UCL Changemakers


Re-imagining Education

Let's explore what you could do for our innovation theme and we will share why think student-staff partnerships are the perfect mechanism to start to think about education differently.

Does education still fit the needs of our students, staff and society?

Education can provide one of the greatest levers for change and social justice, but in a landscape where change is almost constant and the pressures on staff and students feel unrelenting, is it still fit for purpose? This theme is intended to encourage an expansive approach that supports staff and students to ask some really important questions that might include:

  • How can students be supported to thrive in a world of constant change?
  • How can we prepare students to be resilient in the modern world?
  • How can education promote better mental health/wellbing for students and staff?
  • Is our view of success broad enough to help our students engage meaningfully with society's big challenges and contribute to the world?
  • Do we really understand and cater for the many and varied aspirations that students have for their education?
  • How can we support a 'whole person' approach to student development?

Read: Reimagining Education together

UCL's Statement of Excellence in Education and Student Experience

The UCL community has agreed on a set of principles to guide our thinking around excellence in education and the student experience, which could provide a good way into a ChangeMakers project idea under this these.

Questions you could explore:

  • How do student engage with cutting-edge research and researchers through their course?
  • How are students supported to explore their own interests within their programmes?
  • Are students able to apply what they are learning to explore some of the critical challenges facing our societies globally e.g, the climate crisis?
  • Are students supported to build an external profile and share what they are doing more widely?
  • Do the pedagogical approaches within your programme build community and a sense belonging, and support student and staff wellbeing?
  • Are students able to co-create learning opportunities that enable them to share and engage in critical discussions that draw on individual's diverse backgrounds and experiences?

Exploration rather than solutions?

The joy of this theme is the sense of exploration. It is fine to not know what exact change you will end up making. The outcomes of your project might be unknown but it is through the process of working together that you hope to unearth potential new ways forward and shared understandings.

  • Spend time in the application by telling us about how you want to facilitate a process of working together, dialogue and a sense of creativity. 
  • For the application form, we ask you to identify outcomes and changes that you want to see. For this theme, the changes you want to see might be a culture of working together to explore current challenges (and think about how you might evaluate that).
  • It is fine to be a little vague: it might be that as the result of a co-creation workshop, you will identify a number of potential solutions and pilot one of them. 

Ultimately, a ChangeMakers project has an end goal but it is the process of working together, learning from each other, making mistakes and supporting one another where the real benefit is.

Trying things out in a safe space and working across boundaries.

The other benefit of a ChangeMakers project is you can pilot ideas in a safe space before trying to embed them in your module/programme/department. This gives you more freedom to think outside disciplinary norms without committing to making a change if it just doesn't work out. We have had teams explore new assessment processes like ‘ungrading’ and portfolio/capstone assessments through ChangeMakers to road test ideas, understand where support is needed and iron out any kinks ahead of formally shifting to that new type of assessment. 

It is also a great opportunity to work across disciplinary boundaries. Collaborate with another department, even if they are outside the normal collaborative relationships you have formed. We have had projects collaborating from vastly different areas like surgery and art in previous years!

Examples from previous ChangeMakers projects

Example 1: Gamification of kidney/renal learning (Medical School) 

  • The team used gamification to create an engaging revision tool through Articulate Rise. 
  • The story, co-created by staff and students on the project team, is set in Costa Rica where there are a high number of cases of CKDu (chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology) and follows a young farm worked called Carlos over a period of time. You take the role of a medical student on elective and have to answer various questions and quizzes to help test knowledge and keep it interactive.  
  • Feedback from a small focus group showed student enjoyed going through it, found it more interesting than traditional methods, and felt it was a useful revision tool.  

Example 2: REACT: REconceptualising Architectural studio Crits and Teaching practice (Architecture) 

  • The project focused on one of the most characteristic pedagogic activities in architectural education, the crit.
  • There is growing and legitimate criticism around how and why crits are undertaken, and the negative impact this is having on students and in particular female or Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students. 
  • The main output of the project was a short film which captures and reflects on the student experiences during the crit session and its potential to transform student learning (for the better or worse, depending on the experiences students have)
  • This has sparked wider critical discussion in the department about the role of Architectural Student Crits, and giving students an empowering voice to drive change. 

Example 3: Assessment for Learning: Co-creating a Portfolio Assessment Model (Political Science)

  • The project team co-created an e-portfolio assessment scheme for the third-year undergraduate module “Environmental & Climate Justice”, in the Department of Political Science.
  • Through a series of workshops, and a focus group with a further five students, the project team evaluated and revised the seminar exercises for the module, developed the guidelines and supporting resources for the new e-portfolio assessment scheme, and created weekly “prompts” for e-portfolio entries linked to the revised seminar exercises.
  • Portfolio assessment increases student choice, encourages continuous effort rather than concentrated work on high-stakes assessments; and allows for more lecturer and peer feedback.
  • The project team also began developing a ‘vanilla’ version of the e-portfolio assessment guidelines that can be used by other teachers at UCL, which Dr Fergus Green is currently finalising. This resource will increase the options for staff looking for alternatives to essay-based assessments in the context of advances in AI (e.g., Chat-GPT). 

Example 4: Doing something fun while tackling something important: making 'distribution machines' while furthering dialogue about the eugenics legacy at UCL (IOE)

  • The project kicked off with an engaging offline event that aimed to impart knowledge and stimulate discourse among the student community. In this event, the team elaborately introduced the foundational concepts of eugenics.
  • In the second phase of our project, the team ventured into creating a ‘distribution machine.’ This was an inventive aspect of the project where they put their knowledge into practical application. Although the term ‘distribution machine’ may sound abstract, it essentially represented a tool designed to facilitate and simulate various aspects of eugenics. Through this creation, participants could gain a hands-on experience, enabling them to connect theoretical concepts with real-world applications. 
  • The educational aspect of the project likely increased awareness and knowledge about eugenics among the students who participated. This could empower them with the information needed to form their own opinions and engage in informed discussions regarding the subject.
  • Moreover, by presenting the historical context and the ethical considerations of eugenics, the project may stimulate critical thinking among the participants. The students might start to critically analyze not just eugenics, but other scientific theories and practices as well, considering the ethical implications and historical context.