Tag Archives: inclusivity

Whose flexibility? Being, belonging and becoming

Stella Jones-Devitt & Graham Holden

Parallel session 3, CoLab 3.4

See an animation which describes the project process on YouTube (opens in new window)
Project Overview .docx
Aggregated Responses From Key Informants .docx
Student Case Studies .docx

Short Abstract
This is a joint venture between Catherine Arnold, Jean Harris-Evans, Graham Holden, Stella Jones-Devitt, Rebecca Khanna and Ann-marie Steele.

The flexibility of our academic infrastructure, our pedagogies and our curricula are key enabling factors in learner engagement. This session will share the outcomes of a HEA-sponsored project aimed at gaining a better understanding of the University’s conditions of flexibility and the barriers to learner engagement.

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Detailed Outline
SHU’s diverse student population includes 10,000 part-time students (HESA 2013). The University strategy (2014-2020) has prioritised enhancing work with part-time students and employers as a key part of its flexible ambitions. The Learning and Teaching Strategy (2014) aligns by striving to provide students with a high-quality inclusive experience, facilitating high levels of engagement with their learning.

This implies going beyond the HEFCE definition of flexible learning which allows students to have information they need to make informed choices about what, where and how they want to study. This ‘information-marketplace’ approach fails to capture complex tensions identified by Barnett (2014) when constructing conditions of flexibility. Given the University’s strategic commitment to inclusivity, the approach resonates with Tinto’s (2008) recognition that access without support is not opportunity.

SHU needs to establish institution-wide responsiveness to the flexibility agenda to create a necessarily unique profile to establish conditions of flexibility. In response to this agenda, the University successfully applied in November 2014 for inclusion in the HEA’s Strategic Enhancement Programme (SEP) on Flexible Learning.

This session shares the outcomes of the resulting project Whose flexibility? Being, belonging and becoming which was established to scope a range of diverse voices in order to help us in beginning to understand what flexible learning might mean to the institution in both systems and pedagogy across the student lifecycle. These voices initially comprised a set of ‘key informants’ deemed able to offer often under-represented views such as those of in-work students and the institution’s staff committed to pushing boundaries for inclusive practice. They were asked to comment upon the 12 Conditions of Flexibility (Barnett, 2014) and nominate further key informants as part of a research snowball method in order to build an emerging understanding of some alternative perspectives. This evidence-base helps examine whether there is any cogent Institution-wide understanding concerning the significance of ‘flexibility’ in beginning to build a compelling rationale for future developments.

This session explores the methodology developed – within the constraints of time and resource – to appraise the widest range of stakeholder expectations for flexible learning. It will go on to explore the outcomes of this work and the implications of these expectations for our flexible learning offer and the University’s strategic ambitions concerning inclusivity.

Student engagement with reflection – Re-imagining PPDP for the Social Age

Graham Holden & Andrew Middleton
@GrahamJHolden / @andrewmid

Parallel session 2,  Short Paper 2.4

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
Student engagement with reflection can be challenging. The combination of life-wide ecologies and personal technologies facilitates a place for creativity and reflection, enabling students to broaden their thinking and look at how their wider experiences contribute to who they are and where they are going as they ‘become professional’.

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Detailed Outline
‘The best thing any education can bequeath is the habit of reflection and questioning.’ (AC Grayling, 2000)

Reflection on action (Schon, 1991) is a key ingredient of student attainment and graduate employment prospects. This importance is reflected in the University’s strategies (Education for Employability) and frameworks (Personal and Professional Development Planning [PPDP]) and it is a requirement of all validated programmes. So why is it so difficult to engage our students with reflection and PPDP?

The concepts of life-wide learning and learning ecologies (Jackson, 2013) present the opportunity to re-imagine and re-design PPDP and promote the value of reflection. Learning ecologies are the means by which we connect and integrate our past and current experiences, learning and development. In the context of HE they embrace all the activities that students engage in and the learning and the meaning that they gain from them. In so doing we can inspire and enable learners to discover and engage with their purposes (personal and professional) across diverse learner contexts and disciplines.

This session will explore the outcomes from a HEA Strategic Enhancement Programme project awarded in October 2014 to re-imagine PPDP which will be ready to disseminate at the conference. The project’s starting point was to develop the concept of learning ecologies to transform the ways in which students engage with, reflect on, and record their journeys to ‘becoming professional’. The project also considers the use of personal technologies (BYOD) which offer students greater flexibility for when and where learning occurs. Bringing these together offers the potential to provide students with a place for creativity and reflection. Engaging students in this way will enable them to broaden their thinking and look at how their wider experiences contribute to who they are and where they are going and enhance their skills, confidence and competence as they ‘become professional’.

Having established a lifewide learning and learning ecologies view of PPDP the paper will set out challenges and opportunities within and outside of the curriculum for applying PPDP and consider what this means for developing and supporting reflective learners throughout their time at university.

International student integration: the students’ view (2014)

Krassimira Teneva

International students expect and value the opportunity to make friends with other students, but are rarely satisfied with their integration with UK peers.

Sheffield Hallam University, like many other universities in the UK, has put in considerable investment in developing and promoting extracurricular activities to encourage UK/international student integration. But while we notice steady improvement in the student satisfaction with their experience of integration, we are still lagging behind other institutions.

This prompted us to undertake an impact evaluation of our social integration work, and investigate further international students’ expectations and experiences of meeting and integrating with UK and other international students. The research involved an online survey sent to all international students and two focus groups run by an external moderator.

The findings from this study unsurprisingly showed that international students wanted to meet and make friends with other international and UK students, but had found integrating with UK students more difficult than expected for a number of reasons. The most interesting finding from the research however shows that international students are happy with the level of support they get to integrate socially, but are dissatisfied with the integration at course level – all students who took part in the research expected they would study alongside UK peers on their course. It is the mismatch from this expectation and the reality of studying in predominantly international (sometimes monocultural) courses that leads to their greatest dissatisfaction. Delivering to this expectation will mean we have to provide a multicultural learning experience to all students, not just international.


278 – Collaborative Learning – Mark Boylan, Jackie Cawkwell

Jackie and Mark aimed to facilitate:

  • a developed understanding of the nature of collaboration
  • a map of the experience of collaborative learning
  • an identification of student support needs
  • a cross-course understanding of differences and similarities in practice
  • a possible SEEJ paper
  • an experience of a model of collaborative enquiry to inform practice

Using (literally) brown paper as a way of visualising the experience of collaborative learning, small groups mapped a real-life scenario, identifying strengths and weaknesses of the approach and discussing what student support activities might enhance the student experience. Whilst this methodology offers an effective way of unpicking different elements of a process, or in this case an experience, we did find that it takes more time than you’d think! Consequently we did well on charting the experience and on understanding the nature and different aspects of the experience  but barely began to explore differences and similarities between courses. Nevertheless, the enquiry group on collaborative learning will take this discussion forward into 2013/14, with a possible SEEJ paper and Student as Researchers project. And we also now have 7 or 8 charted and mapped course experiences of students working together!

Everyone who contributed to the Co-Lab will now have their names added to the Enquiry Group email list. Many thanks to all who joined in.

Session outline as in Conference Programme:

Collaborative learning is an important aspect of the student learning experience, taking many different forms, including peer supported learning of various types and assessed group work. Developing and practicing the capacity to collaborate is itself an important life skill as well as a pedagogical approach widely recognised as supporting different and greater learning than individual activity might alone. It is central to problem based and enquiry based learning. It is also often challenging for students and this can be accentuated by socio-economic, disability and other student characteristics. Often the experience of collaborative learning across the course or programme is not sufficiently considered either.

The focus of this Co-lab is on the student experience of collaboration across a range of courses, the experience of progression and on the support needs of students (generally and specifically). There will be a brief introduction to the work of the SHU Collaborative Learning Enquiry Group; we will share the methodology and outcomes from an earlier activity by the Group, adapting a method called ‘Brown Paper mapping’, a technique that allows processes and experiences to be visualised and adapted from industrial and business contexts. We will undertake our own Brown paper mapping exercise, charting the journey of the students and identifying:

  • what is experienced positively by staff and students
  • what challenges staff and students
  • further opportunities for the development of effective approaches to collaborative learning
  • what support students receive and what further support could be offered
  • an agreed number of action points to inform the future work of the Enquiry Group


Boylan, M. & Smith, P.  (2012). Tutor roles in collaborative group work. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 1(1). Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/SEEJ/index.php/seej/article/view/34/Boylan

Falchikov, N. (2001) Peer Tutoring in Higher Education New York, Routledge Falmer.

Lizzio, A. & Wilson, K. (2006). Enhancing the effectiveness of self-managed learning groups: understanding students’ choices and concerns, Studies in Higher Education, 31(6), 689-703

Nortcliffe, A. (2012) Can students assess themselves and their peers? A five year study. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 1,(2) Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/SEEJ/index.php/seej/article/view/29/Nortcliffe

Thorley, L. & Gregory, R. (eds.) (1994) Using group based learning in higher education. Kogan Page.


253 – MoRKSS: black and minority ethnic student retention and success – Manny Madriaga, Farhana Ahmad, Alan Donnelly

This paper will feedback on an aspect of a Higher Education Academy (HEA) – funded project at Sheffield Hallam University called MoRKSS (Mobilisation of Research Knowledge for Student Success). Sheffield Hallam University is one of eight institutions in England funded by the HEA to seek interventions to address the issue, particularly with student engagement in mind. This project attempts to examine the issue of gap attainment between white and black minority ethnic (BME) students in the institution, where there is a difference in ‘good honours’ (first or 2.1) achievement in studying for first degrees. Nationally, the difference is 18.4% (Equality Challenge Unit 2011). This paper presentation will share preliminary findings from one aspect of this MoRKSS project, where a research instrument, informed by Kuh’s work on student engagement, has been employed to gauge social and academic integration of particular courses where there is a disproportionate amount of BME students (Sims 2007). Student researchers were recruited to partner in the research design, analysis of data and conduct one-to-one interviews with students on the courses of study. Given the sensitivity and significance of this project, this presentation will also be an opportunity for ‘student’ researchers to share their experiences of being a part of this endeavour. It is hoped that the research findings from this project will be mobilised to inform change within the institution, as well as ignite questions for the rest of the sector.  This paper covers two strands of this conference: supporting students and course identity.

271 – Transnational Collaboration: Mapping and tracking course experiences of Tutors and Thai teachers of English on a jointly delivered Masters – Alice Oxholm

Last year in my role as programme leader, I was in the privileged position of working with colleagues at SHU and a university in Thailand to map, approve and teach a Masters course to a first cohort of 25 Thai English language teachers working in schools around Bangkok. The process was initially led by the need to understand and apply terms such as “risk assessment”, “credit rating” and “articulation”. This took priority over developing a sense of the individuals who would either be stepping over from a Thai delivered phase to ours or, from a SHU perspective, who would be co-supervising students working and studying in an unfamiliar context.   This session will draw on some selected principles since identified from literature on shared  transnational pedagogy:  care of the participants , communicating expectations, valuing difference of what is already known,  (Dashwood et al 2008).  These will be discussed in relation to the feedback and reflections from the people involved , staff and students, and how this will inform future planning.

Click to view presentation:  271 Working Transnationally with Colleagues final version