Ana Cabral, Alison Pettigrew, Janet De Wilde, Max Addo, Giorgio Chianello, Louise Younie and William Davies
QUEEN MARY ACADEMY – QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
The SEED (Student Enhanced Engagement and Development) Award recognises students’ important contribution to shaping education at Queen Mary by working alongside educators, putting feedback into action, co-creating resources and solutions, and improving their programme while developing skills that enable them stand out to potential employers.
The award is strategically aligned with the priorities outlined in the QMUL Strategy 2030 by supporting students as they develop in educational leadership. Our vision is to provide opportunities for all our students to engage with educational development across QMUL and empower them to enhance their educational experience.
Students provide a written statement which outlines their contribution, based on 3-5 different activities of educational enhancement (at least 10 hours) and a reflection on what they have learnt and how they have developed as educators and co-creators, as well as a summary of recommendations for the curriculum/educators.
Applications are endorsed by the member of staff who has worked closely with them: academics, professional services staff or a Queen Mary Student Union Executive Officer. The endorsement makes explicit reference to the contribution to teaching and/or support of student-learning in relation to one or more of the Areas of Activity of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). SEED Award panels meet at least twice a year and, if applications are successful, students receive a certificate and, where applicable, the Award will feature on their HEAR transcript.
The SEED award winner William Davies participated in a project led by Dr Giorgio Chianello and funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry titled “Student generated teaching resources as a tool to enhance inclusion and diversity”. The aim was to develop videos and teaching resources for undergraduate modules as well as informative material of Queen Mary and Chemistry for sixth form students.
Along with three other students, William created two videos and was involved in all aspects of the production from the script writing to the editing and shooting of the video. According to William, ‘this experience allowed the development of ‘a range of skills to enhance my skillset as well as further enhancing my chemistry knowledge through the research when developing the lecture slides’ (…) developing these videos with Dr Giorgio Chianello gave us important access to an academic, his advice and support via weekly meetings, which consisted of discussing the concepts presented within the videos, the learning experience of the students watching the videos as well as how this experience could add to their own chemistry undergraduate experience. These meetings have further developed my communication skills, giving me advice on how to tailor a science engagement project to a target audience. Via these weekly meetings I was able to collaborate with my peers and discuss with them ideas for the video and give feedback on each other’s work produced’.
According to Dr Chianello: ‘collaborating with undergraduate students is a great opportunity to look at the learning environment with a fresh set of eyes. Students can share innovative ways of communication that can potentially be more impactful on other undergraduate students. In my personal experience, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Mr William George Davies, Ms Laiba Hafeez, Mr Naheem Ahmend and Mr Safik Mohamed. It has been great to experience their enthusiasm and witness their personal growth and confidence boost. Now the project is involving new students and promising data are emerging. We have, in fact, received very positive comments in module evaluations for the modules that incorporated the videos produced by students’.
Successes, challenges and lessons learnt
In this first year, 27 students have already received a SEED award (2 awarding panels).In order to evaluate the SEED award experience: activities (benefits and challenges of taking part) and the application process (reasons to apply and challenges involved), we have created a survey to be completed by all award winners after the communication of the outcome of their applications. A total of 14 participants agreed to evaluate their experience (Appendix 1)
SEED award winners valued their SEED award experience. The main benefits of taking part included gaining a better understanding of the choices made by educators by working alongside them and of the learning and teaching processes. According to the participants, getting recognition for the work developed is the main reason for applying. Besides the certificate and feature on the HEAR transcript (if applicable), the links to the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework – Advance HE) have proved to be relevant to those applicants who may aspire to pursue a teaching career in higher education themselves. A good example is the case of a SEED award winner involved in running Peer Led Team Learning sessions who has commented on the experience and on how it may have had an impact in terms of career choices: ‘Leading these workshops boosted my self-confidence and catalysed my drive to participate in similar programmes in the future since I also acquired leadership skills during the programme. (…) I have not really given a thought to teaching in academia before. Still, this experience – and the fact that I got to work with Dr X– has greatly affected my plans to consider teaching as an option’.
In terms of challenges, students have struggled with navigating institutional structures, practices and norms as well as writing the application itself for example how to write the ‘Reflective account’ and the ‘Recommendations’ section.
Lessons learnt include the pedagogical value of co-creation between students and staff across all three faculties at QMUL, the importance of supporting students in making applications and the need to further engage and support educators towards co-creative pedagogical approaches.
In order to enhance the identified successes and address the challenges discussed above, we intend to:
– improve the support provided to applicants in terms of writing their applications (SEED surgeries – weekly individual sessions open for sign-up directly from the SEED award website);
– provide more detailed guidance to the educators endorsing the applications;
– co-create with students ways to support diversity and inclusivity in terms of student engagement with faculty;
– invite students to become members of the award panels;
– invite students to contribute to the governance of the scheme;
– seek other forms of recognition and/ or accreditation (AdvanceHE).