Phenomenon-Based Learning

About this project

SCoLPP have been commissioned by QAA to explore the potential of Phenomenon Based Learning in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education for All). 

Partnering with Harper Adams, the project is facilitating Stop the Clock workshops with student participants. The workshops incorporate micro Phenomenon-Based Learning (PhBL) experiences following which the students draw together their responses to critical questions that bring in aspects of pedagogic design, student engagement, and student experiences.

Through this process, the project will curate a “toolkit” for embedding PhBL into higher education curricula.

We are beginning to draw together learning about practicalities of this approach, dynamics between and within disciplines, resources required for PhBL to flourish and observations about learning spaces.

To ensure that we have an informed perspective on the nature of PhBL at Staffordshire, and representative of the student journey, we plan to establish a parallel series of Stop the Clock workshops with colleagues (both academic and professional services) to capture the educator voice to sit alongside the student perspective.

Project activity

What are we learning about PhBL

  • Whose content is it anyway – there are changing roles of learner and facilitator, where ownership of knowledge and enquiry wouldn’t be with the course team or department but with the group of students interrogating the phenomena
  • Keeping the baby in the bathwater – PhBL is not about sacrificing core or essential learning of course but rather complimenting traditional approaches. For example, phenomenon-based learning experiences would coalesce with lectures, workshops, seminars, and/or online learning. Introducing a PhBL approach would provide a platform where the students can apply and ‘play out’ learning from the traditional methods. It may be that locating these traditional methods alongside a phenomenon would give the learning a reason to stick
  • Knowing me, knowing you – Discipline identity is not diluted by working cross-discipline; in fact we think that taking a PhBL approach may reinforce discipline identity by supporting learners to proffer where a discipline’s expertise helps shape understanding or explain a phenomenon
  • One step at a time – PhBL isn’t a pre-formed curriculum. Instead, student-led outputs would be used to form the next workshop. In practice, this means that the facilitator would have an endpoint, but the anchor points would be negotiated according to student needs. This would be a challenge to the traditional linear model and facilitators may need to rethink rigid course structures of how and when core discipline elements are introduced.

Lead researcher

Dr Kate Cuthbert

Pedagogic Proj Dev Man Ass Prof

I am a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with significant experience in curriculum design and innovative pedagogies. I am passionate about sharing knowledge in learning and teaching and contributing to the National Teaching Repository.

Kate's profile


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