Inquiry based Learning Design and Literary Studies (CILASS)

General curriculum issues, Inquiry-based learning, Linking teaching & Research


This project aims to foster inquiry-based learning (IBL) in literary studies by developing a practicable methodology for module design and delivery.  We believe that a student-generated curriculum centred upon ‘research-led learning’ will facilitate IBL in a subject that has traditionally valued independent inquiry as an end product, but has not systemically embedded IBL strategies into its learning environments.  Our project will build upon the assessment gold standard of ‘independent research’ by designing a module that, through its delivery, requires students to develop and practise their inquiry skills. The module will enable students to participate in the co-creation of knowledge, contribute to module content, select primary texts, compile bibliographic materials, identify research questions, and determine their own themes, topics, and assessment activities. Thus this project aims to promote a collaborative and community-valued approach to learning that will facilitate the acquisition of research skills in conjunction with specialist subject knowledge.


  • To design and develop a Level 2 IBL option module, suitable for semester two of a student’s second year, for Faculty ratification. This module will bridge existing modules and the Level 3 dissertation, aligning the acquisition of key skills (such as information literacy and bibliographic research) with the development of subject knowledge via a student-generated curriculum.
  • To design and trial exemplar blended-learning activities for use within the module. These would include activities such as collaborative research tasks, source evaluation exercises, and poster tours, which could be delivered and disseminated in both classroom and online environments. The activities created will be scalable (suitable for appropriation across levels and environments) and reusable (adaptable to subject-specific needs). In this way, these exemplars will promote the principles and applications of IBL more broadly within the subject.
  • To organise and run a one-day conference and workshop activities, in order to promote IBL pedagogy across humanities subjects; this is intended to function as both a networking opportunity for the applicants, and a Continued Professional Development activity open to interested parties across the subject and related areas. Building upon the networks established through this event, and after the completion of the project, we will work towards the publication of a subject-specific edited collection on IBL pedagogic practice, Literary Communities of Inquiry.


This project is intended to inflect the principles of “research-led learning” in an IBL model. In order to achieve this aim, the project methodology will be predicated upon a cycle of research, design and development, and review and evaluation. Before designing the modules, we will undertake research and consultations to establish current IBL practices in the acquisition of skills and development of subject-specific knowledge:

  • We will conduct research into current IBL best practices in order to identify appropriate models for module design and activities. This will involve collaboration with the English Subject Centre and the CILASS team, both in virtual consultations and through the IBL event (to be arranged with support from the Centre for the Development of Staff and Academic Practice at Aberystwyth University).
  • During the design process, consultations will be conducted with both colleagues and students. Colleagues consulted will include members of the Department, Aberystwyth University’s information literacy team, members of the ESC, and relevant CILASS Learning Development and Research Associates. Students consulted will be drawn from the Staff-Student Consultative Committee and Postgraduate Affairs Committee. These consultations, alongside ongoing research and the IBL event, will inform the design, development, and future evaluations of the module.
  • Two of the central IBL learning activities will be trialled by student volunteers after their initial development. This will enable the applicants to assess the efficacy of such tasks in promoting IBL, and gauge the extent to which they are both pedagogically sound and of interest to students. (This activity will be submitted to Aberystwyth University’s Ethics Committee on Research Procedures for approval.)

Thus, colleague and student feedback will be sought at all stages and, in so doing, the project will identify drivers and barriers to the design and delivery of IBL activities. As such this project will be driven by the needs of the subject, as perceived by practitioners and students, and will both draw upon and augment existing communities of practice.

Project leaders

Will Slocombe and Louise Marshall
English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University