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Current DCAD Funded Projects

Ballet workshops in French


  • Dr Géraldine Crahay (MLAC)

DCAD Lead:

  • Dr Malcolm Murray

The project Ballet workshops in French consists in organising free ballet workshops for Durham University students. It mainly targets those who learn French either as their main degree, as a credit-bearing optional module with the CFLS or in evening classes, but it is open to everyone. It was first implemented during the academic year 2019-2020 but was paused due to the pandemic. This project is based on research in neuroscience, which has identified the positive effects of dancing on physical and mental health, interpersonal skills, creativity, motivation and cognitive skills. Research also suggests that dancing develops language skills, although few studies have investigated this theory. This project explores the research hypotheses about dancing by applying them to French learning. These workshops enable students to enhance language skills and transferable skills, as well as hearing, visual and kinaesthetic memories, while discovering ballet terminology and culture. Through questionnaires and interviews, this project intends to identify to which extracurricular activities and methods of teaching language learners are receptive in order to implement them in the classroom.

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).