Eve Little completed a Research Experience Placement with the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence in summer 2023, she was investigating the Impacts of Teaching and Learning Scholarship. Here she reflects on her experience of conducting this research.
Before my LITE placement:
Hi, my name is Eve Little and I am a recent Psychology graduate at the University of Leeds. Finishing university this year, with a degree that I am incredibly proud of, a summer research placement with Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE), and a job lined up at the university for September is drastically different from where I started three years ago first moving to Leeds. I transitioned to university during COVID-19 meaning that my first-year experience was abnormal: virtual teaching, learning and support; restricted socialising due to lockdown measures; and an absence of a normal university community (no societies or anything in-person). These unique experiences, alongside the normal struggles that come with transitioning to a new city, living independently for the first time, meeting new people, and adjusting academically, meant that there were times in first year where I felt disengaged from my course and resentment towards the university. Partly as a result of these experiences, across my final year I decided to write my dissertation on student well-being. I absolutely loved the experience of conducting my own research project, particularly in an area which I was both interested in and passionate about improving. From this, my dissertation supervisor recommending that I apply for a LITE placement which would be an opportunity for further independent research experience, again, with the aims of improving students’ experiences.
During my LITE placement:
My research project with LITE set out to investigate the ‘Impacts of Teaching and Learning Scholarship’ on students, the researcher, and the wider university. I did this through interviewing four members of staff at the University of Leeds who have completed Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) with LITE, to find out the impact that the projects have achieved since completion. From this, I transcribed my data and analysed it to come up with meaningful findings. I then collated all of this (an overview of my project, my key thoughts and questions surrounding ‘impact’ and ‘SoTL’, and my findings from my study) into a 5-minute video. I thoroughly enjoyed making this video and using more creative ways as an output for research; this isn’t a skill that we used a lot during my psychology degree and I definitely learnt a lot as a result. The final video is a piece of work that I am very proud of so, if you are interested in finding more about my project and hearing about LITE and the SoTL work at the university from a student’s perspective, then definitely give it a watch.
Reflecting on my LITE placement:
Before starting this research project investigating SoTL, as a student, I wasn’t aware of the extent to which this kind of research and scholarship was happening at Leeds. I think being a ‘COVID’ student disconnected me from this side of the university and so learning more about it, whilst with LITE, was incredibly beneficial. At the start of my placement in June, I attended a LITE showcase event where I got to hear about all the various SoTL work being completed at the university. I found this experience so interesting: hearing about the various projects and their impact; conversing with members of staff and discussing ideas; and just being shown the number of staff there with improving students’ experiences at the forefront of their careers. It was both reassuring to me, as a student, that the university does care and it also motivated me in my own research project to treat it as a serious piece of, potentially impactful, work.
Following this, my interviews with the four LITE fellows was another important experience for me. Hearing in-depth about their projects and having discussions after the interviews where we bounced ideas off one another and spoke about the university in general; I felt like a ‘student researcher’ with valued ideas and not just a ‘student’ and this is how LITE have made me feel throughout the whole summer placement. Sometimes, as a student, it didn’t always feel like I had a voice, or a platform to express my voice but since completing my LITE research project and my final year dissertation, I think differently. I believe that being involved in student-led research investigating students’ experiences provides a more meaningful and authentic account; this therefore has a positive impact on the students involved with the research (like me) and for those who are then heard and better understood as a result of it.
In summary, my experience of completing a LITE student research placement has been so positive and beneficial for many reasons… Being part of and getting to know the LITE team (my project supervisors Ben and Dave, and Clare, Emma, Rekha, and Hayley) as well as feeling supported and encouraged by them throughout. Conducting independent research in an area in which I am both interested in and passionate about improving, as well as being provided with opportunities of networking, discussion, and to feel part of an impactful research community. Having a positive shift in my overall perspective of universities (to which was negatively skewed since COVID in terms of how well they support students). And finally, it has given me the confidence in my own skill set and helped lead me onto working at the university next year in a job I am really looking forward too.
I am incredibly grateful for my experience whilst on this placement with LITE, and excited for the opportunities that will follow, including disseminating my work next year.