CILASS: Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences

A Short History of CILASS

CILASS, the Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences, officially launches in October 2005 in the University of Sheffield´s Firth Hall, with guest speaker Professor Stephen Rowland. With the appointment of additional members of staff, work begins in earnest in early 2006, rolling out funding for projects in departments to facilitate them to build on existing excellence in inquiry-based learning (IBL). First projects funded include facilitation of online group research in the Caribbean (School of Education), giving students the chance to engage with literature on a variety of levels (School of English), and introducing IBL at intro-week stage (Human Communication Sciences).

The CILASS Student Ambassador Network begins in March 2006, with 10 student ambassadors initially, growing to 29 students plus a student co-ordinator by 2007, and maintaining that size until the end of CILASS in 2010. Student ambassadors work individually, in small groups, and as a whole network, preparing and running workshops, producing materials and films, feeding into departmental learning and teaching, planning and running an annual conference, and contributing to CILASS research.

The Theory of Change evaluation approach which had been adopted and further developed by CILASS with help from LeTS is found to be beneficial by project leaders, allowing them to guide their own evaluation with support from CILASS Learning Development and Research Associates. Over time, the approach gets adopted as the institutional approach to evaluation.

CILASS spaces grow and develop throughout the programme: In October 2006, CILASS Collaboratory 3 opens in Bartolomé House, ready for semester 1 teaching, showcasing flexible teaching space, wall-mounted screens, and a bank of networked laptops. Video conferencing facilities follow shortly after.

In April 2007, work completes on the Information Commons, and CILASS moves into its dedicated space on Level 1. Shortly after, the first of four annual staff-student conferences showcases the space to its best potential, including a presentation via Skype.

Research work is taking shape, with a long-term study on student perception of IBL, a JISC-funded project on Designing and Sharing IBL Activities, and ongoing research into the students as partners model, as well as several shorter-term projects, such as the Networked Learning study, which incorporates students as partners in its second year.

The first CILASS baby, Aoife McKinney, makes an appearance in May 2007, followed by Toby Little in November 2007, and Oran McKinney in July 2009.

In July 2007, CILASS submits its interim evaluation report to HEFCE.

In June 2008, CILASS hosts the Learning Through Enquiry Alliance conference, with the student ambassadors facilitating all sessions. The days prove to be a great success, with many opportunities to build new contacts and discuss IBL.

Work continues on project support, with CILASS funding a total of 75 subject strand topics, 38 individual IBL grants, three inter-departmental IBL grants, and six grants for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning projects by summer 2010. Overall, CILASS has funded work in 30 departments across the University.

Following on from individual and departmental projects, CILASS funds `embedding´ strands for IBL in all faculties, including the Library and the International Faculty, during 2009/10.

In March 2009, CILASS launches its Subject Centre strand, funding 18 projects in 16 institutions. The work culminates in a dedicated event, held at CILASS in April 2010.

During the summer of 2009, CILASS pilots the successful Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Scheme, with 13 projects receiving funding, enabling students to conduct research over the summer. The scheme is repeated in summer 2010, funding 56 projects in total, with 7 additional projects being funded by the Faculty of Social Sciences, and 5 by the Faculty of Science.

In March 2010, CILASS submits its final evaluation report to HEFCE.

On 14 June 2010, CILASS holds its final celebratory event, a Summer Fair with stalls, posters and interactive displays from our project leaders, key stakeholders and a range of staff and student participants in the CILASS programme...along with strawberries and cream.

CILASS research and evaluation outputs are numerous, and can be viewed on the relevant pages – please use the menu to browse.