A new group has been started to ensure our staff can learn about and benefit from each other’s research.
Laura Kayes hopes the Research Development Group (RDG) will encourage colleagues from across multiple disciplines and campuses to share the extra work that so many of them are doing. The group also picks topics of general interest to discuss, and delves into existing research.
Laura, an Advanced Practitioner in teaching, learning and assessment and a Creative Arts lecturer at University Centre Leeds, uses her own research to inform her teaching.
She is currently undertaking funded* research – through her doctorate in education with the University of Sheffield – into the impact poverty can have on 16-19 year old learner outcomes in FE.
Laura was asked to take over the RDG shortly after it had started, at the end of 2021 – and jumped at the chance.
A chance to share insights
She said: “The group is about enhancing scholarly activity within Luminate Education Group. When I started conducting my own research, I realised that there’s a lot of valuable research that’s not being shared, and I wanted that to happen.
“Further education is rich in the diversity of its workforce but for some of our staff their first contact with higher education may be doing a PGCE or teaching qualification.
“So they’re not too familiar with higher education and it can seem a bit intimidating – there’s a tendency to always see the word ‘research’ and think it’s very academic, and I wanted to break that down.
“For the first session after I took over, I brought in research about how to be authentic in the workplace. That seemed a good starting place because it impacts everybody, is something we can all talk about and, though it had been researched, it had been done in a very human way.”
Gaining insights from outside our comfort zones
Laura is conscious that one of the strengths of the Luminate group – its size and breadth of campuses and disciplines – can also be a barrier when it comes to collaboration.
The RDG, however, is focused on encouraging colleagues to look outside of their own fields to see what they can learn from, and share with others.
She said: “As teachers we’re curious people, that’s why we’ve chosen to go into this field, but it’s really easy to become insular once term starts and we’re all so busy.
“We’re massive here at Luminate so sometimes it’s not so easy to share practice. But we all have lessons to be learnt from different fields.”
A bite-sized approach
Aware of how intimidating some research can seem, Laura is getting the group to adopt an approach that makes sophisticated ideas easily digestible.
At another recent meeting of the RDG, for example, Zach Cotter – who has a doctorate in neuroscience – spoke about his in-depth research into the workings of the brain.
The subject could easily have seemed impenetrable but Zach, a course leader for T Levels in Digital Design and Production and Digital Support Services, took pains to make sure that wasn’t the case.
Laura said: “Zach brought along some really scientific research about the mind and talked a lot about brain scans.
“There were some really challenging ideas in there but he was really gentle in his approach, so it didn’t feel overwhelming, and the feedback we got was that it was accessible to people.”
She added: “Going forward I want to use a gradual release model that lets us break research down into bite-sized pieces so we can discuss it, consider how we might apply it, and even conduct our own research on the impact of doing so.
“We have a lot of staff involved in research that not too many of the wider group know about, so the next step is to get them feeling like they have something valuable that they’re willing to share.”
The RDG is open to any colleague with an interest in educational research, and meets once every half-term.
*Laura’s research is being supported by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE).