Sharing Insights: Developing Inclusive Learning Cultures

Dr Chris Little, Teaching Fellow and Learning Developer in KIITE, recently attended the Liverpool John Moores University Teaching and Learning Conference 2019, where he presented his work on 'Fostering unexpected engagement in research beyond the curriculum via an undergraduate research conference', in which he spoke about the successes of the JADE Student Learning Undergraduate (JSLUG) Conference.

Chris has coordinated Keele’s JSLUG undergraduate research conference for four years. Its mission is to provide a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to gain first-hand experience of presenting at an academic conference, and seeks to empower undergraduate students as independent producers of knowledge. Students are invited to present oral presentations, lightning talks or posters on any topic of their choice. Chris explains:

“By designing a conference that is inclusive of all students and their interests, and allowing them to choose the subject they want to focus on, we’ve found that the conference really challenges preconceptions around who engages in such initiatives. For example, students with disclosed disabilities, mature students, BAME students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds all engage at levels significantly higher than institutional benchmarks.”

Chris continues:

“We’ve found that as a result of engaging in the conference, students report a development of presentation and research skills and an increased interest in the disciplines of others. Significantly, students also report an increased engagement with extracurricular activities, such as discipline-specific conferences and additional courses, beyond their formal curriculum, as a result of participating in this conference.”

Now in its 18th year, the LJMU’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference is a forum to share and discuss innovative and effective teaching, learning and assessment practices, as well as explore findings from teaching-related research and evaluation. On the theme of ‘Developing Inclusive Learning Cultures’, this year’s two-day event showcased the work of academic and professional service staff, and students, across a range of higher education teaching and learning topics.

Chris added:

“This was a really good opportunity to go and not only share the successes of the JADE Student Learning Undergraduate Research Conference, but to meet and engage with a whole new institution doing amazing things on inclusive learning. I even got to see a forensic scientist/stage magician teach us all how to be better presenters which was both inspirational and entertaining. It was a great event and one I would recommend to colleagues looking ahead to 2020.”

To view the full programme, along with the abstracts from the presentations, please visit the conference webpage.