor is the Founding Editor of the Journal of Education Policy which he currently co-edits with Stephen Ball and Meg Maguire and is the European Editor for the journal Identity.

Writing Career

Frustrated by the barriers to innovations aiming at social justice, he returned to the University of Sussex to study the historical patterns which underpinned barriers to social inclusion. His PhD on this subject explored the construction of school subject knowledge and its relationship to social processes. This led to his first book School Subjects and Curriculum Change, which is now in its 3rd edition. Following that book, which was published in 1983, he produced a series of books which aim to explore the curriculum as a site of social contestation and social distribution. The series Studies in Curriculum History was commissioned by Falmer Press in 1984 and led to the publication of over 20 books which established the history and sociology of curriculum construction, not just in the United Kingdom but around the world. His own contributions to the series the books Defining the CurriculumThe Making of CurriculumStudying School Subjects and Subject Knowledge formed a corpus of books which elaborate the relationship between curriculum and society but also provide 'how to do guidance on the nature of curriculum study using the historical focus.

Alongside his work on curriculum he began to develop a range of qualitative methodologies focussing on life history approaches. The first book, Biography, Identity and Schooling, co-authored with Rob Walker, sought to explain how life history methods could connect our understanding of personal motives and missions to wider social movements and processes. In particular his work explored the relationship between teacher’s life purposes and their work. The pioneering book Teachers' Lives and Careers published in 1985 and co-edited with Stephen Ball opened up a new field of study focussing on the teachers life and work. This was followed by Studying Teachers Lives published in 1992 which took further the focus on teachers' lives and explored both the methodologies and the substantive findings emerging in this field. One of his recent books, Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives looks at how understanding the teachers life and work provides new insights into why reform initiatives succeed or fail. This book is the result of a large 4-year Spencer Foundation project on stability and change in schooling focussing on the United States of America and Canada.

Most recently Ivor has been involved in large research projects on people's life histories. 'The Learning Lives' project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council studied people's learning experiences across the life course and led to the book Narrative Learning. The theoretical insights generated by this and the 'Professional Knowledge' project funded by the European Union led to the book Developing Narrative Theory.

Many of his books are available in translation and have been published in Japan, China, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Currently, his collective works are being translated into Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. ‘

In 2016 Ivor was nominated for inclusion in the forthcoming 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century 10th Edition Publication: mid 2017 (International Biographical Centre, Cambridge; and for entry in The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Educational Thinkers – this is the only entry for a serving academic, representing England and Europe.

Ivor has been given a Life Time Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who in 2017.



Ivor Goodson


Ivor was given the Michael Huberman award at the American Educational Research Association for his work on teachers' lives; he has just been given an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Gothenburg and made a Laureate of the Phi Delta Kappan Society in the USA...

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