Prize-winning students share learning and teaching research | Imperial News | Imperial College London

Dr Wayne Mitchell teaching in a lab

Students from the MEd in University Learning and Teaching have presented their research projects to colleagues from across the College.

Amongst the presentations, which also included students from the Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma, were several prizewinners.  Dr Wayne Mitchell, from the Department for Immunology and Inflammation, won the dissertation prize for his work on ‘Being an Imperial College student: A phenomenographic investigation into Black British students’ ‘Sense of Belonging’ at Imperial College.’  His dissertation explored the concept of belonging, social identify and personal identity in an educational context.   

Dr Mitchell interviewed eight Black British students to discover their ‘lived’ experiences at Imperial.  His research findings include: Black British students are required to conform to the predominant culture if they want to fit in; part of their identity as academic high achievers was stripped away when they arrived at Imperial to being replaced with a sense of isolation as being in the visible minority; BAME staff are under-represented – most of the students stated that they had only had one or two lectures from a BAME lecturer in their 3-5 years at the College.   

Dr Mitchell said: “My research found that the identity of Black British students is often focused externally to Imperial College or in safe places such as the African Caribbean Society.  I have made several recommendations which I am discussing with the College, including training for admissions tutors to help reduce any bias, a monthly lecture series featuring BAME academics and a mentoring programme for first generation students.” 

Learning for Imperial staff 

The innovative part-time MEd course is run uniquely for staff who teach Imperial students.  It is made up of a reflective Postgraduate Certificate based on students’ own practice, a Postgraduate Diploma where students critically engage with the literature, and an MEd where students carry out their own research project using social science methods.  

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Professor Alan SpiveyProfessor Alan Spivey, Assistant Provost (Teaching and Learning) said: “As the College has adapted to COVID-19 and online learning all teaching staff have had to reflect on their teaching and its effectiveness. Research about learning and teaching in universities has probably never been more important and what is being achieved on the MEd in University Learning and Teaching is of great value for the College and beyond. The pipeline of staff with deep expertise in research and evaluation of teaching is hugely beneficial to the College and will be increasingly so.” 

Grant writing and Master’s level learning 

Dr Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala from the National Heart and Lung Institute presented her research on “Medical educators and students’ perspectives on grant writing as a formal assessment method.”  Dr Ahmetaj-Shala’s research found that whilst undergraduate students found the activity challenging it was welcomed as a ‘real world’ example that helped to develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.  It was also seen as an opportunity to test if research might be a career that was of interest in the future.  Staff agreed that it was a beneficial but challenging activity.  Dr Ahmetaj-Shala’s research is being written up for publication. 

Dr Anne Burke-Gaffney from the National Heart and Lung Institute presented her research on ‘Pitching Pharmacology for Master’s Level Learning”.  Dr Burke-Gaffney examined several facets considered to underpin Master’s level study and examined whether there were any additional facets that were specific to the study of pharmacology at Master’s level. 

Prize winners 

In addition to Dr Mitchell’s MEd dissertation prize, Dr Neepa Thacker was awarded the PG Dip Library Project prize for her project looking at the literature on medical humanities and exploring links with her own teaching and learning experience.  Dr Camille Gajria was awarded the PG Cert portfolio prize for a portfolio that demonstrated an outstanding level of reflection on her own practice within the context of medicine. 

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Find out more 

The Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship provides a focus for pedagogic scholarship and research at Imperial College London.  

Find out more about the programmes of study available through the Educational Development Unit.  


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