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Collaborative Innovation Project

A multi-site evaluation of a research-informed teaching toolkit to balance students’ identities as learners and consumers

Collaborative Innovation Project 2023-24

Project Lead: Louise Taylor, NTF, Principal Lecturer Education and Student Experience, Oxford Brookes University. Katy Burgess, Senior Lecturer (Teaching Pathway), Cardiff University. Alison Torn, Associate Professor (Learning and Teaching), Leeds Trinity University. Allán Laville, NTF, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Reading University. Julie Hulme, NTF, Professor of Psychology Education, Nottingham Trent University. Fiona Shelton, NTF, Dean of Learning and Teaching, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Leeds Trinity University.

Supporting students’ natural motivation for learning, and enhancing their identities as members of disciplinary learning communities is critical for academic success (Taylor Bunce,Bennett, & Jones, 2022). Some academics and students, however, may feel that student motivation is undermined in marketised higher education contexts that have been said to encourage instrumental approaches to learning (King & Bunce, 2020). In this blog, we provide an outline and update of our research project running during this academic year, kindly funded by the Association of National Teaching Fellows (ANTF). The project aims to evaluate a teaching toolkit created by the first author and published by Advance HE, entitled Balancing Students’ identities as learners and consumers (Taylor, 2022).

The toolkit was developed from psychological research on identity change, and provides materials for educators to lead a 90-minute workshop with their students. In the workshop, students first assess the strength of their identities as learners and consumers by completing a questionnaire, then they learn about research on learner and consumer identities. Next, they engage in focused group discussions to enhance their understanding of the impacts of learner and consumer identities on their education, before finally engaging in an exercise to strengthen their sense of belonging as a student within their discipline.

Funding from the ANTF is enabling us, a group of higher education practitioners and leaders, to conduct a multi-site controlled trial of this toolkit to understand its impact. Earlier qualitative evidence from students and educators attested to its value for supporting student learning. However, in this trial, the focus is on collecting quantitative data to measure its impact on psychological identity change. The trial is currently taking place with students across 5 institutions in England and Wales, and we are aiming to recruit approximately 1000 students. We will be measuring the extent to which the workshop can 1) increase students’ identities as learners and members of their disciplines and 2) decrease students’ consumer identities, particularly among the subset of students who have strong consumer identity and weak learner identity. Half of the students will take part in the workshop, and half will act as a control group. The control group will still complete the same assessments as the experimental group, but will do so before and after a standard teaching session. They will still have the opportunity to participate in the workshop at a later date. We also plan to gather additional qualitative data from students who participate in the workshop about their discussions of what the attributes of successful learners are in their discipline.

The findings from the trial will enable us to understand more about our students’ identities and their impact on learning, as well as support future development of the toolkit to increase its effectiveness and dissemination. If you would like to find out more about using the toolkit in your own teaching contexts, or take part in the trial, please contact Louise Taylor for more information.


King, N., & Bunce, L. (2020) Academics’ perceptions of students’ motivation for learning and their own motivation for teaching in a marketized higher education context. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 790-808.

Taylor, L. (2022). Balancing students’ identities as learners and consumers: Advance HE toolkit. Available at 

Taylor Bunce, L.,Bennett, M., & Jones, S. E. (2022). The relation between discipline identity and academic achievement within a marketized higher education context: A serial mediation model of approaches to learning and course complaints. Frontiers in Psychology, 13:749436 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.749436

More information:

For more information, follow the project collaborators via X (Twitter): @L_Psychol @FeefeeShelts @JulieH_Psyc @DrALaville @DrKatyBurgess @AlisonTorn

Image: Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay