Marianne Talbot



I spent two decades working in research, development, and evaluation teams in the public sector, becoming the Head of Research & Evaluation of the Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency before leaving in 2010 to pursue independent consultancy. My freelance work has been varied, including contracts with the University & College Admissions Service, the Department for International Development, the Rwanda Education Board, and EngineeringUK. Work with the Myanmar Ministry of Education is currently on hold. I have worked with the University of Oxford since 2014 on various projects to evaluate outreach, widening participation, and social mobility, and with the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), based at the University of Hertfordshire, where I design and lead professional development courses for assessors working in a wide variety of assessment contexts.

I am a Chartered Educational Assessor (CEA), a Fellow of the CIEA, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a primary school governor, and took a year out between 2011 and 2012 to travel the world with my husband and two children. I hold a BSc in Geological Sciences from the University of Birmingham and an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University – my route to Leeds has not been traditional! 

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

Qualifying as a CEA and as an FHEA prompted me to want to formalise the process of reviewing the status and impact of CEAs, through robust research and reporting. I believed I would benefit from the open-minded approach of the University of Leeds School of Education and I wanted to work with like-minded academics. My passion for this particular research is related to other areas of my professional interest, such as equality for all in education and assessment (staff and students), teacher assessment as a complement to externally examined assessment, outreach and widening access to higher education, and collaboration between educational professionals and others allied to education, such as parents and carers. Leeds was recommended to me by a trusted colleague, and I count myself lucky to have secured a place here.

I have a wealth of research experience, but I have mostly picked it up informally through my work at an examinations board, in a regulatory body, at various universities and at the CIEA, and it has been characterised by others as expertise, but am I really an expert? I would like to formalise my ‘expertise’, to extend and deepen my ability to collect and analyse data, and to extract key and subtle messages from them.

I seem to have unwittingly spent most of the last quarter-century or so ‘doing’ social science research into qualifications at an awarding body, at regulatory bodies, and then in higher education and international contexts, but I do recognise that I have learnt most of what I know ‘on the job’ and lack formal qualifications in this area, so it seems logical to pursue a PhD.

Research interests

What am I interested in?

The professional development of teachers, post-qualification, fascinates me, as their experience and expertise deepen and broaden over time, specifically in relation to assessment and all the associated processes before, during and after assessment takes place. I am interested in teachers’ knowledge, understanding, and application of concepts such as validity, reliability, fairness, and comparability, and also in the similarities and differences in the use of formative and summative assessment. More specifically, I want to understand the impact of CEAs on their own and others’ assessment practice.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Having worked in the education sector for over thirty years, continuing to contribute to the body of learning about educational assessment strikes me as the best thing I can do with my own experience and expertise. It is a privilege to be able to do that at Leeds.

Educational assessment has been a bit of a poor relation, but is now firmly under the microscope, politically, in the media, and in the public eye, due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Having been involved in it one way or another for so long, and especially in my current work with the CIEA, I feel I ought to do my bit to make it as robust as possible and contribute to its positive development.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I want to continue working in the field, learning from others, and researching further, deeper, better. I think we can always improve!


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors
  • Chartered Educational Assessor
  • MA in Creative Writing
  • BSc in Geological Sciences