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Latest Impact Case Study Released

The latest in our series of Impact Case Studies has been launched today at the HEIR Conference at the University of Wolverhampton.

The report, entitled ‘Come for the mission, stay for the skills: Six lessons from linking researcher development and fair access’, was co-authored by Paul Rünz of the charity’s Research and Impact Department, and Dr Helen Carr from The Scholars Programme – The Brilliant Club’s award-winning scheme which recruits, trains and places doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in state schools to deliver programmes of university-style tutorials to small groups of pupils aged 10-18.

The report draws on the views of PhD researchers to identify challenges for researchers in accessing professional development opportunities and proposes how engaging PhD researchers in outreach work to promote fair university access can develop researchers’ teaching practice, pedagogical skills and employability. The report outlines lessons for practitioners in researcher development and widening participation.

Drawing on the charity’s experience of providing professional development opportunities for researchers through outreach programmes with schools, as well as surveys and interviews with researchers working as PhD tutors for The Brilliant Club, the report puts forward six lessons for researcher development:

  • Pedagogical training is in high demand among doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, but it is not always available. This is despite HE institutions often requiring Early Career Researchers to have such training and accreditation. Programmes that tap into the pedagogical expertise of schools and that facilitate school-university partnerships can be a valuable addition to the offer that universities make to their researchers.
  • PhD students can gain valuable teaching experiences beyond teaching on undergraduate courses. Not all PhD students have the opportunity to teach at their institution, and not all teaching skills can easily be learned by teaching undergraduate courses. Experience in course and assessment design is often required for lecturer positions, but it can be difficult to get with PhD teaching opportunities.
  • When training to teach for university lecturers takes place in the context of widening participation activities, universities not only make progress with fair access, but crucially they equip their teaching staff to help closing gaps in student outcomes in the long run.
  • Many researchers are motivated to make a difference via their research. By linking researcher development programmes with concrete opportunities for researchers to have a positive impact, universities can increase the value of their professional development offer for researchers.
  • Talking to non-specialist audiences about their research can – but does not automatically – help researchers better understand and communicate their own work. Support in how to break down concepts and equipping researchers with techniques for checking that audiences have understood are crucial. The opportunity to design and teach courses about their research to pupils can help researchers better understand and communicate their own work.
  • PhD students are under pressure to plan their post-PhD careers. Positions in academia are limited, so for many PhD students it is important to gain experiences and develop skills that are relevant for positions both within and outside academia. Programmes that link their academic work with public engagement and teaching, can help PhD students develop and qualify for academic and non-academic roles.

The report is now available online, and you can read it by clicking here.