This research project was funded by Imperial Student Shapers and the project leader was Dr Daisy Pataki, Change Makers Teaching Fellow.

The staff and student partners included Daisy Pataki, Niuzheng ‘NZ’ Chai, Ignacy Bartnik and Marine Coispeau.


This is a survey-based project where the staff-student partners design an interactive online questionnaire to collect student views and responses to different types of learning words with the aim of refining our use of learning words to better engage with future students.

The Change Makers programme offers 11 Imperial Horizons modules each year, which are all designed to encourage student-led learning via partnership curricula.

We have been developing and offering this set of modules for seven years, and as such we have a growing base of research and evaluation that demonstrates their pedagogical and institutional value. However, the nature of the modules is difficult to describe to students unused to this type of learning experience.

We have spent a lot of time refining and developing module descriptions, including the use of student focus groups who feel that the module descriptions are accurate. Despite this, students still report that their experience differs from what they were expecting.

One of the primary reasons students give for withdrawing from or not completing their module, (after time-pressures) is that the module was
not what they expected. Conversely, much of the positive feedback received via SOLE for Horizons indicates that modules “exceeded their expectations” or broadened their thinking in ways that they could not have anticipated. Students have described the impact that completing a module has had on
their own outlook, approach and skills, personally as well as academically.

A significant focus of Change Makers teaching is that a student’s final piece of work is less important than how they went about making it and their learning journey. Conveying this to the students themselves can be difficult.

Change Maker modules are very much aligned with the College’s Teaching and Learning Strategy, in particular the objective of Active Learning Pedagogy and giving students responsibility for their own learning. Change Makers modules are delivered in non-didactive manner, based on tasks which enable students to be partners in their learning and have the core aims of developing creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

We are interested to explore student reactions to different types of learning words – related to pedagogy and learning design, student experience, assessment, and content – to allow us to better understand how students read and respond to different words and ultimately to allow us to better describe our modules.

Aims and Method

The aims of this project are two-fold – initially the staff and student partners completed some reflective workshop sessions to explore the emotional landscape of being an undergraduate student at Imperial and to consider the impact that something as simple and individual as a particular word might have. The partners then developed palettes of types of word that they wanted to explore with students.

Secondly, the partners developed an interactive online questionnaire to gather reactions and responses to these words before undertaking some analysis.

In the future it is expected that this analysis could provide the basis for some in depth focus group exploration of the most interesting findings.

Note on the impact of Covid 19

The global pandemic interrupted this piece of research following the initial workshop sessions.

The lockdown was implemented prior to administration of the online questionnaire. Considerable planning had been put into developing interactive opportunities to engage students with completing the questionnaire on campus, and this had to be abandoned.

Despite this, the research team managed to get a good return on the questionnaire and preliminary analysis was able to go ahead over the summer.