Tapping into the potential of a student is no mean feat — and the most impressive student success stories often involve the hard work of attentive and mindful Higher Education (HE) practitioners.
Dr Jo Bowser-Angermann, Director of Student Experience and Engagement for the faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), sat down with Kira Matthews, GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead, to discuss how her experience teaching in schools has informed her work in HE, the link between belonging and success, and more.
I’m the Director of Student Experience and Engagement for the faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). I’m now a professor in Applied Teaching and Learning, but my teachers would probably be very surprised as I didn’t enjoy school that much. I look back now and realise I was bored and frustrated.
I know what it’s like to fail at exams, I failed GCSE Maths 3 times, and I never really achieved my potential. That love of learning came only when I got to college and was able to learn the way I wanted to learn. I didn’t feel as restricted and was encouraged to think more critically. If I’d enjoyed learning more, my experience would’ve been completely different.
Many students feel anxious and are maybe questioning whether they belong at university — that feeling and pressure should never be underestimated. We want to make them feel they do belong at ARU, and that it’s the start of something for the student.
I sit alongside a lot of amazing directors. We share a common goal that we want to get students from point A to point B and ensure that they thrive. My specific role involves listening to the student and staff voice very carefully. My most sustained impact is in listening to the student voice, interpreting it and then translating that to other members of staff.
I created a good practice guide in regards to developing the student voice in their educational journeys. We’ve also introduced video feedback to be more inclusive — it’s about being responsive to different student and staff needs at the point where it’s relevant and needed for them.
We learn from each other and share good practices. The guide I made looked at how we share information across the institution to have a bigger impact. Things change all the time so it’s important to stay current and listen to change.
I’ve taught across different age ranges, starting off as a primary school teacher, then English GCSEs and Further Education (FE). I identified a gap of knowledge I was going to look at when I was in FE, because that’s where I could see there was a squeeze between school and HE, in terms of policy and practice. It was, and is, damaging student and teacher experiences of teaching and learning and I wanted to shine a light on that.
I was teaching GCSE resits to students that had failed Maths GCSE. I’m interested in how you can engage and motivate students in a subject they have previously failed. Teaching this type of student — essentially the student I used to be — really made me explore what this type of learning is like and what we need to do to mitigate that impact from the top down. So that even if they failed that exam again, they’re still having a good learning experience.
It’s hard to define in any sort of way — but it is absolutely intrinsic. Students that don’t feel they belong have their educational achievements impacted — because it’s a ripple effect that hits on engagement, attainment and more. Unless you’ve got that basic belonging and learning community in place first, it doesn’t ripple out in that same way. That’s why it’s so important that we foster inclusive learning environments. We teach to the edges, not just the middle.
We’ve got several campuses spread out around the East of England, Chelmsford, Cambridge, Peterborough and London and we work with several charities and organisations to ensure our students are safe and supported. Our role is to make sure every student feels safe and it is something we take very seriously. We ensure essential messages are communicated to students and ensure students know what help is available.
We learn from each other and share good practices. The guide I made looked at how we share information across the institution to have a bigger impact.
Covid had a big impact on students, and the need to be with each other and interact is really important, in terms of building a learning community.
Be yourself and bring all of that wealth of knowledge with you. Show students your passion, you’re here for a reason. Being authentic lends credibility to your teaching.
There isn’t just one person — everyone and everything has had a small impact on who I am today.
A Graphic novel called The Watchmen, because I used it to make the most impact with my GCSE English students.