Promoting Research in Teacher Education

Nasreen Majid, Institute of Education                                                                                  


All students on the BA Primary Education (QTS) programme develop a piece of research, entitled, Advanced Teaching Project (ATP). This blog summarises how the ATP conference is used to develop peer learning in order for part 2 students to learn from the research experiences of part 3 students. 


  • Develop sustained and structured scaffolds to undertake effective undergraduate research
  • Develop high quality peer learning opportunities
  • Develop a culture of educational research
  • Enable an understanding that teaching is a research informed profession.


Module ED3PI1 is a 40 credit module, assessed through an 8000 word ATP dissertation. The ATP develops our trainee teaches’ educational research skills. The preparation for this project starts at the end of part 2, with an introductory lecture and a conference in the summer term, showcasing the research undertaken by the part 3 students. 

The conference aims are firstly to celebrate the outstanding work undertaken by our students and the teaching aim is for peer learning, where the part 3 presentations and posters inform part 2s on the best approaches to write a strong piece of undergraduate research. This approach amplifies the impact of learning as it is an exchange between peers and based on the part 3 students’ experiences of writing their ATP over an academic year.

The student presentations highlight the research undertaken, how they conducted their literature review, their methodological approach and the effectiveness of this. The students share ‘top tips’ throughout the presentation to enable collaborative learning. The presenters use mentimeter to generate questions, thus providing an anonymous platform for part 2 students to ask questions freely.


The ATP conference sets a foundation for the students to develop a sustained and structured approach to undergraduate research. This is measured by the way students engage with their ATPs and the quality of research output. Furthermore, the ATP work serves as a springboard for some part 3 students to undertake Masters level work as well as being encouraged to publish their research. A major impact of the conference is the high quality peer learning opportunities that take place. This culminates to our students building a strong identity as educational researchers.

The materials shared at the conference, including the presentations and posters are drawn upon across part 3, during the teaching input for the module to further consolidate the learning experienced during the ATP conference. The videos developed during the conference are shared across the academic year to facilitate further learning.


The process of developing high quality projects for the ATP using a peer learning model provides a strong opportunity for students to collaborate and learn from the previous cohort’s experiences. It is clear from the observations that the part 2 students gain a great deal from listening to and being assured by the part 3 students about the ATP writing and learning process. Evidently, learning from peers and understanding that the part 3 students were in the same situation one year ago, provides food for thought for the part 2 students and enables then to recognise that although the work is very challenging, it is ‘doable’ to a high standard because they have seen outstanding examples of work from their peers. Overall, I am always impressed by the work that goes into the presentations and the professional way the part 3 students deliver their research to their peers.


Link to the IOE news feed featuring the ATP conference:

Redesigning postgraduate curricula on commercial law through student engaging, research-informed and multidisciplinary pathway programmes

Professor Stavroula Karapapa, School of Law                


In 2015/2016, we substantially redeveloped our postgraduate provision in commercial law through the introduction of a pioneering, student-engaging, research-informed and multidisciplinary set of postgraduate pathway programmes. Contrary to the programmes previously in place, the new curriculum is unique in its pathway design allowing students to develop a breadth of commercial law expertise whilst also specialising in their area of interest (for a full list of programmes see here). The project on which this entry reflects has resulted in an innovative curriculum that shaped the identity of Centre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation (CCLFR) as a centre of excellence on cutting-edge themes of commercial law.


  • To redevelop our postgraduate curriculum in commercial law through the introduction of cutting-edge themes of study based on the principles of research-informed and multidisciplinary teaching.
  • To empower student learning, improve student experience, and foster the development of a learning community.
  • To hear the student voice towards the design of the curriculum and to proactively and directly engage ‘students as partners’ in the development and evaluation of the core module for the new programmes.


As often happens in Higher Education, the postgraduate programmes in Commercial Law previously in place were the result of the work of independent colleagues at various points in time, starting in 2011. Modular options reflected this dynamic, and they were also impacted by continuous staffing changes over the years. The pathway programmes are the result of collective effort within the School of Law, effective consultation with students and evaluation of their feedback, and constructive collaboration with colleagues from various Schools and services across the University (including marketing, careers, conversions etc.).


Following a review of our PGT provision, we redeveloped our commercial law curriculum on the basis of three pillars:

  1. student feedback (module evaluation forms and ‘graduation’ forms collected since 2011) concerning suggestions for improvement, informal comments from students enrolled in 2015/2016 on ideas for new modules/programmes and engagement of ‘students as partners’ in the development of the core module for the new pathway programmes;
  2. extensive market study carried out by marketing and the (then) PGT Director regarding areas worth expanding on;
  3. expansion of our module offerings through the valuable contribution of numerous colleagues in the School of Law and consultation with various Schools across the University that agreed to open up relevant modules, effectively enhancing multidisciplinarity in our programmes.

Instead of offering numerous programmes with no clear link to each other, we introduced a set of pathway programmes (including 5 new PGT programmes and a redesign of the existing ones) whereby all programmes are centred around one core legal field, International Commercial Law, and students have the option to follow a pathway on a specialist area designed around our research strengths as a School and as a University, essentially building on research-informed teaching. Part of this redesigning process was the revision of the compulsory module for all pathways, LWMTAI-Advanced Issues in Commercial Law, which was based on the engagement of students as partners, drawing on a UoR small-scale research project that was initiated in June 2016, an entry of which is available here and here.


The collective effort of numerous colleagues in the School of Law and the support from various Schools and services across the University resulted in the development of a pioneering set of pathway programmes, centred around the values of research-informed teaching and multidisciplinarity and developed on the basis of student feedback. The project enhanced student engagement, taking on board student views on the learning design. The redrafting of a core module (LWMTAI) had direct impact on student learning, enabling students to proactively review their own learning process and to develop an increased sense of leadership and motivation. There was also positive correlation between the introduction of new pathways (especially Information Technology and Commerce; Energy Law and Natural Resources) and PGT recruitment. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the conversion rate of existing PGT students to our PGR programme has also increased. Importantly, the redevelopment of our programmes created a distinctive identity for CCLFR as a centre of excellence on cutting-edge themes of commercial law.


The success of the redevelopment of our PGT curriculum was based on three pillars:

  1. Collective effort: The redevelopment of the programmes required the engagement of various colleagues from the School of Law who met on numerous occasions to reflect on the programmes and introduced new modules on cutting-edge themes to meet the needs of the new pathway design. This effort exceeded business as usual. An example of such collective effort is the redesign of the core module of the pathway programmes which followed the ‘student as partners’ approach and was implemented with the collaboration of various members of staff from the School of Law.
  2. Student engagement: Unlike what usually happens in higher education with ex post student feedback, the pathway design used that feedback constructively towards designing new programmes, taking into consideration student comments in evaluation forms and also engaging students in the programme design process. Importantly, it was students themselves that proactively informed the curriculum of the core module for all pathway programmes, with their voice having being heard even before the completion of the taught component.
  3. Cutting-edge themes and research-informed teaching: At the heart of student feedback was the desire to increase the number of modular offerings from other Schools and Departments, effectively to enhance the multidisciplinary approach that was already in place. Introducing more modules from other Schools to our curriculum on the basis of their relevance and appropriateness to our pathways has become a learning process to us as educators in that it has resulted in dynamic synergies and an innovative curriculum as end-result of the exercise.


Details on our new pathway programmes are available here:

Integrating Research-Led Teaching into Law: From Visit Days to Finals – Dr Beatrice Krebs and Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, School of Law

The benefits of research-led teaching for both staff and students are well known. From the perspective of students, it encourages and facilitates deeper learning and engagement with complex intellectual issues in the course materials. In so doing, it gives the students the opportunity to develop critical and creative thinking. For staff, it offers the opportunity to use the classroom as a laboratory for testing out ideas in their research area, and discussing them with a student audience often helps to clarify our own thinking.

In Law, we have successfully integrated research-led teaching not only throughout the undergraduate degree but also from the outset when students visit the University on open and visit days. In this blog post, we want to share some of our practices with integrating research into teaching through the undergraduate degree course.

Open and visit days

Part of research-led teaching requires making students aware from the outset of their degree of the research we do. Open and visit days offers a perfect opportunity for this and indeed allows us to advertise our expertise in cutting-edge research. To this end, we have made showcasing our research expertise and research-led teaching a key part of our open and visit day experience. Thus, we begin with a talk by the admissions tutor (one of the present authors) that, in part, offers an overview of the different research strengths of the Law School and emphasises the value in being taught by leading researchers in the field. As part of this, he also presents examples of staff that not only teach and research in their specialist fields but are involved in the practice of law (for example, many of our staff act as academic advisors to counsel in court cases and participants in key policy initiatives around the world – see our research impact pages). We then move on to a taster lecture from a member of staff on a topical subject that is accessible and interesting to school pupils and is representative of what they will study during their degree. Crucially, this lecture is given by a member of staff on their specialist research area and incorporates aspects of their research. For example, one of the present authors gave a taster lecture at the most recent visit days in February 2017 on the Jogee case of the UK Supreme Court that changed the law on accessorial liability in criminal law, drawing on her research in this area and first-hand knowledge of the case.

Overall, this approach to open and visit days has been very successful. Feedback has consistently been very good, with notable mention of the interesting and engaging topics of the taster lectures. We have noticed especially in the taster lectures that visiting students are generally keen to get involved by asking questions, offering answers and debating topics. For this reason, we have made the taster lectures more interactive, for example, by asking visitors to give their views on a particular issue by a show of hands and then asking one or two people to explain the reasons for their views.

First year

Throughout the degree, students are taught by members of staff in their specialist research areas, which exposes students to the latest scholarship and key debates in the field that they are studying. However, research-led teaching in Law is not limited to substantive research topics but also underlying research methodologies. For example, in tutorials in Criminal Law, when explaining how the law works in particular areas, comparisons are often drawn to other jurisdictions so as both to highlight the particularities of the English and Welsh approach and to expose students to alternative ways of addressing the same social problems. This direct comparison pushes students to think critically about the legal rules that they learn and to ask themselves what are the advantages and disadvantages of how our jurisdiction deals with certain issues in the Law. Exposing students in their first year to this also prepares them well for the various research-based modules (e.g. Research Placement Project and Dissertation) in their second and third years.

Second Year

In the second year, we have a bespoke research-informed module, Research Placement Project (RPP). RPP offers students the opportunity to work directly with a member of staff on a particular research project. The student develops their own research question with the guidance and supervision of one of the academics that has signed up to the module. The students are given lectures on the nature of scholarly research and research skills, as well as seminars that function as workshops with students discussing the progress they have made on their research. This module offers students an early opportunity at developing their own, discrete research project with guidance from the academic and to engage in a deeper form of learning and critical analysis. Moreover, as the topics of the research projects are not restricted to what they have studied thus far, they are able to extend their existing knowledge into topical and exciting cutting-edge areas of research.

Final Year

The final year offers a range of opportunities to further students’ engagement with research. One example is the Dissertation module, for which students develop independently a research question and then find a supervisor that works in that field to support them as they write a 12,500 word dissertation. In addition, in specific taught modules, we also integrate research into seminars and tutorials. For example, in International Law tutorials, two students are sent a scholarly article in advance to read and to summarise to the other students in the tutorial. The articles tend to be of a general nature, exploring different understandings and ways of thinking about international law. Other students then have an opportunity to ask questions about the article and engage with it themselves. This has generally been very successful and has made students engage with very complex intellectual controversies that they otherwise would not have encountered.

Concluding remarks

In this blog post we have sought to outline a few ways in which we incorporate our research interests as academics into the teaching of Law throughout the undergraduate degree. Feedback from students has been positive about these different approaches. Importantly, research-led teaching not only benefits students, by encouraging deeper and more critical approaches to reading and writing, but also benefits academics, as we are able to discuss our research interests with students who may be able to offer a fresh perspective.

As noted, we have sought to incorporate research engagement at the earliest stage, making it a crucial part of the open and visit days to give potential students a clearer idea of academia and university life. As the degree progresses, we can often see a clear improvement in how students express themselves and handle different ideas and arguments with nuance and maturity. Research-led teaching thus benefits the quality of their written work and is key to establishing students as independent thinkers both within and outside the classroom.

Final Year Group Based Research Projects

Professor Elizabeth Page and Dr Philippa Cranwell, Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
Year of activity: 2015-16


Group-based research projects have been introduced into the BSc Chemistry programme for final year students. Small teams of students investigate different aspects of a research problem, each working on a separate strand. The results are combined and overall conclusions drawn. The team-based approach more closely resembles the nature of research in the chemical industry. The approach can be translated to many other disciplines.


  • To provide final year students with the opportunity for open-ended investigative laboratory research.
  • To work as a team to plan and design a suitable approach and experiments to explore the problem.
  • To carry out original research and collate and analyse results.
  • To draw conclusions and present the results both orally and as a dissertation.
  • To develop a variety of key transferable skills required for the workplace.


All accredited Chemistry programmes must contain individual independent investigative work, historically in the form of a final-year research project. Since the rapid expansion of chemistry undergraduate numbers, many departments have moved from laboratory-based projects to literature reviews or short, open-ended practical work. Group projects provide an alternative approach where undergraduates carry out a worthwhile chemical investigation, with the potential of yielding useful results within the restricted time, and with the limited resources available.


A Teaching and Learning Development Fund (TLDF) Grant in 2015 allowed us to appoint two undergraduate students to investigate some potential ideas for research projects over the summer of 2015. The students carried out initial trials into a series of research topics in the broad areas of inorganic, organic, physical and analytical chemistry. On the basis of these preliminary investigations a short briefing sheet was drawn up for each research question, to be used as a starting point for the teams.

Final year students on the BSc Chemistry and BSc Applied Chemistry (NUIST) programmes were invited to select areas of preference in chemistry for their final year project. Students were organised into teams of 3-5 students on the basis of project preferences and undertook two short (five week) projects, the first of which acted as a trial run to allow students to become familiar with an independent research environment. Each team was allocated an academic supervisor to whom they reported their results weekly. During the final week of each project team members discussed their results and prepared a presentation. Students were given feedback on the first presentation to help inform the second. The second project was written as a formal report, with each student writing up their individual investigations and the whole team contributing to the introduction and final discussions and conclusion.

Students were assessed on the basis of their individual laboratory notebook, their oral presentation and project report. They were asked to evaluate their peers’ contributions under a variety of categories to produce a factor which could be used to scale any group component marks.


In 2015-2016 a total of 12 team-based projects were carried out in 4 different research areas. As the topics were re-visited (i.e. the same topic used more than once), the second group of students were able to carry on the investigation from where the first group finished.

All projects were successful in producing results that the students were able to analyse and discuss. The value of the results to the research question varied significantly with the team and the nature of the project. Students were not penalised if they worked in a project area that did not easily yield positive results: they were advised that their grades depended upon their input into the project and their oral and written communication skills in presenting the project. In the majority of cases the teams worked well to plan and execute experiments that led to conclusive results.

Although the numbers were relatively small in 2015-2016, the team-based approach reduced academic supervision and training time, as one staff member could supervise a team of students. More results were obtained from the team-based approach than when students worked independently. The research questions had to be selected carefully and some preliminary work done, but despite this some of the projects yielded new results that are publishable. Students improved their team working skills significantly and have ample experiences to discuss at interviews.


The success of each group project depended to a large extent on the individual supervisor and the group dynamics. Ownership of the project by the supervisor led to more successful outcomes and better group dynamics. It was observed that groups of 4 students seemed to work better than 3 or 5, as research problems often break down to comparing A against B, and therefore workload could be more easily divided. Interestingly, students requested one long project in future rather than two short ones because they felt that with a long project they could really make a meaningful impact with their work.

As the project reports were to be submitted shortly before the exam period, some students were anxious to complete their contributions in good time and found it difficult to work with their peers who had a more relaxed approach. Because of the high weighting (40 credits) on the project, we will require individual project reports in future. In addition, combined group reports were difficult to assess fairly, even with peer evaluation.


The work was presented at the 2nd Enhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship Conference meeting in June 2016.

Take Home Exam by Dr Stuart Lakin, School of Law

This post has been uploaded to the T&L Exchange, and can now be found at:

Diversifying a core skills module (English Literature)

Dr Nicola Abram, Literature and Languages
Year of activity: 2015-6



This entry describes the diversification of a core Part One English Literature module, Research & Criticism (EN1RC). As a result of the changes outlined here, every graduate of English Literature at the University of Reading will have encountered Anglophone texts from across the world, and considered critical issues around ‘race’, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.


  • To construct a diverse curriculum that is representative of a wide range of identities and experiences.
  • To expose students to the rich variety of global literatures in English.
  • To promote critical thinking about processes of canon formation.


Over 200 students enter English Literature programmes at the University of Reading each year, from a range of educational backgrounds. To ensure they all have the key skills and theoretical understanding needed to succeed throughout their degrees, we run a compulsory module in the first year called ‘Research & Criticism’. I was tasked with convening this module from 2014/15.

The module’s priorities of delivering skills training and theoretical literacy – rather than focussing on a particular period, author, or literary genre – produce the freedom to draw on diverse texts. I recognised in this an opportunity to redress the Eurocentrist and white supremacist organisation of the established literary canon.

This reform was timely: a student-led campaign called ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ began at UCL in November 2014 and spread across various higher education institutions, questioning the narrow and exclusionary nature of a range of degree programmes. At a subject-specific level, the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement was revised to describe the duty attendant on literary studies to represent the subject’s diversity: “The geographical, historical and social varieties of written and spoken English, and the range of world literatures written in or translated into English, enrich the subject and its study”.


The first step was to consider the existing course content and assess it for diversity and inclusivity. I found it useful to ask the question: ‘What kind of student does this module imagine?’. Alternatively, you might look at how many of the works cited are authored by women or non-white people, or published in the Global South. In the sciences and social sciences, you might consider how far your case studies prioritise Eurocentric concerns or population samples – and whether this is intellectually necessary. If not, from where else could you source your material?

My own research in postcolonial and feminist literature meant I was familiar with a pool of texts that could be drawn on. The final reading list included texts that engage with black British, African American, Indo-Canadian, Nigerian, and Palestinian contexts, as well as those raising issues of imperialism, heteronormativity, and gender performativity. Other academics searching for equivalent materials could consult relevant subject associations for colleagues’ suggestions (such as the Postcolonial Studies Association, Feminist and Women’s Studies Association, etc.).

I chose to limit the set texts to short stories and critical essays, continuing the model I inherited with the module. I felt a series of manageable readings would promote students’ sustained engagement, given that the content was likely to be unfamiliar to many of them. I would encourage others to think similarly about the context in which students will encounter this material, and plan accordingly.

I drafted a proposed reading list and lecture schedule, which was circulated to colleagues in the Department of English Literature. The communications that followed helped to refine the plans, producing a module that would be appropriate for new entrants – who are facing significant personal and educational transitions – as well as sufficiently challenging.

At the end of the first year that the module ran, a meeting with the teaching team helped to further polish its content and organisation.


Students’ feedback has affirmed that: “The content of this course made me raise questions about the way I read and how I understand a text”, “Everything I thought I knew was challenged by what was talked about”, and “Although at times it made your head hurt, once you got around the idea it linked brilliantly to everything else and made you question everything else you ever read”.

Colleagues have commented that students’ sophistication has demonstrably improved in other modules, as they apply the skills of critical thinking learned in ‘Research & Criticism’ to enrich coursework that does not explicitly require – but nonetheless benefits from – such theoretical scaffolding.

It has been an unexpected pleasure to signpost forward from this module to options available later in the degree, and to potential dissertation topics. This will be formalised with the development of Pathways on the English Literature degree programmes. A Pathway consists of linked modules on a particular topic, such as Creative Writing; participating students receive acknowledgement of this specialism on their degree transcript. There are several junctures at which students can opt in: they may enrol from the beginning as a Pathway student, or join at the end of Part One or Part Two, which allows for those who come to consciousness of a topic later or feel able to commit to it only after some initial study.


The revisions to the module successfully reflected a wide range of identities and experiences, and exposed students to the rich variety of global literatures in English. It is vital that this material sits at the core of the degree programme, to ensure that all students are exposed to it and to avoid the subject being devalued as peripheral or ‘minor’. However, the effort to integrate and embed this material into the curriculum may unwittingly render its differences invisible, and reduce its oppositional potency. For this reason the module works especially well as the foundation for a Pathway; later in the degree, in more specialist modules, more time can be given to establishing the relevant contexts necessary for mature interpretation.

Perhaps most successfully met was the aim to promote critical thinking about what literatures are valued, and why. By centring non-canonical writers, this module actively encourages norm-critical thinking. It foregrounds the importance of questioning the canon rather than simply adding to or updating it.

Follow up

The module continues to run as part of our compulsory offering for new entrants to English Literature programmes. It has been presented as a model of good practice at RUSU’s Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic conference (1 June 2015) and at a University of Reading Teaching and Learning Showcase on ‘Diversifying the Curriculum’ (18 January 2016).

To flag up how students might continue their learning on ‘Research & Criticism’ into future optional modules, we have since designed posters which formally indicate connections: ‘Critical Issues’, and ‘Writing, Gender & Identity’ in Part Two, and ‘Class Matters’ and ‘Psychoanalysis and Text’ at Part Three. These posters are displayed to prospective students at Open Days, and within the Department throughout the year.


Universities Scotland Race Equality Toolkit:

‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’, UCL, November 2014:

‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’, LSE, February 2015

Development of the Cole Museum resources for outreach and teaching and learning.

 Dr Amanda Callaghan, School of Biological Sciences


Cole Zoology Museum300The Cole Museum of Zoology (the Cole) houses a number of satellite collections for use in outreach, teaching and learning. In 2014 we transferred 50% of the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science (SAGES) fossil collection to the Cole and in 2015 acquired the other half. As a result of this Teaching and Learning Development Fund project, most of the fossils and many more Cole specimens and archives have been catalogued and photographed and are now being transferred onto AdLib (a database for the cataloguing and publishing of information on collection objects) for wider use.


  • To improve the use of SAGES fossil/SBS zoology collections in outreach, T&L and research through improved access.
  • To catalogue and organise material, photograph where required and upload onto AdLib.


Around 50% of the University fossil collection was moved to the Cole in the School of Biological Sciences in 2014. This resource is used for teaching palaeontology and is still used by staff in Archaeology (GV2M5 Quaternary Global Climate Change). SBS are now increasingly using this resource in teaching and recently it has been used to teach BI1EZ1 Introduction to Zoology, BI1EAB1 Animal Diversity, BI2BS5 Vertebrate Zoology and BI3EAB8 Palaeozoology. The remaining 50% was moved in 2015 and required cataloguing, along with archival materials. Many of the Cole specimens and all of its archives have not been photographed and were therefore unavailable as images online.


Two UG students and one PhD student were employed, with the added value of two additional volunteers and two academic members of staff to supervise students. Remaining fossil specimens were transferred to the Cole, identified, labelled, photographed, catalogued and stored. Specimen photographs and details are now being uploaded onto the AdLib database by a volunteer. AdLib is used by collections across the University to catalogue and publish information on collection objects. It is accessible to students and staff through the Library website Enterprise.


This will allow staff and students across the university access to the collection.  Because the collection is organized and the catalogue available online, we now have a team of 8 undergraduate volunteers and enthusiasts who are able to work on proofreading and identifying specimens in the catalogue.  In addition to improving access to the collection for use in classes by students of Archaeology and SBS, an added impact of the work is that students are gaining skills in palaeontological curation and a certain level of expertise in zoology and fossil identification. A number of our students are interested in careers in the museum sector and this experience will put them in good stead for a job in this area.


At the end of the project all the fossils have been transferred, photographed and the digital catalogue was transferred online.  Considerable progress was made in identifying specimens and filling in missing taxonomic information. In addition to the fossil work, the opportunity to work in the museum during the summer with a dedicated team allowed us to photograph Cole specimens whilst the photography system was set up. We also engaged a PhD student, Verity Burke, to catalogue and organise the archival material. As a result she instigated a twitter exhibition #ColeEx.


The Cole is an accredited museum praised by the accrediting body (Museums and Libraries and Archives Council – it is now administered by the Arts Council England) for our collection management and collection care. We will now manage the fossil collection appropriately to make it more readily accessible for use and to bring it back to a good curatorial standard. The collection is now available for use in outreach, by colleagues in SBS and Archaeology for classes, for research, as well as by students on school placements to allow the development of new projects.

As a result of this project, we now are able to use the collection in new ways:

  1. Teaching and Learning. The entire fossil teaching collection is now used in teaching BI3EAB1, with students in the class able to use the online catalogue during practicals.
  2.  Research. A third year student is researching our ichthyosaur material for her final year project.
  3.  Engagement. The fossil collection is very popular among our students who are keen to be able to work with the fossils and help us to improve the information associated with each specimen.
  4. Outreach. The fossil collection is available for School visits and has already been used in University outreach activities.






War Child on Screen

Dr Ute Wolfel, Literature and Languages
Year of activity: 2014/15


9412Finalist students from German, French and Italian organised a public film season of four films (German, French, Spanish, Italian) with Reading Film Theatre (RFT) on ‘Children in War’ to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The students chose the films, contacted the distributors, and helped with the actual screening but also researched the films and put together Film Notes that, together with an invitation letter, were sent to local secondary schools.


  • Encourage students to undertake independent research within the context of taught modules.
  • Enable the students to reach beyond university by using their knowledge in a public context.
  • Enable them to see the relevance of their academic learning and effort.
  • Allow them to gather practical experience within the wider field of their course by including them in the organisational work with RFT, distributors, the University of Reading’s Design & Print Studio, and local schools.


The project took place within the context of Dr Leavitt’s and Dr Wolfel’s research and finalist modules on World War II and War Cinema. Dr Leavitt and Dr Wolfel are specialists on the respective national cinemas and have worked on war films in particular. At the time of the project, Dr Wolfel was also principal investigator for a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant on ‘Children in German War (Con)Texts’.


Students and staff from the respective languages and modules were asked to join the project. A schedule was agreed by all and then students formed groups to watch and choose the films for the season. Students divided into working groups for the creation of Film Notes as well as organisational work such as liaising with distributors and RFT. The students in the various groups contributed researched information to the Film Notes and wrote them up together with staff; students also read the Film Notes’ proofs sent from Print & Design. Students as well as staff wrote an invitation letter for local secondary schools and sent it out. At the actual screenings students helped as ushers; for the German screening they also did part of the introduction to the film and helped with the following Q&A session.


The Film Season as a whole was a success. Out of the four films scheduled, three were actually shown and attracted very good audience numbers and lively discussions at the end. The students most engaged in the project, enjoyed the work as well as the success. They found the work undertaken useful and rewarding – if not always as easy and straightforward as anticipated – and were proud of having been involved in a public outreach event related to their actual studies.

While the initial response from secondary schools was enthusiastic, not all the schools that had booked seats came to the screenings. Those schools that attended, however, enjoyed the event and new perspectives offered. It was good to see that the film season attracted a good audience from the general public.


The project’s success was based on a small group of students’ engagement and diligence and also some of the staff’s willingness to work hard with those students. Were this was not given, the implementation would have been less successful. Some of the students participating felt less responsible for the work and were therefore less reliable. One of the reasons for this might have been that the group of students involved was initially too large and not all the students were equally interested in the topic. For such a work intensive project it seems, retrospectively, best to keep it smaller and the group closer together, perhaps within the context of one module or research project.