Live brief projects in higher education: a contextualized examination of student and staff perceptions of experiential learning

  • Rebecca Rochon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


In a context that privileges the development of cognitive measurement, the aim of this research is to examine students’ and staff perceptions of an experiential project in higher education in conjunction with intended learning outcomes. Supported by staff, undergraduate students involved in the research worked in cross-disciplinary groups on a live brief, where an agreed outcome was produced for an external client. An interpretivist qualitative methodology brought together data from two sources: module descriptors and twelve focus groups involving 47 student and staff participants who had taken part in the experiential live brief project. Module learning outcomes were analysed in terms of their alignment with domains from two different taxonomies: Anderson’s Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing(Anderson et al., 2001), also known as ‘Bloom’s’, and an alternative taxonomy, Atkinson’s Taxonomy Circles(Atkinson, 2013). Focus group transcripts were analysed using Contextual Text Coding (CTC). Juxtaposed, the results of analysis suggest a discrepancy between intended module learning outcomes and students’ and staff perceptions of value and learning. The affective domain is not represented in any of the intended learning outcomes, yet the analysis of the focus groups indicates that this is the greatest area of reported learning. As well as showing changes to values and attitudes, students and staff reported that they appreciated the authenticity of experiential learning to develop students’ soft skills, including teamwork. The unique contribution of the thesis is the juxtaposition of the perceptions of students and staff who have taken part in an experiential learning experience with intended learning outcomes. In doing so, the research has highlighted the shortcomings of traditionally formed learning outcomes in capturing learning that fits contemporary expectations of students’ development through higher education study. Findings support existing literature that experiential learning using live briefs, carefully implemented, affords rich opportunities for learning that students and staff see as valuable. Importantly, too, the development of a wider range of learning and skills aligns with the sector’s priorities if not the systems that underpin them. The type of learning and unpredictable nature of live briefs should also be considered in a sector where systems favour cognitive learning and metrics are important. Furthermore, the comprehensive consideration of core theory facilitated through the literature review, namely Bloom's Taxonomy as it is understood through the work of Anderson et al.(2001) as a model to plan and design learning is shown to limit opportunities for learning that extends beyond the cognitive domain. This examination grounds the observations of other researchers who have noted shortcomings of Anderson et al.’s (2001) work.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Buckinghamshire New University
SupervisorKeiran Henderson (Supervisor) & Maurice Gledhill (Supervisor)

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