Image: logos of the participating universities: Northumbria University, The University of York, Roehampton University, Durham University, York St John College of the University of Leeds
Medal Logo: Making a Difference: Educational Development to enhance Academic Literacy


Link: Welcome
Link: Meet the Team
Link: The Medal Casebook
Link: Staff and Educational Development
Link: Activities
Link: Reports and Working Papers
Link: Get Involved
Link: Get Involved
Link: Voices from the Community



Welcome to the MEDAL project!

MEDAL is short for: Making a Difference: Educational Development to enhance Academic Literacy. This project aimed to improve learning and teaching in Childhood Studies, through a focus on academic literacy.

What is the MEDAL project?

The MEDAL project, led by staff at Northumbria University, brought together a consortium of lecturers who teach about childhood within universities across the UK, namely

| Durham University | University of York | York St John University | Roehampton University | Northumbria University |

What are the main issues that MEDAL sought to address?

What does it mean to study childhood at university?

Childhood Studies is an emergent field of inquiry. Teachers in higher education are responding to

• The wealth of research literature that takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying the child
• Calls for a new kind of child professional capable of ‘joined up thinking’

An increasing number of academics are teaching Childhood within a range of disciplines and course contexts. This diversity is represented in our Consortium. For example Children’s Literature is being taught in courses as wide-ranging as English, Education Studies, Childhood, Childhood and Society, Children’s Literature and Childhood, Cultural Studies. Similarly, academics teaching in many of these courses, and others besides, including History, Art History, Sociology, Librarianship and Information Studies, Media Studies, are engaging their students with representations of childhood across a range of media, such as adverts, fine art, sculpture.

This means that more and more students are coming to university to study childhood as a theme, either as part of their degree, or as the whole focus of their course. What does this mean for the student, and what does it mean for teaching staff?

Implications for Staff

There was no existing network for lecturers keen to discuss and think about pedagogic issues in relation to studying childhood. It was part of the MEDAL project’s aims to develop such a network, which would be called the Childhood Studies Pedagogic Network (CSPN). This would incorporate a discussion list, information about study days and newsletters. If you would like to join the network, please follow this link or hit Get Involved. You can get involved in a discussion list, attend study days and receive newsletters now. From 2006 we encouraged interested parties outside the Consortium, having joined the CSPN, to submit proposals for developing (or piloting) materials or become MEDAL contributors through applying for small grants to run a case study or develop learning resources (see below).

In addition, the project ran a number of workshops, conferences and other events. Follow this link or hit Events to find out what Consortium staff did, and find out how to participate. Here you will find, for instance, Calls for Papers and information about study days and summaries of presentations and papers the project has given.

MEDAL aimed to develop and share ideas to support the development of academic literacy in relation to studying childhood. There are pedagogic resources: case studies and templates of teaching, learning and assessment approaches that have been used to promote academic literacy in CS programmes, and have been evaluated from staff and students’ perspectives. The purpose of these resources is to enable CS teachers to access new ideas and adapt them to their own teaching. The resources will focus on ways in which teachers enable their students to:

• practise academic literacy activities
• receive formative guidance and feedback
• work productively with their peers in order to enhance their academic development

Follow this link or hit Ideas for Teaching if you would like to use the materials.

There are also Learning Resources you may wish to use and adapt for your own teaching.


Implications for Students

In the first instance the project will conduct an in-depth survey of the issues as seen by staff and students within the Consortium. We were keen that students’ views should inform our developments and so MEDAL will run events and produce overview reports which draw attention to our students’ voices, as well as staff views. To access the overview reports hit Reports and Working Papers.

In particular, in the last round of subject reviews, QAA identified the issue of improving students’ academic literacy as a generic priority across subject areas. MEDAL seeks to build on the wealth of work that has already been undertaken in this area, by exploring what it means to read, write and think critically within an interdisciplinary field like Childhood Studies. Do students need to adopt particular approaches to studying childhood? Do teachers find they need to adapt their teaching strategies when introducing childhood as a topic of enquiry? In short, what does it mean to be academically literate in the field of Childhood Studies, and how far does that vary from course to course?

MEDAL’s working definition of academic literacy in Childhood Studies

Academic literacy practice includes activities which assist students to:

• Understand the expectations and requirements of the study of childhood including the need to recognise and apply different perspectives on childhood
• Recognise and articulate disciplinary expectations and requirements and apply them to the study of childhood.
• Develop skills in critical listening, reading and analysis of text and data, the development of argument and the communication of text, data and analysis in written and spoken form.
• Develop the critical autonomy which enables them to form their own views and locate themselves within the range of perspectives and practices encountered in the study of childhood.

What are the implications for Staff and Educational Developers?

We intend to develop, evaluate and disseminate MEDAL’s learning resources and models, in conjunction with staff and educational developers, for use in assisting new and practising teachers of inter-disciplinary courses, within and beyond childhood studies, to support their students’ academic literacy effectively. Reports and guides will be available here.


Who can you contact for further information?

Kay Sambell ( or Mel Gibson ( will be more than happy to talk to anyone with an interest in finding out more about project and how to get involved. We look forward to hearing from you.

How is the project supported?

MEDAL is funded under phase five of the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL5). FDTL5 aims to reward and stimulate innovation and good practices in learning and teaching, and to disseminate such practices to secure the widest take-up among institutions.

FDTL is part of the subject strand of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund and is supported by HEFCE and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).


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