International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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PAAR for the Course: Supporting postgraduate Level 7 students through a taught programme

Dr Anne O’Grady; Mrs Vanessa Cottle, Senior Lecturers: Education; University of Derby a.ogrady@derby.ac.uk, v.cottle@derby.ac.uk


Literature on postgraduate study strongly suggests an assumptive relationship between one’s identity as a postgraduate student and the qualities of confidence and competence (Manathunga, 2005; Hallett, 2010; Tobbell et al 2010; 2013). The initial purpose of this small-scale research project was to explore the effects of implementing a new feedback intervention within one MA Education programme at a post-1992 University in the East Midlands. By inviting students to lead the summative feedback dialogue, the aim of this intervention was to ‘make a difference’ (Bamber, 2014, online) to both academic and student practices. A particular focus was how the generation of pedagogic partnership through lecturer-student dialogic discourse might influence the formation of postgraduate student identity.

Using a mixed method paradigm, the project adopted an Educational Action Research framework. An instrument – the Assessment and Academic Progression Record (AAPR) - was designed to create a space for an organic, symbiotic process between lecturer and student that would scaffold learning and create an opportunity for meaningful dialogue. In line with Venning and Buisman-Pijlman’s (2012), the AAPR aimed to empower students to take some control and responsibility for their learning progression. The current postgraduate teaching team and MA Education cohort were asked to use the AAPR as part of the assessment feedback process. All staff and students were then invited to complete a questionnaire and to engage with follow up focus groups.

Key findings of the project identified that students found working with the AAPR ‘filled a gap’ in the student-lecturer interaction and although the requirement to identify targets for their own academic development was challenging, it was worthwhile and rewarding. Importantly, lecturers positively reported the value of being able to respond to students personally identified academic targets. The creation of a personalised interactive discourse, through the AAPR, provides evidence of an emergent pedagogic partnership between the lecturer and student.

In conclusion, student ability to ‘own’ the identity of a postgraduate is challenged by their confidence in grappling with Level 7 competencies. However, the pedagogic partnership generated by an intervention such as the AAPR can positively aid development of these competencies and lead to a more readily defined postgraduate identity. This is an increasingly important area for providers of postgraduate taught programmes as students are increasingly required to develop their professional identity through the acquisition of postgraduate qualifications (Mistry, White and Berardi, 2009; Heussi, 2012).

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)

Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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