Academics as Changemakers: Addressing Challenges in HE Teaching Contexts

Issue 2, October 2020

Edited by Shirley Bennett and Ming Nie

Academics as Changemakers Issue 2 Cover Page


This publication presents six case studies developed by academic staff taking part in the Professional Recognition and Scholarship module (EDUM127) of the University of Northampton Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). Participants adopted a Changemaker lens to identify problems impacting the student experience and achievement on their courses and from this exploration, six case studies are shared which explore strategies which can be used to address challenges faced by a variety of student groups. The case studies actually challenge us to take a fresh view of our provision.

We invite you to explore the case studies within this publication, providing summaries of the course-based problems faced and challenges addressed, the strategies adopted, and the recommendations emerging. We are confident that you will recognise within these case studies problems that you too grapple with within your own courses and learning and teaching communities.

Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in the University of Northampton

November 2019Students as partners publication

Edited by Ming Nie

Since the start of the University of Northampton’s Learning and Teaching Enhancement and Innovation Fund in 2013, a total of 67 projects have been funded. Approximately 144 students have been directly involved in bidding, running and evaluating these projects. The funded projects generated various forms of innovation in learning, teaching and assessment. One form of innovation this publication focuses on is students as partners in learning and teaching. This publication presents 14 examples of students as partners, developed by academics taking part in the funded projects at the University of Northampton.

Four themes emerged:

  • Theme 1: Students as content creators
  • Theme 2: Students as facilitators of teaching sessions
  • Theme 3: Students as support providers
  • Theme 4: Students’ involvement in assessment design and peer review

Changemaker Approaches Addressing Challenges in HE Teaching Contexts

Issue 1, May 2019Academics as Changemakers Issue 1 publication

Edited by Shirley Bennett and Ming Nie

This publication presents 10 case studies developed by academic staff taking part in the Professional Recognition and Scholarship module (EDUM127) of the University of Northampton Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). Drawing inspiration from the UoN Changemaker Hub, a blend of academic and design-thinking strategies invited participants to explore their own and their students’ perspectives on their identified issue, and to support each other to develop ideas for practical interventions they could try out to tackle the challenges experienced. The challenges these staff chose to address are not theirs alone. We are confident that you will recognise within these Case Studies problems that you too grapple with within your own courses and learning and teaching communities.

Why CAIeRO?Why CAIeRO publication

Perceptions and impact of ten years of CAIeRO at the University of Northampton

This report summarises the findings of research with University teaching staff, looking at the impact and perceptions of the CAIeRO approach to course (re-)design at Northampton during the ten year period 2008-2018. The research was conducted by Robert Farmer and Julie Usher, Learning Designers at the University.

Overcoming Barriers to Student Engagement with Active Blended LearningStudent engagement with ABL publication

This research, conducted with undergraduate students, was carried out in order to inform and support the process of pedagogical change at the University of Northampton as Active Blended Learning becomes the normal mode of delivery for learning and teaching. The research was undertaken by Elizabeth Palmer, then a Learning Designer at the University, Dr Sylvie Lomer, formerly a Learning Development tutor at Northampton and now a Lecturer in Education at the University of Manchester, and Ivelina Bashliyska, student and project Research Assistant.



Changemaker in the Curriculum

Case Studies 2013-2014

We value the range of ways we understand what being a Changemaker Campus means. Some of these conceptions have been captured in Case Study 1 and are reflected through the examples in this year’s publication. Importantly, we have included examples of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, as we recognise how these provide powerful learning opportunities, too.


Curriculum Enhancement for Employability and Social Impact

The University of Northampton is recognised as a leader in social innovation education, and this is reflected in its designation as the UK’s first AshokaU ‘Changemaker Campus’. It is relevant to consider how employability and Changemaker principles are embedded into the University’ teaching and learning activities. In March 2014, the University’s Institute of Learning and Teaching launched a project called Embedding Changemaker into the Curriculum (EmbedCM).


Personal Academic Tutoring

Personal Academic Tutoring is integral to the University of Northampton’s holistic approach to supporting student success. Personal Academic Tutors, or ‘PATs’, provide an extra layer of academic and pastoral support, beyond what is offered by the module tutor and programme leader, to an assigned number of students. We hope the contents of the booklet are meaningful to your own practice and, ultimately, in supporting our students to achieve their personal, academic and professional goals.


Outside the Box Assessment and Feedback Practices

The University’s approach to quality enhancement of learning and teaching recognises the importance of sharing good practice. Through mechanisms, such as Outside the Box Assessment and Feedback Practices, we are able to identify excellent ideas in ‘niche’ areas and transfer them into ‘mainstream’ use.

Journals and book chapters


  1. Maxwell, R. and Irwin, W. (2020). Changemaking and Graduate Employability. In Stanford Social Innovation Review [online]. 15 June 2020. Part of the Innovating Higher Education series.
  2. Maxwell, R. (2020). Pedagogic Transformation at the University of Northampton in Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (2020) Designing study structures flexibly – a challenge for universities and quality assurance: Contributions to the 7th AQ Austria Annual Meeting 2019. [online]. pp. 126-139. Available from: (print version to follow)
  3. Sharp, E., Wray, R.J. and Maxwell, R. (2020). Improving student retention through enhanced academic and pastoral support: A Case Study. Innovative Practice in Higher Education (2020). Vol, 4 (1) pp. 39-56.


    1. Sharpe, R. and Armellini, A. (2019). Designing for learning within an institutional context. In: Beetham, H. and Sharpe, R. (eds.) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age, 3rd edition, 134-148. New York and Abingdon: Taylor & Francis.
    2. Maxwell, R. (2019). Teaching Intelligence: How to teach students about academic integrity. Times Higher Education [online]. 6 June 2019.
    3. Ashoka U. (2019). Using Learning Outcomes for Institutional Transformation. In Ashoka U (ed.) Preparing Students for a Rapidly Changing World: Learning Outcomes for Social Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship and Changemaker Education. 1st edition. United States of America: Ashoka U, pp. 71-76 (based on a case study provided by Maxwell, R).
    4. Deane, K., Van Waeyenberge, E. and Maxwell, R. (2019). Recharting the history of economic thought: approaches to and student experiences of the introduction of pluralist teaching in an undergraduate economics curriculum. International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education (2019) Vol. 10 No. 2 pp. 137-154.
    5. Maxwell, R and Armellini, A (2019). Identity, employability and entrepreneurship: the ChANGE framework of graduate attributes. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning. Vol 9, No. 1, pp. 76-91.


  1. Armellini, A (2018). Large-scale pedagogic transformation at the University of Northampton. CCEG Social Values and Intangibles Review. May: 22-23. ISSN 2398-3957
  2. Armellini, A (2018). Active Blended Learning. Transforming learning and teaching at the University of Northampton. Sero Consulting & Jisc.


  1. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. and Armellini, A. (2017). Developing self-efficacy through a massive open online course on study skills. Open Praxis 9(3). 2304-070X.
  2. Manca, S., Grion, V., Armellini, A. and Devecchi, C. (2017). Editorial: Student voice. Listening to students to improve education through digital technologies. British Journal of Educational Technology. 48(5), pp. 1075–1080.
  3. Armellini, A. and Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. (2017). El prácticum en la experiencia estudiantil en la Universidad de Northampton, Reino Unido. In: Recursos Para un Prácticum de Calidad. Spain: POIO. pp. 25-34. [in Spanish].


  1. Armellini, A. and Padilla, B.C. (2016). Are MOOCs pedagogically innovative? Journal of Interactive Online Learning 14(1). 1541-4914.


  1. Alden Rivers, B., Armellini, A. and Nie, M. (2015). Embedding social innovation and social impact across the disciplines: identifying “Changemaker” attributes. Higher Education Skills and Work-Based Learning. 5(3), pp. 242-257. 2042-3896.
  2. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. and Armellini, A. (2015). Expanding the interaction equivalency theorem. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 16(3), pp. 298-317. 1492-3831.
  3. Alden Rivers, B., Armellini, A., Maxwell, R., Allen, S. and Durkin, C. (2015). Social innovation education: towards a framework for learning design. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning. 5(4), pp. 383-400. 2042-3896.
  4. Armellini, A. and De Stefani, M. (2015). Social presence in the 21st Century: an adjustment to the Community of Inquiry framework. British Journal Of Educational Technology.  47(6), 1202-1216. 1467-8535.
  5. Alden Rivers, B., Nie, M. and Armellini, A. (2015). University teachers’ conceptions of ‘Changemaker’: a starting point for embedding social innovation in learning and teaching. Education + Training. 57(5), pp. 588-600. 0040-0912.


  1. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. and Armellini, A. (2014). Applying the interaction equivalency theorem to online courses in a large organization. Journal of Interactive Online Learning. 13(2), pp. 51-66. 1541-4914.
  2. Armellini, A., Howe, R. and Coulson, K. V. (2014). Effective online collaboration and academic skills within a transferable quality framework in Higher Education.Workshop presented to: Online Educa – 20th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning and Training, Berlin, Germany, 03-05 December 2014.
  3. Alden Rivers, B., Armellini, A., Howe, R., Simmons, M., Hendrix, M., Maxwell, R.and Harris, J. (2014). GAMEchanger: a game jam for social innovation education. In: Alden Rivers, B. and Smith, J. (eds.) Changemaker in the Curriculum: The University of Northampton: Case Studies 2013-2014. Northampton: The University of Northampton. pp. 33-34.
  4. Coulson, K. V., Armellini, A. and Farmer, R. (2014). MOOC and SPOC: a tale of two courses. Workshop presented to: altc2014 Riding Giants: How to Innovate and Educate Ahead of the Wave: The 21st Annual Conference of the Association for Learning Technology, Warwick University, 01-03 September 2014.
  5. Alden Rivers, B., Nie, M. and Armellini, A. (2014). University teachers’ conceptions of “Changemaker”: a starting point for embedding social innovation in learning and teaching.Paper presented to: 6th International Social Innovation Research Conference 2014, The University of Northampton, 01-03 September 2014.


  1. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C., Armellini, A. and Hawkridge, D. (2013). In-company online training: strategic and operational lessons. Progressio: South African Journal for Open and Distance Learning Practice. 35(2), pp. 193-208. 0256-8853.
  2. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. and Armellini, A. (2013) Interaction and effectiveness of corporate e-learning programmes. Human Resource Development International. 16(4), pp. 480-489. 1367-8868.
  3. Armellini, A. and Nie, M. (2013). Open educational practices for curriculum enhancement. Open Learning.28(1), pp. 7-20. 0268-0513.
  4. Armellini, A. and Nie, M. (2013). Open educational practices for curriculum enhancement. Research into Higher Education Abstracts. 47(1), p. 20. 0034-5326.
  5. Padilla Rodriguez, B. C. and Armellini, A. (2013). Student engagement with a content-based learning design. Research in Learning Technology. 21, pp. 127-136. 2156-7069.