Funded Projects 2019-2020

Students’ perceptions on the need to introduce employability skills on their degree: the vocational v liberal dichotomy.

Maribel Canto-Lopez, University of Leicester

This study will look mainly at what students perceive as the skills they need for the world of work. The requirement of producing employable graduates is being ‘arguably’ pushed into Higher Education more than ever, but there is no clear picture regarding what students think about what employability skills are and how they want them integrated, if at all, in their degrees. For the past five years in Leicester Law School we have developed a model to introduce group work and professional writing skills into different subjects; through quantitative and qualitative data we can confirm that learners do approve and want us to continue with embedding these skills into the curriculum. However, it is time to start thinking together with our students what are the attributes that according to them will make them more useful in society. Will those be different from what employers, government and professional bodies, parents or teachers are endorsing? It is the right time to re-think together with our students, through qualitative data, what are the attributes our graduates should be aiming for, and whether there is discrepancy between what will make them employable and/or better citizens.

For more information about the project, please contact

Aligning mindfulness across a medical curriculum

Fiona Bermingham, University of Leicester

Mindfulness has been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing in health care professionals (1-3) and improve learning retention (4).

In University of Leicester’s Medical School mindfulness is taught in the early years as part of the Health Enhancement Porgramme (HEP). HEP provides a vital opportunity to support medical students who are particularly at risk of stress (5, 6). However, the benefits of HEP are yet to be fully understood and there is no alignment to this early learning when students are in their clinical years.

We have the opportunity to work with a medical student who has achieved a Masters degree in medical education research during an intercalating year of study and who is currently on a sabbatical before re-joining training. This is a unique opportunity for deeper pedagogical understandings of the value and impact of our new mindfulness training. The HEP remains one of the first in the UK, to introduce mindfulness to the entire undergraduate medical cohort.


• To build a deeper understanding of the impact of year one of the HEP programme.
• To listen to students views on their early learning and potential for further learning when in later stressful clinical placements with potential applications for clinical teams where stress levels are high.

The outcomes will guide our curriculum alignment for student learning on mindfulness throughout the medical curriculum. The outcomes will inform our newly formed School of Allied Health Professions who wish to replicate this learning for their students (Nursing, etc).

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For more information about the project, please contact

Maximising Cognitive Recall: Exploring the Lost Art of Note Taking

Dr Dawne Irving-Bell, Edge Hill University

Despite its importance, student notetaking is under-researched and under-theorised. Many studies are outdated, analysing student behaviour in pre-digital times.

Recent research can also be questioned, e.g. one widely reported study recommended that students should abandon laptops in favour of written notes to improve cognitive processing. The latest studies suggest more complex relationships. Consequently, current practical advice and guidance is often problematic.

This study investigates current notetaking practices and pilots a structured intervention introducing different visual methods to augment and organise notes – a choice of sketch-noting and concept mapping. Both methods can be paper and/or computer-based, and both are supported by research which demonstrates their potential contribution to learning and understanding.

Our research participants are Graduate Teaching Assistants about to start their Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education – an ideal pilot group as they cover a wide range of subject disciplines and can offer insights based on their own experiences of undergraduate and postgraduate education, from both student and lecturer perspectives. We investigate how and why different notetaking methods are chosen and the impact on learning and performance.

Our reviews of research literature and existing practices deliver a typology of notetaking styles – a resource for all tutors, learning developers and students to use (and further develop). Our workshops and support materials in notetaking, sketch-noting and concept mapping will be freely available and can also be used/adapted by tutors/developers elsewhere, taking into account the evidence we assemble on impact and patterns of use.

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Reading in the digital age: What do students think and do?

Dr Helen Hargreaves, Lancaster University

An increasingly important aspect of undergraduate study is the ability to deal with reading academic texts in digital format. However, much study advice on approaches to reading and note-taking relates to printed texts (or doesn’t specify the medium used), assuming that students are able to annotate on the hard copy, or highlight/note down evaluative comments as they go. This gives the impression that the same approaches to reading apply regardless of whether print or online texts are being used.

This study will explore students’ perceptions and practices around reading academic texts electronically, with the aim of finding out how they navigate the challenges associated with this format and the reading strategies they employ. The project will involve 15 final year undergraduate students and consist of two stages: (1) focus groups to gain general insights into how students’ reading practices and (2) individual interviews in which students will be asked to demonstrate their online reading practices, allowing for a more specific understanding of students’ approaches to this aspect of their studies.

We will analyse the results to understand firstly what students do when reading digitally and the strategies they have developed, and secondly to compare students’ practices against recommended approaches to reading provided by study guides and university study advice webpages. As an outcome of this study, we will put forward recommendations for effective online reading strategies, informed by what students do in reality (rather than based on the ideal reading situation).

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For more information about the project, please contact

I teach therefore I dress: Exploring the relationship between appearance, inclusion and knowledge creation in higher education

Emma Davenport, London Metropolitan University

The main aim of this project is to develop a professional development resource for the field of Learning Development that focuses on making higher education (HE) inclusive through emancipatory practice and critical self-reflection. The objective is to develop, facilitate and evaluate a pilot workshop aimed at those working in Learning Development (LD), including those participating in professional development recognition schemes. Within academia, we think about appearance all the time, whether interviewing potential colleagues, writing references for doctoral candidates, giving a lecture to students or presenting research at other institutions (Schneider, 1998; Kaiser, Chandler and Hammidi, 2001). Yet, in higher education, the topic of clothing and its role when it comes to being and becoming a professional has rarely been discussed or reflected upon in depth. Visual role models are therefore limited, in particular when it comes to examples of embodied learning and teaching (Weber and Mitchell, 1995). Drawing on the description ‘doing dress’ by Goodman, Knotts and Jackson (2007:101) where this daily practice is understood as critical to social and cultural agency, how might we reflect, share and consider how we ‘do dress’ in relation to both our learning and professional development within HE? How do choices about clothed appearances, accessories etc relate to personal, cultural and academic/professional values, which underpin our approaches to learning and teaching? With that in mind, we will develop, pilot and evaluate an academic development resource in the form of a one hour workshop that invites participants to explore and reflect upon the role of dress in relation to the process of becoming an academic/learning developer.

For more information about the project, please contact

Scaffolding effective disciplinary writing practices

Cathy Malone, Sheffield Hallam University

This pilot will bring literacy specialists into disciplinary context in a scaled way, examining the impact of the literacy interventions across two universities (Sheffield Hallam University and Bath University). It will consider the impact on home and international student populations. The project is staffed by disciplinary colleagues from the faculty of psychology, TESOL teaching staff and an education developer. Staff will co-design and deliver language focused development activities; analysing exemplars of effective disciplinary writing (Mitchel et al, 2000; Murray et al, 2016), modelling social writing practices, through use of small group academic writing circles. This will be done to develop practices of peer review and editing (Petrova et al, 2009; Roberts et al, 2017) in a structured and supportive environment within the taught curriculum.

In order to fully assess the impact of these activities on diverse student populations we will evaluate the impact of these activities across multiple year groups, through recording classroom sessions, capturing measures of student motivation and self-efficacy pre- and post-intervention (Huerta et al, 2017) and running focus groups. We are also particularly interested in examining transition of these activities into a taught environment, and so will capture staff perceptions and evaluations of delivering these activities.

Read the research project.

For more information about the project, please contact

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