Early Childhood Studies student researcher: Zainab Altaf

I am currently in my second year of my Early Childhood Study’s Degree. I am 19 years old and live in large family of 5 siblings. I have previously studied psychology and health and social care as my A-levels and throughout my years of learning I can honestly put forward that knowledge can always be captured no matter what the profession, there is no such thing as too much knowledge. In addition, I am extremely grateful to have gained all my experiences and skills and will always keep an eye out for new opportunities.

In the beginning of my academic year I witnessed a major difference between the learning environment, this is mainly because I transitioned through a 6 form college where the environment was more controlled and students were less independent. University to me in comparison to college, felt more independent and relaxed, however although in the beginning I was quite frightened by the change of environment and people, with the help of the staff I managed to make new friends from all age groups. This enabled me to share my experience as well as gain an insight into other individuals experiences.

The main reason behind my decision for going ahead with this course is to understand and help young children. Ever since I first started working with children during my placement at college I had a strong interest towards choosing to teach as my future career. Courses revolving around children can be extremely difficult and sensitive. As most childcare related jobs don’t only revolve around children, whereas it includes their families, backgrounds and everyone and everything related to them, which can be very personal and confidential. Hence in my opinion there will be a lot of skills that are needed to be acquired throughout the rest of this course.

One meaningful learning experience that I have attained throughout my first academic year is working alongside other individuals. Working with new people has always been an issue for me as I am a very shy person and fear what other people may think of my views. However due to majority of my assignments involving group work and engaging with new people I could improve this area of weakness. Having certain people to support me also played a major role towards how well I adapted towards engaging with other people. The support that I had attained from my lectures had played a major role in this achievement of mine as I had constantly gone through activities that involved talking to other peers. Alongside this I have also received support from a close friend who I had worked on a group presentation with, this friend enabled me to share my thoughts with the rest of the group ensuring that my views are shared and heard.

Overall, I aim to achieve more skills and experiences from this course alongside the university experience. And also wish to get involved in many opportunities possible to enable myself to advance my learning.

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Child nursing student researcher: Amina Abdulkhadir

I am 20 and originally from Somalia.  We moved to the UK when I was only 3 years old.  I can speak three languages fluently and I am stuck somewhere between British, African and Asian culture.  I completed my GCSE’s and attended college where I did BTEC applied sciences.  I decided to become a children’s nurse because I like children and I worked in a nursery and a GP surgery, so I knew that I like the concept of care.  Children’s nursing was a natural choice.  One of my passions are travelling all over the world especially America.  Whilst travelling and seeing the different parts of the world I also noticed the different children, the suffering and the help I could offer them once qualified.  This has inspired me to want to become an outreach nurse and travel the world helping children everywhere.

Firstly, to reach my dream I need to qualify as a nurse.  University has been hard so far because it is socially very different, new friend, new teachers, new environment and the amount of work that is expected from us was shocking.  Especially managing all of this and a part time job.  Lecturers use different teaching methods.  I believe that I learn best by reading and then making notes.  Teaching style that suites me best will be question and answer type of sessions.  I believe this is the only way I learn, and by learning I am working towards reaching my dream of helping the children.

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Child nursing student researcher: Stacy Rogers

I’m Stacy, I have a background in childcare which started at college where I completed an NVQ level 3 in childcare and education. After completing this I made the decision to not continue with my education, feeling I was not academically good enough for university.

I worked in a variety  of childcare setting, before becoming a manager of an after school club, 11 years later I decided that I needed to explore the possibility that I was now ready for university,  I felt my job was no longer giving me the satisfaction I needed, and perhaps now was the time to back into education. Completing an access course gave me the academic base and knowledge I needed to bring me to university and where I am today.

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Child nursing staff: Nathalie Turville

I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department for Children & Young People’s Health however when starting out as a nurse, I never anticipated that I would become a nurse academic.

Although I knew from the age of 4 (according to family lore) that I wanted to be a nurse, I decided not to follow the traditional ‘apprenticeship’ route in to nursing. Instead, I chose to go to university and studied for a BSc (Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Registered General Nurse. I wanted the experience of reading for a degree, learning new ideas and being challenged academically.  At university, I attended lectures with several hundred students where we all sat frantically scribbling down the ‘wise words’ of the lecturers. A favourite lecturer was Joan Higgins, admired not only because she was a Professor but also for her style, her ability to hold the attention of the class and also because she would distribute a one page handout of key points! My lecturers taught me the power of the spoken word, the importance of expert knowledge and the role of performance in the lecture theatre.

I worked as a Children’s Nurse specialising in neonatal cardiology and then neonatal surgery. I established teaching programmes for student nurses and newly qualified staff in the clinical areas where I was working. Clinical teaching is essential to enable staff to question their practice and ensure that it is current and evidence-based so that ultimately, the child and family receive the best possible care. Even now, when I now no longer provide direct nursing care, the child and family are central to my teaching.

Moving in to the university in 2001 was a major decision, forcing me to question my identity and role in nursing. I had been comfortable teaching in clinical practice and was now faced with teaching from between 12 to 180 students, and using a range of different teaching techniques. I rapidly became familiar with large-group lectures and found I enjoyed the challenge of engaging the students. I became a performer and raconteur and have always illustrated my lectures with anecdotes and stories. I learned about problem-based learning and the skill of facilitation, struggling to hold back on providing the answers and instead, encouraging the students to question and explore knowledge to develop their understanding. I have developed workshops, role plays, case studies and simulations. I am learning about e-learning. I have come full circle – I am back to reading, learning new knowledge and being challenged to inspire and educate the nurses of the future.

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Child nursing student researcher: Aneesa Bibi

Coming from a previous degree in nutrition and a previous employer from the Birmingham Children’s hospital I have become very interested in learning and teaching. When I started studying and working in the health sector I instantly knew I was in the right field of work for myself. I have always been a caring and compassionate person and being able to do that daily makes me happy. I understand there are many challenges in healthcare but my passion to become a children’s nurse helps me overcome these challenges in various ways and inspires me to find a solution for each issue, which is partly why I have joined the HEFCE project, to make a change.

My first year of child nursing has been quite an experience. When I came back into education I was quite worried about how I would pass exams as I mostly did assignments in my previous education journey. I got guidance from a few different departments within university and have managed to pass all my first year. This experience has given me more confidence for my second year and encouraged me to remain focussed in theoretical work as well as practical.

From previous experiences I have realised I am an interactive learner and enjoy colour and mind maps to retain information. I also enjoy practical work as when I am doing something it stays with me opposed to sitting and listening text. I used to barrier myself from learning by thinking something didn’t work for me, for example; the environment, my seating, style of teaching or assessment criteria such as exams. However, I have managed to go into the learning environment with a clear mind frame, willing to try new learning and understanding techniques.

Becoming part of this HEFCE project has encouraged me to think about my learning style and what works well when in the learning environment. To date, I have had 2 meetings with Vanesa Cui. The first was an initial introduction to what this project entailed and what my role as a student observer would be. This opportunity caught my attention as I am eager to make changes for the better and look forward to working closely with lecturers. The second meeting was joint with my student observer partner, discussing what will happen and a more in-depth approach into the observation and what is expected of us.

I am excited to start this observation and feel I am supported if necessary. This opportunity will help me gain an insight into a lecturer’s work as well as student observation which will gradually gain me transferable skills to help strengthen my nursing studies and give me more confidence.

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Radiotherapy student researcher: Shaun James

As a second year radiotherapy student the past year I have had just over a year to become accustomed to life both clinically and at university. Whilst I always wanted to study a health based course I never realised the full nature of what was expected of a health professional, however after a year of clinical practice I am over 100% sure that I’m following the correct career path for myself. Most of what I love about my chosen career comes from patient interaction, the backbone of our work, as well as being able to use some of the most technically advanced machines in the modern NHS.

Outside of Radiotherapy, I have a keen interest in sports, having played basketball at national league level as well as representing teams in rugby, football, hockey and athletics. This aspect of team play really helped me transition well into working as part of a multidisciplinary team of allied health professionals when within the clinical environment.  I also have an interest in writing and currently run my own blog and enjoy photography as well as going to concerts and musicals. Added to this I am a keen skier having visited Austria for 6 years consecutively and relish the time when I can return to the slopes (once I’m no longer a financially unstable student)! I look forward however, to visiting Canada as part of a BCU lead elective to the QEII hospital in Nova Scotia later this summer, with a view to seeing how radiotherapy is delivered on a global scale.

Taking part in this student researcher project is greatly interesting to me as it not only gives me scope to reflect on my own learning but also observe the way in which the content is delivered. I believe that an clear understanding of how students learn in higher education is of great benefit as the content delivered is so different in volume and difficulty as compared to other avenues of study and I do not feel that as a student one is ever fully prepared During my time working as on the peer assisted support scheme (PASS), myself and another student had to deliver sessions and content to first year students, and this scheme will give me the tools to improve my own teaching skills. Also working in close partnership with the lecturers helps build a more cohesive working relationship which going into the final year of the course, with dissertations in mind, is of great importance.

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Adult Nursing student researcher: Jabar ‘Jay’ Hussain

I am a student at Birmingham City University (BCU) studying Adult Nursing. I am currently on my second year. As an adult learner I had to structure and meet the criteria to enable me to pursue my chosen career in health care.

To structure was to prioritise the pathway to attain the chosen career path, I had to reach a level 3 in regards to education level and have a minimum of level 2 in English and Maths. My previous Business and Finance level 3 was not being considered by universities since it was 20 years ago as well as my other qualifications such as a qualified mortgage adviser.

I worked as an Auxiliary Nurse at Queens Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) for almost 2 years when I decided to climb the employment band ladder. I was given no option for secondment even though it was available but subjective in its criteria, but that was not going to be a barrier for me, it would have been a great help due to me having a large family and owning my home with a mortgage.

I applied at Birmingham Metropolitan College, where I was given a start date to undertake: English and Maths G.C.S.E and access to health level 3.I also continued part-time work at the Hospital as an auxiliary nurse to maintain my financial commitments. The access to health course is where I realised that everyone has a different method of storing information in their long term memory. I struggled at first to catalogue data for revision and realised I drift into irrelevant studies. The feedback I got from lecturers on assignments only highlighted errors which I corrected and handed the work back for marking again. The pattern of my perception was still not identified and this soon became the problem on my Bachelor’s degree for nursing.

I have always tried to maintain a steadfast approach but we all have obstacles preventing us from acquiring our goals. The 1st year at university brought many unexpected challenges, after failing my assignment and my NP1 exam my confidence decreased and at times I felt like leaving the course. I began to encompass a negative attitude on my education and felt that it was deliberately made hard by the university, I even applied to another university to continue my second year. After self-counselling I had to make a decision on how to proceed.

My acknowledgment had to involve recognition of the task and my actions. The recent NP2 topic is covering Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Diabetes and have related topics such as bloods/blood transfusion, acute abdomen and cells, and this to be revised and acknowledged within 2 months for the exam as well as starting a placement leading up to the exam. This is excessively burdensome, especially for students, who like me have families and more commitments than younger, single students who live with their parents.

As I am still identifying my learning method, I had the opportunity to involve myself into teaching research for BCU. The research helped me to identify my own style of learning and reflecting on my experience. The important part was to gain a perspective of the how the lecturer is delivering the course content in a personalised manor. I have decided to use alternate patterns to memorise information such as rephrasing material in my own words, and researching words I don’t understand in order to remember.

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Adult Nursing student researcher: Oliver Suppiah

When I finished my A-levels, my plan was to go to university in Manchester to study neuroscience. I was on track to achieve this, but after my results came back, my grades were not sufficient to secure my place. Through some help from my dad, I found available spaces on another neuroscience course. After contacting the university, they gave me a place and I would move up to study there about month later. I was moving away from my home in Birmingham, and settling in to spend 4 years at the university of Glasgow.

My time in Scotland was full of mixed emotions, and the tumultuous time that I experienced eventually lead to me leaving the university and the city after just over 2 years. Though I found a city that I love and felt welcome in, I was never able to associate the time I was spending in lectures and in labs with any feelings of ambition or even true interest. I felt like I was going nowhere, and that wasting several years to pursue something that would not lead to a personally rewarding career would be a huge mistake. Despite this, because I feared what would happen if I did ‘throw in the towel’, I let myself believe if I pushed on that it would all fall into place. I met people I still cherish, but I also put myself through unnecessary stress and unhappiness.

There were many positives that being at university at the age of 18 bestowed, especially being in a city over 200 miles away from home. Organising lab work and ensuring the timetable I enrolled on was not heavy with constant work meant I learnt a semblance of time and work management. I found out, very quickly, that sleep was a commodity to be valued and that getting good quality sleep and restful relaxation could lead to better focus and a brighter mindset. Unfortunately, something that I carried over with me from my time at school was a negative outlook when assessments or exams approached. My self-confidence and optimism plummeted. By letting this become a recurrent problem, and never looking to resolve the issue, it dogged me throughout my time there and still does.

After a period of unemployment and some work in customer services, I am now studying nursing at Birmingham City University. While unemployed I spent a significant amount of time thinking about how the most rewarding jobs would be those in public service, and that my interest in human biology would help work in healthcare. The final part of the factors that influenced my decision to apply for nursing was the sense that I wanted to be able to have a genuine conversation with the people I cared for, and for that conversation and the care around that to be what made them feel less vulnerable within the care setting. Having already been unsuccessful at getting my first choice of university when I was 18, I was adamant I would do my best in the interviews and get into BCU. And to my surprise, the university I was most interested in gave me a place. Reflecting on the way I got through those interviews has already led me to be more intuitive in other application and interview processes.

So far through the nursing course, I have altered the way in which I take in information. Instead of attempting to rote learn as much as possible, I recognise that I can remember processes in almost a flow chart like manner. Anatomy and physiology is an integral part of our course, and by visualising the pieces of information as a timeline with one part leading on to the next, this systematic approach cemented long bits of information in my memory. This I apply to communication techniques, practical skills and even when evaluating my own mistakes.

Because I discovered this quite early in my time on the nursing course, I also started to reach out and help my friends and peers with the parts of the course that confused them. With the struggle I went through during my first university experience, I recognised how easy it was to fall into a trap of losing self-belief through doubting your own capabilities. I think that through this project I can learn more about how I interpret information, and how I can be affected by my learning experience so far. By adding to this project, I hope that others can use the information gathered to guide other students to overcoming their negative experiences in education and developing their own inner strengths.

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Adult Nursing staff: Lee Roberts

I am a registered adult nurse with a clinical background in cardiology and gastrointestinal nursing care. Before I joined BCU as a lecturer in Nursing, I worked as a qualified specialist community public health nurse (health visitor), my work involved the management of complex safeguarding cases, health promotion, and public health nursing. Most recently, I worked in an integrated sexual health and contraceptive service, providing support in GUM and community-based clinics.

I joined the university in January 2017, and currently teach on a variety of undergraduate pre-registration nursing modules including Adult Nursing Practice, Nursing in Society, and Clinical Skills and Decision Making. As a registered professional, I feel I have developed experience in educating a supporting student nurses and junior staff in clinical practice. I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings within my clinical career, and have been able to draw upon these experiences to provide specialist support and advice. These experiences have allowed me to develop my skills as a clinician, but have also contributed to my developing confidence as a lecturer. I have always wanted to ensure students feel able to grow and developed, challenge, and enquire whilst on placement with me. My aim was to support them in providing safe, high quality care that is evidence based. As such, I recognised the need for students to become more critical thinkers, and I believe I have a key role to play in harnessing these skills within my current role. As a mentor in clinical practice, I had the opportunity to work with student nurses on an individual bases during their 9-12 week placement. Here, we are able to develop a mentor-student relationship based on trust, and I was able to support the student in their development and success.

I appreciated the need for students to learn the “science” of nursing in practice, and as a mentor I would utilise techniques such as question and answer, discussions, simulations, and clinical practice to support students develop their knowledge. This was often an area that students would enjoy developing, and most would be excited about opportunities to gain new skills, knowledge and understanding. On reflection, I recognise the emphasis I also put into teaching the “art” of nursing; the concepts of care and compassion for example. As a mentor working within students, I recognised that they would bring these qualities with them, but I was always keen to enhance and develop these as essential nursing skills, ensuring patients become the students’ true focus during placement. Working one on one with a student allowed me to role model these behaviours and qualities. Students seemed to reflect on their own approaches as a result, and we would often use reflection as a way to further enhancing their understanding of the nursing “art”.

I am looking forward to the peer and student observation project, and feel that as a new staff member, the feedback will be beneficial in my continuous professional development. Having left the clinical setting this year to work as a new lecturer, I am currently in a period of transition. Whilst I support approximately 40 personal students on the BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing programme, and have the opportunity to aid their development on a more individualised bases, the majority of sessions delivered at the university will be for groups, ranging in size from 20 to 150 students. Such a change has meant that I am now developing my skills, experience, and confidence in teaching and managing significantly larger groups than in clinical practice. Certainly for the module I am now co-leading, the current Cohort size is over 200 students. Having introduced different teaching techniques when delivering lectures to large groups, I am looking forward to explore how these come across to students, and whether they found this beneficial for their learning.

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Primary Education staff: Mark Taylor

I was a terrible student. I think I went to only one lecture in my whole second year of my Physics degree course. But I was always curious and took modules in history of art and philosophy much to the consternation of my Physics professors. So I have some sympathy for students who want to take ownership of their own learning and be independent. I am more interested in learning than teaching.

After university I went to drama school and spent the next seven years working in theatre and theatre in education. As a result I suppose I can’t help seeing teaching as a performance-probably not a good thing overall but being an actor has given me some useful transferable skills.

I trained as a secondary science teacher but quickly moved to primary teaching. I realised I was more interested in teaching children than teaching science- the more holistic relationship with the learners in primary appealed more. Nonetheless I was a pretty rubbish teacher and it took me a long time to develop my skills, I was lucky in every school I worked in to have superb colleagues who showed me what good teaching looked like. I think it was my own difficult journey to becoming a teacher that made me so interested in teacher training.

Rather surprisingly to me I realised I was actually getting pretty good at teaching but shortly afterwards I also realised I was stagnating and needed new challenge. I had started teaching on a school based teacher training course for one day a week and this led me to move from primary teacher to become a university lecturer in primary science education. Once again excellent colleagues supported the transition. Alan Mortiboys was inspirational in showing the role or emotional intelligence in teaching, Paul Adams taught me the courage to genuinely adopt constructivist approaches and let learners find their own way. Being paid to really reflect and think deeply about the process of learning and the nature of teaching as part of my job was very satisfying.  I went on to become a course director for a small primary school based route delivering M-level PGCE. This was quite an intense experience and the small cohorts meant individual success was as much down to building relationships and supporting people as delivering content. It is only recently that I have come back to university and started once again teaching large undergraduate programmes.

This year my daughter has started a degree at Manchester university – seeing the world of university through her eyes has made me far more sensitive to the experiences of our first year undergraduates.

I remain fascinated by what learning means for the individual and how knowledge is constructed and mediated.

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