Since September I have been a part of a research project at NTU, exploring what it means to belong (or not) at NTU. It has been a great learning opportunity for me to develop my primary research skills, as well as great academic knowledge of how to conduct a literature review and analyse research findings for example. I also had the opportunity to work with an academic to construct an abstract for our project.
The collaborative project brought staff and students together from different disciplines to gain insights into the extent to which students experience a sense of belonging. After discussing various primary research methods, data was generated anonymously over a three-week period using talking walls positioned in four locations across the two campuses. Using paper cards, students were invited to share their perceptions of belonging by posting them on the walls or into privacy boxes.
Initial findings show a clear correlation between positive staff/academic influence and belonging. Our evaluation of the data also shows some students use coping mechanisms to manage the discomfort of not feeling they belong even to the extent of trying to mask who they really are with different personas. Similarly, some respondents see belonging as a fluid state that is dependent on the situation and/or company they are in. Our study suggests that understanding common motifs around belonging is important for HE students to continue to develop both academically and personally. Being able to look at situations through different lenses creates possibility and may create a greater sense of community.
Following on from this, I have been working collectively to design a BTEC module for the Equine Science course. The aim is to support individuals from diverse student groups to develop a sense of belonging which is right for them.
Being a part of this research has allowed me to not only gain academic confidence, but also personal confidence. It has allowed me to practice speaking in front a group of people and sharing ideas, which I have usually shied away from. This knowledge of research will help me massively when it comes to my individual project in level 3. I will have a greater insight in to how to conduct ethical research and how to categorise findings.