Participatory approaches to inclusion related staff development: report of a LATEU funded learning and teaching enhancement project 2007-8. Southampton, UK, University of Southampton, 42pp.
This report will describe and evaluate a University funded project called PAIRS, (Participatory Approaches to Inclusion Related Staff Development) which aimed to:
Capture “student voices” regarding their learning experiences within the School of Education at the University of Southampton: Use these “voices” to explore whether and how the School of Education programmes include or exclude students with a wide range of learning needs from experiencing positive or high quality learning opportunities.
• Involve students in the analysis and exploration of these “student voices”: Develop a collaborative partnership whereby students help to develop materials and methods that can be used to help staff in the work towards meeting learning needs and reducing barriers to inclusion.
For the PAIRS project, there were two different types or phases of participation. In Phase One the students were asked to contribute descriptions of their learning experiences and how their learning needs had/or had not been met. Students were able to choose the method or media for their contributions. In Phase two students formed an advisory group that worked together to analyse the learning experiences gained through phase one, and decided how we would use the information about student learning experiences to design staff development initiatives in the School.
Twenty students took part in Phase One of the project and five students took part in Phase Two. Analysis of the twenty accounts or student voices that were obtained through Phase One revealed four main factors that appeared to facilitate or help learning: supportive tutors; knowledgeable and expert tutors; flexibility (choice, options, variety); sharing and communicating with peers (peer support) and four main factors appeared to hinder learning: workload issues; lack of information; poor communication and issues around essay writing skills and support.
Areas in which the School might therefore focus staff development events and efforts include methods of supporting students to deal with workload issues and essay-writing issues- which may include raising awareness of what other support mechanisms exist within the University and methods for improving communication with and between students, which may include making more effective use of ICT.
Reflections on the value of using participatory methods to evaluate student learning suggest that students were motivated to take in the project either because of a desire to talk about specific issues of importance to them or due to a curiosity regarding the methods used. Most colleagues who facilitated access to students seemed to see the PAIRS project as an opportunity to collect information that they could use for a variety of QA and QE purposes in order to illustrate authoritatively the “student voice”. Participatory methods can produce rich, detailed information from a small number of motivated and committed students. There is value in using participatory methods to complement other evaluation methods.
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