Project Blog

Learning from students about
diversity in the experience of
engagement with learning




Introducing the team …

Why do we need so many words to measure engagement?

If you were one of the students who took part in the online survey, you may have wondered why we needed so many words to describe your engagement with learning activities! Why so many words? The answer lies in seeing the subtle differences that are often hidden within a broad concept such as ‘engagement’. The…

When does inspiration for education research come in cake form?

“It’s all about being different” In the Great British Bake Off, contestant Lizzie created an amazing cake that celebrated difference and was inspired by her experience of ADHD and dyslexia. In describing the cake, she explained “it’s all about being different” – expressed through a different way of using colour, pattern, texture. Importantly, it makes…

Ways of thinking

For this project, we are taking a neurodiversity approach in which the ways of thinking associated with autism are explored as part of a naturally varying broader population. This means that we’re interested in a range of differences in the ways that students experience and think about their learning as well as the types of…

What does it mean to be an autistic student?

It’s common for students to explore an autism diagnosis whilst at university. This can be as a result of experiencing difficulties and being referred to university support services. Student can also become aware at university that their style of thinking and learning may align with the characteristics of autism without experiencing particular difficulties – by…

Frameworks for connecting neuroscience to education

‘engagement’, RDoC, and barriers to inclusion Based on a presentation to the Cambridge Neuroscience Journal Club in January 2021 What does neuroscience tell us about the experience of autism? There is a wealth of research and findings from the field of autism neuroscience, indicating differences associated with autism in a wide range of aspects of…

Why measure ‘engagement’?

This project aims to explore barriers to inclusion for autistic pupils, so why is it ‘engagement’ that’s being measured? Early work on the project explored barriers to inclusion more broadly (Bailey & Baker, 2020). The emerging priority was to address a lack of literature on positive aspects of educational experience – what makes educational provision…

What did the pilot study find?

TThe Self-Report Measure of Engagement with Learning Activities (MELA-SR) was initially developed and tested over the summer of 2020. We found that this multi-component low-inference, non-judgmental measure of engagement is feasible for use with online survey methods such as Qualtrics. Our new measure is quick, intuitive and sensitive to context and to individual differences. What…

Who are the researchers?

Who are the researchers behind this innovative study, taking a different approach to understanding difference? Developing a new measure of engagemnet with learning activities is the aim of the PhD project of Julie Bailey. Julie is a former secondary school teacher and head of sixth form who now supports students at the University of Cambridge…


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