‘Stepping Out’: Enabling Community Access to Green Space through Inter-disciplinary Practice Learning in Plymouth, UK


  • Maria Tighe Plymouth University
  • Andrew Whiteford Plymouth University
  • Janet Richardson Plymouth University


sustainability, inter-disciplinary, public health nursing, social work, action research


This paper presents a small-scale action research study of public health nursing and social work students’ practice-based learning. The study aimed to identify collaborative opportunities to improve access to green space for community residents in Plymouth, in the United Kingdom (UK). The student experience was nested within ‘Stepping Stones to Nature’ (SS2N), a city-wide initiative enabling local residents’ access to green space. A local health impact assessment (HIA) provided an over-arching partnership framework. The pedagogical aim was for students to learn and work together to make a real contribution to people’s lives. This innovation was enabled through the Plymouth University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy (2009–2012) and the Social Work programmes established structures for student’s learning in Community Development Projects (CDP). Through the action research methodology, we explored the potential for community development as a framework for inter-disciplinary learning. Our findings suggest that an inter-disciplinary pedagogy emerges through a community development framework for students’ practice-based
Inter-disciplinary learning was achieved through student-centred learning networks; a key shared concept was ‘Wellbeing and Sustainability’. Within this new practice-based context student learning is tenuously situated, yet positively achieved. Through changing health and social behaviours, student participation demonstrates: a) professional knowledge and skills, b) collaborative working, and c) change agency. SS2N partnerships enabled student’s evidence-based practice and highlighted that a student’s individual relationship to green space was critical to their engagement. Pedagogy that places inter-disciplinary practice learning at the core of teaching and learning about sustainability, environment and access to green space is indicated, alongside collaborative working to enable students to actively contribute to reducing health inequalities.

Author Biography

Maria Tighe, Plymouth University

Dr Maria Tighe, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Faculty of Health Education and Society, Plymouth
University, 7 Portland Villas, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
Email: Maria.Tighe@plymouth.ac.uk


Originally published by the Higher Education Academy

PBLH, Vol 1, Issue 2 (October 2013)





How to Cite

Tighe, M., Whiteford, A., & Richardson, J. (2016). ‘Stepping Out’: Enabling Community Access to Green Space through Inter-disciplinary Practice Learning in Plymouth, UK. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 1(2), 8–22. Retrieved from https://publications.coventry.ac.uk/index.php/pblh/article/view/274