Collaborative planning between universities and schools
The activity described in this case study was delivered through the School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI). Funded by Research Councils UK, SUPI involves 12 universities working in partnership with local schools, with coordination support from the NCCPE. SUPI projects aim to develop more effective engagements between researchers and school pupils, and to inspire a broader range of pupils to develop inquiring minds by engaging them in a diversity of exciting hands-on research related activities.
This case study explores how to make collaborative planning between universities and schools work, based upon the ‘Murder in the Medical School’ activity run by the University of Southampton hosted ‘Talk to US!’ SUPI project.
- The challenge
- The ‘Talk to US’ project is broken down into six sub-projects, which will be run by researchers from the University’s Education School, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, Oceanography, Chemistry and Biological Sciences. One of the key features of the six ‘Talk to US!’ sub-projects is collaborative planning. As the overall project aims to attract schools that don’t often engage with the university, it is crucial that schools are provided with something that meets their needs in all areas, from curriculum focus to more practical concerns. The only way to achieve this is for academics and teachers to work together in the planning of the content to be offered.
- Solving the challenge
- One example of particularly successful collaborative planning is the Biomedical Imaging sub-project of ‘Talk to US!’. During the initial networking meeting when teachers and researchers met for the first time, teachers from two schools in the same teaching alliance decided that they wanted to work together on a project, and for their pupil visits to be combined. Once it was decided they would be teamed with the Biomedical Imaging sub-project, the two teachers met with the sub-project lead and the project manager to discuss the structure and content of the planned workshop. It was agreed that the sub-project lead would be responsible for planning the workshop on a forensic murder investigation that one of the teachers had already delivered in school.
Although arranging face to face meetings was difficult, all parties kept in frequent email contact and the sub-project lead kept the teachers involved in all the decisions he made, frequently asking them for their opinions and advice. His entire team at the hospital were also involved in planning and resourcing ‘Murder in the Medical school’, and it was clear from what they produced that they had enjoyed the process.
All members of the Biomedical Imaging Unit (BIU) were involved in the delivery of the workshop and both schools involved additional teachers.
- Project outcomes
- Once the workshop had been delivered, the sub-project lead met with his colleagues to discuss what they felt worked and what hadn’t. The teachers and sub-project lead also met with the project manager to discuss any changes that were needed. Focus groups were carried out with the pupils who had attended and the information was also used to inform any changes. This process has produced a well-resourced and engaging workshop that meets the needs of pupils and teachers. Due to collaborative working, all the staff at BIU now know how the workshop runs. This makes it far more sustainable and more likely to persist even if key members of staff leave. There are now also several different points of contact between the two schools and the schools and the BIU.
- Ongoing developments
- The workshop has continued to evolve in year two and BIU staff have filmed police interviews with each suspect which are shown at the beginning of the pupils visit to the facility. This sets the scene perfectly and helps to engage the pupils, especially because the suspects are also their workshop leaders. Pupils are now much more involved in the process, coming up with theories of their own and interrogating the unit staff without being prompted. The murderer’s confession is also shown at the end of the day which confirms to pupils whether their theories are correct.
- Further events, such as a teacher and technician open evening at the unit are now being planned to enable staff to build partnerships with more local schools so that the workshops can continue once the project has finished.
- Key to making it work
- - Co-creation of the activity with genuine collaboration at all stages of the project.
- - Identification of the needs and wants of all stakeholders.
- - Regular email updates to keep everyone ‘in the loop’.