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IL136-15 Public Engagement: Connecting Communities to Research

Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning
Undergraduate Level 3
Module leader
Katherine Astbury
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

Public Engagement is about working with those outside academia to share research, collaborate on ideas and make knowledge accessible. Through the design, planning and delivery of your own public engagement activity you’ll build your communication, team working and project management skills. You’ll explore subjects like evaluation, digital engagement, effective storytelling and placemaking and come away with the confidence and skills to apply this learning to future research, and careers outside academia. This module will give you a theoretical and practical introduction to public engagement. You’ll come away with a strong knowledge of complex challenges involved, and the rewards it can bring to you, universities and society.

Module web page

Module aims

This interdisciplinary module aims to give you both a theoretical and practical introduction to public engagement so that you can better understand the complex challenges involved in sharing research with a non HEI audience. To achieve this, the module will:

  • Introduce you to the concept of good PE from the perspective of several disciplines
  • Develop your understanding of interdisciplinary theories and issues related to PE
  • Enable you to discover, research, and experiment with different methods of PE, and in particular their effectiveness with different communities.
  • Contribute to a culture of PE across the university
  • Help you better articulate the relevance of your own subject area to society, and identify to which parts of society your subject area has most relevance
  • Allow you to explore how to measure good engagement
  • Engage you with innovative and active learning. You will design and deliver a PE activity and reflect upon the activity using the theory of change model being used by Coventry City of Culture
  • It will facilitate student-led events that will be mutually beneficial to you and the communities/demographics/sites you engage with.
Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

The module will consist of 10 two-hour sessions, for up to twenty students, from across the University’s departments. Each session will include a lecture and seminar to heighten student engagement and understanding of the week’s topic. The module leaders will attend all sessions to integrate and stimulate the interdisciplinary learning.

The core design is that each week there will be interactive lectures and/or workshops led by a subject specialist, followed by a seminar discussion or practical workshop to further enhance critical and reflexive engagement and to stimulate creative imagination leading to a student-led activity at a PE event and reflective essay.

There will be an additional two hours of project supervision per student with the module tutor(s) devoted to supporting students in devising their PE activity. This activity will be part of a wider event organised by the Public Engagement team.

Weekly topics:

Week 1 – Introducing Public Engagement

Week 2 – Examining what public engagement means in different contexts

Week 3 – Digital engagement techniques

Week 4: Evaluation theory and practice

Week 5 – Oral presentation skills

Week 6 – Planning a PE session for a particular audience

During weeks 5/6 students will be invited to meet course tutors to discuss plans and budgets etc. for their planned PE activity ahead of their oral presentations in week 7

Week 7 – assessed oral presentations

Week 8 – Engaging with museums and galleries and story telling

Week 9 – Public Engagement for Co-production of Research

Week 10 – Shared week between Public Engagement and Coventry modules

  • Students will take part in a panel discussion considering Public Engagement and Placemaking. As this week is shared between the Public Engagement and Coventry modules, students will share knowledge and learn from their peers' experiences across modules.

Panellists will include representation from:

  • Public Engagement

  • City of Culture Monitoring & Evaluation

  • Community Engagement

  • Researchers engaged in research and Public Engagement projects in Coventry

Post module: Meet with tutor to finalise Public Engagement activity

Final event, February 2021.
Final blog target set – Reflecting on the experience of running a public engagement event
The final event and reflective piece have been set for early in term 2 in order to allow for students to apply their learning from this module to the delivery of the event, whilst ensuring they have enough time to prepare for the event alongside other exams etc.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Develop a systematic theoretical and practical understanding of public engagement as seen through various thematic lenses.
  • Demonstrate a deep and thorough understanding of the importance of evaluation and the different methodologies available for this.
  • Produce blogs that demonstrate an ability to effectively communicate about a research topic to a lay audience
  • Critically evaluate and reflect upon their own experience of running a public engagement event and propose ways of self-improvement.
  • Demonstrates a systematic understanding of, and the ability to synthesise ideas from, a range of disciplinary perspectives, with regard to the relationship between the arts, social sciences and sciences in the field of public engagement.
  • Prepare relevant questions and successfully engage in personal and collaborative endeavours to respond professionally (i.e. use of texts, films, different primary and secondary sources, material provided during the academic lectures and the group activities), developing and synthesising inter- and trans-disciplinary ideas.
Indicative reading list

Illustrative reading material


Resources section of the National Co-ordinating centre for public engagement

Open Access Journal – Research For All,

Week 1 and 2 (overview to PE)

  • Hart, Angie; Northmore, Simon, Auditing and Evaluating University-Community Engagement: Lessons from a UK Case Study, Higher Education Quarterly. Jan2011, Vol. 65 Issue 1, p34-58.

  • Education outreach and public engagement / Erin L. Dolan (2008)

  • Deliberative Public Engagement with Science / PytlikZillig (2018)

  • Varner, Johanna, ‘Scientific Outreach : Toward Effective Public Engagement with Biological Science’, BioScience. 64(4) (2014):333-340

  • Langdridge, Darren;Gabb, Jacqui;Lawson, Jamie, ‘Art as a pathway to impact: Understanding the affective experience of public engagement with film’. Sociological Review; May2019, Vol. 67 Issue 3, p585-601,

  • Cerrato, S., Daelli, V., Pertot, H. and Puccioni, O. (2018) ‘The public engaged scientists: Motivations, enablers and barriers’. Research for All, 2 (2): 313–322. DOI

Week 3 (Digital engagement and blog writing)

Week 4 (evaluation)

  • Dubow & Litzler, ‘The Development and Use of a Theory of Change to Align Programs and Evaluation in a Complex, National Initiative’, American Journal of Evaluation, 40 (2019), 231-48


Week 5 – Oral presentations

Week 6 – Understanding audiences

Week 8 – Working with museums and galleries

Week 9 – Co-production with communities

  • Boyask, Ruth and Vigurs, Katy, ‘Developing a Methodology for Public Engagement with Critical Research’, Policy Futures in Education, v16 n2 p217-231 Feb 2018.

  • McLaughlin, James A., et al, ‘Impact arising from sustained public engagement: A measured increase in learning outcomes’, Research for All (2018), 2(2), 244-56

  • Brown, M. and Ward, P. (2019) ‘Communities, universities and ethnicity: A conversation from Imagine: Connecting Communities Through Research’. Research for All, 3 (1): 91–104. DOI

Week 10 – Future of public engagement

  • Irwin et al, ‘The good, the bad and the perfect: Criticizing engagement practice’, Social Studies of Science (Sage Publications, Ltd.). Feb2013, Vol. 43 Issue 1, p118-135.
Research element

In line with the University’s Research and Education Strategies, this interdisciplinary module aims to provide students with the skills and confidence to engage communities with their research and maximise their impact on society. It will encourage community-minded thinking about research and upskill today’s students to be able to effectively identify societal needs and challenges. Students will be empowered to see how research can address these challenges, and to understand the value of open communication with a variety of audiences and the skills required for this.


Students will consider public engagement through multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives. The three module leaders (from School of Modern Languages and Culture, Classics and Public Engagement) will attend all sessions to integrate and stimulate the interdisciplinary learning, and each week interactive lectures and/or workshops will be led by a subject specialist,

Subject specific skills

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  1. Appreciate the value of adopting interdisciplinary approaches and research methods for understanding global topics such as engaging publics in research.

  2. Understand how applying public engagement practice to their own research may shape the direction the research takes and improve their projects.

  3. Comprehend how to utilise the communicative and collaborative skills used in the module in their professional life.

  4. Comprehend how society can benefit from ongoing efforts to include diverse audiences in the future of research.

  5. Develop their transferable skills (i.e. impactful multimodal communication, project management, work with specialist and non-specialist participants) that will support future endeavours in the workplace.

  6. Demonstrate the ability to critically reflect on the personal development of their skills and experiences throughout this module.

Transferable skills
  • Understand how to apply public engagement practice to future research
  • Use oral and written communication skills acquired in the module in their professional life
  • Comprehend how society can benefit from ongoing efforts to include diverse audiences in the future of research
  • Understand how to apply skills acquired on the module (e.g. impactful multimodal communication, project management, working with a specialist and non-specialist participants) to support future endeavours in the workplace.
  • Use resources in a transdisciplinary manner to comprehend and communicate concepts and ideas to the public.

Teaching split

Provider Weighting
School of Modern Languages and Cultures 100%
Physics 0%

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 10 sessions of 1 hour (7%)
Seminars 10 sessions of 1 hour (7%)
Tutorials 2 sessions of 1 hour (1%)
Other activity 4 hours (3%)
Private study 24 hours (16%)
Assessment 100 hours (67%)
Total 150 hours
Private study description

Assessment preparation and production
Reading and reviewing course materials
Individual and group work
Seminar preparations
Research and reflection

Other activity description

In addition to the timetabled teaching activities listed above, each student will be running a PE activity at a centrally-organised University event, totalling an additional 4 hours. This event will take place after the end of term.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A
Weighting Study time
Assessed video presentation 25% 25 hours

Develop a 3 minute video engaging us with a topic of your choosing. This can be the same topic as you choose for your blog, and your blog can reference this video (amongst other work) if you choose.

4 x Blog 50% 50 hours

1 formative, 3 summative to be submitted at the end of the course (however targets for when the blogs should be submitted will be spaced regularly throughout the course).
Series of blogs on:

  • What is public engagement and why does it matter (formative only)
  • The role of public engagement in place making
  • Subject of their own choosing (which should demonstrate their ability to communicate about a research topic to a lay audience in a written format)
  • Reflections on the experience of running a public engagement event
Deliver a virtual public engagement activity 25% 25 hours

Working in small groups you will write, produce, and technically manage a 30 minute show to be streamed to a live audience. Not every student will have to perform, but every student will need to demonstrate their role in either back end production, delivering a talk or demonstration, or acting as an MC (host).

Feedback on assessment

Formative feedback will be given:

a) as part of tutor-responses in class;

b) in discussion with students in project supervision meetings about their progress to-date;

Detailed written summative feedback will be provided by module tutors to individual students for each element of assessed work.


This module is Optional for:

  • Year 4 of UFIA-QW26 Undergraduate Film and Literature (with Study Abroad)