Friday, 8 November 2013

Working with international students as co-researchers: towards an inclusive educational community.

A presentation by Dr Julie Wintrup and Dr Kelly Wakefield (University of Southampton) at the Research-Teaching Practice in Wales Conference, 10th September 2013, at the University of WalesGregynog Hall. Edited by Professor Simon Haslett.

Research-Teaching Practice In Wales Conference 2013
Dr Julie Wintrup
Background to study: Institutional and political manoeuvres have ensured that international students are at once the subject of concern and opprobrium, in the UK and elsewhere. Increased recruitment, particularly of post-graduates, is a goal of all in the HE sector, and is generally accompanied by strategies to welcome and support new arrivals. At the same time, powerful discourses seek to vilify the international student - as interloper, seeking work rather than study – and are epitomised by recent reporting of the UK Border Agency’s aim to ensure ‘that only the right students get in’ (Casciani, 2012). Such a climate requires more than managerial approaches to marketing, accommodation and social networks. The curriculum, enacted through learning and teaching, provides a means of deconstructing and countering such discourses, and of providing alternative conceptions of an inclusive higher education community. But doing so requires attention and investment, along with a deeper understanding of what is meaningful and helpful to students.

Rational and methodology: In general, International students’ broader experiences are well documented (for example, Bamford, 2008). Learning and teaching strategies are well explored in the literature, providing helpful advice and ideas (such as Leask, 2009). Yet all too often, as Preston-Shoot (2007) reminds us, the student perspective is interpreted and expressed by others. Research by established academics is shared through journals and books. The likelihood of findings or recommendations reaching students themselves or the many academics working as supervisors, programme designers or tutors is low.

This study, which is still at the data collection stage, aims to begin a conversation with international students, amongst and between students and educators, to discover more about a particular aspect of their learning; that is, how they experience, value and use verbal feedback from supervisors, peers, in group seminars, work placements and informally. Post-graduate students are interviewing their peers, having co-designed the interview schedule with researchers. Analysis and dissemination of findings will be a shared task, opening up opportunities for students to participate in a range of curricular and staff development activities within and beyond our institution.

Video referred to in the presentation:

Editor's note: see also Foreign students made to queue through the night by Hannah Richardson (BBC News education reporter).

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