Students Staff

Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF)

TALIF funding will not be available by direct application in 2016-17. Colleagues needing funding for education projects should apply directly to the PVC Education’s Education Strategic Fund.

The University of Essex’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF) has been supporting staff to develop their teaching and support of learning in creative and innovative ways since 1998. To date the fund has supported more than 100 initiatives right across the University.

TALIF’s core purpose is to support individual staff who want to develop new approaches to their teaching with small amounts of ‘seed corn’ funding. In this way it complements the institutional character of the Education Strategy Fund, from which grants are available to drive forward departmental / sectional level initiatives in support of the University’s Education Strategy and associated action plans. Any member of staff with teaching and learning support responsibilities may apply for funding, up to a maximum of £5,000 per grant. Students are welcome to apply (with appropriate academic sponsorship) and each year £1,000 may be reserved to fund a student-led project.

In short, TALIF exists to help individual colleagues develop into the best educators they can be and to support the personal engagement of all members of our academic community, including our students, with the University’s mission to deliver education excellence.

Applications for funding can be made to support innovation in any field of teaching and learning practice. However, they are particularly encouraged in the following areas which are central to the University’s Education Strategy:   

  • Research in the curriculum
  • Community
  • Engagement
  • Learning environment

How to apply

There is one funding round per academic year.  The 2015/16 call for applications for TALIF will open on Monday 5 October 2015 and close on Friday 27 November 2015 at 5pm.

  • Find out more at our TALIF drop in information session being held on 8 October 2015, from 12.30pm - 2.30pm, in room 4SA.6.19 (Colchester).  You are welcome to drop in anytime during this period of time and can register your interest via HR Organiser from 1 October 2015 onwards although this is not compulsory. 

Please email if you would like to discuss a potential project.

2014-15 recipients

We would like to congratulate the following colleagues who were recipients of TALIF for the academic year 2014-15:

  • Leanne Appleby Hepburn, School of Biological Sciences
    Marine Biology Field Centre: new learning environment and technology 
  • Ritta Husted, International Academy
    'Feedback Matters' (part two of a major project helping students take more control of the feedback they receive)
  • Yi-Chang Sandra Huang, International Academy and Jo Kingsford, International Academy
    An innovative approach to pre-sessional EAP materials design: investigating pre-sessional students' preceptions and learning transfer of EAP study skills 
  • Matthew Jones, School of Biological Sciences
    Synthetic Biology: enhancing the undergraduate experience with next-generation molecular tools 
  • Francis King, School of Law
    Innovative approaches to the capstone project: using blogs in the delivery of legal research
  • Chris Nicholson, Centre for Psychoanalytical Studies
    Group Dynamics Film Research Archive
  • Richard Owen, School of Law
    Legal Helpdesk

Examples of previous projects

  • eBooks for Essex

    This project aims to evaluate current and projected e-book technology in terms of its educational applications at the University of Essex, and particularly in relation to the planned Student Centre/Library Extension. Key aspects of the project will include:

    • Identification of the most versatile devices, and purchase of around 10 devices of 3 different types, to be lent out for evaluation to departments, professional services, and students across the university
    • Technical evaluation: capabilities, limitations, software, networking/connectivity, file handling, annotation, ergonomics and expected development trends over the medium term (1-5 years)
    • Application evaluation: what uses would different departments in the university put e-book devices to? Simple/obvious applications would include readers for core texts, lecture notes, and course readers, and this may be enough for some, but there are also possible novel applications including collaborative groupwork, disability support (particularly for dyslexia), and multimedia use. Departments need to actually handle and try out such devices, supported by project 'facilitators' to be able to understand how the dynamic display and annotation capabilities of devices could be used in new ways in their own academic context, and how eBook readers may differ from conventional PCs, laptops and netbooks.
    • Student evaluation: Having identified some potential application contexts (for example: wider access to short loan primary and secondary course texts available in ebook format, annotating lecture notes in a lecture theatre; collaborative group use within the Student Centre, Multimedia application examples including video and imagery), we need to get student feedback on how attractive (or not) such new ways of working would be. Would the advantages of new forms of flexible note-taking and text-searching outweigh the known disadvantages of browsing within limited display windows, for example? How does collaborative work compare with using e.g. existing iLab collaborative software, online conference software, or more low-tech paper-based solutions?
    • Technical re-evaluation: evaluate progress in hardware and software over the lifetime of the project (9 months). Rapid development of hardware and diversification of software tools is currently apparent in this market, and by comparing initial and final capabilities over the project life-span, it should be possible to identify trends and trajectories in the technology, its application and uptake that will increase confidence in the conclusions that the project can draw for future University use.

    Contact: Professor Andy Downton

  • Managing the transition of mature students into higher education

    This project is a collaboration between Widening Participation, Student Support and Learning and Development.

    Project aims

    • To integrate mature students into higher education in a way which will ensure compatibility between their expectations and first year experience.
    • To consolidate existing activities across widening participation, student support and learning and teaching in order to ensure a holistic approach to the academic support and guidance provided to mature students.

    Project overview

    The University is committed to supporting student diversity and expanding opportunities among under-represented groups as stated in its Vision and Strategic Plan. In the last ten years the University has made significant progress in enhancing student retention, meeting the HESA-set benchmarks and contributing to the widening participation agenda at a local and regional level. However, the retention of mature students has recently been highlighted as one area which could still be improved.

    This project will therefore specifically address the transition of mature students into higher education. The project will bring together a range of academic support and pastoral activities at different stages of the first year experience, including pre-registration. It will then track student engagement with these activities across an academic year and assess their impact on the student experience. It will consist of the following components:

    1. Development of an e-Newsletter aimed specifically at meeting mature students' needs that can be sent at key points in the student lifecycle, starting at pre-entry, then post-registration, followed by an end of term reminder, etc. The e-Newsletter would provide relevant updates, draw to attention resources, and help to put students in touch with one another.
    2. Design and delivery of a pre-registration event providing both a social induction opportunity and introducing students to the range of supporting resources available to them. An optional overnight element with further study skills sessions will be available to a selected number of students.
    3. Provision of academic supporting resources through the applicant portal to enable early remote access and also to familiarise students with the portal environment.
    4. Establishment of Action Groups and a voluntary mentoring system to provide ongoing academic and social integration for students.
    5. Development of an appropriate qualitative tracking system to monitor the impact of the activities over a 12 month period.
    6. Delivery of a staff development workshop focused on supporting student retention through early engagement with the curriculum.
    7. Proposal of a transition policy for mature students to be considered at institutional level.

    The project will draw on previously funded activity in this area, which has identified that managing the transition into higher education is vital for student retention, particularly in light of the possible change to the student demographic from approximately 2011. Providing events and resources that are targeted at specific groups have a track record of success and signal to students that they are highly valued by the institution.


    Contact: Rachel Earle

  • Essex Human Rights Clinic

    The Human Rights Centre and School of Law aim, both as a teaching/learning and as a recruitment strategy, to emphasise the practice of human rights as a way to address effectively complex human rights issues and the needs and interests of real people, thereby informing theoretical aspects of the study of human rights and its related problems and actors. Clinical education is a method of learning and its purpose is to teach human rights as a mechanism for pursuing social objectives. Creating a sustainable Human Rights Clinic will provide a realistic context in which students can develop and practise their transferable and applied research and professional skills as a complementary aspect of their overall programme of learning. It seeks to complement scholarly study and substantially enhance student employability. In order to strengthen engagement with human rights practice, students are provided with direct experience of the role of advice agencies, counsel, clinics and the human rights/legal profession in delivering human rights services and access to justice.

    Funding from TALIF is sought to build upon and consolidate the work undertaken in 2009 to create a fledgling Human Rights Clinic by setting up a main structure to support and facilitate the work of students and staff on real initiatives for human rights in three main thematic areas: litigation and advocacy; human rights education, research and training; and communication and media. This will enable us to provide a continuing and streamlined resource for teaching and learning in human rights; to engage students with diverse academic backgrounds and to improve their experience in relation to skills development and career guidance; and to disseminate examples of good practice to other departments.

    We believe the establishment of a sustainable Human Rights Clinic will place the University of Essex in front of the burgeoning human rights educational competition and help retain Essex's place as the leading institution of its kind with innovative practice-oriented teaching and research.

    Crucially, the establishment of a robust Human Rights Clinic will demonstrate competency and capacity which will underpin applications to private foundations (notably the Sigrid Rausing Trust and to the Open Societies Institute) who have expressed interest in possible long-term funding if provided such evidence.

    Contact: Professor John Packer

  • Virtual patient

    This project in the Department of Health and Human Sciences aims to continue the development of a series of computer simulated patients. The software will have the following unique features:

    1. uses input method that does not prompt the student what to do next (i.e. free text)ability to create unlimited number of patients/scenarios
    2. patients/scenarios able to be created by a subject specific expert rather than a technologist
    3. provides students with feedback based on preset “best practice” rules
    4. best practice able to be configured by educator/expert
    5. records all events so assessors can “see” the students sequence of actions/questions asked.

    The current teaching methods utilise role playing with other students. This has the following limitations:

    Teaching: Scenarios are created by the educator for students to act out. The interpretation varies and students often do not have the expertise to respond as the patient/pathology would require and the key points of the scenario are lost.

    Learning: Scenarios cannot be repeatedly “practiced” and must be done where and when other students can participate (classroom based). Students break into groups and role-play therefore no specific feedback can be given by the educator to each student.

    Assessment: No formative assessment of the student's clinical reasoning skills can be made on a one-to-one basis. There is no clear way of documenting and “seeing” what the student is thinking (clinical reasoning) for further in-depth analysis by an educator at a later date.

    Contact: Dr Jo Jackson

  • Career development learning

    The issue being addressed by this project is the university-wide delivery of Career Development learning, which is one of the benchmark areas of the Employability Framework. A Career Development Module is being piloted with a group of self-selected students, from across academic disciplines, during the Autumn and early Spring terms in 2009-2010. It is being delivered by experienced Career professionals from within the Careers Centre and the Learning and Teaching Unit. From the academic year 2010-2011 the university intends to offer the complete module, or elements of it, on a university-wide basis through faculties / departments, with the potential for delivery by academics with no previous engagement with teaching in this subject area.

    The project will review and evaluate the course structure and teaching materials used in the pilot in the context of varied approaches to delivery that departments might choose. There will also be further consultation and research into best practice in other institutions. It will develop a suite of elements delivering specific learning outcomes that can be used together as a complete 15–credit module or as learning resources that can be included in the delivery of existing or new discipline-focused modules. A series of comprehensive tutor handbooks will be produced that will complement the learning resources.

    The aim is to develop comprehensive, innovative and interactive learning and teaching resources, including thorough guidance on assessment, that can be used by lecturers with no previous experience of delivering Career-based learning.

    Contact: Lynne Jordan

  • Tower Publishing House - embedding employability

    This project was a collaboration between the Department of Art History and the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies.

    The academic success of students is the primary goal for the University, however, the need to produce work-ready graduates is also a high priority both for this institution and for the government. This project responds to that need by creating an on-site publishing house in the Faculty of Humanities and Comparative Studies. It will enhance undergraduate employability by embedding employability skills development in assessed academic activity. Based on the model established by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the publishing house will be a reusable teaching tool available to all departments in the Faculty. Student work in the publishing house will make explicit the connection between academic and employability skills, as well as promoting PDP.

    The project team will include full-time and part-time research and teaching staff from Art History and Theory and LiFTS, and one member of the Learning and Teaching Unit. Art History has a strong background in 'practical' coursework, such as curating exhibitions, and alternative assessment methods; LiFTS is involved in innovative curriculum delivery and is piloting new assessment; the LTU, whose goal is to support innovative curriculum development, has a good history of working with both departments.

    The team will decide on the best way forward by consulting UCLan staff, and by examining the two departments' curriculum to identify where best to incorporate publishing house activities and assessment. The team will then design publishing house material to be embedded in Art History modules in October 2010, and establish a descriptor for a new, dedicated publishing house module. The module will be benchmarked against the University's Employability Framework, and be ready for accreditation in February 2011, and for delivery in October 2011. As well as raising the profile of employability in HCS, this project will establish a powerful reusable tool with which the Faculty can engage directly with the University's Employability Framework, while at the same time reinforcing and encouraging the culture of academic writing and publishing that is central to both disciplines.

    Contact: Dr Lisa Wade

  • Maths@Work: University-wide numeracy skills for employability

    As well as being essential to many academic disciplines, numeracy is an important element to employability regardless of career path. However, currently within the University there are limited central resources available to students who want to become more numerate and enhance their employability. A Working Group was convened in the 2008/09 academic year to look at literacy, numeracy, and ICT, and confirmed the need for a diagnostic numeracy test and some central supporting resources. As a consequence the University has committed to large-scale numeracy testing in its Learning and Teaching Strategy. Using or adapting an existing test was recommended by the Working Group as preferable to developing a new in-house test, therefore staff from Mathematical Sciences looked at some of the available options and the online numerical reasoning tests by Assessment Day were identified as being suitable because they simulate Assessment Centre tests – an important part of the project – as well as being suitable as a diagnostic tool. This project will develop an online numeracy diagnostic test using the Assessment Day template as a basis. The test will be trialled in a few chosen University departments and student performance analysed to determine the current 'state of play' with regard to numeracy within the student population. We will investigate how a diagnostic test could be implemented on a University-wide scale, and take the first steps in developing a support network that will exist to help students improve their numeracy and ultimately their employability prospects. The aim is to have a diagnostic tool and support system in place at the end of the project that will be self-sustaining.

    Contact: Dr Edd Codling