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2023 Conference abstracts

Angela Parry-Lowther 

Why embedding key skills – no matter the programme of study – help students thrive in all areas of academic life 

The presentation will consist of sharing practices and provide insight into work carried out by Angela Parry-Lowther over several years – at university and within Industry.  Embedding life skills into core units (no matter which subject) to help students thrive as individuals and as part of a team/group – whether as a Bristol student, within their cohort, programme, community, or society. 

To help address the challenge students face, particularly first years and Master students, who can often feel isolated and struggle with understanding their value, contribution, purpose, and role as individuals within university, and their ability to thrive and make a difference during their time of study and beyond.  

The practices implemented into the core unit are those which can be utilised across a range of programmes and disciplines – they are skills which each student needs to help them thrive and reach their full potential, not only in areas of study but in life. 

The presentation will share the practice and consider the impact and outcome of creating a structure within a unit where students are first introduced to the concept of team working, conflict management and the practice of reflection. These are integrated within a lectoral (combined lecture and seminar) students are then required to work together in groups each week in a two-hour lectoral on different academic tasks and set challenges relating to the subject studied. At the end of each session students reviewed their contribution and engagement with fellow students, reflect on how they managed and what insight they gained. Students begin to understand what had an impact on the outcome, what they could have done differently and continue to implement. At the same time the session fosters a feeling of belonging, safety, purpose, cohesion, empowerment, and respect amongst the cohort.  

You Tube clips, Ted talks, podcasts and readings are shared and discussed with students, these all help with the growing understanding of their value and ability to manage different challenges within the subject, core unit friendships and societies, providing them with resources and insight to gain further knowledge and help in different areas. 

At the end of the unit, to gain further understanding and reflect on their development and progress, students shared their individual insight through completing a 500-word reflection using an academic model, sharing key take aways and tools they will continue to implement going forward.  

The outcome help students understand their contribution and importantly their place and value (challenging the Imposter syndrome many state they feel when they arrive), build friendships, appreciate team/group dynamics, and the work required. Students share that the process empowers them take ownership and provides them with tools they can use to help them thrive and manage University life, forge friendship and a feeling of belonging and ways to manage challenging times which may lay ahead.

Celine Petitjean and Manisha Koneru

Building community and self-confidence through mentoring between PGTs and post-docs 

Taught Master students face specific challenges compared to undergraduate or post-graduate research students. They are out of the undergraduate community and almost professionals, but not imbedded in the research community. 

Post-docs are a highly skilled and motivated community in the school, with limited time to engage with students, but often willing to expand their teaching and mentoring experience.  

As Acting Deputy head of the new MSc Bioinformatics of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Celine Petitjean was particularly interested in supporting our PGT students in building their self-confidence, professional networking skills, and engage with their local community, i.e., school of Biological Sciences. 

During the first year of the new taught MSc in Bioinformatics of the Faculty of Life Sciences, a mentoring scheme trial was started, pairing MSc Bioinformatics students with a post-doc of the school. The scheme has some good feedback although no impact study was implemented.  

Since then, Manisha Koneru, PGR in the School of Biology has been conducting a literature review on the topic of mentoring in academia, with a focus on post-graduate communities and the impact evaluation of mentoring. Her work is funded on a pedagogical grant from the School of Biological Sciences. 

In the near future, the goal will be to use the results of the literature review to evaluate the impact of a revived mentoring scheme between MSc Bioinformatics students and post-docs. 

A long-time goal of this project will be to expand this mentoring scheme to other post-graduate programs.  

The aims for such a project are, for the mentees, to learn from their mentors, expand their network, improve their self-advocacy and self-confidence, for the mentors, the opportunity for teaching and mentoring experience, training on the University’s support structure and mentoring. For all, to create and increase a sense of community between them and in the school and improve self-advocacy and well-being.  

This project fits particularly well in the theme of Building communities inside and between both students and post-docs communities, as well as nurturing the feeling of belonging with their direct professional environment.  

This presentation will cover the original idea and mentoring scheme, the key findings of the literature review conducted, and the plans for a new mentoring scheme. 

Nienke Alberts 

Forced fun: questioning the role of personal tutoring in the development of student communities 

Having a sense of belonging and feeling part of a community at university have considerable impact on student outcomes, such as retention, progression, and success [1, 2]. It is frequently suggested that we can facilitate the formation of peer relationships and foster a sense of community through personal tutoring, for example through the introduction of group tutorials. 

In this presentation I question whether personal tutors are best placed to support the formation of peer relationships by considering he role of personal tutoring in the formation of student communities.  

I will present longitudinal data on the formation of student communities at the University, how these communities change over time, and the role of tutorials in their development.  

Data come from a larger research project, in which I followed 55 undergraduate students through their degree at Bristol. In this presentation I will draw on data collected at three points; at the start of the students’ degree; at the end of their first year, and at the beginning of their final year.   

I will make recommendations as to whether, and how, personal tutoring could help foster a sense of community amongst students. 


1. Murphy, M.C., et al., A customized belonging intervention improves retention of socially disadvantaged students at a broad-access university. Science Advances, 2020. 6(29): p. eaba4677. 

2. Thomas, L., Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works Student Retention & Success programme. Paul Hamlyn Foundation, 2012. 100: p. 1-99. 

Juliet Pope & Stuart Pope 

When MS Teams work makes the dream work 

At the end of 2022 communication at the Vet School relied heavily on email and that dissemination of urgent information was challenging. Issues such as broken down buses failed to reach those affected and/or resulted in emailing large numbers of people for whom the information was irrelevant. 

Having experienced MS teams (MST) within a corporate environment as a way of disseminating information more efficiently and without increasing individual’s email burden, JP proposed the possibility of a whole-site MST Community with channels for bus users, building ‘inhabitants’ and those interested in free snacks! 

An MST site Vet School community was set up with a pilot channel for one building, ‘Pearson’ where 25 members of staff are based. Tests were undertaken to ensure the channel would only allow members to see posts and receive notifications. Two tabs were included within the channel to signpost members to the School intranet and to the Campus Division maintenance helpdesk for easy reporting.  

Once the initial testing finished ‘Pearson’ was launched to all Pearson staff via email explaining how they could navigate to the site and how they needed to set their notifications to see posts. Users were also given information about the settings within the channel to enable them to create/remove tabs, delete/edit posts, use emoji’s and how to use @channel to contact all members of the channel simultaneously. The initial reception was incredibly positive and led to the users communicating more easily with colleagues, particularly those working in blended way. The launch stimulated the first Channel-organised social and has also since enabled quick sharing of information pertinent to Pearson building.  

This channel and subsequent channels have been set up to allow smaller communities/groups in the School to develop and generate posts which the rest of the School will not see. 

Plans for the whole Vet School Community MST site are already starting to progress with the introduction of new channels for the technical team, post graduate research (PGR) students and most recently the School ‘Notalittlebut allotment! These sites have seen active engagement within hours of creation and show the potential for development of even more new micro-communities, something which has been challenging to achieve in our blended working environment. The Community site was launched at a School assembly in March ’23 and shortly each of the School’s buildings and teams will have their own channel. ‘Whole School’ messaging will be particularly useful for social activities but also vital in helping to rapidly disseminate information around issues such as inclement weather or even more urgent / unexpected events which could affect everyone.  

While some people are already using MST for meetings, tutor group get-togethers and small group teaching, we hope that increasing familiarity with MST will inspire further formal and/or informal educational opportunities. Drop-in Q&A and tutoring sessions are being considered and will aid with widening participation for those students who may find it less intimidating than being in person on site for such events and/or simply prefer the online space.

Alexander Paterson, Carla Forster and Nora Pau

The ‘Bristol Model’: putting students at the heart of the University’s civic mission in Social Sciences and Law through a ‘student as researcher’ approach 

The Bristol Model is an innovative student knowledge exchange project, led by the Professional Liaison Network (PLN) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. The project brings students into academic research, co-produced with civic partners. The project began in September 2020 (although its roots go back much further to August 2018) and has the following aims: 

• To leverage the impact of social science research to address complex social and/or economic challenges. 

• To put students at the heart of the University’s civic mission by embedding them in social sciences research, co-produced with a range of external partners within the Bristol City region. 

• Shift perceptions of what is possible with the University setting, creating a deeper culture of knowledge exchange (KE), blurring the boundaries between KE, teaching and learning, and research – spanning the University’s three strategic pillars. 

There were six separate research projects co-produced with a range of external partners in the city. Each project included an academic Project Investigator (PI), a PhD student Research Associate and a diverse group of students from across schools in the Faculty. We also set ourselves a challenging target to recruit 50% of undergraduate students from widening participation backgrounds. We ended up with 59%. Our goal was to deliberately mix students from different types of backgrounds on the project and we found that there were benefits to doing this, particularly when it came to students from different disciplines.  

A seventh overarching evaluation project, led by academics in the School of Education, followed the same ‘Bristol Model’ format. The presentation will disseminate findings from this academic research project – and will include video dissemination from student Research Assistants on the project.  

In our presentation, you will hear learnings from the Bristol Model project, including how some students initially struggled whilst working in their new roles as Research Assistants. Students had to adapt to a different environment to the one they are used to, which is like the research process – messy. However, with the support of the Research Associate, PI and external partner, they overcame their challenges and thrived, building resilience along the way.  

Students found intrinsic motivation whilst working on the projects as they were often linked to societal challenges that they felt passionate about. For example, the Black South West Network project focused on racial equality and three of the student Research Assistants are now employed by the charity.  

We will also explain how mutually beneficial relationships were developed with our civic partners, and how taking a flexible approach to projects enabled them to align directly with their organisational needs and mission. Equitable relationships were developed through co-production that valued non-academic expertise and recognised that non-academics have important insights and expertise, which is essential to identify the issues to be explored, how to explore them and the impact to be created. This required the University to relinquish some control of the process but resulted in a more impactful project.  

Hannah Tweddell

Connecting students with each other and the city through community engaged learning  

Service-Learning (sometimes referred to as community based or community engaged learning) is an innovative pedagogical approach that integrates meaningful community service or engagement into the curriculum and offers students’ academic credit for the learning that derives from active engagement within the community and work on a real-world problem. Reflection and experiential learning strategies underpin the learning process and the service is linked to the academic discipline. (European Observatory of Service-Learning in Higher Education) 

Community engaged learning brings students, community partners and the University together to work for mutual benefit. Students are provided with the opportunity to connect with the city in a different way and learn skills they may not develop in a traditional classroom setting. Community partners can gain additional capacity, develop ideas for their work and get a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ on their activity. This joining of academic knowledge with community knowledge creates the opportunity to produce a richer coproduced piece of work.  

This session will explore how community engaged learning can build a sense of belonging between students as well as creating learning communities connecting to the city embedded into the curriculum. 

Domi Duff 

Lived experiences of students enrolled on authentic units  

Authentic units can include any unit currently taught across the university that provides career specific or transferable skills that are useful in the ‘real world’. The teaching and/or assessment methods are more in line with what students will experience and engage with in the world outside of academia.  

They can include anything from ‘real’ work with external partners, novel assessment methods such as podcasts or group work on larger projects. These authentic units exist already, scattered across the university, but there is no current research which explores the overall student experiences on these types of units. This presentation will cover the findings of a mixed-methods study involving questionnaires with students from across the university as well as in-depth, follow up interviews with a selected number.  

The results of this research will provide evidence for the benefits of authentic units in building communities within the university through group work as well as the wider Bristol community through work with local partners. 

Alix Dietzel 

Philosopher Queens – Creating an inclusive and decolonized learning space 

In 2021, I created a new third year unit based not on my research expertise but lived experience of being a woman in philosophy. My whole career, I had witnessed how women and people of colour are excluded from the discipline in the way that it is taught, but also because of racism, sexism, and bias in the discipline itself. 

To address this issue, I put together a unit that focuses on studying exclusion in the discipline, and allows students to rethink how philosophy is usually taught as well as questioning why most philosophers that work in the discipline happen to be white men. We then learn about seven women from ancient to present times and spend the last week reflecting on whether our efforts have been successful in ‘decolonising’ the discipline.

In this talk, I’ll give an outline of the course but more importantly reflect on the learning environment I’ve co-created with my students, who, often for the first time, are enjoying learning philosophy and feel a sense of belonging in the discipline because of the unit. 

Alix Dietzel

Students as community researchers: developing new insights? 

Written by Helen Thomas-Hughes, presented by Alix Dietzel – Student and academic communities are increasingly emotionally distressed by the climate and ecological emergency. Previous research suggests that most young people globally experience eco-anxiety, and it is recognized that there can be wellbeing challenges for those studying and researching environmental change. This presentation focuses on a short six month project which aimed to explore perspectives and experiences of studying environmental and sustainability focused education at UoB. The project co-produced with a small group of master’s level students and worked with The Young Foundation’s peer research team. This session examines the projects findings and discusses the implications of the community research approach for building communities of shared belonging. 

Holly Bain

Engaged Learning in a challenging future: how ‘real world’ learning can connect us to global challenges 

As a university committed to both civic and global responsibility, it’s not always easy to enable our students to feel a part of that identity. Standing on the precipice of a graduate life, in a world that seems challenged on many levels, how can our students feel equipped and connected to a community beyond the University “walls”?  

Applied Learning has the capacity to transcend a merely transactional partnership model, and develop meaningful collaborations between students and professionals. Based on a mutual desire for just transformation and change, Applied Learning can straddle disciplines, stakeholders, and global challenges, while embedding students in civic responsibility. 

The Professional Liaison Network (PLN) co-ordinates a range of activities that connect students, academics and researchers from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law with external organisations.  

In this brief presentation, we will explore how Applied Learning in the social sciences can deepen the connections between students, the city, and global challenges. By focusing on key case studies and three critical, global concerns – social justice, digital futures in data, and the climate crisis – we will explore how a growing recognition of ‘learning in the real world’ could engender a culture of shared learning and efficacy.  

Katherine High 

Building a new supportive learning community through formative assessment 

This presentation will outline how a credit bearing unit offered by The Centre for Academic Language & Development (CALD) helped to build both community and belonging on a 10-week credit bearing Academic Listening & Speaking course for Study Abroad students. Students are usually in their 2nd or 3rd year of undergraduate study and come from a range of different disciplines, including STEM, Arts & Humanities and SSL. The problem addressed is the teaching of a multi-disciplinary cohort with a range of different expectations and prior learning experiences and is tackled through formative assessment that promotes knowledge sharing, develops sustainable feedback practices and creates new friendships as students immerse themselves in their collaborative learning tasks.  

The formative assessment tasks seek to scaffold students towards the two summative assessments, a 3-minute recording of a contribution to a seminar, and a 5-minute video presentation on topics related to their undergraduate studies. Every week in small groups, students work together to create a short academic presentation with a thesis-led argument. As students are from different disciplines, they need to choose a theme that is relevant to the whole class and can therefore refer to the Bristol Futures themes or one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to developing sustainable feedback practices whereby students can accept or reject feedback (Carless et al, 2011; Evans, 2013), this student-lead teaching approach resulted in a multitude of engaging presentations including The Future of Nuclear Power, The Global Sand Crisis, The Future of the British Monarchy, Machine v Human Translation and the Value of Studying Abroad that provoked debate as well as regular reflection on the learning process.  

To ensure an inclusive approach, students could choose different roles in preparing the presentation, and there was always the option of not presenting, for example, preparing slides or fielding questions from peers. Students shared their presentations in advance of the session on the class Padlet, where classmates and the presenters themselves could offer peer review / self-assessment to enhance their performance for the next task (Lefroy, 2015, p.285) The Padlet therefore offered a repository of learning as well as an asynchronous platform for students to continue to engage with their learning outside the class.  

Moving from interdisciplinary topics in the group presentations, in the second part of the session students would then have 10 minutes of quiet reflection to write a summary of a key element of their learning on other subject units they were studying at Bristol to ensure that this course was helping them on their UG course units (Angelo & Cross, 2012). They had to then share these learning points in small groups with other students actively listening and asking questions. Each week they would repeat this interaction at least twice, and the second time they presented they would often feel more confident and engaged. The varying patterns of interaction therefore meant that all students in the class got to know each other well and formed new friendships in a supportive learning community.  

Fiona Hartley and Kevin Haines

Building a learning community among teachers 

In order to create what bell hooks refers to as ‘the best climate for learning’, the Centre for Academic Language & Development (CALD) at the University of Bristol issued a challenge to its EAP teachers. We asked who would be interested in researching their practices and subsequently publishing their findings by joining together in a community of teacher-practitioner-researchers. This space became known as the Research and Publication project. 

Experience at the centre has been of teachers actively engaging with academic theories and literature in a number of ways in order to inform course development, pedagogical practices, and professional development. Many teachers also present their work at conferences, but very few teachers engage in research that results in publication; neither do they adopt a researcher identity alongside that of their teacher identity or explicitly incorporate research into their professional development activities. Being part of this community provided an opportunity for teachers to navigate this landscape through mutual engagement. They were able to share their ideas and receive feedback on what they were doing in a collegial way. This placed value on all teachers and was more inclusive. In addition, it was felt that being part of this community promoted more collaboration and reflexivity, all pillars of the Centre. 

A year on and this project has resulted in several publications. It has not only given the teachers voice, but has also been beneficial for the students as the research has focused on theorising about practice, which has resulted in innovations to course materials. These in turn have led to more active engagement of students in the academic community and given them more of a sense of belonging. In our presentation, we will briefly outline some of the projects that have been carried out and describe their impact on students. 

Jo Rose 

Learning from each other: researching teaching & learning across disciplines  

In all disciplines in HE, we are interested in how we can best support students’ learning and there is much potential to share pedagogical practices across disciplines. Disciplinary differences in terms of typical intended learning outcomes, content, and teaching/assessment processes, mean that this is complex. Nonetheless, pushing the boundaries of disciplinary traditions, and understanding and integrating different ways of thinking about teaching and learning into our pedagogy can be exciting.  

Thinking around how to research pedagogy can also be linked to disciplinary research practices: understanding and integrating different ways of thinking about researching pedagogy is also complex and exciting. This paper will explore why researching teaching across disciplines is difficult and rewarding, and what this means for us as pedagogical researchers. As academics, we are used to having a sense of our identity (where we stand in our discipline), our expertise and our territory. Integrating our thinking with other disciplines can threaten our identities and sense of expertise, and introduce uncertainty into where our territory is. Integrating our thinking with different disciplines can contribute to losing our sense of footing in our own discipline, and make it harder to articulate what our unique contribution to knowledge is – and these are the kinds of factors that are valued within the academic system.  

Through consideration of boundary crossing concepts (Akkerman and Bakker, 2011) and boundary experiences (Clark et al, 2017) and relational agency (Edwards, 2017), I explore how this integration of thinking with other disciplines can be seen as a positive development: through our interactions with other disciplines, we change and change others and develop concepts in ways that we could not have done on our own or within our own disciplines. I conclude by presenting some key questions for consideration when researching pedagogy across disciplines.

Joel Ross, Erin Brady, Max Watkins and Yasmin Zanker

Students as partners in Engineering education research  

Staff in the Faculty of Engineering who are interested in, or active in, engineering education research can join the Faculty’s Engineering Education Research Group (EERG) for support and to share ideas and practices. Increasingly, staff have also been partnering with students, or proposing student projects (either as paid internships or as UG projects) to undertake further educational research projects. Students are well-placed to reflect on our teaching provision, so we wanted to encourage further staff-student engagement by supporting more student-led projects and encouraging more partnerships through a formal forum. We created a student sub-group of the EERG with the aims of providing a forum for students to propose and run pedagogical projects, creating a support network for students undertaking such projects, and facilitating staff-student partnerships. 

After an initial meeting of interested students, 24 decided to join the group, and further meetings have helped to generate ideas and form project groups. One student has already developed a project to the point of submitting an abstract to present at a national conference. In this contribution, we share our experiences of setting up this new group and how it is going so far, with the hope that we can inspire others to work with students in similar ways to improve teaching and learning practices. 

Emilie Poletto-Lawson and Fiona Hartley

Developing belonging through interdisciplinary connections

To create a strong sense of belonging, we are committed to promoting interdisciplinarity among our colleagues through our teaching staff development programmes. According to the literature, universities need to develop graduates who are able to work across boundaries and we believe the first place to start is with educators. In this presentation, we will describe two interdisciplinary activities we have run and the responses to them.

Christophe Fricker

Can there be a learning community if learning means vastly different things to different people?  

Educational practices, trends and institutions are often controversial. Educators feel under-valued; students, under-served; and civic community members, overlooked. While almost everybody wants to see thriving learning communities, most educational debates are divisive. We propose that a major obstacle to the emergence of healthy learning communities are unresolved and largely unrecognised differences between stakeholders about what constitutes learning, education, and a good school in the first place. These differences manifest themselves in divergent discourses.  

Our (myself and Cory Massaro) most recent project is a large-scale listening exercise that sheds light on the attitudes and contexts in which educators and non-specialists talk about education. It seeks to create the conditions in which different stakeholders can engage with each other’s experiences and expectations in a more equitable and resonant way.  

We carried out a large-scale computational analysis of language used by educators and non-educators. We examine how often and in what contexts certain terms are used, and what people mean by them. For this purpose, we have created a custom-built online corpus of around 10 million words. Our two main methods (semantic analysis via word2vec and topic analysis via Latent Dirichlet allocation) are at the cutting edge of research in corpus linguistics. We propose that the basis for the emergence of a multi-stakeholder learning community is strong if a term is frequently used by both specialist and lay authors, in similar contexts, and with similar intentions, and that it isn’t when these conditions aren’t met.  

Our research shows that specialist and lay authors talk about very different things when they discuss education, school and learning. Specialists talk about institutions and modalities of learning; there is a great deal of reflection on the practice of teaching and learning. This is neither surprising nor bad, but it contrasts sharply with lay concerns, whose question is not normally how they learn but what they have learned and where it can get them.  

A further obstacle to productive learning conversations is the fact that the education system as a whole is seen as in crisis. Educators focus, in discussions about education, on poor working conditions; lay authors, similarly concerned with the nexus between education and work, have become disillusioned with the notion that ‘a good education will get you a good job.’ While, in a certain sense, these differences are widely known, the extent to which they are entrenched in contemporary discourse has come as a surprise to us, and we would like to present this evidence.  

One term where we see real convergence between specialists and lay audiences in educational contexts is ‘autism.’ This term seems to resist the trends that dominate each corpus: on the part of educators, the tendency to resort to abstraction and modalities of learning; and, in the lay corpus, an instrumental focus on education as a way into work. We would like to discuss whether this finding in particular may suggest how we approach multi-stakeholder learning communities in both our conversations and our day-to-day teaching practice.  

Maire Gorman 

Statistics and social science students: building confidence, camaraderie and appreciation of relevance of statistics through inter and intra-cohort Mentimeter activities 

Social science PGT and PGR students are mandated by their associated accreditation and funding bodies respectively to undertake courses in quantitative analysis (aka statistics). Through teaching various cohorts, it was found that many students approached these courses with anxiety due to previous traumatising experiences with statistics. Additionally they were unsure of the relevancy of the courses to their studies. To tackle these two factors, a multi-pronged approach was taken.  

One key approach was the inherent use of Mentimeter activities throughout synchronous workshops. A series of progressive open-ended Mentimeter questions were formulated to help explain core fundamental concepts and distinctions between them (e.g. different data types). These questions challenged students to link the concepts to their respective fields. For example “can you think of a categorical variable?” or, more challenging “can you think of two numerical variables which will be inversely correlated?”. The benefits of these questions was two-fold: a) students could learn from each other and share ideas across disciplines and b) as instructor I could use their responses as opportunity to assess understanding, clarify subtleties and use as basis for future examples. The responses from different cohorts (PGT, PGR and Professional DProf) was then shared with later cohorts to help them appreciate the applicability of statistics to a whole range of disciplines.  

For the final assessment, students were tasked with performing 3 statistical tests on a dataset of their choosing: a bespoke session on finding and selecting a dataset was given. Students were also encouraged to share resources via use of Blackboard forums.  

Overall, free-text comments on the centralised feedback surveys and a bespoke survey created indicated that students very much enjoyed the activities as many responses to the Mentimeter activities were relevant but also humorous in nature. Mentimeter allows students to share ideas in an anonymous fashion hence helping to nudge students to engage with concepts from a place of relative “psychological safety. Additionally the survey results indicated that students had greater understanding of the relevancy to their field. The quality of final assessments was markedly improved from before the intervention: previously many assignments indicated a lack of understanding of basic concepts (i.e. distinguishing data types) which has serious repercussions. After the intervention, the vast majority of such issues were eradicated.  

Christy O’Sullivan and Beth Eyre

An intro to academic societies 

This session will give an introduction to Academic Societies, the student-led communities centred around the common factor of area of study. 

Attendees can expect to learn about the contributions these group make to community, connection and belonging, as well as getting a run down of some of their most successful activities. We hope attendees will also leave with a sense of what they might be able to do to support these communities through their roles. 

Charlotte Verney 

Fostering positive experiences of belonging and difference for joint honours undergraduates  

This presentation combines findings from a single-site case study at one UK higher education institution, with experience of administering joint honours programmes at school and institutional level.  

Joint honours programmes are widely available within the UK sector, and within the University of Bristol. In addition to the challenge of transitioning from school to university level studies, these students also have to navigate multiple disciplines, processes and policies to complete their studies. Despite the popularity of joint honours courses, research that focuses on the experiences of joint honours students is limited, and their needs can be overlooked at the institutional and national level. The lack of research into the experience of being a joint honours student makes it difficult to identify how their experiences, engagement and sense of belonging can be enhanced.  

The case study research took place at one UK higher education institution exploring the experiences of 15 undergraduate students who studied either English & Drama, Geography & Politics, or a subject combined with Maths. It sought to give a voice to joint honours students, using semi-structured interviews.  

The presentation reports the key findings, which are framed within two dimensions:  

i) Student’s experience of ‘difference’ from their single honours peers and the ways in which institutional practices can influence whether the student considers their difference to be a positive or negative aspect of their learning experience. 

ii) Student’s sense of ‘belonging’ to their department(s) and programme cohort and the ways in which relationships with staff, administration processes, teaching practices and curriculum structures can influence their sense of belonging.  

Emily Bell 

Together from the start? Exploring students sense of belonging following a residential field trip at the start of their university journey 

As educators, we are aware of the multiple transition periods that our students experience throughout their time here with us. Although all transitions can impact students it is clear that a successful transition into higher education can be fundamental to a student’s ultimate success at university. Moving from secondary education to university can be a stressful time where students experience multiple stressors including the need to meet and make new friendship groups.  

During this first transition, developing a sense of belonging with peers, staff and the institution is crucial and, if successful, can provide academic benefits, increased retention, the development of learning communities and wellbeing benefits. In October 2022 we introduced a new residential field course into our degree programme, this not only included key biological skills training but a strong focus on community building. Since the field course, we have been following our current year 1 cohort to understand and explore whether attending a residential field trip at the start of a degree programme influences their sense of belonging at university.  

Preliminary analysis of our survey, focus groups and one-to-one interviews data has identified four themes where students found the field course to be impactful, these include 1) the importance of building social relationships and connections between students; 2) the removal of barriers in education; 3) creating a meaningful study environment and 4) a perceived level of care and respect by the School. Within this short talk, I will briefly outline how we developed the trip to focus on creating a strong sense of belonging but focus on the emerging thoughts of our students and outline our longitudinal study to further explore the experience of students.  

Andy Wakefield 

Offsetting teaching emissions: an educational opportunity for final year students  

While educators need to take action to reduce carbon emission associated with our teaching activities, it is inevitable that these will always incur some environmental impact. In an attempt to promote student voice and build belonging, I will be running a new sustainability-themed day of teaching activities for all returning third-year undergraduates in the School of Biological Sciences. Activities will enable students to calculate carbon emissions associated with a field course they recently undertook and to consider ways of reducing emissions for future courses while preserving/enhancing our educational offering. Students will connect with one another while attending a panel debate on carbon offsetting with guest experts.  

My aim is that this will be an opportunity for students to think critically about the offsetting debate but also enable students to embed sustainability thinking when planning their final year research projects which follow the event. 

Eva Craig

A human approach to teaching climate change 

In the education space, both students and educators alike have reported feeling anxious about climate change. This raises important questions about how we interact with climate change education, what duties we have to protect our mental health, and how to do this whilst remaining engaged in vital discussions on global issues. This presentation will discuss the student experience of climate anxiety in the classroom and look at how educators can both support students suffering from climate anxiety, feel emboldened to teach and speak out on a subject that they might not feel sufficiently ‘expert’ enough on, and use co-learning methods to reduce their own anxieties.

Joanne Norris and Sophie Ross-Smith

Building an inclusive environmental research culture: Exploring the Cabot MScR programme 

This presentation, written by Helen Thomas-Hughes, will showcase two projects which focused on exploring experiences of building an environmental research culture in interdisciplinary environmental research education. The first project was a case study of the Cabot Master’s by Research in Global Environmental Challenges (MScR), which used interviews and focus groups to explore the perspectives of academics, students, professional services, and industry partners involved with the programme on the nature of ‘belonging’ within an environmental research eco-system. 

The second project is currently underway and is using creative methods to academics from PGR students to professor together in a series of workshops in which they will reimagine what an inclusive research culture in environmental research might look like in the context of the contemporary University. The project is focused on practical solution-building in the context of academic workloads, and growing concerns about student well-being. 

The presentation will include a short presentation using power point, and a Q&A with the audience structured around provocations emerging from the research project’s findings. 

Charlie Davey  

Global Green Initiative 

What we do -> global innovation & sustainability collaboration through workshops supplemented by experts. 

Why-> we need collective action at a larger scale than we have ever seen. We helping bridge the global north/south divide. 

Introduce my favourite word ‘Glocal’. It can describe the relationship between global systems and local action, and vice versa. 

What we’ve done – 2x Bristol sessions. Global session (end of April) 

What we’re doing next. Hosting more and more workshops. 

How people can get involved or companies can collaborate. 

Rachael Miles , Kerry J Knox and Jonathan P Reid 

Building community through assessment pedagogy: Team Based Learning and 2 stage assessments 

The EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science is a seven institution, multidisciplinary CDT which uses a cohort-based approach to train postgraduate researchers in the fundamentals of interdisciplinary aerosol science. Our students are drawn from backgrounds spanning the physical and chemical sciences, engineering, environmental and earth sciences, biological and medical sciences, and pharmacy. Through implementation of research-based instructional strategies, namely Team-Based Learning[1] and two-stage (individual and group) assessments[2], we have used both teaching and assessment activities to support the creation of multiple communities within our cohort that exist both within and across disciplines, capitalising on the disciplinary diversity of our students. These communities support both academic and professional development, as well as personal wellbeing and social cohesion.  

This presentation will focus on our implementation of two-stage assessments. We will explain the rationale for using them and how they operate in practice, along with student experiences and strategies which were explored through a survey. We expect the work to be of interest to staff working in a broad range of disciplines and contexts, for example within undergraduate, taught masters and/or doctoral programmes. 

[1] Michaelsen L. K., Knight A. B., and Fink L. D. (2004) ‘Team-Based Learning: A transformative use of Small Groups in College Teaching’, Sterling, VA, USA: Stylus Publishing 

[2] Gilley, B. H., & Clarkston, B. (2014). Collaborative Testing: Evidence of Learning in a Controlled In-Class Study of Undergraduate Students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43, 83-91. https://doi.org/10.2505/4/jcst14_043_03_83 

Rushana Khusainova

How we can use video and audio (podcasting) feedback to make assessment feedback more personal and meaningful 

The important role of feedback on student assessment is well documented in the pedagogy literature. The main purpose of feedback is a balance of two elements: (1) to “justify” the mark given and (2) to provide an opportunity to learn and improve in the future, i.e. feed-forward (Bailey and Garner, 2010). The most popular method of feedback in HE in the UK is written electronic feedback provided through such platform as e.g. Blackboard or Canvas.  

The last several years have witnessed a significant increase in amount of marking in lecturers’ workload. In addition, there has been increased pressure to receive good student feedback scores (e.g. via the unit evaluation survey). Taken together these have created a new set of challenges in producing helpful feedback on student assessment that calls for new and creative approaches. 

Research suggests that over 50 percent of communication comes from non-verbal components, such as tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Written feedback is unfortunately void of this important part of communication.  

This presentation offers an insight into an alternative method of delivering feedback – video and audio (podcast). Video feedback on student assessment are “individualised video screencast with accompanying narration” (West & Turner, 2016, p. 400). Audio feedback (podcasting) is oral feedback that is digitally recorded and made available to students (Assessment for Learning at King’s).  

Audio and video feedback offers a more nuanced and detailed information that includes non-verbal elements such as tone of voice which adds layers of meaning to the listeners (Carruthers et al, 2015). 

Using a case of a final year elective unit from a HE institution (Aston University), the talk will present a theoretical foundation, specific examples and the step-by-step guide to using video and audio (podcasting) feedback. 

Examples of student feedback: 

• “Just wanted to drop a note saying that I really appreciated the video feedback and the time you took to do so. I found that this way feedback was more personable, engaging and clear. Written feedback can sometimes be a bit blunt and unhelpful.” 

• “.. I appreciated you putting extra time to make video feedback. I liked that it was conscice, allowing me to directly know my strong suits and the overall quality of my work. Maybe one thought, if possible you could highlight where confusion/mistakes were observed (i.e. when you mentioned some of my referencing was a bit off). Otherwise, video feedback made your comments that much more personal.” 

Alicia Gonzalez-Buelga and Mike Wharton

Effective and inclusive flipped classroom from a student’s point of view 

This is part of a longitudinal research project, focusing on the student’s perceptions of blended learning. For this conference, a 3rd Mechanical Engineering student will present a vision for an effective and inclusive flipped classroom approach, from his own perspective and other student’s perspective, that have been interviewed and have also participated in focus groups. This research project was developed with Irina Lazar and Sheila Trahar.

Oghale Ayetuoma 

Building community and belonging of students through teaching and assessment approaches. 

Numerous authors (Adams & Wilson, 2020; Berry, 2019; McMillan & Chavis, 1986) argue that the focus of community building is to create a space of commitment to and achievement of shared learning goals through collaborative working and social interaction which according to Hook (2013) are values that motivate social change’. In a multicultural UK Higher Education environment, the importance for building belonging and community amongst the diversity of students has never been more important particularly for first year undergraduate students transitioning from secondary into Higher Education. Moreso since research has shown that students’ engagement and ability to take responsibility and ownership of their learning is driven by their sense of belonging to their academic community (Baker, 2010; Berry, 2019; Lohr & Haley, 2018; Sadera et al., 2009). Furthering this last point, one of the seven principles of good practice in higher education (Chikering and Gamson, 1987) is on reciprocity and cooperation among students, where these authors advocate that learning with others particularly group tasks in ‘which five to seven students meet regularly during class throughout the term to solve problems set by the instructor’ increases social cohesion and involvement in learning.  

Group working and group assessments has therefore gained grounds in Higher Education settings as it is argued that students learn more from this than from any other learning approaches in Higher Education (Francis et al., 2022), particularly for acquiring transferrable skills for the workplace. It is also seen as a synergy tool for production of high-quality work (Surowiecki, 2004; Yorke & Knight 2006) and more importantly create that sense of ownership and belonging to a community with shared purpose of achieving a common goal. Whilst at face value, group work appears easy, it is fraught with diverse challenges ranging from managing different learning styles, responsibility, and accountability of team members, managing different team roles with the biggest issues being around language and cultural barrier for non-UK students coming from a different education system. These challenges can become demotivating and counterproductive without the right conditions in place, (Francis et al, 2022), particularly for first year undergraduate students who are the focus of this presentation. 

This presentation therefore attempts to show inclusive approaches I have applied to build belonging and community in my current teaching and learning including assessment practices for a first-year undergraduate unit comprising students from diverse backgrounds. Contents covered include teaching and learning approaches for building student belonging, assessments for building student belonging and community, managing challenges of building student belonging and community. 


Adams, B., & Wilson, N. S. (2020). Building Community in Asynchronous Online Higher Education Courses Through Collaborative Annotation. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 49(2), 250-261. 

Baker, C. (2010). The impact of instructor immediacy and presence for online student affective learning, cognition, and motivation. Journal of Educators Online, 7(1), n1. 

Berry, S. (2019). Teaching to Connect: Community-Building Strategies for the Virtual Classroom. Online Learning, 23(1), 164-183. 

Berry, S. (2017). Building community in online doctoral classrooms: Instructor practices that support community. Online Learning, 21(2), 42-63. 

Chickering, A.W. and Gamson, Z.F., 1987. Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE bulletin, 3, p.7. 

Francis, N., Allen, M. and Jane Thomas, J. (2022) Using group work for assessment – an academic’s perspective Using group work for assessment – an academic’s perspective.pdf (advance-he.ac.uk) 

Hooks, B., 2013. Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. Routledge. 

Lohr, K. D., & Haley, K. J. (2018). Using 

Jessica Roy, Natasha Mulvivhill, Sandi Dheensa, Sam Kirwan and Jenny Thwaites

From content warnings to engaging with trauma: Cross disciplinary approaches to trauma informed teaching and assessment  

Teaching programmes across the University of Bristol engage students with content which may be traumatic. These include issues relating to sexual violence, child abuse, torture, mental health problems, and state and organized harm. Programmes also cover topics which might appear to be normative but may be traumatic for students (and staff) such as pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, eating, exercise and health. At present, the standard approach in the sector is for programme teams and individual staff members to have individualised approaches to warning students about potential content and discussions. This might be by using content warnings – information highlighting the content of material before it is taught – or ‘trigger’ warnings – a warning that content may specifically impact or affect people with PTSD (Charles et al. 2022). The use of content warnings is not, however, straightforward with concerns raised about whether such practices: prevent academic debate; could act to censor teaching staff and students; and/or blur the line between educational and emotional labour, encouraging staff to take on further welfare responsibilities. Furthermore, it is unclear the extent to which content warnings adequately prepare or support students to deal with traumatic content.  

This paper presents a cross-discipline and cross-faculty ‘work in progress’ on how we teach traumatic content and how we can embed trauma informed responses throughout our curriculum from planning to teaching to assessment to personal tutoring. The paper will report on insights and data from across different faculties and disciplines within the university including: preparation and planning for a student supported project in the School for Policy Studies about the use of content warnings, adaptations to the teaching and presentation of information to medical students about violence and abuse; and information compiled by the Centre for Gender and Violence Research about developing trauma informed responses to all aspects of the curriculum.  

Ultimately, the paper will argue that content warnings are inadequate – and by themselves reinforce an individualised approach to supporting or dealing with trauma. Instead, we try to identify a more transformative approach to pedagogy in the context of trauma. Recognising also the implications for research, administration and relationships across the whole institution such an approach entails, we will seek to sketch out a brief agenda for how staff can be supported to implement such changes.  

Rosie Nelson 

Trans and non binary inclusive pedagogies 

The United Kingdom – and the world more broadly – is currently negotiating explicitly transphobic and cisnormative rhetorics. This means many trans and non binary people are experiencing a lack of social belonging, fear of discrimination, and poor mental health as a result of these dynamics. Clearly, students in our classrooms may be impacted by these social currents. Consequently, it becomes critical to consider how we might incorporate trans and non binary inclusive pedagogies that can mitigate the external pressures of transphobia, at least in one space we can provide. 

In this talk, I will present a series of suggestions on how one might be able to develop inclusive pedagogies for gender non conforming individuals. I begin by introducing some of the rhetorics our students may be exposed to via the media to demonstrate the existence of transphobia and cisnormativity. I then discuss a series of suggestions on providing safe spaces to have conversations that remain respectful, particularly for those teaching subjects that may have explicit discussions of the body, sex, gender, and sexuality. However, even if one is teaching a ‘disembodied’ topic, there are still ways one can indicate an inclusive space for gender non conforming individuals, and I will discuss this in the course of the presentation. I will also spend some time at the end of the presentation gathering any thoughts or ideas that other individuals may have in relation to inclusive pedagogies. 

Ros Death

Challenging the extension culture; What are the driving factors that encourage students to seek extensions? 

In 2022, more than 50 % of final year geography undergraduates at the university of Bristol asked for an extension for their dissertation. This number is part of a rising trend in extension requests in the school across all assignments and year groups, despite an overall decline in the assessment requirement over the same period. This project aims to identify the reasons for extension requests and through working with the students co-create a strategy to improve on-time assignment completion. Our initial survey aimed to determine the driving forces behind students struggling with working to deadlines and managing assessments and assess whether there is an inherent link to their sense of belonging and wellbeing.  

Through factor analysis we were able to characterise the results of the survey (76 from Year 2 and 69 from Year 3) into five main themes, including both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations; Academic Pressure, Enjoys a challenge, Planning and follow through, Preferred work practice and Grade motivation. Our initial results indicate that students evolve their attitude towards academic pressure from Year 2 to Year 3 and that students seeking extensions are less likely to enjoy a challenge and identify as less self-reliant. These results will form the basis of focus group discussions that will further explore these relationships and investigate student identity, peer group views on deadlines and the management of multiple deadlines. This research was supported by Brian Stollery, Julian Kendell and Rachel Flecker.

Christy O’Sullivan, Josie Benge and Megan Arianna-Law

The conditions for community 

We’ll be sharing our learning around the conditions that we as staff can create in order to best enable connection between peers, and support the formation of students communities. 

Attendees will leave with a better idea of what makes a difference, and hopefully, are able to view all aspects of their work through a ‘community building’ lens. 

Jacks Bennett

A whole university approach to student mental health and wellbeing support 

My PhD was set against a national and local background of growing numbers of students seeking mental health support at university, a number of highly publicised student deaths, and a national narrative of ‘student mental health in crisis’. My work investigated the impact of a £1 million added annual investment in new wellbeing support at the University of Bristol in 2018. The research provides the first evidence of its kind both nationally and internationally for the impact of non-clinical wellbeing advisers in a higher education setting.  

I used a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods to examine impact from a number of different perspectives. My findings suggest the new wellbeing services offered timely, accessible support for an increased number of students, and the ‘highly visible’ support appeared to be a catalyst for a positive shift in institutional mental health narrative, with evidence of improvement in students’ anxiety and wellbeing levels.  However, I also found ongoing operational challenges such as data-sharing between academic, professional and support service staff. Similarly, the volume of students seeking support appeared to compromise resource for intended preventative and community-building work, particularly in student accommodation. I also found evidence of a link between a student’s sense of belonging and social connection and their support seeking and wellbeing. 

My study conclusions re-emphasise a need for a whole university approach that incorporates consideration of pedagogy, social connection, community building and staff wellbeing, alongside effective student support services. 

Alice Robson, Lydia Miles, Bronwen Burton, Caroline McKinnon, Ames Mosley and Zaf Bashir 

Decolonising and diversifying the Biomedical Sciences curricula  

In the biomedical sciences, it is critical that students consider the wider context in which knowledge has been built, to support them to identify and address long-held biases in biomedical research and healthcare. Over the last two years, we have been employing undergraduate students to identify opportunities to decolonise and diversify teaching material. The findings have been captured in an “Emerging Themes” document, which has helped to create a dialogue with staff and shape changes within teaching content of the units analysed. 

To complement this work, we seek to understand attitudes towards decolonisation and diversification in the wider student and staff population, enabling us to measure impact and deliver change. Staff and students across the Biomedical Sciences Schools at the University were surveyed for their understanding of, and attitude towards, decolonising the curriculum. Results revealed that both staff (n=71) and students (n=121) felt decolonising the curriculum was important, but this was more important to female respondents (p<0.001). The survey also highlighted that students from minority ethnic groups did not feel represented by the curriculum, highlighting the need to develop a curriculum that is inclusive and representative for all students.  

Focus groups were undertaken to gain a deeper understanding of attitudes towards colonial influences in our curricula. Thematic analysis revealed three important themes which students consider essential for a decolonised curriculum, which we have developed into the 3Rs Framework: Rediscovery, Representation and Readiness. We propose that these themes could form a useful framework to guide future work to decolonise and diversify the curriculum, in the biomedical sciences and beyond. We are now working with an animation company to make an animated video to disseminate this work to a broader audience. Going forward, we will repeat both the surveys and focus groups after an interval of one year to monitor changes in attitudes as we refine our curricula.  

Patricia Neville and Konrad Spiteri Staines

Diversifying Oral Medicine’s clinical images(DOMci) in Health Science teaching: creating an EDI inspired educational e-resource for dentistry, dental hygiene and therapy and medical undergraduate

Academic texts and clinical images are key pedagogic tools for developing medical and dental students’ diagnostic skills. However, there is increasing criticism being levelled at how the human body is represented in these texts. The #Black Lives Matter and decolonising the curriculum movements have critiqued the inherent ‘whiteness’ of medical and dental education, biasing disease taxonomies and diagnostic reasoning (e.g. Amutah et al 2021). The over-representation of white patients with light skin tones and under-representation of ethnically diverse patients with darker skin tones in medical textbooks and clinical image libraries is worrisome as it decreases awareness of how disease presents in diverse patient groups (Kaundinye and Kundu 2022). One way to redress this resource and knowledge gap is to diversify clinical image libraries (see http://www.Blackandbrown.com , Project IMPACT, Kaliyo and Mellish 2021).  

This educational innovation sought to redress the racial bias in medical dental educational resources and its representation of the human body as de facto ‘white’ by designing a case-based oral medicine educational e-resource that incorporated authentic images from ethnically diverse patient groups. This presentation will outline how the educational e-resource was developed, informed by the ADDIE(Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation of learning materials and activities) model of instructional design and the ‘design-evaluate-redesign’ (McKenny and Reeves 2012). We will also present findings of the quantitative and qualitative data collected from the student evaluations of the e-resource. Overall, we conclude that healthcare educators need to respond to such resource gaps in medical and dental education in order to provide high quality education to students.  


Amutah, C., Greenridge, K., Mante, A., Munyikwa, M., Surya, S.L., Higginbottom, E., Jones, D.S., Lavizzo-Mourey, R., Roberts, D., Tsai, J., Aysola, J. 2021. Misrepresenting Race-The Role of Medical Schools in Propagating Physician Bias, The New England Journal of Medicine, 384:872-878.  

Black and Brown Project. https://www.blackandbrownskin.co.uk/mindthegap &nbsp;

Instructional System Design(ISD): Using the ADDIE model. Retrieved from: https://www.lib.purdue.edu/sites/default/files/directory/butler38/ADDIE.pdf date accessed 2 Sept 2022  

Kaliyo, T., and Mellish, V., 2021. Black Lives Matter: the impact and lessons for the UK dental profession, British Dental Journal 230(3), 134-142.  

Kaundinye, T., and Kundu, R.V., 2022. Diversity of Skin Images in Medical Texts: Recommendations for Student Advocacy in Medical Education, Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 8, 1-3.  

McKenney, S and Reeves, T.C. 2012. Conducting educational design research, London: Routledge.  

Project IMPACT. https://www.visualdx.com/projectimpact/ &nbsp;

Polly Barr, Peter Allen and Kristopher Magee

Decolonisation activities to insert into Research Methods courses 

White centrality is a societal issue derived from historical colonialism, which still to this day influences psychology teaching and education. To begin to address the societal issues and consequences of colonialism, we need to work collaboratively with students to develop curricular strategies to decolonize and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion whilst maintaining psychology literacy learning outcomes. Therefore, the aim of this project is to disseminate the student collaborative and empowering research methods focused decolonisation activities we’ve developed that can be embedded into typical, Western psychology programs which can aid in developing and driving learning outcomes.  

MSc students lead interviews with teaching staff, focus groups with UG students and crowd sourced student ideas with the aim of developing activities that met learning outcomes of applied psychology to achieve the individual, group and community goals of addressing the societal issue of decolonisation and diversity. The students thematically deduced the importance of embedding decolonisation but that activities needed to be engaging and incentivised and achieve learning outcomes and collaborative goals.  

Based on the main themes and emergent sub-themes from the interview and focus groups, activities were collaboratively crowed funded from undergraduate psychology students. These students were aware that they were engaging in embedding decolonisation concepts and the development of their own curriculum. These activities were then honed with MSc students and when piloted in focus groups, were considered useful, appropriate, engaging, informative and clearly meeting relevant learning objectives. The activities are suitable for deployment in both in-person and online classrooms. 

Therefore, they have potential to be incorporated into existing blended research methods courses and learning outcomes typical in undergraduate psychology programs and can be adapted to encompass more and wider disciplines. We hope that this package of activities can form part of a strategy that can advance equity, belonging and diversity via research literacy driven by learning outcomes. These activities collaboratively empowered students to apply psychological literacy and course learning outcomes to solve societal issues; another key aspect of this special issue. We hope that further dissemination of these activities, via an open-access online supplement to this paper, will result in further enabling and alliance with students across institutions for their applicability and adaptability and periodically reviewed and improved. Thereby, continuing the collaboration and empowerment of students to use psychological literacy and learning outcomes to solve societal issues.  

Evelyn Miller 

Decolonising the curriculum zine

Decolonising the curriculum is an essential part of Bristol university’s civic responsibility to build a sense of community and belonging in our challenging and changing world. My zine will archives examples of recent decolonising efforts within and beyond the university.  

The zine and all examples cited promote inclusive approaches to teaching and assessment. Some write-ups focus on the work being done with local partners/communities and further, how the university can be more connected with the city of Bristol. Finally, the zine provides examples, frameworks and steps that educators and students can take to work towards a ‘decolonised curriculum’. The presentation will be a ‘highlights reel’ of all of these components on the zine. 

The BILT Transitions project team: Robert Sharples, Claire Spencer, Keith Beasley, Emily Bell

Thriving or Surviving? What students say about the transition to University

Throughout their Higher Education (HE) journeys all undergraduate and postgraduate students experience multiple transition points, including arriving at university, transitioning through different years, and moving out of the institution into work or further education. All transitions are important, but the first transitional experience at any academic institution will influence students’ engagement and retention with their programme (Bowles et al. 2009; Tinto, 2004; Thomas, 2012). Arriving at a university is accompanied by multiple stressors including living away from home, making new friends, and developing self-care responsibilities (Parker et al. 2004). Another key stressor is adapting to new ways of studying and learning in an academic environment (e.g. Booth, 2001; Thomas, 2012; Wernersbach et al. 2014). These stressors are experienced by students at all degree levels and are compounded for postgraduate taught students on one-year programmes. Many students will thrive when faced with these new challenges whereas others will be overwhelmed, fearful and fail to adapt to this unfamiliar environment (Bowles et al. 2009). Consequently, understanding what factors impact transitions is an important first step to make any future evidence-based improvement to wider university support services and education provision.

Our presentation draws on data from interviews (n=23) and focus groups (n=6) with current first-year undergraduate and master’s students at the University of Bristol. We present our findings on the factors that made the transition to higher education harder (challenges) and easier (enablers), which University services students found to be most and least helpful, and what concrete steps HE institutions can take to support successful transitions.

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