Current and recent research projects

Details of our current and recent projects are summarised below by research theme.

1. Designing for digital learners (D4DL)

Learning Layers

The Learning Layers project investigated how informal learning in the workplace could be supported by new technologies like mobile phone and tablet apps.

Twenty partners from across Europe supported this project, in regional clusters of small and medium sized enterprises (SME).

We trialled the project in two sectors that were hesitant to take up learning technologies: health care in the North East of England and building and construction in North Germany.

The challenges were how to embed support and learning in meaningful working practices and to redesign work environments to support learning. For example, our system will put you in contact with people and resources to solve a work problem or task.

One focus of the project was to support workplace practices in SMEs that unlock peer production and hence scaffold learning in networks of SMEs.

For example, we see learning materials being generated through the work process and then shared though networks of individuals and organisations as important. However, most importantly for BRILLE's contribution will be the scaffolding of interactions with networks people.

We hoped to reshape both workplace design and designs for learning in networks.

For more details, visit Learning Layers.

Project summary

  • Top ranked 14.5 out of 15 against European bidding criteria
  • Scaling up Lifelong Learning using TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) in large clusters of SMEs in the Health Professions and building industry

2. Researching children and young people

BrEaking New Ground IN the SciencE Education Realm (ENGINEER)

ENGINEER supports the adoption in Europe of innovative science teaching methods and provides extensive teacher training on inquiry-based methods.

ENGINEER is developing ten engineering design challenge units suited to European environments.

Each unit focuses on one engineering field and uses inexpensive materials for student-led design problem solving. In addition, creating teacher-training materials linked to the project.

Science museums lead the outreach effort that targets schools, teachers and science museums.

The school/museum activities will reach 27,000 students during outreach.

Penelope Harnett is leading the Evaluation Work Package with Juliet Edmonds and Ben Knight.

Researching Multilingually

Researching Multilingually was a network project (Dec 2011 – Nov 2012) which explored processes and practices of researching in contexts where more than one language is involved.

3. Post-compulsory education, social justice and the student experience

Higher Education: Researching Around Care Leavers Entry and Success (HERACLES)

The purpose of this project (September 2016 to November 2017) was to identify the extent to which care leavers are disadvantaged in terms of access to higher education.

Dr Neil Harrison hoped to identify whether they need additional university support and the nature of the need.

The outcome was to provide practitioners with new knowledge that will help to improve the services that they offer to young people, foster carers and local authorities.

Project strands

Neil used a two-strand approach:

  • Strand 1 was a multivariate statistical analysis of linked data available from the National Pupil Database and the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
  • Strand 2 was an online questionnaire with current students who are care leavers.

Read the final report, Moving on Up.

View the launch presentation slides at the House of Commons, 29 November 2017.

Watch via YouTube the Moving on Up research report summary.

Paired Peers

Paired Peers was a joint project with the University of Bristol, from 2010 - 2013.

We assessed the impact of a cohort of undergraduates' social class on their experience at university.

Consequently, there was a major dissemination day conference. Attendees were politicians, civil servants, the media and educational interest groups including those from the higher education sector.

Richard Waller led the project. Professor Harriet Bradley from University of Bristol was Principal Investigator.

See further information about Paired Peers.

Tutoring and Mentoring

Dr Andrew Mathers, Department of Sociology and Criminology and Richard Waller ran a widening participation outreach project.

This involved undergraduate sociology students teaching AS Level Sociology at schools and colleges where few students go on to university.

Trainee PGCE sociology students also taught to gain valuable teaching experience.

Assessing and enhancing the impact of widening participation initiatives on UWE Bristol's ITE programmes

In 2013, this project examined the effectiveness of the Department of Education and Childhood's efforts to recruit and retain students.

In particular, groups poorly represented in teaching, such as those from a BME background.

We assessed our current strategies to understand how we enhance their experience of studying at UWE Bristol.

Understanding how the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness acts to improve GCSE outcomes

This project followed on from a previous report, which demonstrated completing the ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) is associated with improved GCSEs.

This project aimed to understand the mechanisms by which CoPE might have this positive impact.

We focused on concepts such as motivation, confidence and self-esteem. Using a repeated measures survey with year ten pupils in three schools to examine how their attitudes change over time.

Assessing impact and measuring success (AIMS) in widening participation research

This project (February 2014 - September 2015) aimed to create new research approaches to assess the impact and success of widening participation initiatives within higher education. For groups that are underrepresented or mainly absent. 

We explored differences in the conceptualisation of success for different types of initiative, respecting the different modes of delivery. 

This would highlight issues with the statistical ‘markers’ used to identify the groups of interest and suggest means of reconciling these. 

We also investigated which methodologies and methods were most likely to yield results that were useful to researchers, practitioners, university managers and policymakers.

Research questions

The research questions addressed were:

  • What principles should underpin the collection of data to evidence the impact and success of WP activities?  Is there a single epistemological paradigm that should be dominant?
  • How are the links between awareness, attitudes, aspirations and behaviour to best be constructed among prospective applicants to higher education?  What are the implications for concepts of success?
  • How can the tensions between, and shortcomings within, different markers of widening participation be reconciled?
  • Why do some popular widening participation activities appear to have little impact on behaviour?  What are features of successful activities and how might these be measured?

Project documents

Find out about the project strands, panel used to summarise the data and much more.

This project was funded by the Society for Research into Higher Education. The project team was Dr Neil Harrison (lead), Dr Richard Waller and Kathryn Last.

Money matters - a comparative study of students' financial literacy and attitudes to debt in the UK, US and New Zealand

This project was a comparative study of the UK, United States (US) and New Zealand (NZ) student finance system from 2013 - 2014. 

Their systems vary in key ways, providing students with a different experience of indebtedness.

We used quantitative techniques to examine students within these systems. Learning how they affect their attitudes, understanding and behaviours.

We used a blend of theoretical concepts from the fields of economics, psychology and sociology, including financial literacy, personality theory and social class.

Data was collected from 600 full-time first year undergraduates in social science and business via an online questionnaire. 

Read more about the project via the Interim Report – July 2014.

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