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Complete the online Incubator Project Grant 2023-2024 Application Form.

Incubator Project Grants

Incubator Project Grants

Incubator Project Grants are funds to support education pedagogic innovation and are for academics and professional service staff at the University of Exeter who want to test ideas, explore, and transform their teaching and learning practice, as well as improve student engagement and the learning experience. 

Our Incubator Project Grants are awards of up to £5000 with the expectation of the project to be delivered over six-months starting September 2023.  


Each year the Education Incubator identifies themes under which projects should align their application. The themes for 2023-2024 are: 

This theme invites projects that seek to explore how to embrace Generative AI within teaching and learning at the University of Exeter. 

We invite applications for projects that explore how generative AI tools can positively support teaching, learning and assessment, and develop our students’ skills and outcomes for a future AI orientated workplace. We also invite projects that challenge the inherent biases and ethical issues in the development and use of generative AI, and that seek to explore, foster and make an impact on inclusion and diversity.   

Projects should involve meaningful opportunities for students to participate in innovative activities at every stage of the project. 


Network Mentors:

Professor Barrie Cooper and Dr Judith Kleine-Staarman.

This theme invites projects from educators seeking to innovate their assessment practices. 

Over the past two years the University has undertaken a number of large-scale projects related to assessment. These include but are not limited to; Assessment Reimagined, the NSS Assessment and Feedback Project, the impact of generative AI on assessment and the launch of the new assessment platform and ELE2. 

In response to these developments, we invite applications for projects that explore innovative assessment practices that address inclusive and adaptive assessment, authentic and creative assessment, and generative AI resistant assessment. 

Innovations can include designing for accessibility and inclusion, building in a variety of, and creative ways to assess or provide feedbackand exploring programme level assessment. 

The aim of this theme is to support educators to consider how to make our assessments inclusive, authentic and engaging for our students. 


Network Mentor:

Dr Lisa Alberici.

This theme invites projects that consider learning with others beyond the University in our local area 

We invite applications that explore teaching and learning activities and innovations that build social, educational, organisational and community connections outside of the context of the university, where students can extend and deepen their university learning, and support our learners’ agency to create change.  

Projects will have a focus on themes such as social justice and equalityeducational transitions, workplace skills and environmental change. 

Projects should involve meaningful opportunities for students to co-produce and participate in innovative activities at every stage of the project.  


Network Mentor

Professor Sue Prince.

Introducing our Education Incubator Project Fellows 2023-2024.

Demystifying Proof-writing in a Formal Language: Using AI To Help Students Understand Natural Language and Formal Proofs Using Lean, A Specialist Mathematical Proof Package 

We intend to establish a coding club around proof and use of the formal proof verifier, Lean. There will be a particular focus on identifying effective use of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT to support students’ understanding of proof.  

There are a range of possible ways in which such AI tools can help, including:  

  • Helping to conceptualise, formulate and implement strategies for tackling proof problems;  
  • Providing feedback on proofs, including identifying errors; 
  • Explaining proofs line-by-line where students struggle to understand what is happening; 
  • Helping students translate proofs into formal code and vice versa; 
  • Helping to debug code;  
  • Explaining code in natural language to demystify its structure and syntax. 

We wish to evaluate these various uses, identify others, and ultimately measure how students’ confidence and aptitude with natural language and formal proof-writing changes as they use generative AI to support their learning. 


Changing the Code: Using AI to Understand English 

Dr Joseph CrawfordProfessor Jason Hall and Dr Niall Allsopp. 

‘Changing the Code: Using AI to Understand English’ is a project headed by Dr Joseph Crawford, Professor Jason Hall, and Dr Niall Allsopp. This project will teach first-year students of English and Creative Writing how to use the skills taught on their degree to recognize, analyse, manipulate, and critique the textual outputs of AI-driven Large Language Models, employing the tools of literary criticism to identify the capabilities and limitations of AI-generated texts, and the tools of creative writing to carry out creative prompt engineering using context, narrative, and characterization. We aim to demonstrate that such disciplines are more, not less, relevant in a world where generative AI technologies proliferate, and the pilot carried out in this project will provide a foundation for developing AI practices across the department and beyond.  

In line with the Russell Group principles of equipping students to use AI tools ethically and effectively, we aim to go beyond a merely ‘defensive’ response focused on explaining to students why they shouldn’t ask ChatGPT to write their essays. We will instead work with students to explore where AI might usefully help them and how to solicit helpful outputs from LLMs, but also to learn to become effective critical readers of AI-generated content. Through this work we aim to highlight the value of studying English and Creative Writing in an age of AI-driven text generation, and the reasons why creativity and critical interpretation remain intellectually and ethically vital in an age of machine-generated text. 


Rethinking Historical Skills Assessment with LLMs  

In recent decades, assessment practices for historical modules at university level have diversified significantly, with the aim of assessing key subject-specific and transferable skills in critical analysis and interpretation, whereas traditional unseen exams primarily tested (and hence rewarded) short-term recall of information. The advent of Large Language Models like ChatGPT threatens every aspect of historical assessment. Given suitable prompts, they can generate coherent, well-written and relevant text, complete with quotations and references, that appears to meet assessment criteria at a level well above a pass. On closer inspection, the arguments offered tend to be superficial and tendentious, if not fictional, but identifying this takes time, and requires considerable knowledge and expertise. Any return to in-person exams as a means of AI-proofing, however, would prioritise short-term factual recall over actual skills. 

The aim of this project is to explore alternative approaches to assessment that prioritise historical skills, particularly those of critical evaluation, interpretation and argument, which either eliminate scope for using LLMs or incorporate them into the learning process. We will explore how history students experience skills development and assessment (including the reasons why they might turn to LLMs), as well as staff concerns around assessment in these new circumstances, in order to develop staff guidance and pilot new approaches to the assessment of key skills. 

The project is being led by Neville Morley, Professor of Classics & Ancient History, who has a long-standing interest in innovative approaches to assessment. 

Co-designing Numeracy Assessment to Tackle Numbers/Maths Anxiety: More Authentic Approach to Numeracy Skills for Medical Scientists and Neuroscientists 

A well-documented challenge in teaching numeracy skills (including statistics) is numbers/maths anxiety: the feeling of discomfort and helplessness that students experience when facing numerical tasks. However, the teaching of numeracy is not "just" about numbers: it also includes many non-numerical skills, such as the ability to interpret figures, design experiments, and combat societal bias.  

Our group wants to critically revise our numeracy assessments to reduce the impact of math anxiety on our students, and to include a wider range of non-numerical skills. And, we want to do this in collaboration with our students! Over the six months of the project, we will engage with the students taking our modules to understand (a) what barriers they face when learning statistics and numeracy/maths, and (b) how we can reduce those barriers. This way, we can co-develop a better teaching/assessment strategy for future years. 

Dr Andrea Giachino is a microbiologist by training, and a biostatistician by choice. He joined the university in Summer 2023, and teaches statistics in the Medical Sciences course. 

Dr Federico Palmisani is a speech therapist, psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. He joined the university in 2022, and is the module lead for Coding for Medical Scientists, and Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience. 

Dr Maisha Reza is a department director for EDI, and the module lead for the core module Experimental Design and Statistics. She is an advocate for stupend participation in decision making, and she works tirelessly for making our university environment more inclusive, equitable and just. 


Designing Authentic Case Study-based Assessments for Engagement and Robustness – New Ideas and Approaches 

This project aims to help faculty and students make better informed choices about cases based on the case’s capacity to engage and include and its robustness when used for assessment. The project will be led by Alex Janes, Katerina Karanika, Graham Perkins, and Chris Reedthomas, from the Business School, and will involve engaging students from a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate modules which focus on case studies in their teaching and assessment. Students will play a pivotal role in the project by developing criteria to measure how potentially engaging and inclusive different formats of case study are and testing the robustness of different forms of case-based assessment in the light of recent developments in the field, such as the growth in essay mills and generative AI applications.   

 The first phase of the project will involve recruiting a panel of students to act as Case Study Critics joining the team to review a range of cases used for formative and summative assessment and develop questionnaires for use with a wider range of students. The second phase of the project will use the results of the research to build further resources, such as audit tools and advice, which will allow module and programme teams to make informed decisions about their choice of case study and how it is used in the classroom for formative and summative assessments. 


Skills for Success for All 

We know from the rising numbers of student referrals for poor academic practice that many students feel ill-equipped to meet the requirements of academic writing assessments at the University of Exeter, and equally we know that there is significant impetus for more diverse assessment practices, not least due to the pressures on traditional assessment created by AI (Striepe et al. 2023)The Incubator Discovery project Building integrity and good academic practice in the context of cultural and social diversity identified the need to better scaffold and sequence how students learn the academic skills required for varied assessment forms, and the need to integrate skills teaching into programmes, but we have not yet explored the current practices at Exeter, nor identified the specific strengths, limitations and opportunities provided by different approaches. This project aims to: 

  1. identify the key skills required to support good academic practice across varied assessments 
  2. investigate how academic skills are embedded into core teaching modules on ELE 
  3. explore an approach academic skills development, identifying the assumptions and principles embedded, and reviewing strengths, limitations and possibilities for development.  

A cross-faculty team led by Annabel Watson (HASS) with input from Matthew Campbell (HLS) and Leila Dawney (ESE) will be exploring aims 1 and 2 across the university, while a student-led case study of a new Success for All module in the School of Education, will be supported by the department's education leaders Karen Walshe and Sharon Morgan. 

Creating Capacity and Enhancing Community-based Learning Via Curriculum Review and Innovative Learning Technology: Connecting Medical Students with GPs in Cornwall 

Hannah Partington, Dr Sham Agashi, Dr Tim Marwood, Dr Oli Prescott and Rebeka Oyler 

Community Partners: NHS GPs 

Using student-led research, this project aims to respond to the need to augment the existing excellent clinical placement activity in the BMBS programme, without placing a higher burden on the placement providers. 

There is a vicious cycle affecting doctors in the UK: unmanageable workloads lead to low workplace satisfaction creating high levels of burnout. UEMS is working to address recruitment shortfalls in the region by providing exceptional clinical placements, to an expanding number of students. However, to train more GPs, we need practising GPs to be able to input into the training of larger numbers of students, whilst also offering positive and inspirational experiences to inform career choices.  

A recent GMC publication identifies the development of ‘innovative learning environments’ as an essential component to providing high quality, protected learning time. 

Therefore, our project will ask: 

How might we develop the links and interactivity between classroom-based teaching and clinical placements to enhance the general practice and community facing elements of the medical programme? 

And aim to: 

  • Explore innovative ways to create extra clinical placement capacity with particular emphasis on the use of digital solutions. 
  • Develop the GP curriculum to better embed community-based practice and communication skills in challenging consultations. 
  • Improve quality of teaching and learning by developing a delivery model which provides greater equity, accountability, and reproducibility, whilst addressing specific aspects of the GMC Outcomes for Graduates.
  • Increase the likelihood that graduating medical students will consider General Practice as a career path.


Moving Beyond the Classroom: Understanding Medieval Manuscripts 

Community Partners: The Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives 

The project aims to enhance final year learning and experience by bringing 8 UGT students together to research and update catalogue descriptions of the manuscript holdings in Exeter Cathedral’s Library and ArchivesWorking with staff at Cathedral, colleagues from the departments of Archaeology and History and Modern Languages and Cultures will pilot an immersive approach for helping students to acquire the skills to study medieval manuscripts.   

Interpreting manuscripts is key to innovative research on medieval culture and history.   Moreover, the restricted number of surviving manuscripts makes it feasible for students to engage directly with the same materials as established scholarsBut decoding manuscripts requires a mastery of various technical skills, meaning this is an area of research training traditionally reserved to postgraduate level, restricting undergraduates’ opportunities to undertake their own research, with a knock-on impact on those undertaking further studyConsequently a skills gap is now opening up amongst the heritage professionals working in libraries and archives, who increasingly rely on outdated researchWe therefore require a new approach to training the next generation of researchers, one that includes engagement from (and gives back to) professionals who lack the time and advanced skills to update research on their holdings.  

Based in the cathedral library, the students will work together to draw up revised descriptions for the Cathedral’s catalogue and publicise them to the wider academic community, thus piloting a new approach to skills acquisition in this field and, at the same time, producing a resource for future researchers.   


Archiving the Anthropocene 

Professor Nicola Whyte, Dr Ruth Thurstan, Professor Freyja Cox Jensen, Russell Burden, Madeleine Munday (UG Student), Rachel Sathri (UG student), Niamh Broad (UG student) 

September 2023 will see the launch of the new BA in Environmental Humanities at the Cornwall Campus. The degree constitutes an urgent and radical shift away from mono-disciplinary cultures of teaching, programme development and marketing. This Educator Incubator project sets out to explore the pedagogical challenge confronting us: the co-creation of a shared, non-hierarchical space for students and staff where the climate and ecological emergency can be addressed from multiple disciplinary and creative perspectives. While scientific data and modelling provides the essential foundations to knowing about the environmental and climate emergency, further collaboration and engagement is urgently needed across the humanities and sciences to help facilitate better understanding and action. An essential starting point must be to ensure humanities and creative arts approaches are fully integrated and afforded equal value in confronting the multiplicities and complexities of the climate and environmental emergency.  

The ‘Archiving the Anthropocene’ project addresses these challenges by bringing students together with external partners Morrab Library and Hypatia Trust (Penzance), the National Maritime Museum (Falmouth), arts practitioners and humanities and science colleagues based at the university’s Cornwall and Streatham campuses. Taking ‘citizen science’ as our inspiration, we will develop a ‘citizen humanities’ approach to gathering and curating Anthropocene stories of non-human/human world-making. We will work to deliver a new environmental humanities module which will include a ‘living’ digital archive revealing the value of collaborative learning and inspiring new ways of thinking and acting in a time of climate and ecological crisis. 


Creative Toolkits for Clinical Contexts 

Dr Caitlin Kight, Marie Clancy, Professor Richard Kyle, Naome Glanville and Dr Anthony Wilson. 

Community Partners: Hospiscare & The NHS Trust 

The Creative Toolkits project aims to promote wellbeing in both education and healthcare contexts by equipping students, staff, and external partners with a range of creative techniques that can be used to support wellbeing.  

The work builds on a pilot study, funded by the, in which students and staff from the University collaborated with Hospiscare nurses to co-design a curriculum for teaching a variety of creative techniques that could be flexibly used in clinical and learning contexts. Participants unanimously praised face-to-face workshops but indicated that, because of scheduling restrictions, an online, asynchronous resource would be invaluable for disseminating this curriculum more widely. This is the goal of the current project, during which we will design, build, and beta-test a Creative Toolkits website that will be freely available to users worldwide.  

We will continue to work with partners at Hospiscare, along with new collaborators at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and in other local organisations where Exeter students undertake placements. The Creative Toolkits team is also seeking to share creative interventions and resources with additional educators and teams across the university, with the aim of embedding these approaches in our teaching and learning culture.  

Our team is interdisciplinary, comprising both academics and professional services staff with expertise in education, nursing, creative writing, visual arts, and more. We are keen to work with additional partners and deliver Creative Toolkits activities across the institution; please email with questions or comments. 


From Eco-Anxiety to Action: An innovative video resource for students and staff co-designed with Exeter Science Centre and Natural England  

Dr Katherine Ashbullby, Dr Julie Pepper, Professor Ian Fussell, Mr Jim Milnes, Dr Natalie Whitehead, Dr Alice Mills, Mr Simon Duffield, Dr James Hoggett, Becky Rowe and Elodie Campus. 

Community Partners: Exeter Science Centre and Natural England 

A growing body of research shows that an increasing number of university students are experiencing eco-anxiety. Yet students report they are rarely given space to deal with and discuss these feelings in educational settings. Whilst eco-anxiety is not a clinically recognised disorder and experts are keen for it not to be pathologized, it can cause significant distressTo develop innovative solutions to help tackle this problem and contribute to learning policy in this area our project entitled “From Eco-Anxiety to Action”  will enable students to work alongside lecturers and experts at Exeter Science Centre and Natural England, in addition to an infographic designer, to co-create a video resource that can (i) explain the concept of eco-anxiety from a psychological perspective and (ii) highlight actions from recent research that can be taken to reduce feelings of eco-anxiety.  A series of workshops will also be developed for staff and students.   The extent to which students find this video engaging will be measured through piloting this resource in several undergraduate modules.  

Dr Katherine Ashbullby is a Lecturer in psychology and leading this project with Dr Julie Pepper, a Senior lecturer in Management. Student interns on the project include Becky Rowe and Elodie Campus. Project advisors include Professor Ian Fussell and Mr Jim Milnes from Wellbeing Services. Our partners in the project include Dr Natalie Whitehead and Dr Alice Mills from Exeter Science Centre and Mr Simon Duffield and Mr James Hoggett from Natural England.