Prioritising the student voice : A co-participatory and artful inquiry methodology to capture under-represented students’ experiences
Farenga, Stephane A.
This research explores the experiences of socioeconomically under-represented undergraduate students at a post-1992 English university. It addresses inequalities in outcomes and experience for these students, which is reported across the higher education (HE) sector (McCaig and Stevenson, 2016; HEPI, 2017; OfS, 2018; Vigurs et al., 2018), by prioritising the student voice and recommending the development of student-staff partnerships to better support under-represented students’ success. Partnerships are based on co-participation between students and researcher in which participants are exposed to the research’s context, including inequalities they may face, in order to empower them and provide a platform for their experiences to be shared. This presentation will focus on the research’s unique student voice methodology. A Participatory Pedagogy approach (Burke, 2012) is used to tap into previously marginalised voices by first raising awareness amongst participants of unequal experiences in HE, and, second privileging their voices through a structured data collection process. The research employs an artful inquiry methodology (Vaughan, 2005; Davis, 2008) premised on utilising art forms to extract experiences instead of traditional qualitative methods (e.g. interviews). It specifically draws on collage making (Butler-Kisber and Poldma, 2010), meaning the physical cutting and pasting of materials, to explore experiences and share powerful testimonies. Ultimately, the research unpacked experiences pointing to the misrecognition of participants’ experiences by their institution. However, the co-participatory approach helped avoid deficit-model discourses by re-positioning students’ experiences around their aspiration, agency, performativity and values. Future partnerships at other institutions, particularly those with similar post-1992 profiles, should prioritise developing meaningful practices that ensure students feel supported, valued and retain ownership of their own HE experience. This co-participatory and methodological approach could be applied to some of the biggest challenges facing the HE sector, such as the awarding gap between White and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.