Introduction to the team at University of the Arts London

A photograph of Vikki Hill - a white woman with blonde hair in a blue shirt.

Who are you and why is this project important to you?

I’m Vikki Hill, Educational Developer: Attainment (Identity and Cultural Experience) in the Academic Enhancement Team at University of the Arts London. I am the Project Lead for the QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project – Belonging through Assessment: Pipelines of Compassion.

I’ve been working in arts education for over 20 years and spent over half of this teaching young people in Further Education where relational, pastoral and wellbeing are integral to the learning experience. I came to work at UAL to lead the OfS-funded Catalyst project Creative Mindsets that aimed to develop anti-racist pedagogies and eliminate awarding differentials between home white students and home students of colour. As co-lead of the Fostering Belonging and Compassionate Pedagogy Strand of academic enhancement, I work with course teams across UAL as they reflect on pedagogies and practices and develop strategies to address racism, bias, isolation and unbelonging. I am interested in compassion as I see this as a call to action to support social justice. Gilbert states that ‘compassion means the noticing of social of physical distress to others and the commitment to reduce or prevent that distress’(Gilbert, 2017, p189). Whether this is through compassionate pedagogies or compassionate policies, creating the conditions of compassion means taking action to alleviate disadvantage. As we create a collaborative space for our three arts institutions to come together we are asking questions about our creative context – what is assessment for? what does it do? what do we want it to do? can it be compassionate?

Why is this project important to University of the Arts London?

Increasingly the call to address structural inequality has been heard across the higher education sector through global movements such as Why is my Curriculum White?, #RhodesMustFall and #BlackLivesMatter. This project brings together academic teaching staff, educational developers, quality enhancement and senior leadership – those who design and implement assessment policy – to create a space to interrogate processes and policies with students and to enhance socially just assessment practices.

Gilbert, T. (2017). When Looking is Allowed: What Compassionate Group Work Looks Like in a UK University in Gibbs, P. (ed), (2017) The Pedagogy of Compassion at the Heart of Higher Education, Cham: Springer

A photograph of Dr Emily Salines. A white woman with black hair and a black top. Emily is smiling a the camera.

Who are you and why is this project important to you?

I am Dr Emily Salines. I am an Educational Developer: Academic Enhancement at UAL, working with course teams at London College of Communications to help improve student experience, attainment and retention, with a particular focus on closing awarding differentials. As part of this work, I also co-lead the Enhancing Assessment for Equity strand of the Academic Enhancement Model across all UAL colleges. 

Pedagogies of belonging and compassion offer a framework in which obstacles to equity can be interrogated and removed, to develop inclusive assessment approaches and support student success. This project is important to me because it supports an investigation on ways in which we might rethink assessment and feedback, and reframe them as sites of compassion, belonging and learning instead of instruments of sorting and judging, and sources of anxiety for students and staff. 

Photography of Liz Bunting - white woman with blonde hair and sun glasses

Who are you and why is this project important to you?

I’m Liz Bunting, an Educational Developer in Academic Enhancement at UAL. My focus is supporting course teams in eliminating the university’s awarding differentials by creating reflective spaces to co-design pedagogic approaches in attainment, social justice and anti-racism.

This includes co-leading the Fostering Belonging and Compassionate Pedagogies Academic Enhancement Model strand alongside Vikki Hill, and together we publish a range of open-access teaching and learning resources on the topic, including our series of belonging themed podcasts.

My own experiences of un-belonging have driven my research interest in sense of belonging and identity, and a commitment to compassion as an ethical foundation for education. This collaboration affords an opportunity to examine assessment through a human and relational lens, and reimagine assessment policies and practices with compassion at their heart. What if assessment was centred on respect, trust and care? If we reduced power dynamics and enabled students to co-create the rules? If we fully recognised, and go some way to alleviate, the emotional labour for staff and students? By doing so, might we be able to influence student sense of belonging, and perhaps educators’ sense of belonging too?

Who are you and why is this project important to you?

I’m Dr Neil Currant, Educational Developer (Reward and Recognition) at UAL.

I have been working as an educational developer for the past 16 years after a career as a school teacher. I originally started in Higher Education on a project researching the benefits of using electronic portfolios before moving into more general educational development.

My interests include learning technology, inclusion, belonging, assessment and developing the teaching practices of new lecturers and graduate teaching assistants. In my current role, I run the Introduction to Teaching in Higher Education course called Thinking Teaching.  I also support colleagues in gaining recognition for their teaching practices. My doctoral research was on the experiences of belonging for British Asian and Black students at university.

From my early days as a school teacher, I always felt that there was something wrong with educational assessment practices. Often they are mechanical, process-driven and devoid of the human touch.

In attempting to be fair, reliable and valid, assessment processes risk undermining student belonging and human connection. This project is an opportunity to think beyond traditional approach to assessment practices and bring back the social, human element.

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