Name of the participant and other supporting staff if relevant

Dr. Laura Michael

The project was also supported by a Research Officer who was part of an Engaged Research Funded project. They also delivered some teaching remotely and relayed back conversations with local stakeholders.

Name of the module and discipline, level and  year of study and any useful background info

Infrastructure and Transportation Planning (EVP3013)

This is an optional final year undergraduate module in the BSc Planning, Environment and Development and carries the equivalent of 10 ECTS. It is accredited by Royal Town Planning Institute and some Learning Outcomes are dictated by this accreditation. 

Name of community partner and/or any other supporting partners (public or private sector)

This was a community consultation which was run as a partnership between the Department for Infrastructure NI (DfI), QUB Estates and QUB Engagement Team. DfI were the principle external partner. DfI want to take a long-term and rigorous data-based approach to making change. So their focus is on gathering data, trialling changes and evaluating these changes which works well with the module.

CERL project title(s)

Open Botanic – developing a cycling strategy for Botanic Avenue

(Botanic is a street that leads to QUB campus)

What they changed about their programme/course in relation to CERL

Nothing changed about the programme as it was already designed to carry out a consultation and produce a transport strategy. However there were some changes in how I worked with the students – instead of working individually they worked in groups. 

However I would like to make changes, especially to the Learning Outcomes. These are lengthy and complicated. The administrative timing of processing changes made this difficult.

Can you provide any tangible info – e.g. module descriptor, learning outcomes, assignments, assessment criteria


The module descriptors includes generating integrated and well substantiated responses to spatial planning challenges in the context of infrastructure planning. Teaching covers topics such as policy, waste, energy and transport which are all directly relevant to working with communities. However they are a lot to cover in one module. This made the project process more difficult as students had to meet 9 learning outcomes, some of which are requirement for Professional Accreditation.  There is no explicit reference to working with community partners which would be appropriate if We are to continue with the same approach going forward. 

The module is assessed 60% on project coursework and 40% on a critical essay which covers other content from the module.

How was it taught:

·        number of students

·        student groupwork or individual,

·        how they worked with the partner,

·        how the project proceeded,

·        any reflection done with students,

·        evaluation or formal assessment of their learning,

·        Could or should we follow up with students?

·        tech used

·        Anything else interesting?

There were 21 students on the module during 2020-21 – usually there are more but numbers may have been reduced due to COVID. The module offered a mix of lecture time and research time. I organised the students into mixed groups from different academic backgrounds.  I created channels on Teams and seemed to work quite well remotely apart from one student who was based in China and had access issues.  Two of the four groups responded well to the set up, though the other two responded less well.  I included a small component of peer assessment in the module and students were generally quite positive about this. I opened sessions for feedback but there was no uptake from student so there was no formal reflection but a few students said they enjoyed the module. Some students said they didn’t like group work.  Two students have gone on to further study in the School. 

Data collection began quite late in year (April) because of Covid-19 restrictions and students were ‘the bodies on the ground’ collecting the data, important in transport data collection to have an evidence base for all decisions. 

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

Students learning about what is involved in producing a real strategy – it needs to be based on data.  They gained practise in transport assessment and procedures and understanding of the need for dialogue with various partners when preparing a strategy.

What do you think the benefit was to the partner? Do they have any feedback from the partner?

We worked with the Northern Ireland Government Department for Infrastructure Active Travel Group. This group is under-resourced and sometimes finds it hard to make its voice heard in a Department which is mainly prioritises roads.  This group were pleased with the data collection and we then employed some of the students to continue outside the module with our engaged research seed funding.  DfI are seeking to apply for a pot for research funding within the Dept to fund similar projects and QUB & UU students would be part of this work around changing mindsets around travel.  Forward South as the local partnership body in South Belfast were very positive, in particular they played a role in linking this work to the wider Public Health agenda. This has led onto other research opportunities with them which could have a stronger CERL focus.

How could/will you improve your CERL teaching practice next time?

I would make module more community based project focussed.  I plan to review the curriculum over the summer and will try to relocate some learning outcomes to different modules. An ongoing partnership with DfI could also be part of the module.  These partnerships will make module a more rewarding and rich learning experience for the students

Any challenges and how you overcame them


Having to cover the 3 different elements of the module, Waste, Energy and Transport was challenging – it would really take the full module time to engage effectively with the community. I will try to reallocate Learning Outcomes for the next academic year.  The focus of the module is Sustainable Infrastructure but local communities are not always in favour of this for their own areas so this could be challenging.  It could be difficult to ensure that the Community gets a useful outcome.  Would highlight minimum deliverables (e.g. data collection) in advance.  

I am not a permanent member of QUB staff and I am not sure from year to year whether I will continue to teach this module.  Education Lecturers still need to work on scholarly activities, especially in early career but there are fewer opportunities to do so. 

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students? 

Pay attention to the Learning Outcomes; leave them more open ended.  Design assessments in more open-ended ways. This work needs more time than ‘normal’ project work.  It probably needs a year’s lead in time.

Final comments


The partnership element made this a ‘richer and more rewarding experience’ for the students.

The ‘value of working in a non-competitive space’.  ‘Appreciate the role of Science Shop in providing an open door’ to community.  Found the LCs to be ‘a welcome oasis of support for developing as an educator and academic. It feels this is a good way to link research to teaching as there is a growing void there.  The large research projects which are going on within the dept have no bearing on what the students are doing.