Embedding a Theory of Change approach to plan and disseminate STEM scholarship projects

Minocha, Shailey and Collins, Trevor (2022). Embedding a Theory of Change approach to plan and disseminate STEM scholarship projects. In: 2022 UK Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference, 29-30 Jun 2022, London.


Practitioner-led scholarship projects seek to gather evidence and critically review practice to improve teaching and learning but frequently struggle to evidence impact beyond the scope of their project. Outcomes oriented evaluation approaches, such as the Theory of Change (ToC) approach adopted by the Office for Students, are intended to explicate the assumptions and methods used to bring about changes in practice and evaluate the impact of those changes. However, despite funders’ requirements, applying the ToC approach to plan and evaluate scholarship projects does not come naturally to practitioners, whose scholarship projects are primarily motivated by their interest in teaching their subject and alleviating the difficulties experienced by students studying it.

In this presentation, we will describe the approach we’ve taken to embed ToC approaches within the guidance and resources we provide to support colleagues proposing and managing scholarship projects in The Open University’s STEM Faculty. We will describe how a ToC template can help guide the systematic development of a scholarship project proposal by prompting the project team to frame the problem or proposed intervention within a wider context. Further, through a question-driven template, which we developed by drawing on the evaluation literature, we will show how ToC concepts can be used as prompts to improve project planning. For example, to identify stakeholders (including beneficiaries); risks to the project; any assumptions, or conditions on which the project’s success will rely on; and the resources and skills available to the project, and any specialist skills that may be missing.

Once a project has been formulated, we will demonstrate through examples how textual and visual representations can serve as project management tools for a scholarship project. For example, for monitoring and evaluating the project; engaging project team members and other stakeholders to develop a shared understanding about the initiative; planning and implementing evaluation; and to report project progress through monitoring of the causal pathways between the project’s resources, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Through this short presentation, we are particularly interested in sharing our experiences and opportunities to discuss with delegates’ their experiences of scholarship project planning and impact evaluation.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions