Jacqueline Stevenson (School of Sociology and Social Policy)
This Fellowship builds on, and complements, work already taking place across the university to address awarding gaps, that is the difference in degree outcomes between, for example, white and minoritised ethnic students, or young and mature students.
Although the metric used to measure the gap relates to the difference between a 1st or upper second-class degree and other degree classifications, the gap begins to widen from the very beginning of the student journey. For this reason, action needs to be taken early to enable equity of outcome by the time of final degree classification.
The University of Leeds is committed to closing awarding gaps and has set ambitious targets. To support this aim, this fellowship will explore the role of inclusive targeting, referring here to pedagogic approaches designed to benefit all students but with the aim of supporting the academic attainment of those specific groups who are less likely to be awarded a 1st/2:1.
Over the next year, in partnership with staff and students, the focus of the fellowship will be to:
- Raise awareness of the ‘legality’/moral imperatives around targeting, including what works and how, where and with whom initiatives might be targeted.
- Undertake an exploration of the gap which specifically exists between those attaining a 1st class degree and those attaining a lower second-class degree.
- Undertake analysis/further analysis of data relating to assessment outcomes in particular for “failed modules.”
- Undertake a Critical Discourse Analysis of assessment titles, briefs, rubrics, and other marking frameworks, in partnership with students to explore how students might be better supported.
The research approach
Phase 1, May – July 2022:
To explore the role of assessment, support will be given to students who have failed a module in those Schools identified as having a higher than average module fail rate across one or more modules. It will primarily target mature learners and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students (esp. Black students) but take an intersectional approach as there are large gaps, for example, for Mature Black/Mature BAME v Mature White students. Moreover BAME and/or mature students who also have caring responsibilities, who are commuter students, who are from low participation neighbourhoods, or who are care-experienced or estranged from their families will be actively encouraged to participate so that the benefits of flexible assessment for students from a wide range of backgrounds can be considered.
There will be three stages:
- Explore students’ approaches to assessment, including identifying:
- timelines which frame assessment – both those explicated in module handbooks and those actually undertaken by students;
- ways in which students understand and approach assessments (practical, attitudinal etc.)
- academic help seeking strategies.
- Undertake a Critical Discourse Analysis of assessment titles, briefs, rubrics and other marking frameworks to help identify students understanding of what is being asked of them and where better understanding could be developed.
- Explore the extent to which academic outcomes for students who have failed a module might/could be ameliorated by developing Task Value, Framing, and/or Personal Values interventions.
Through the activity it is anticipated that:
- Students will develop a better understanding of their own approaches to assessment which they can draw on for subsequent assessments.
- Staff will develop further insights into how students approach assessments, which they can draw on when developing future assessments.
- Information will be collated which can be used to frame specific targeted interventions.
- Combined this should have an effect on awarding gaps.
All activities will be developed and delivered in partnership with/by students.
Phase 2: It is anticipated that, if shown to have impact, this approach will be replicated with BAME and mature students who have gained a 2:2 in their second year of study, in an attempt to enable them to move from a 2:2 to a 2:1 or 1st class degree.
If you would like to find out more about the project contact Jacqueline (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Project start date: February 2022