Creation and Confidence: BME students as academic partners….but where were the staff?
This Case Study documents the REACT project 'Creation and Confidence' based at Sheffield Hallam University, which has a larger-than-expected Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) attainment gap; hence, this student group has been constructed as 'hard to reach'. The project team consisted of a range of academic and professional services staff alongside three dedicated student researchers. The project set out to achieve: gaining evidence-based insights into the use of co-design and peer-learning as conduits of confidence-building for and belonging of BME students; developing a scalable approach to building confidence for and fostering belonging of all students; raising awareness of the need to think differently about explanations for BME underachievement. In reality, the team found that staff engagement constituted the biggest barrier, as - no matter how much incontrovertible evidence was presented - other facets of institutional provision were always identified as having priority, which resulted in inertia. This study documents the emotional labour of trying to effect change within a resistant culture. Whilst some of the aims remain unachieved – and, arguably, were always going to be unachievable - there have been some very positive developments and enlightening lessons.
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