Research projects

Details of some past projects are summarised below.

Researching multilingually

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

Tutoring and mentoring

Dr Andrew Mathers (UWE Bristol, Department of Sociology and Criminology) and Dr Richard Waller (UWE Bristol, Department of Education and Childhood) 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 was undertaken whilst Dr Neil Harrison was Associate Professor at UWE Bristol. He is now a Visiting Fellow of UWE Bristol from the University of Oxford.

This project (February 2014 to 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 under-represented 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.

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?

Find out more about the project strands:

The project team was Dr Neil Harrison (lead), Dr Richard Waller and Kathryn Last.
Project funder: SRHE.

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 (SMEs).

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 Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in large clusters of SMEs in the health professions and building industry.

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.

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


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