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University of Bath

OLD ChallengeCPD@Bath

Investigating the provision, uptake and impact of training and professional development opportunities for researchers in public engagement.

three people round  table taking part in a training session
Participants at a training session on public engagement

Training and continuous professional development (CPD) in public engagement is one of nine core strands of work to embed a positive culture of public engagement with research at universities. However, research has highlighted that these opportunities also act as a potential barrier to engagement through a perceived lack of availability or relevance of the training on offer (The State of Play: Public Engagement with Research in UK Universities).

ChallengeCPD@Bath (2017-2019) aimed to investigate the take-up and impact of training and CPD opportunities in public engagement and was was funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research call.

Our approach

Over the course of the two-year project, we critically examined our training and CPD for professional development for public engagement with research. We looked across the literature and assembled an Advisory Group of critical friends made up of academic staff from the University of Bath and beyond and providers of public engagement training.

Key learning from this work is available in Featherstone, H. and Owen D. (2018) Continuous Professional Development for Public Engagement. University of Bath

What we found out

Through our ChallengeCPD@Bath work we identified four key learning points about training and professional development for public engagement:

  • the issues associated with professional development for public engagement are not unique to public engagement training – there is a wider culture of resistance to formal professional development within universities which disadvantages CPD for public engagement

  • professional development is more than just training - people are less tuned into training opportunities in general and perhaps have a limited view of what counts as training as a result of the culture around CPD at universities. This means significant interventions may not be reported as ‘training’ in surveys such as Factors Affecting Public Engagement survey

  • it’s about the learner, not the intervention - we need to put the learner first in our training interventions through involvement in developing activities, assessing and surfacing their existing skills, knowledge and behaviours from other non-public engagement work, and evaluating the impact of the intervention on their broader professional development and career aspirations

  • learning can take time to be realised - evaluation of professional development should not primarily be about the intervention but about the benefits the learner has derived from the experience. We need to take a longer term approach to evaluating an intervention to fully understand the impact of those opportunities.

Impacts on our training and professional development offer

The insight form the project has helped the Public Engagement Unit reshape the way we think about professional development for public engagement. We applied this analysis to: improve the quality of provision, develop guidance and inform the development of new forms of training and CPD. This work has involved:

  • framing all our activities, from our Engage Grants to our one-to-one help/advice/guidance, more overtly as opportunities for researchers to learn about public engagement

  • developing an online learning tool, the Public Engagement Knowledge Hub (access for those external to the University of Bath available on email request)

  • creating case studies of researchers' public engagement learning journeys featuring key learning moments and interventions

  • developing self-assessment toolkits for public engagement

  • piloting co-produced training, funding five co-produced training programmes and co-producing with doctoral students a module on public engagement with research

  • producing workshops and guides for enablers of public engagement with research and external training providers. Download our Rough Guide: Running Training for Public Engagement

  • evaluating the value of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement's and University of Manchester's draft quality framework for public engagement. Download The Role and Value of Quality Frameworks for Public Engagement with Research Training report

  • sharing our findings with public engagement professionals from across the higher education sector through conference presentations and submitting a paper in the Research for All journal

ChallengeCPD@Bath blogs

Report from the Advisory Group Meeting

A Quickstart Guide to Guides and Toolkits for Continuous Professional Development