We’ve reached the end of our stint as Student Fellows at BILT and it’s been quite the rollercoaster. If you’d told me at the start of the academic year that I would have planned a trip to a conference, started an undergraduate journal, worked through a national lockdown and participated in the move to online teaching, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.
I had no idea what to expect when I applied to work at BILT, but (at the risk of sounding clichéd) it really has been the highlight of my four years at Bristol University. I’ve had the chance to explore learning and teaching from a new perspective, write blogs, run workshops with students and meet some really lovely people. Being a Student Fellow has taught me phrases like ‘pedagogy’ and ‘authentic learning’ and ignited my own interest in teaching.
Part of my project involved organising Bristol’s first ever trip to the British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BCUR). The conference brings together students from universities across the UK to present their research. We had 30 students lined up to go, with a wonderful range of projects (and representation across all the faculties), but sadly, it had to be cancelled. However, I did run abstract and presentation workshops with the students and it was so exciting to see students engaged with and proud of their research. Maybe I’ll try and sneak onto the bus for next year’s conference!
My main goal for the project, ‘Students as Researchers’, was to set up Bristol’s first undergraduate research journal. As a postgraduate researcher, learning and teaching through research methods seemed natural to me, but I was surprised to find that many students only do one research project across their whole degree. I was further surprised to find that many students do not consider their university work as ‘proper research’. The foundation of research-informed teaching is to empower students through knowledge and research, encouraging them to see the value in their work. I hoped that the journal would help undergraduates to celebrate their work and to see it as real research. We had an editorial team of over 100 students, and over 200 students submitted their work; it was an amazing response which just goes to show how much undergraduates want their own research communities. I really hope that the journal will continue and will inspire students to see themselves as researchers.
Being a BILT Student Fellow didn’t just mean working on our own projects, though. We helped organise the Best of Bristol Lectures, we interviewed staff and students for our Humans of Bristol University blog series, we did some of our own podcasts and we even guest-starred on Owen’s podcast, Voicing Vulnerabilities. We ran a session at the online BILT Conference. We’ve also had endless cups of tea, lunch breaks (and then, Zoom lunch breaks), and a lot of fun.
As our time to hang up the BILT lanyard comes, I also think about where BILT will go next. As teaching starts to move online in this strange new world, BILT will be invaluable for staff and students who are looking for support, inspiration and ideas for online teaching. This year, the other Student Fellows, Marnie, Toby and Owen, incorporated contemporary issues like sustainability and wellbeing into their projects. I hope that BILT, and the wider university, continues to address key issues and incorporate them into learning and teaching. Of course, I’d also love to see the journal continue, and to see students attend BCUR next year.
Having heard the titles for next year’s Student Fellows, I’m so excited to see where their projects lead and what they get up to!
Emily Kinder – BILT Student Fellow in 19/20 working on the theme of Students as Researchers through which she established Bristol’s first undergraduate research journal.