Benefits from engagement and leadership achieved by students co-creating science through Student Environment Research Teams (SERTs).
This case study evaluates the Purbeck Wildlife Student Environment Research Team (SERT (http://www.cocreate4science.org/serts/)) project, a collaboration between Bournemouth University (BU) and the National Trust (NT) with the overall aim of fostering student engagement and employability through team-based research that informs habitat management for wildlife conservation. The project has been supported by internal funding from BU since it began in 2015 and by funding in-kind from the NT since 2016. We report our findings on the challenges and opportunities arising from the project as identified from analysis of the overall experience of 42 students studying for a range of degrees in a range of environmental sciences and from the personal perspectives of three key stakeholders; a student leader, an academic mentor and our NT partner. Our key finding is that the SERT model is effective as a student engagement tool both for student leaders and participants. However, it is through fostering leadership skills that SERTs can most powerfully develop student learning and employability. We discuss how our partnership with the NT as an external organisation helps address challenges for some students of visualising how they can demonstrate tangible leadership skills and so develop vital transferable “soft” as well as subject- specific employability skills.
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