Our second day of Festival of Learning and Teaching focused on 'Challenge and Transformation: To belong or not to belong?'. Notions of identity and belonging in higher education are inextricably linked, and they are often complex and contested as students and staff construct and negotiate who they feel themselves to be (e.g., their sense of recognition – by self and others) through their lived experiences and contexts. When might belonging be considered undesirable and why? Is belonging a conscious choice or always positive? How might belonging nurture or hinder the development of identity, and vice versa? These issues and tensions can have significant implications for learning, teaching and becoming. How can we better support students to develop their sense of belonging at university? 


09.30 - Welcome Speech

Welcome speech by Professor Stephen Curry, Assistant Provost (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion)

09.45 - Keynote panel session

A series of three keynote presentations followed by a panel discussion with speakers.

‘Outside the bubble’: Belonging and non-belonging as situated practice 
Dr Karen Gravett, Senior Lecturer at the Surrey Institute of Education, University of Surrey 
FLT 2022 - Keynote Karen Gravett [pdf]

In this keynote, Dr Gravett will share some of my recent research and practice examining belonging and student engagement, enabling participants to think about students’ experiences of higher education in new ways, and exploring how we can continue to learn from the altered landscape of higher education.

The challenge of belonging for minority ethnic students at university 
Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor in Widening Participation, University of Reading
FLT 2022 - Keynote Billy Wong

In this keynote, Dr Wong present the key findings from the Student Experiences in STEM (SESTEM) project, which explored the everyday lived experiences of minority ethnic undergraduates. He focuses on the different ways in which students approached their encounters of racism, as well as their coping strategies, and how these experiences contribute as barriers to minority ethnic students’ sense of belonging in higher education. Practical suggestions on what individuals can do will be shared.

Belonging and engagement in competitive environments: Winners, losers and playing a different game 
Dr Camille Kandiko Howson, Associate Professor of Education, Imperial College London 
FLT 2022 - Keynote Camille Kandiko Howson [pdf]

Competitive academic environments can be catalysts or inhibitors for belonging and these can be both faculty-led (such as pitting students against each other) or student-driven (through students competing with each other). Rather than seeing competitive environments and exclusionary bonding activities as inherently negative, they can be sites of ‘disorienting dilemmas’ that support transformation.

11.30 - Parallel session 1

1a: Exploring barriers to success: A student partnership to improve support for First-Gen/widening-participation students in Life Sciences 
Dr Catherine Mansfield, Department of Life Sciences 
FLT 2022 - Exploring barriers to success - a student partnership to improve support for first generation widening participation students in life sciences [pdf]

In this presentation, we will discuss some findings from our StudentShapers project which aims to better understand the experiences of first generation and widening participation students in the Department of Life Sciences, including the academic and non-academic barriers that students face. Awarding gaps and lower self-efficacy are often cited as challenges such students may face, but it is important to understand students’ perspectives. This study, jointly coordinated with three Life Sciences student partners, employed qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the student experience and identified a number of key themes (e.g. sense of community, the role of personal tutoring, staff representation and academic/career support). We will also discuss our implementation of initiatives to improve the student experience in the department including developing First-Gen/widening-participation student profiles, organising networking events, and providing lab support.  

1b: Is belonging always positive? Cultivating alternative belonging at university 
Dr Órla Meadhbh Murray, Dr Tiffany Chiu and Dr Jo HorsburghCentre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship 
FLT 2022 - Is Belonging Always Positive Cultivating Alternative [pdf]

This presentation will discuss positive lack of belonging amongst underrepresented students in STEMM, drawing on data from the Supporting the Identity Development of Underrepresented Students (SIDUS) Project. While most interviewees from the SIDUS project displayed either a positive sense of belonging to some part of their university experience or a negative lack of belonging, a small number of interviewees discussed a positive lack of belonging to the university or their discipline. These students were often hyper-underrepresented, not fitting into dominant belonging discourses, and/or actively disagreeing with aspects of academic or university cultures. They cultivated alternative belonging by drawing on belonging outside of the university or identifying only with specific friendship groups or student societies within the university, often in opposition to dominant constructions of belonging. In this presentation, we will share our initial findings and encourage audience to consider belonging from different perspectives. 

13.00 - Presentation session

Culture and Belonging at Imperial
Daniel Lo, Deputy President (Education) and Nathalie Podder, Deputy President (Welfare), Student Union
FLT 2022 - Culture and belonging at imperial [pdf]

Two student leaders from Imperial College Union will explore student belonging and culture at Imperial. There will be interactive discussions approaching this topic from both an educational and well-being perspective. Positive and negative impacts on learning and teaching that took place on the back of the COVID pandemic will be examined, as will suggestions for good practice in moving forward. We will explain our core objectives that we have been working on throughout the year. The session will then include a discussion on Mentimeter on what constitutes culture and belonging at Imperial, followed by a presentation by the Deputy President (Education) on how technology has changed education during the pandemic. The Deputy President (Welfare) will then lead a presentation on how marginalized and protected groups experienced learning and teaching during the pandemic, and will include some data and quotations from current Imperial students.


14.00 - Parallel session 2

2a: Belonging in uncertain times: the spaces that ground student belonging
Dr Julianne ViolaCentre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship
Recently, students have faced unprecedented challenges to their sense of belonging at university, presented by the adaptations in learning and teaching brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. What remains consistent over time is that students are increasingly aware of the importance of physical space to their belonging. How can we harness this knowledge to support students’ sense of belonging as university learning and teaching continues to utilize a hybrid approach of online and in-person modes?   

2b: Cohort Building: Nurturing a sense of belonging at university 
Krish Gadhvi (Faculty of Medicine) and Dr Elena Dieckmann (Dyson School of Design Engineering) 
FLT 2022 - Cohort building - nurturing a sense of belonging at university [pdf]

In this presentation, we aim to test one of many interventions we designed in a collaborative project to improve the sense of belonging that students and staff feel among university communities in which they participate. After engaging the audience with a fun intervention, we will delve into a short presentation examining our methodology, results and further make suggestions for audience members to integrate our toolkit into their workflows.

14.45 - Workshop

3a: Longitudinal learning: belonging, its impact, and recommendations for practice (Workshop)
Dr Megan Brown and Dr Ravi ParekhFaculty of Medicine, School of Public Health
FLT 2022 - Longitudinal learning: belonging, its impact, and recommendations for practice [pdf]

In this workshop, we share our experiences and some of our research on the influence of longitudinal models of education on medical students’ sense of belonging within multiple domains. Through interactive discussion with workshop attendees, we hope to explore the positive and negative ramifications of belonging in longitudinal contexts. Further, we will encourage participants to consider how they might promote the positive impacts of longitudinal learning in their own educational contexts. 

15.30 - Closing speech

Closing speech by Dr Camille Kandiko Howson, Associate Professor of Education, Imperial College London