22 SES 08 D, The Inclusive Academic Community
Our innovative study was developed in partnership with students to enhance the relationship between lecturers and students. It builds on previous work (Chanda-Gool & Mamas, 2017a, 2017b) and aims to develop a more in-depth approach to group work in university thereby overcoming some of the fears and tensions that can inhibit effective group work. The study takes a holistic approach to learning valuing the emotional and social enjoyment that can inspire intellectual development. Our research question is:
How can we develop and implement group work in universities to enhance relationships between students and academics, increase social equity and develop a sense of belonging, emotional security and confidence to develop intellectually?
We emphasise the importance of the emotional as well as intellectual engagement between lecturers and students noting the way our sense of self is profoundly affected by the way we feel others think about us. Tahta (1995, p. 3–9) takes a holistic view of learning when he writes that there is an ‘ever-present affectivity’ embedded in the life of learners, and in our context lecturers and student are learners. And Beard, Clegg, and Smith (2007, p. 240) argue for the: … exploration, expression and acceptance of emotions and feelings of self and others in ways that contribute to learningwithin Higher Education pedagogy. However the hierarchy within universities combined with the present focus on ‘performativity’ and individual success can easily inhibit this rich potential, isolating us. Within this context group work endemic within universities can become superficial and not reach its potential. Here group work is recognised to be a creative, empowering avenue so students become proactive in their learning and engage more equally with academics (see Williams, Beard, and Rymer , 1991; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991, and Gibbs, 1995). It has potential to enhance intellectual ability, yet careful planning is essential to achieve this.
There is an inclusive dimension to our work with groups that aims to meet the needs of a diverse population present in universities, those with: disabilities, single parents, racial difference and gender dysphoria, mature students, quieter students, part- timers, students who have a mental health diagnosis as well as international students. Recognising this diversity universities need to establish inclusive practices that are consciously aimed to overcome an isolation that students may experience. Our design of group work capitalizes on the value in diversity by emphasising how the social and emotional are implicitly involved in the learning process, and not solely the cognitive and academic.
Biesta (2014) argues for the value in ‘subjectification’ – developing the individual’s initiative, action and responsibility, and initiative to engage more effectively with teachers. He critiques the idea of ‘learnification’ based in the present political and economic context where students are ‘consumers’ undermining the communal activity universities have represented for centuries. Correspondingly Bourdieu’s (1992) concepts of ‘cultural’ and ‘symbolic’ capital in education that prejudice those who are not in the position, nor have the experience and knowledge to ‘fit into’ this cultural and political context is also relevant. Laurillard (2002) identifies the different expectations that can exist between lecturers and students and can inhibit discourse between the two. And finally Reay (2005) notes the potential for students to become estranged and feel alienated by the universities hierarchical, academic demands. Our focus on developing communication and belonging is therefore also aimed to address concerns about retention (see Thomas 2002) and completion of degree courses.
We drew upon an emancipatory, qualitative and ethnographic approach to research (see Barnes, 2002) to align our methodology with our research epistemological aims to increase equity and challenge hierarchical relationships. This approach enabled students to initiate the research focus and design of the last session. This ethnographic approach is characterised by the researcher’s immersion in the context. It requires time to observe, listen to and find opportunities to ask questions without disturbing participants’ normal behaviour (Bryman, 2012). This ethnographic approach raised various methodological and ethical considerations that we, as researchers, identified and dealt with from day one of the research. For example, setting confidentiality boundaries between and among our participants was key. Anything that was shared through the sessions was to remain confidential and all participants agreed to this. Furthermore, boundaries were set as to what information participants were willing to share. We highlighted to them that they must not share any information that they would not like to share or would make them or others feel uncomfortable. They were also informed that they could withdraw their data at any point, even after data collection has taken place, up to the point of submitting a paper for publication. Overall, the project received ethical approval by the relevant university committee. As part of the ethnographic methodological approach, two phases of data collection were implemented. First, individual semi-structured interviews with all participants were conducted which resulted in nine interviews. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the interviews and generate themes most relevant to the study’s objectives. Second, five sessions took place which aimed to raise discussions around these key topics identified below. These sessions were fairly informal and participants were actively involved in setting the agenda as well as managing discussion.
Data collection to discover what students fear and enjoy about group work is being collated and analysed to further inform future work. Students expressed a growing compassion for humanity and communities who experience prejudice in society as well as those in the group. Their openness to explore what really mattered to them, hear others’ diverse experiences, increased trust, and consequently their ability to expose and explore challenges, to ask questions they had not dared to ask before and to relate to others’ vulnerabilities (see Beard, Clegg, and Smith, 2007) and Jaques (2000). Furthermore they located their sense of trust and well-being in the structured and boundaried sessions we had designed and implemented. Collaboration with an interfaculty university wide approach to group work is helping to draw together different experiences and highlight the potential in group work which has been revealed through our study. To ensure a safe and secure setting for the expression of, and attention to emotions (Tahta, 1995) and to develop subjectification as discussed by Biesta (2014), time, resourcing and commitment are the central challenges. Correspondingly a student led approach as recommended by Calkin and Light (2008) and Tinto (1993) will require careful evaluation of processes that promote confidence and trust. Interviewing each student, which helped to develop trust and increased the students’ participation and integration of ideas into the design of the group work, will require time and commitment as well as pastoral skills not all academics are skilled in. This has implications for training and awareness-raising within the academic community. Nonetheless this development has the potential to address fears of alienation and lack of retention Reay (2005) alludes to. Our group work’s structure, boundaries to address issues of confidentiality, time-keeping and monitoring of the process requires constant assessment and collaboration between those facilitating the group work.
Barnes, C. (2002). Emancipatory disability research: Project or process? Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 2, 233–244. doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2002.00157.x . Biesta, G. (2014) The beautiful risk of education: (interventions education, philosophy, and culture). London, New York: Routledge, Taylor Francis Group. Beard, C., Clegg, S., & Smith, K. (2007, April). Acknowledging the affective in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 33, 235–252. Bourdieu, P. (1992) Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford: Open University Press. Calkins, S. and Light, G. (2008) ‘Promoting student-centred teaching through a project-based faculty development program’, To Improve the Academy, 26(2), pp. 217-29. Chanda-Gool, S. & Mamas, C. (2017a) ‘Becoming others’, Pastoral Care in Education, 35:3, 192-202, DOI: 10.1080/02643944.2017.1363810 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2017.1363810 Chanda-Gool, S. & Mamas, C. (2017b) 'Coming from somewhere else '- group engagement between students and academics, Journal of Learning and Development in Higher Education. ISSN: 1759-667X, Issue 12: November 2017 Gibbs, G. (1995) Learning in groups: tutor guide. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff Development. Jaques, G. (2000) Learning in groups. London: Routledge. Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T. and Smith, K. (1991) Co-operative learning: increasing college faculty instruction productivity. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 4. Washington DC: the George Washington University School of Education and Human Development. Laurillard, D. (2002) Rethinking university teaching. A conversational framework for the effective use of leaning technologies. London: Routledge. Reay, D., Davis, J., David, M. and Ball, S. (2005) Degrees of choice: class, race, gender and higher education. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books. Thomas, L. (2002) ‘Student retention in higher education: the role of institutional habitus’, Journal of Education Policy, 17(4), pp. 423-42. Tahta, D. (1995). Ever present affectivity. Chreods, 9, 3–9. Tinto, V. (1993) Leaving college: rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. 2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Williams, D.L., Beard, J.D. and Rymer, J. (1991) ‘Team projects: achieving their full potential’, Journal of Marketing Information, 13(2), pp. 45-53.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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