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Current DCAD Funded Projects

Pre-training for undergraduate chemistry students through Interactive Chemistry 


  • Dr Litka Milian (Chemistry)

DCAD Lead:

  • Nic Fern

The development of a set of interactive learning materials to support novice chemistry students in preparing for a complex and time-consuming experiment.  Initially developed for the module ‘Practical Chemistry 2 Organic’, encompassing 160 students per year, it could also be used across the wider undergraduate chemistry curriculum since it is a common experiment. 
The project aims to develop an interactive version of the sodium borohydride reduction experiment and associated materials utilising existing software and tools to full effect, assessing their suitability for future virtual experiment development. We will evaluate the impact the interactive materials can offer to students and disseminate the outcomes of the project within the Chemistry department and the wider university. 

The progress of the project has been presented during the Scholarship of Learning and Teaching Forum in January 2022 and Three Rivers Conference in June 2022.

We will also present our work during the Education, Research and Development Conference in Bulgaria in August 2022 and Durham Learning and Teaching Conference in September 2022.

Pilot development of Augmented Reality (AR) physics teaching materials


  • Dr Pippa Petts (Physics)
  • Helen Cramman (Education)

DCAD Lead:

  • Ross Parker

To develop a set of augmented reality (AR) learning materials to aid first year physics students in advancing their conceptual understanding of key topics. Students often struggle with combining the mathematical formulations with a 3D physical interpretation of certain core physics topics. The project would move a step beyond the basic screen-based simulations and allow students to interact with 3D holograms.

The project aims are:

  • To develop virtual teaching materials to complement our core foundational physics module for use
    in tutorials and in the laboratory.
  • To acquire in house experience and expertise in developing AR teaching materials using the
    Microsoft Hololens headset and developed in Unity.
  • To evaluate the:
    • impact of the interactive materials on the student experience as they develop their learning in the key topics
    • impact of the interactive materials on students’ conceptual understanding of the key topics.
    • process of trialling implementation of the interactive materials within tutorials and laboratory modules.

A Case Study in Accessible Interactive Visualizations in Mathematical Biology


  • Dr Andrew Krause (Mathematical Science)
  • Dr Adam Townsend (Mathematical Science)

DCAD Lead:

  •  Ross Parker


This project seeks to develop a suite of interactive web-based tools and associated exercises to help students in a 3rd year Mathematical Biology course visualize and explore complex mathematical models of biological phenomena. The aim is to use this as a case study in the further development of such tools for use in other areas of applied mathematics, and in other disciplines where there is a need to develop student intuitions regarding formal mathematical models and simulations of real-world processes in space and time. Such complex models are generally difficult to teach without building several different kinds of intuition about them. Such models are nowadays ubiquitous, for example in describing the distribution and movement of animal populations in ecology, or cells in medical contexts such as tumour growth, and this kind of spatial modeling is increasingly being taught across the sciences.  

Real-time interactive visual explorations of such models can bring the usually dry subject matter of mathematical modeling to life in ways not previously possible. Through a more inclusive approach to teaching spatial phenomena, we believe the development of interactive tools can help all learners to engage with this challenging material.

Theatre in the Round


  • Dr Alistair Brown (English Studies)

DCAD Leads:

  • Dr Mark Childs
  • James Youdale

Our proposed research will develop a more complete and nuanced understanding of how 360 video, when experienced through virtual reality (VR) technology, might help students to understand the impact of stage directions, directorial decisions, and point of view when dramatic texts are turned to performance. By comparing 2D and two types of 360 recording of selected scenes from plays taught on the undergraduate curriculum, we explore how different modes help students to appreciate often quite subtle literary-critical points in a scene. 

Towards a toolkit for teaching second languages to students with ASC


  • Dr Ekatarina Chown (MLAC)

DCAD Lead:

  • James Youdale

This project investigates learner motivations, strategies and preferences for second language (L2) learners in higher education with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Leaners with ASC may need or choose to engage differently with their education than neurotypical peers.  There has been significant research in this area in primary and secondary education, but little in higher education. This is notable as tertiary learners often have contextual differences in motivation and agency, and may arrive at University having developed personal strategies to engage with the social and collaborative aspects of second language learning. Students with ASC often receive adaptations to their learning in the form of disability support notices (e.g. 'no presentations' or 'no group work'). Conversely, this project seeks to better understand how modern language teachers can support students with their skills development and the collaborative / social aspects of their learning without necessarily excluding them from certain learning activities.

Innovative digital assessment practice to promote self-regulated learning


Dr Mathilde Roger (Biosciences)

DCAD Lead:

Ross Parker

The purpose of this project is to explore innovative pedagogical and digital approaches that promote student self-regulated learning through peer feedback. 
Self-regulation is a pedagogical concept that focuses on student autonomy. With the move to online and blended teaching, self-regulation is even more essential, and more attention should be paid to cognitive, motivation and management strategies to promote self-regulation (Eggers et al., 2021).
Promoting self-regulation via peer & self-feedback is a novel concept. It enables students to review and amend their own work by “unlocking internal feedback” (Nicol, 2021).

This project will:

  1. Evaluate students’ experience of peer-feedback using a survey-based approach sent to undergraduate students from level 1-3 in the department of Biosciences. 
  2. Develop resources to facilitate implementation within the institution and further: guidance and support to staff members to incorporate peer-feedback into the curriculum using technology-enhanced tools. 
  3. Provide instructions to students in a new “hear it from your peer” blog to enhance student understanding of this practice and therefore engagement.
  4. Assess the value and outcomes of this project.

The findings from this project will be disseminated both internally (presentation at SOTL Forum) and externally (Presentation at International AHE Conference and publication).

Enhancing the Accessibility of Online Induction Materials in the Faculty of Science


  • Dr Mathilde Roger (Biosciences)

DCAD Lead:

  • Ross Parker (DCAD)


The purpose of this project is to assess accessibility of departmental online induction material within departments at Durham University in order to support the students’ transition to new virtual learning environments (VLE) for an improved higher education learning experience.

Research related to VLE adoption has shown that using a suitable VLE can positively impact student learning (Hamad, M.M., 2017). To best support all students, it is essential to consider the role played by digital technologies during university transition (with or without disability) to provide appropriate resources and support to all students (Pacheco, E., et al., 2018).

This project will:

  1. Evaluate students’ experience of current departmental induction material and will focus on; accessibility of material, usefulness, and impact of engaging with this material on their subsequent studies.
  2. Develop new resources more accessible and more adequate to better facilitate student self-regulated learning following the Universal Design of Design (UDL) framework (Martin, N. et al., 2019). 
  3. Ensure consistency across departments for a better overall student experience and provide guidance to departments.
  4. Assess the value and outcomes of this project.

The findings from this project will be disseminated internally to ensure good practice but also externally via the DCAD blog (and maybe via publication).


Imposter Syndrome in the Classroom: What are the impacts for teaching and learning and how can academic practice be improved at Durham University? 


  • Dr Michelle Addison (Sociology)

DCAD Lead / Co-Lead:

  • Rachelle O’Brien

The project will explore the impact of imposterism on students’ sense of inclusion and belonging within Durham University, the impact it has on student’s learning experience and how academic practice in the classroom can be improved.

Whilst there is emerging research regarding the impact this has on staff (Addison, 2016) there is not enough evidence about how imposter syndrome shapes students’ learning experience, or impacts on their sense of inclusion and participation in the wider student experience (Bothello, 2019). Building on emerging scholarship in this area, imposter syndrome is conceived as highly stigmatised, unevenly distributed, and fosters a sense of ‘feeling out of place’ and inadequacy (cf. Addison and Stephens-Griffin, 2022). It is also entangled with mental health concerns around anxiety and stress (cf. Addison, Breeze, and Taylor 2022) that are problematically individualised and pathologised as a ‘crisis of confidence’ that legitimates a raft of mental health intervention programmes.


  • To understand the impact of imposter syndrome on students’ teaching and learning experience, including: contextually admitted students, marginalised and/or minoritised students, and first-generation students 
  • To design and deliver an education intervention (workshop) on imposter syndrome that improves teaching practice as part of the university level Teaching and Learning Workshop Programme.
  • To evaluate the workshop and the longitudinal impact the education intervention has on teaching and learning practice 

We will present our work at the SOTL forum and at the Learning &Teaching conference as well as producing a DCAD blog post. 

Zine making as a pedagogical tool for transformative learning in Law


  • Associate Professor Henry Jones (Law)
  • Joy Twenlow, PhD candidate (Law)

DCAD Lead:

  • Dr Peter Whitton

Law, Gender and Society (LGS), a second-year elective module on the LLB degree, draws on feminist theory and examples of law in practice to teach students to critically engage with the nexus between gender and law.

Zines have long offered marginalised groups an outlet for recording stories, disseminating information and self-organising (Tavin, 2002). Their photocopied, DIY production values and aesthetic offer a quick and direct means of self-expression, identity construction and collaboration (Klein, 2010). Therefore, the zine format is well suited to encouraging students to engage with non-traditional perspectives and relate theory to their own lived experience.

This project will explore the practicalities of student zine (a self-published, non-commercial print-work) production as a pedagogical method to encourage collaboration, communication, critical thinking and engagement with non-orthodox perspectives. Currently this module follows a traditional lecture/seminar format, while this is efficient for information transmission, opportunities for deeper, more active engagement with the subject material and peers may be missed. The project will develop and deliver teaching materials that facilitate zine making in the classroom. The teaching materials will combine historical information about the role zines have played in feminist history with examples of how the zine format facilitated the articulation of non-orthodox critical perspectives. These teaching materials will be tested by the LGS students who will collaboratively create a zine with 20 of their peers, drawing on issues and theories encountered in the course. To complement the use of zines in the classroom, and to provide the framework for wider engagement with the zine medium, we propose to scaffold the classroom activity with an external-facing zine fest that will be partly funded by the law school. Students will be given the opportunity to present and disseminate their zines alongside academics/activists/artists who have also created zines for the zine fest.   

Our overarching aim is to facilitate transformative learning by helping students to connect decades of feminist theory with contemporary issues relevant to their individual experience and perspectives. Speaking to this aim, our objectives are:   

  1. Increasing a sense of connection to peers and the wider school of feminist thought; and
  2. Develop students’ skills in communication, particularly looking at:
  1. How effectively students conveyed the feminist ideas they encountered throughout the LGS course in the zine medium  
  2. The extent to which students embraced the DIY format of zines; and  
  3. The plurality of ideas students expressed   

The findings will be disseminated internally via a DCAD blogpost on the pedagogical value of zines and an interactive presentation at the Learning & Teaching conference in September 2023, and externally by running a zine fair, an application to present at the Three Rivers Conference 2023 and a running a zine making workshop at Socio-Legal Scholars Association conference as well as potential publications.


Bridge to the Arts and Humanities Programme


  • Professor Alex Barber

DCAD Lead:

  • Associate Professor Louise Greener
  • Associate Professor Steve Leech

The Bridge to the Arts and Humanities Programme is an innovative, one-week residential programme of classroom and cultural activities to support students from under-represented groups in higher education holding an offer to study in the History department, to successfully transition into undergraduate study at Durham. It is designed to provide students with core knowledge and skills for successful study in higher education and for full and active engagement in the academic and social community of Durham University.  

The project is a unique collaboration between transitional educationalists, including English for Academic Purposes practitioners, Foundation Year practitioners, and discipline specialists employing an evidence-led pedagogic model, with a focus on meta-cognition (Flavel, 1979; Tanner, 2012; Stanton et al, 2021), the development of self-regulated learning (Eekelen et al, 2005); Biggs & Tang, 1999; Clifford, 1999), the development of self-efficacy (Bandura,1997), and the development of social and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986).   

The project represents a novel and sector leading development, which has the potential to be scaled to support other academic departments across DU which are experiencing awarding gaps between specific demographics of student. Content is comprised of four components: 

  • Preparing for Higher Education Sessions  
  • Academic Sessions  
  • Fieldwork sessions 
  • Support 

The findings from this project will be shared internally at the Faculty Education Committee and presented at SOTL forum. An article will also be submitted for a peer-reviewed publication.

Enhancing student engagement with feedback at programme level using digital tools.


  • Dr Mathilde Roger

DCAD Lead: 

  • Julie Mulvey

The purpose of this project is to explore innovative pedagogical and digital approaches that promote student engagement with their feedback received during their full degree. The online software PebblePad (from Pebble Learning) for which the University has an institutional licence, is used in this project to facilitate the recording of feedback by students.
This project will:

  • Develop a tool to encourage students’ engagement with feedback received.
  • Create high quality and accessible instructions to students to use the tool.
  • Develop resources to facilitate implementation within the institution and further: guidance and support to staff members to incorporate the tool in their departments.
  • Assess the value and outcomes of this project.

The main objective of this project is to develop a user-friendly tool to allow students to record their feedback during their degree. The software Pebble pad will be used to create a “Student Feedback Journal”, allowing students to create an entry for each assessment or activity in which feedback is provided. The nature of feedback will be diverse from teacher feedback to peer feedback and self feedback. For each entry the students will need to reformulate the feedback received and reflect on it.

This tool will be developed in partnership with the Feedback SIG who have received guidance and advice from expert in the field of feedback via the Feedback SIG seminar series (objective 1).

We believe that students will be comfortable using Pebble Pad, however, to facilitate implementation, the interns will design and record some videos tutorials (objective 2).

At the end of the academic year a survey will be send to all users of the tool for evaluation purposes (objective 3).

We are hoping that many departments will use this tool, to facilitate this, resources and support will be provided by the faculty digital developers (objective 4). 

Internal dissemination to will be via presentation at SOTL forum and/or Learning & Teaching conference.
External dissemination will be via presentation at International AHE Conference 2024: an abstract will be submitted for an oral presentation to present the pedagogical benefits, plus a publication in “Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education” or “Practitioner Research in Higher Education”