NEW! CaST Pilot Synthesis now available

The third intellectual output of the Erasmus+ project CaST- Communities and Students Together is now available: the CaST Pilot Synthesis “Communities and Students Together (CaST). Piloting New Approaches to Engaged Learning in Europe”, coordinated by the University of Exeter (UK)

The present Pilot Project Synthesis describes the practical element of the CaST project – the design and delivery of a pilot project in each partner institution. Engaged Learning enables students to apply theory to a context outside of the University by addressing societal concerns, challenges or needs, while producing knowledge in an equitable, mutually beneficial partnership. Through participating in Engaged Learning, students develop selfefficacy and enhance their employability, while local communities benefit from the skills and knowledge of a supervised student researcher.

Building on the previous two outputs and armed with a deeper understanding of the landscape in each establishment, successful Engaged Learning elements were incorporated into a series of innovative programmes in each partner university which enable or support community-based
Engaged Learning. Each partner set about the process in a different way, and the outputs are therefore varied in design, intent, and content.

This synthesis document describes each initiative, considering the practicalities and challenges of design and delivery, as well as the
potential for long-term sustainability.

The CaST project, supported by the EU’s ERASMUS + Programme, includes partners in six European countries: Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Each of the CaST members presents an initiative:

Belgium - Ghent University: An Introduction to Engaged Learning for PhD Students. A series of seminars was created in partnership with the UGent Doctoral Schools, to teach and inspire early career researchers how to create an Engaged Learning initiative. The intention was to create a sustainable multidisciplinary network of educators and community partners who have both the theoretical and practical knowledge to establish their own Engaged Learning initiatives.

Finland - University of Turku: Practice-Orientated Course on Housing Estates.   “Housing Estates in the 2020s” was a practice-orientated urban studies course arranged in autumn 2021. Students learned how housing estates emerged as part of urbanisation, how their development has been  studied, what kinds of reforms have taken place, and about the advantages and challenges of these neighbourhoods in the 2020s. The course structure
combined lectures, excursions, group work, guidance and supporting workshops.Eighteen students completed the course, benefitting from their experiences in practice-orientated multi-disciplinary group work which was carried out in collaboration with practitioners. The results of the group
work were presented back to stakeholders in a final seminar, who reported that this was more useful than receiving a written report. 

Germany -Otto-vonGuericke-University in Magdeburg: Theoplan - “Nothing is as practical as a good theory.” An online seminar for teacher training students developed at , with a focus on social studies. The aim was to develop and implement a digital simulation game with and for pupils. The students managed to set up and implement a rudimentary simulation game on the topic of “Conflicts about ideas of justice in society using the example of care in the COVID19 pandemic” at the end of the semester. The challenges faced by the seminar could be used as a learning opportunity through self-critical reflection on the causes in order to better set up similar seminar projects in the future. 

Italy - University of Parma: International Politics (Study Course). The University of Parma redesigned the International Politics course of the Masters in European and International Relations, to incorporate an Engaged Learning element. The pilot aimed to increase connections between university students and local stakeholders working on international issues, and to increase the knowledge acquired by students to a) inform the public about international political dynamics, and b) raise awareness of the work carried out by local non-governmental organisations in conflict zones.
Both the course content and teaching methods were updated. A greater focus was given to issues rather than theory providing students with the opportunity to think, share ideas and discuss how to make academic concepts accessible for ordinary citizens. 

Spain - University of Málaga: Multiple Directions for Engaged Learning. The University of Málaga’s team developed three project-based learning initiatives which aimed to better prepare students for the workplace as they searched for answers to real-world problems. Two initiatives were centred in the education faculty where students were completing their teacher training qualification: at the primary school level, students engaged with cultural heritage in the city, while at the postgraduate level, students worked with local schools and their families to foster inclusion. The third initiative took place in the Bioinformatics degree programme, where communication strategies were coupled with Engaged Learning workshops in a two-year project in
which students produced apps designed to benefit their target stakeholders.

United Kingdom - University of Exeter: Hidden Exeter, Students as Teachers and Kinder Exeter. In Exeter, three initiatives were developed which were chosen via a competitive process that sought innovative Engaged Learning initiatives. Hidden Exeter partnered with Exeter’s oldest building, St Nicholas Priory, and offered an innovative skills-based learning opportunity for students, while creating a valuable new geo-located walking trail for the Priory. Students as Teachers was a collaboration between the University of Exeter’s Language department and Rokeby Secondary School in East London and tested an innovative bi-directional method of teaching and learning multilingualism. Finally, "Kinder Exeter: Compassion Through Play" was a week-long festival of activities and events in which promoted compassion and well-being through acts of collaborative play.

The ten pilot projects presented here demonstrate that while there are clear benefits to taking an engaged approach to learning for both students and community partners.  Success depends upon strong, mutually beneficial relationships, with all partners involved in developing the aims of the initiative and with the expectations of all project partners being explicitly defined from the outset.


CaST Pilot Synthesis “Communities and Students Together (CaST). Piloting New Approaches to Engaged Learning in Europe”

Also available from the "Download" section of the CaST website.

In the "News!" section the "CaST -Piloting New Approaches to Engaged Learning in Europe -Summary in all languages is also available.

The CaST Project is funded with the support of the European Union's ERASMUS+ Programme. All views expressed are those of the authors and not of the European Commission.