by Ania Rolińska
Some time ago I received an email through a BALEAP mailing list with a request for student contribution to the International Student Experience Journal (ISEJ) and it dawned on me that this could be a great opportunity for the EAST project student participants to get their voice heard by a wider community.
I was aware that the students were busy with their studies and lives and I was wondering how to entice them. I knew that having something published in their name would be an incentive. But would it be enough for current or prospective engineers? After all, the journal specialises in education studies rather than science, engineering or technology.
It occurred to me that the piece could be structured as a conversation with voices from Glasgow and Palestine interwoven into it to provide a full picture of the student engagement in the project. I emailed the journal editors to guage their interest and the response was positive. We agreed that the students would write reflections which can be more subjective and personal in style (no need to look for references!), with the UoG and IUG staff providing a more rigorous academic commentary grounding and contextualising the learners’ stories.
I thought of a way of giving the reflections some direction so that it would be easy to mould them into the resultant collaborative piece. How to give the students freedom of expression but at the same time be able to find common themes in order to comment on them in the meta analysis? More importantly, how to ensure the reflections were interesting and critical and went beyond the description of simply what we did.
For some time already I’d been thinking about ways of capturing the project impact on the students’ academic and professional paths. I’d wondered if and to what extent the EAST project impacted them, to what extent the intended outcomes of increased digital literacies, real-world knowledge, team working and communication skills, intercultural awareness, to name the few, had been achieved. The ISEJ publication seemed like an opportunity to tackle those questions.
I thought that University of Glasgow Graduate Attributes, a set of academic abilities, personal qualities and transferable skills which students are expected to develop as part of their University experience, are well aligned with the project ILOs so I decided to use them as a starting point for the students’ reflections. I combined this with action-reflection model which had the potential to provide the students with a workable structure of their writing. The students would analyse the EAST project for critical incidents, experiences of some significance, moments which stopped them and made them think, question their ways of thinking and doing. This is where the graduate attributes could come in handy as they would provide labels to articulate the changes in the student’s development. Next, the students would use the experience of the EAST project as a space which allowed them to experiment with and implement the new understandings to see how the critical incidents contributed to their growth. This felt like a good plan and a consultation with the Proejct partners confirmed it – they were willing to support me.
I emailed all the students who in the final questionnaire gave their consent to being contacted and four of them expressed enthusiasm in participating in the ISEJ collaboration: 2 females from IUG and 2 males from UoG. Each of them is at a different stage of their academic development, from undergraduate studies, through master’s to PhD so this should bring interesting results and enough food for thought, or rather the academic commentary to be written by me in the new year.
I set up a small Facebook group for day-to-day communication, and Bill and I held a WiziQ session in real time to brief the students on the project rationale and time frames. These slides outline the collaboration in some more detail.
The students are now working on their outlines and I am really looking forward to seeing what they will be focusing on in their reflections.