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Understanding Dementia: Class in a Bag, University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland (UWS) Class in a Bag Team (CIAB) demonstrates what can be achieved when academics and students collaborate as development partners. CIAB is a transformational dementia learning experience delivered by 2,400 student nurses to over 10,000 school children. It is an engaging and innovative way to build professional knowledge, skills and citizenship with student nurses.

The UWS CIAB Team comprises four Adult Nursing lecturers, five Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice staff, three BSc Nursing Graduates (Colin Hardie, Amna Brown, Karen Ross), a current pre-registration nursing student (Jana Lanc) and former doctoral student Bryan Mitchell.

The team collaborates as a community of practice with a shared development agenda. Team leader Professor Debbie Tolson, keeps the team focused and moving forward. Adult Nursing lecturers, Winnie McGarry (Depute Team Leader), Fiona Everett, Caroline MacCallum, Wendy Wright (CIAB pioneers) and dementia experts Margaret Brown and Anna-Jack-Waugh are the curriculum developers. Louise Ritchie is the research champion, Rhoda Macrae and Bryan Mitchell enterprise developers. The student team members are practice and implementation ambassadors, putting themselves in front of the class (quite literally), networking and presenting at local, national and international conferences to share innovative practice.

Over eight years the team has co-created a transformational learning approach that changes the way student nurses and the beneficiaries of their learning understand dementia. From humble ‘class in a carrier bag’ beginnings, we have developed an award-winning portable educational and intergenerational resource called Understanding Dementia: Class in a Bag that enables students to teach children about dementia.

CIAB contains a facilitator’s manual and kit for participatory workshops designed to provide participants with hands on experience of dementia. To date, in partnership with Education Authorities, 2,400 pre-registration nursing students have delivered CIAB sessions to over 10,000 children. It has also reached into many parts of the care sector in Scotland and is supporting educators as far afield as India to refresh approaches to both community and practitioner learning.

CIAB enables nursing students to use their knowledge to contribute towards the development of children as dementia-aware, socially responsible citizens. This, in turn, has improved their confidence, developed team working skills, overcome professional identity uncertainties and consolidated learning about dementia.

In addition, through peer-to-peer learning, our nurses inspire students from other UWS academic schools to champion a dementia-aware society. This innovative approach promotes a positive and empowering aptitude that sets UWS nurse graduates apart.


Advance HE recognises there are different views and approaches to teaching and learning, as such we encourage sharing of practice, without advocating or prescribing specific approaches. NTF and CATE awards recognise teaching excellence in a particular context. The profiles featured are self-submitted by award winners.