Most Friday’s are my research day when I get to return to my roots. I look forward to Friday because I utterly love being involved in research and enjoy nothing more than collecting and analysing data. I first encountered research when I was 14 and involved in a School’s Council History Project which explored the role that Ironbridge in Shropshire played in the Industrial Revolution. My fellow students and I were introduced to primary data sources for the first time and spent a few days in archives and records offices exploring what evidence we could find about Ironbridge at the time and what it told us. I was enthralled from the start but then it got even more exciting when I found references to members of my own family and their involvement in the Darby Foundry. Since then I’ve not looked back.
These days my research considers students in higher education and in particular what factors encourage or hinder their academic success. My most recent project is looking at why students commit academic misconduct and is part of an HEA funded collaborative project involving Kingston University, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Wolverhampton and DeMontford University. The outcome of the collaborative project is to share best practice with the sector about reducing the ethnicity based attainment gap. Much of my research over the last six years has aimed to better understand what success factors could be used to reduce the attainment gap and has included:
- the Disparities in Student Attainment Project (DiSA). – a joint programme of work with Coventry University which explored students’ and teachers’ beliefs about what contributes to ethnicity attainment gap, as well as the effectiveness of selected interventions to reduce the attainment. This work identified four areas that influence student success: the quality of learning relationships, pedagogy and academic issues, psycho-social influences and social and cultural capital.
- the What Works Programme – is a HEA funded retention and success change programme that involves 13 UK HEIs. The contribution to this programme made by the University in which I work, focuses on how an inclusive assessment process increases student success, positively impacts on students’ sense of belonging and reduces course level attainment gaps.
- A University Belongingness Study – which is a quantitative and qualitative exploration of students’ sense of belonging. This suggests that there are differences in the perceived sense of belonging between students categorised as BME and their white counterparts. This work also explores what belongingness means to students and how it is developed or lost and the impact of this on students’ experience.
- An HEA Strategic Enhancement Project (Retention & Success) – this examined the role of place and space in the development of student’s sense of belonging.
- Pre-expectations of Higher Educations – a study which looked at what pre-induction students expected of their University education and compared these expectations to those of University lectures. This comparison suggests that there are 10 gaps in the expectations of new students and those who teach them.
Yesterday was, as always, an enjoyable day. I am analysing data at the moment which is exciting, testing, trying, challenging and stimulating all at once. But yesterday I added fulfilling to that list too. Because yesterday I started to see new links between the findings from this study and the ones that are listed above. I love it when overlaps occur between pieces of work which help to create a more coherent holistic picture. Needless to say, I’m already looking forward to next Friday; in fact, I can’t wait to get back down to this………
Bye for now