Learning through practice

Many undergraduates at the University of Reading attend fieldwork courses or undertake work in our laboratories as part of their degree programmes, allowing them to gain practical research skills by undertaking primary research.  CETL-AURS funded the purchase of a raft of new specialist equipment across a number of disciplinary areas to enhance fieldwork and laboratory teaching, and allow undergraduates to develop practical techniques and to contribute to research projects working alongside staff.

CETL-AURS also funded projects that developed opportunities for undergraduates to gain practical work experience through:

  • summer placements on our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) - the chance to engage in real research projects with academic staff over summer;
  • developing industrial placements within degree programmes:
  • creating volunteering opportunities within our museums and collections.

Gaining practical research skills

In the Archaeology Department students gain excellent training in a wide range of fieldwork skills, including excavation, surveying, planning and finds processing, at the Departmental Field School at the Roman Town of Silchester. There are also opportunities to work on other field projects both in the UK and abroad.

CETL-AURS funds were used to invest in new field-equipment which has been used to significantly enhance undergraduate participation in and usage of highly technical geophysical surveying equipment. Students are increasingly building up their confidence levels and skills and are now choosing to undertake their own research and mapping of archaeological sites using these techniques in their own dissertations.

Download a summary of the project Geophysics in Archaeological Fieldwork.

The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development has two off-site farms and field facilities, the Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR) and the Crops Research Unit.  CETL-AURS money was used to refurbish the teaching spaces at both of these sites, allowing greater scope to integrate practical research in to the modules and relate theory to practice.  An undergraduate Innovation Laboratory was also created within the main school building, equipped with laptops, WiFi access and interactive whiteboard providing students with a greater range of teaching methods.  CETL-AURS also funded the purchase of a minibus to transport students between the main campus and the off-site facilities.

Additionally a module in Practical Nature Conservation was developed providing students with practical experience in local areas such as chalk grassland and heathland, made possible by the use of a new minibus and the purchase of fieldwork equipment.

The Department of Zoology runs an annual field course for Part 2 students to Brittany, as well as other occasional residential field courses in both the UK and overseas. CETL-AURS' money was used to purchase new ecological field equipment and books to enable fieldwork to be more fully integrated into the curriculum as students apply the practical learning opportunities in the field to development of exhibits for the Cole Museum of Zoology.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme

The University of Reading has a long tradition of students in some subject areas working with staff on their research. CETL-AURS created an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, or UROP, funding around 25 undergraduate research placements over the summer break. Placements provide undergraduates with the chance to work on University research projects alongside academic staff, gaining invaluable experience and contributing to the development of their professional skills.

The UROP scheme is continuing and details are available through the Centre for the Development of Teaching and Learning (CDoTL) by emailing cdotl@reading.ac.uk.

Industrial placements

Employers are increasingly demanding that graduates have work experience in a relevant discipline, either through summer placements or 12-month industrial placements that enable them to acquire skills, knowledge and a better understanding of their industry. The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development had not offered this option, and CETL-AURS funds were used to develop the structure to enable this to happen, including:

  • embedding the scheme in to Programme Specifications
  • developing marketing materials for students
  • finding and assessing placements

Read a short evaluation report on Industrial Training in the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development

Volunteering in the University's Museums and Collections

The University Museums and Collections Service had always had a significant number of student volunteers, but volunteering had been ad hoc with little formal training and little variety in the tasks performed.  CETL-AURS funding was used for a Volunteer Development Project where a more formal volunteer training programme was put together offering a wider range of work-based opportunities for students.  Students had the option of an accredited qualification through the Reading University Students' Union MASIV scheme thereby benefitting their research and employability skills.

 

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