Launch of the Additional Learning Support (ALS) Research Hub

 Launch of Research Hub

The BU Additional Learning Support (ALS) Department has recently launched a research hub: Research@ALS.

Aim of the Research Hub

The aim of the Research Hub is to provide an ALS centre for the fusion of innovative research and application into our day to day professional practice.

Inform, Evolve, Change 

The ALS Research Hub will conduct research projects across varying topics usually with a particular emphasis on higher education and student learning.

We aim to explore innovative research topics to inform and enrich our professional practice and to provide insights that encourage change through research to enrich a dynamic and evolving professional service.

A number of our research projects have been collaborative endeavours with colleagues in several faculties, benefitting from an inter-disciplinary approach.

Current Projects

Research@ALS has recently undertaken a qualitative study exploring ALS student perceptions of the impact of canine academic assisted learning (CAAL) on their academic endeavours. This qualitative study into student perceptions of canine assisted learning provided valuable insights into how BU students perceive the provision of an on-campus dog as part of their ALS support. A paper describing the study ‘Exploring student perceptions of Canine Academic Assisted Learning: Engaging the student voice’ (Faithfull & Atherton, 2017) was published in the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) journal and can be read at: (Issue 9.1: Winter 2017 p. 134-138).

Further interest in this research resulted in the Daily Echo article describing some aspects of our research:

Oral Presentation at the 2018 BACCN Annual Conference held at the B.I.C.

An oral presentation of the early results of the CAAL study were presented at the 2018 Conference of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN): ‘Exploring perceptions of canine academic assisted learning: new ways of working in higher education’ (Faithfull; Atherton & Beer, 2018). Details and the Abstract Book can be found at Following on from the presentation at the conference we received a request for future discussion and further work to explore possible transferable themes and practices into the arena of critical care.

Current and Future Projects

A current research project includes exploring if there is perceived to be a place for holistic support in higher education for a cohort of ALS students with complex needs. A particular focus of this study will be exploring the meaning and place of holistic support in higher education.    

We hope this research will provide valuable insights about how students with complex learning profiles perceive their support needs, why this is and what this means for their learning. We hope this will enrich our understanding of how we can create and deliver tailored academic support that is directly informed by students who access this support.

Taking Action

Results and insights revealed from our research will inform our understanding of how to deliver support through best practice to our ALS students. This is a focus of the practical arm of the Research@ALS Hub: ‘Action Research.’ .

By exploring and listening to what our students tell us, in tandem with attending to our research findings, we aim to deliver pertinent, relevant, targeted and informed support that is current and tailored directly to the needs of the BU ALS student.

Chris Scholes Head of Additional Learning Support said of the Research@ALS initiative:

“ We are always looking for visionary, creative and diverse approaches to student support. From an inclusivity perspective, the number of students who find learning challenging is growing. However, the budget isn’t! Therefore our exciting project is to find purposeful ways to deliver within the restrictive parameters of finance, inclusivity, service excellence and ultimately the BU objective of developing students to be employable in graduate level jobs. The Research@ALS Hub is one part of the drive to achieve this.”


For further information, news and queries:

Jennie Faithfull.

Research Lead, Research@ALS

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