Student research projects: bridging academic learning and the wider student experience

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The dissertation is an optional year-long module for final-year undergraduates in the School of Economics at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It allows students to hone their skills and undertake an independent research project of their choosing. Debates within the economics discipline have promoted the need for pluralism in teaching approaches and content, with student-centred discovery based learning at its heart (Watson et al, 2014). Introduced in 2017, the module was designed to give students more agency in their learning, develop independent study and research skills and strengthen employability within the curriculum. The module exposes students to real-world problems and, coupled with the learning and assessment design, delivers an authentic experience for students that closes the gap between theory and practical application of skills (Herrington and Oliver, 2000).
The module is taken by approximately 40 students each year. The dissertation requires students to conduct a research project that demonstrates how real-world economics can be used to solve a ‘wicked problem’ for the benefit of society. Using the SOAR model (Kumar, 2015) students are encouraged to consider their personal interests, ambitions and motivations in the selection of their topic and are not restricted by traditional discipline boundaries.
The work can be an academic-style piece of research or a work-based project on behalf of an external organisation. Work-based learning can enhance the employability gains associated with project work through the development of entrepreneurial competencies (Gibson and Tavlaridis, 2018), and are highly valued by students, particularly when integrated into the course (Pitan, 2016).
The freedom in topic choice, combined with the emphasis placed on motivations, bridges the gap between academic learning and the student’s wider experience. Kumar defines bridging as making “integrative and congruent connections from one topic to another, and from HE to work and life beyond”
(2015, 9). By allowing students to incorporate interests, values and learning from outside their course, as well as their career ambitions, the module facilitates the bridging process and helps students to understand the application of their discipline knowledge to a wide range of possible career paths.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication3 Es for Wicked Problems: Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship: Solving Wicked Problems
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-9163593-4-5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022

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