“It’s nice to know you might make a difference”: engaging students through primary research as an authentic assessment



This paper presents the views of undergraduate students on taking part in a small-scale student-staff research project to inform the design of a local community play space. The project repositioned students as researchers by providing them with an opportunity to engage in primary research with children through an authentic assessment task in a final year module. The students took on responsibility for the design and implementation of the primary research to elicit the views of young children aged 6-7 years, alongside Higher Education (HE) lecturers who collected the views of other key users of the space. The students experienced the project as engaging, challenging and as an opportunity for individual professional development, resulting in valuable learning including, increased confidence, professional aptitudes, and applied research skills. While finding much potential in co- research projects for student engagement, we recognise barriers within the higher education curriculum that mitigate against their success as part of assessment. The reconceptualization of HE within a market economy and the changing expectations of students further limit the success of such projects.



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Author Biographies

Ellen Yates, Ms

Ellen Yates is a senior lecturer in childhood, and currently programe leader for MA Childhood at the University of Derby. Her research interests include play, creativity and  children's agency.  

Dr Ruby Oates

Ruby Oates is a former associate professor of childhood  at the University of Derby with research interests in the professionalisation of the early childhood workforce





How to Cite

Yates, E., & Oates , R. . (2021). “It’s nice to know you might make a difference”: engaging students through primary research as an authentic assessment. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 3(2), 35–53. Retrieved from https://sehej.raise-network.com/raise/article/view/1040