I begin this week by offering heartfelt congratulations to the theme leader of Success for All, Professor Wendy Robinson, on her appointment as our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. It is appropriate, given Wendy’s success, to spread the word about the fascinating projects being run within the Success for All theme in the coming academic year.
George Koutsouris and Anna Mountford-Zimdars, based at our St Luke’s campus, are interested in the Hidden Curriculum. Their project ‘Understanding the barriers posed by the hidden curriculum that HE students from diverse cultural and social backgrounds experience in their studies‘ will attempt to better understand the barriers that students from diverse cultural/social backgrounds experience in their studies and will use the theoretical lens of the ‘Hidden Curriculum’ (HC). The HC includes norms, behaviours, perspectives and attitudes that reflect the current but also previous educational and cultural experiences of students and, therefore, can vary significantly between students from diverse backgrounds. The study will focus particularly on students’ perceptions of and attitudes towards the HC and will involve a number of UG/PGT students as co-researchers. The aim is to develop material and resources for personal academic tutors to enable them to make the HC explicit to students.
Claire Lavers and Piklu Gupta intend to explore ways in which the University can make learning more accessible for disabled students in their project ‘Accessible In-Class Teaching: A Training Resource for Academic Staff‘. They aim to create an on-line training resource to inform teaching staff how to make their in-class teaching accessible for a variety of the most commonly presented disabilities in the student body. As well as acting as a good practice guide to accessible in-class teaching, highlighting the simple changes staff can make – as a matter of course – to their teaching, it will also contain animation, videos and student testimony, illustrating the barriers to leaning students with disabilities face, by demonstrating how disabled students’ experience a range of learning environments.
In their project ‘Evaluating the impact of peer programmes on students’ learning gain and academic attainment – a cross-discipline approach‘ David MacDonald and his team will aim to provide quantitative data to support the qualitative evidence supporting peer programmes.
Peer programmes have become increasingly popular over recent years with Exeter now boasting approx 30 schemes. Whilst there is much qualitative evidence to underpin these activities there is a paucity of quantitative research pertaining to the optimal design for maximising the impact on students learning gain and attainment. This project will address the lack of empirical evidence by designing a robust study that will evaluate independently the impact of selected peer programmes on learning gain and academic attainment in first year student cohorts. The level of learning gain will be assessed via short tests to be delivered within peer sessions or at the start/end of lectures according to group allocation. These tests will be designed by the module leads within the academic programmes involved with each test centred on the content of a lecture. The peer mentors involved in this project will receive study specific training in addition to the standard peer mentor training. This will enable them to lead the scheduled peer sessions addressing the lecture content through facilitated discussion confidently & competently. They will not teach but guide discussion to support understanding of the lecture topics. The aim is to disseminate initial project results towards the end of term 1 via a workshop/seminar, using these results and the suggestions of workshop participants to inform changes for term 2. Final projects results will be disseminated at educational conferences and further workshops/seminars.