Middlesex University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 7186-7194
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
One challenge of education is that values and aims are achieved through partnership effort, so different perspectives collide. In Higher Education, there is a divide between insider and outsider perspectives; it is the insiders (lecturers) who facilitate learning but the outsiders (students) who primarily negotiate that learning. Lecturers, by nature, have in fact both enjoyed and performed sufficiently well in academia to make it their career. Students, by contrast, may approach their studies with different motivation and are novices. Faculty members who strive to support students effectively may in fact find those efforts unwittingly limited by their own perspective; they may be out of touch with the realities of student study or never have experienced academia from the point of view of someone who does not take to it as readily as they might have. Even if they did struggle in the early days of their career and had to learn the hard way how to write, think, read, and present ideas, it may be some years since they went through these transformations in their skills and learning. The intricate reality of such experiences may have been forgotten or never fully attended to. While a good deal of attention is paid to how we work with students and encourage autonomy, for much of higher education students are alone with their thoughts.

In recognition of this, research was undertaken to refresh empathy for the student experience and expose potential skewed memory and assumptions in lecturer practice. The researcher comes from an applied linguistics background and had worked as a lecturer in higher education for 8 years when they embarked on an MA in Art history; this offered a unique position of being at once an insider and an outsider; they were an experienced higher education professional but a novice art historian. This offered a valuable dual perspective that could yield interesting data. During the MA, a 5000 word independent research project was required, equivalent in length to an undergraduate dissertation. The opportunity was taken to chart the realities of how understanding and emotion progressed over the course of this project. Barriers and breakthroughs to learning were explored through autoethnographic research; a reflective diary charted emotional and cognitive experiences of undertaking a substantial research assignment from start to completion. This provided two months of data from a dual perspective. Data was analysed thematically, to identify key elements of the process as a student, and reflectively, to consider how entries were influenced by the higher education insider status of the researcher. This was then subsequently analysed against student comments in one to one tutorials; valuable insights were gained.

Implications for practice indicated that insiders do indeed have hidden assumptions and tacit skills which differ from that of the students’ reality and which they need to be aware of; that diversifying research interests can be of value; that cognitive and emotional processing needs to be explicitly addressed with students to reduce barriers to learning; that student confidence and motivation is influenced by misconceptions; and that exposing the realities of experienced academics can help encourage student engagement and resilience and allow empathy between different stakeholder perspectives.
Autoethnography, Student Experience, Barriers to Learning, Empathy, Cognition and Emotion, Student Engagement.