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In November 2021, Advance HE published an integrative literature review in Access Retention, Attainment and Progression (Austen et al 2021). The review explored evidence of what is working to enhance student outcomes (access into Higher Education, retention and attainment whilst studying, and progression to employment or further study - ARAP). It found that impact reporting could be improved. The review team recommended providing support for those designing interventions and evaluating impact, specifically to support users to complete a logical connection between evidence informed intervention design and student outcomes.

Taking forward that key recommendation Dr Liz Austen, in collaboration with Nathaniel Pickering, and colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University, designed and developed ChangeBusters; an interactive game that applies the Theory of Change with regards to interventions and evidence impact in higher education. The game aims to support users to understand the stages of a Theory of Change, build confidence, explore evaluative questions, and extend learning through application to their own context. The goal is better intervention design and evaluation which in turn should lead to better student outcomes.

The intended outcomes of the activity are as follows:

  • Game-players understand the AHE ARAP literature review evidence.
  • Game-players are supported to understand the stages of a Theory of Change.
  • Game-players build confidence with theorising change by using pre-determined scenarios.
  • Game-players extend their learning through application to their own context.

On completion of the game, it is envisaged that game-players will be able to:

  • Apply the AHE ARAP literature review evidence through innovation in their own contexts.
  • Effectively design and evaluate interventions to improve student outcomes.

A short video has been created introducing the game and explaining the reasoning behind it. This can be watched here.

Colleagues are directed to the ChangeBusters Facilitator pack for the theory, design, details of the game and facilitator instructions:

  • You will need to print out the hexagons and associated resources in order to play ChangeBusters for the first time. The ‘instructions printouts’ resource gives details on how to print, cut, fold and stick the resource
  • There are currently three scenarios available that have been developed based on the literature review:            
    • Financial Support Bursary
    • Undergraduate Research Experience
    • Peer Mentoring Scenario

All of the resources and the facilitator pack can be downloaded below:

Deliver a ChangeBusters workshop at your institution

The ChangeBusters workshop aims to support those tasked with building evaluation literacy in HE organisations. It provides an overview of how Theory of Change might be used in access, success and progression spaces of the student lifecycle.

Find out more
Using theory and evidence to explore impact on student outcomes - ChangeBusters facilitator pack
Using theory and evidence to explore impact on student outcomes - ChangeBusters facilitator pack View Document
Instructions printouts
Instructions printouts View Document
Principles card
Principles card View Document
Financial Support Bursary scenario
Financial Support Bursary scenario View Document
Undergraduate Research Experience scenario
Undergraduate Research Experience scenario View Document
Peer Mentoring scenario
Peer Mentoring scenario View Document

About the authors

Dr Liz Austen (Head of Evaluation and Research)

Liz leads institutional and sector wide research and evaluation in higher education at Sheffield Hallam University and as an independent HE consultant. She is well known for her work on using evidence for enhancement of student outcomes and exploring methods of hearing student voices, specifically championing creative approaches and ethical practices.

Nathaniel Pickering (Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research)

Nathaniel’s role includes externally funded research within higher education, and institutional research and evaluation focused on improving student experiences and outcomes. This research focuses on access in to higher education, social justice in education, and educational policy discourse.