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Manchester Institute of Education

Projects and areas of interest

CHERIL is interested in all kinds of projects relating to Higher Education.

However, the Centre is particularly interested in the following areas that support its broad aims of enhancing teaching and learning.


Contributing to the delivery of the University’s strategic objectives in teaching and learning, especially:

  • excellent teaching
  • distinctive graduate attributes
  • making a difference
  • learning through research
  • global awareness

Understanding and informing sector developments and higher education policy, especially:

  • learning effectiveness
  • learning gain
  • teaching excellence frameworks
  • changes to secondary education and implications for transition to higher education

Current projects - 2015/16 award holders

CHERIL is currently funding ten projects covering a range of topics. Please see the details below:

Across the Divide – STEM transition from 5 to 25 years

Lead – Dr Lynne Bianchi (EPS and HUM)

‘Across the Divide’ is a cross-faculty initiative that questions how The University of Manchester’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) practice and pedagogy is aligned with current primary and secondary school provision.

It engages academics, teachers and students in knowledge exchange through discussion about STEM teaching and learning through focus groups and study visits ultimately producing a documentary film and report that showcases the interactions.

By identifying similarities and differences between Higher Education (HE) and school provision it considers implications for academic teaching and learning and student transition, critically reflecting on pedagogy across the divides of primary, secondary and HE.

Project themes and keywords

Transition, Primary, Secondary and Higher education, knowledge exchange, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)

Evaluating flipped teaching in developing communities of practice among UoM postgraduates

Leads – Dr Angela Davies and Professor Andy Brass (EPS and MHS)

A new profession is being created in the NHS, clinical bioinformatics, to support Regional Genomic Medicine Centres and interpret the data from the 100k genome project.  All these scientists are trained at Manchester through the MSc in Bioinformatics.  Students work in isolation in hospitals across the UK so it is critical that they build communities of practice (CoP). 

In the course we have used flip teaching using group-focussed problem-based learning.  This interdisciplinary study will explore whether this strategy has contributed to the development of a CoP.  The study results will inform clinical scientist training across Health Education England.

Project themes and keywords

Flip teaching, problem-based learning, Communities of Practice, clinical bioinformatics, clinical genomics

The Bridge to Higher Education

Leads – Rachel Studd and Gianpaolo Vignali (EPS)

There is a requirement to ease the transition from school to HE and it is the first year university curriculum that needs to change by weaning students off ‘spoon-feeding’ and encouraging self-regulated learning.  The progression can be ‘scaffolded’ by adapting the DFC and providing high levels of guidance at the start of the year gradually reducing as students gain experience. 

The project aims to develop ‘bolt-on’ activities within a small online course, which presents concepts and interactive tasks directly aligned with the first semester units. These bolt-ons will be a bridge that students can self-navigate through and become autonomous learners.

Project themes and keywords

Transition, bridging the gap, scaffold, first year university, autonomous learners

Interventions to promote mental health in health professional students

Lead - Sarah Shepherd (MHS)

In February 2015, 73% of study participants (n=33) (medical students) were classified as suffering with burnout.  Following a five week Mindfulness intervention this reduced to 4% (n=22).

Focus group results indicate that students gained awareness of the impact their thoughts had on their behaviour. Explicitly acknowledging the stressors of medical education was reported as beneficial for mental health.

This project aims to compare the experiences of a Mindfulness intervention with Conversations in Change, a student discussion group focusing on sharing patient/education stories.

The insights provided will inform a toolkit for supporting self-care and patient centered practice in healthcare education.

Project themes and keywords

Interventions to improve student mental health, learning gain and effectiveness, distinctive graduate attributes, learning through research, transition and retention, patient centered care

Creative methodology to explore the social problems of hearing loss in marginalised communities

Lead - Sheila Fidler (MHS)

This innovative collaborative project with students from the BSc Healthcare Science (Audiology) and BA (Hons) in History of Art, aims to address the social problems of hearing loss in marginalised communities.

The students will create and use education packs to open up discussions with marginalised communities, to develop their awareness of how ethnic and cultural diversity impacts on the perception of hearing loss.  Workshops will be facilitated by Healthcare Science Students, and creatively documented by the History of Art students. 

This project will be designed and driven by the students with outputs presented via an exhibition, hosted by Z-arts or Whitworth Art Gallery.

Project themes and keywords

Cross faculty collaboration, interdisciplinary learning, undergraduate driven research, socially engaged students, and taking learning out of the classroom into the community

Producing online resources for the Abdul Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre

Lead – Dr Claire Fox (HUM) 

The project centres on learning through research and community engagement through proposing to support BA Criminology students in researching the materials held at the Abdul Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre.

From this research, and with the support of staff and the training provided, the students will produce online materials that can be accessed by the wider public and university staff and students.

It is envisaged that this initiative can be expanded in future years to students from other discipline areas who would benefit from working with materials relevant to their topic area.

Project themes and keywords

Learning through research, distinctive graduate attributes, skills development

How students define the assets they perceive as support an inclusive learning environment

Lead - Catherine Prescott (Human Resources)

Using a co-production participatory method the project will explore individual, community and organisational assets that support an inclusive learning environment.

It will support student learning through involving them in the research process. It will tap into their knowledge of their environments and identify assets that support positive curricula and learning, relationships between staff and students, social, cultural and economic capital and psychosocial and identity factors (1). 

It will produce a toolkit for others in the University and across the sector, which will include an evaluation method so that the process can be replicated and compared.

Project themes and keywords

Staff and student co-production, participatory asset mapping, inclusive learning environment

PuRLS (Publishing and Research Learning for Students)

Lead - Simon Bains (UoM library)

Building on the outcomes of the CHERIL funded SOAR project and the establishment of the Manchester Medical School student journal, this project will provide opportunities for students at all levels to become publishers of research and learning material by developing substantial modular training materials (both online and face to face). 

These materials will be developed from the draft publishing toolkit developed by SOAR.  It will test blogging as a way for students to publish and discuss reflections on their learning (‘learning logs’).  It will also provide student internship opportunities with both Library and Press.

Project themes and keywords

Publishing, training, learning through research and publishing

Nurture through transition

Lead – Samantha Aston (UoM library)

The project aims to gather qualitative data on the academic concerns of students’ transitioning to HE level study.

This will inform the development of a pilot online resource that offer holders will be able to access before they arrive, designed to address some of the areas highlighted by the research and bridge the academic skills gap for new students.

This resource will be evaluated to inform future development, assess the impact of the resource on the students’ transition experience and serve as an evidence base for further work on pre-arrival initiatives at the University.

Project themes and keywords

Transition, first year experience, academic skills, retention, student engagement, offer holders, recruitment, pre-induction

Linking levels of students’ engagement with attainment and retention measurements

Lead - Daniel Swain (Professional Support Services)

The University of Manchester is committed to providing an outstanding student experience and amongst other initiatives, is implementing the ‘My Student‘ project which aims to increase the availability of educational data about individual students through the provision of learner analytics.

This research project will develop the evidence base for the application of learner analytics by analysing the relationship between student engagement proxies such as Blackboard and computer cluster usage, library access, and podcasting usage and the key student outcomes of attainment and retention.

This analysis will in turn be used as the basis for developing learner analytics as a tool to inform and support learners.

Project themes and keywords

Learner analytics, retention, attainment, student engagement, data accessibility/presentation, correlation, teaching excellence, quantitative assessment