‘Livin and Learnin’, Tellin’ stories, Challengin’ narratives: Critical reflections on engaging students from marginalised groups in academic research activities.


  • Louise Owusu-Kwarteng University of Greenwich




Student engagement in academic research, is a necessary facet of their university experience.  This promotes research cultures, links students to our research activities, and facilitates employability skills, such as public speaking and presenting information concisely (Healey and Jenkins 2009). This paper critically reflects upon how this happens in our ‘Applied Sociology’ research group, which includes Sociologists from various disciplines (e.g Sociology, Business etc) and was established to enhance our research environment for the REF. Our research incorporates everyday lived social realities of diverse/ marginalised groups.Everyday social/lived realities include educational experiences. The Applied Sociology research group, thus encourages students to explore these issues and write/present research papers at relevant symposia. Our recent event entitled ‘Livin and Learnin’ : Critical reflections on educational journeys in relation to social identity’ exemplifies this. Students’ from diverse social backgrounds gave papers on their educational autobiographies. BAME students’ stories were of particular interest, given persistent experiences of marginalisation and longstanding negative narratives concerning their attitudes to education/ attainment levels. Their accounts demonstrated how they overcame these issues and, in their ways, challenged dominant perspectives

Author Biography

Louise Owusu-Kwarteng, University of Greenwich

Programme Leader, Sociology


Ainley, P. (ed.) (2008) Twenty Years of Schooling. Student reflections on their educational journeys. London: Society for Research into Higher Education. ISBN 9780946376148.

Allin, L. (2014) ‘Collaboration between staff and students in the scholarship of teaching and learning: the potential and the problems.’ Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 2(1), 95-10. Available at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1148696.pdf (Accessed: 22nd August 2018).

Freire, P. (1968) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press. ISBN 9780826412768.

Healey, M., Flint, A. and Harrington, K. (2014) Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/engagement_through_partnership.pdf (Accessed:22nd August 2018).

Morris, C. (2015) ‘Teaching the sociology of employability: the opportunities and challenges.’ Compass, 7(11), 1-5. Available at: https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/viewFile/216/278 (Accessed:10 November 2018).

Mountford-Zindars, A., Sabri, D., Moor, J., Sanders, J., Jones, S., Higham, L. (2015) Causes of differences in student outcomes. (HEFCE report). Available at: https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/23653/1/HEFCE2015_diffout.pdf (Accessed:16 November 2018).

National Union of Students (2011) Race for Equality. (NUS report). Available at: https://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/12350/NUS_Race_for_Equality_web.pdf (Accessed: 28 August 2018).

Plummer, K. (2001) The Documents of Life. An Invitation to Critical Humanism. London: Sage Press. ISBN: 9780761961314.

QAA (2016) Subject Benchmark Statement. Sociology. Available at: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaa/subject-benchmark-statements/sbs-sociology-16.pdf?sfvrsn=e696f781_12 (Accessed:16 November 2018).

Stevenson, J. (2012) Black and minority ethnic student degree retention and attainment. (HEA report). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/bme_summit_final_report.pdf (Accessed: 23rd August 2018).

Thomas, L. (2012) What Works? Building student belonging in higher education at a time of change. Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/what_works_final_report.pdf (Accessed: 16th November 2018).

University of Greenwich (2018) The Greenwich Graduate – our vision for the institution and its students. Available at: https://docs.gre.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/832044/GraduateAttributeStatements.pdf (Accessed: 26th August 2018).

University of Greenwich (2016) Applied Sociology Research Group Available at: https://nelson.gre.ac.uk/pls/prod/hwzklgsv.P_View_Letter?p_term=201700&p_pidm=1001137&p_seq=2 (Accessed: 23rd August 2018).

Walkington, H. (2016) Students as researchers. (HEA resource). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/walkington-students-as-researchers.pdf (Accessed: 26th August 2018).

Windscheffel, R.C. (2018) ‘Can we please keep talking…? The importance of

sustaining inclusive dialogue about race and ethnicity in teaching and learning.' In: Boncori, I. (ed.), Race, Ethnicity and Inclusion: The University of Essex Reader. Location: Publisher. ISBN: 9788893912730.

Zussman, R. (2000) ‘Autobiographical occasions: Introduction to the special issue.’ Qualitative Sociology, 1 (23), 1-4. Available at: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1023%2FA%3A1005447331522.pdf (Accessed: 26th August 2018).

Zwysen, W. and Longhi, S. (2016) Labour market disadvantage of ethnic minority British graduates: university choice, parental background or neighbourhood? University of Essex. Available at: https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2016-02.pdf (Accessed: 16th November 2018).