The work undertaken at the University of Roehampton and Carshalton College had five discrete elements
- An initial attitude survey was distributed at both provider institutions.
- Awareness raising of RAFA2 took place across both institutions with the recruitment of student consultants.
- Intensive staff CPD was conducted.
- Collaborated with student consultants to develop resources and workshops.
- Masterclasses and events for students on factors contributing to success were planned for both institutions, but only delivered formally at the University of Roehampton.
Following the methodology of RAFA, an initial attitude survey was distributed to all undergraduate programme convenors. The aim was to determine the level of awareness of issues facing BAME students and assessment practices on each programme at the start of the project and then at the end.
Unfortunately, the first survey was only completed by 10% of Programme Convenors (PCs). A second survey, a BAME attainment checklist was circulated a few months later which yielded a better response with a 76% response rate. The result were fed into the CPD workshops. As a result, the RAFA2 team did not repeat the survey at the end of the project, as the ongoing work with the staff produced the information required.
The project team attended a mid-term Saturday session at Carshalton College to meet staff and students to let them know about the project. Focus groups were held with 52 student participants from the first and second year.
These focus groups aimed to discover their experience of assessments, how well teaching prepared them to understand what was required, and what they knew about the BAME attainment gap. The session was effective in putting the issue on the agenda and identifying data to inform future sessions. Students’ responses was reported back to tutors and used to inform the structure of the student masterclasses and the staff CPD content.
At Roehampton, a communication campaign was undertaken. All 10 academic departments were visited and talks were given at compulsory staff meetings. RAFA2 featured in the 2018 Learning and Teaching Festival which focused on assessment and feedback, an event that provided a platform to raise the awareness of RAFA2 to professional service staff and departments.
Students were informed through the programme representatives’ system and the Student Union, who partnered with RAFA2 by making ‘closing the BAME attainment gap’ one of its campaigns. In addition to leafleting, promotion materials were uploaded onto screens around the campus. Six ‘Have your Say Zones’ were set up across campus where 457 students expressed a concern about there being a BAME attainment gap. From these activities, 25 students applied to be consultants. All were interviewed and 10 were recruited alongside one who was given the coordinating role as Student Project Manager.
During the spring term of the first year of the project, every academic department at Roehampton, and all the teaching staff at Carshalton, participated in CPD. Average staff attendance across the departments at Roehampton was 64%, with 100% at Carshalton. Additional workshops were held with three departments at the request of the Learning and Teaching Leads or Heads of Departments, where attendance was higher at approximately 75%.
These workshops provided a forum to work with colleagues to:
- Stimulate discussion and debate
- Create a safe space for deliberation and expression
- Enable staff to engage with student voices on issues related to race attainment and assessment
- To foreground programme by programme attainment data
- To collaborative create local solutions to address local needs
- To help departments produce and action plan and targets to address their identified issues.
Following on from these sessions, over 120 members of Roehampton staff participated in events, department projects and podcasts; commented on their involvement and supported student-facing initiatives. Also, 150+ staff attended the 2019 Learning and Teaching Festival, where one-third of the sessions presented were on RAFA2-related outputs.
As a result of this intervention, all departments produced an action plan with immediate, short and medium/long term targets for addressing the attainment gap on their programme. They created targets that took account of NSS results to be included in business plans, and reviewed as part of the annual programme review cycle.
Over the life of the project more than 20 student consultants were recruited and deployed in various ways across Roehampton and Carshalton. These students were inducted, trained and supported to undertake tasks to deliver the project. To effectively operationalise the work, RAFA2 employed two Student Project Managers (AY2017-8 and AY2018-19) who took on a bigger role than initially envisaged. This was necessary as the practicalities of scheduling and monitoring large numbers of fractionally employed students became a job, taking away resources from delivering the project objectives. This resulted in a reconceptualisation of what we understood by the approach ‘student-led’ and clarified our interpretation of students as co-producers and partners.
Students remained at the heart of the project, co-creating with the RAFA2 team the pedagogical approaches deployed in the staff and student interventions. For the students engaged in RAFA2, one of the most positive outcomes was the agency they gained from real engagement with staff on the issues raised by the project. RAFA2 provided BAME students with an opportunity to speak to staff directly about their concerns, and to meet with staff for the purpose of discussing race, assessment, teaching and learning in HE. Some used the medium of film to record their journey which they have made available as part of the legacy of the project, to be used in future staff CPD sessions. Feedback from the student consultants was that this was a real strength of the project, but they also reported how emotional it was for them, reporting an anxiety about potential backlash and repercussions, while others reported a sense of being listened to and being valued.
Masterclasses and events
These were sessions for students run across university events, devised and run in conjunction with student consultants in response to feedback received from students.
They set out to:
- Raise students’ aspirations
- Create a sense of belonging in the organisation
- Create a safe space to share ideas and concerns
- Address student areas of concern around assessment
- Share good practice around assessment with students
- Provide opportunities for students to meet and network with other BAME students, staff, alumni, employers and achievers from the BAME community
- Create a space to explore and celebrate blackness
- Allow student consultants to act as role models
Assessment masterclasses were run on three topics: Understanding and Using Your Feedback; Decoding Your Assessment Criteria; and Going Up A Grade. Each session was well attended, between 30-40 attendees per session, which ran twice. Feedback on the content and usefulness was positive with students reporting that they were constructive. All sessions were targeted at BAME students, but open to all. In addition to the planned masterclasses, student voices’ sessions were run and attended by 200+ students. Three student employability events attracted over 200 students and four BAME student conferences, supported by RAFA2, had 200 participants.
RAFA2 facilitated four student debates with more than 100 students in attendance while BAME Ambassadors participated in a Zine workshop on ‘Belonging in the library’ to improve service provision in that key university space. RAFA2 sponsored an ‘excellence’ event run throughout Black History Month which included a seminar attended by 35 delegates. In addition, Dr Franklin A. Tuitt, Professor of Higher Education and Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Denver, ran ‘roundtable’ events for staff and students, exploring his research around ‘Designing Inclusive Learning Environments where Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Matter and Thrive’.