By Dominic Petronzi (Lecturer in Psychology)
The University of Derby IGNITE: Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) is a valuable opportunity for students – particularly those that do not typically encounter or engage with research – to learn about and implement specific methods in a particular area of interest. The overall ambition and aim are to make a novel contribution. As an institution wide scheme, hosted by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, the diversity and range of research that is eventually presented at the summative showcase conference provides a fascinating insight to the work, knowledge and expertise that resides within the university. Each time, this is an eye-opening and intriguing event.
Our application was successful and CELT funded bursaries for students to undertake the project that explored student autonomy of feedback format and perceived functional behaviours for academic development. This research focus was proposed by students and directed by their subsequent literature review. The participating academic programme often receives 100% National Student Survey feedback and was therefore a timely opportunity to explore perceptions of the implemented feedback approach. Following ethical approval, the student researchers conducted focus groups with students and later analysed the data. This project was student-led but supported by an academic team throughout, offering guidance and advice as and when required. From an academic perspective, the reward of supporting student academic and professional development far outweighed the additional commitment. Indeed, the URSS scheme offers a series a workshops for students to support their development of particular skills and knowledge that is required in the research process, with emphasis on producing an academic research poster for dissemination of the project. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to feel empowered and to have a sense of ownership and authority over their work and to create connections and develop confidence. This further supported my own deeper understanding of how students think about and engage with the process of research. This allowed me to adapt and update my research methods to meet the specific needs of the participating cohort.
Our research findings revealed three core themes in relation to student perceptions of feedback:  Personalisation – (a) sense of autonomy/involvement, (b) engagement and (c) motivation,  Clarity – (d) depth and detail, and  Areas for development. Overall, these findings suggest that feedback type – and the inherent option to choose – has a functional impact on academic engagement and development. This work has now been published, resulting in 2 of our undergraduate students graduating with an academic reference and potentially contributing to their employability. Here are just few thoughts from our IGNITE: URSS students:
“Taking part in the IGNITE: URSS research programme was a highly enjoyable and beneficial experience. Personally, it provided me with valuable experience in conducting primary research which helped me significantly when it was time to complete the Independent Study module for my course.”
“The process itself, as well as the publication of our research will make a great addition to my employability, it also provided me with a great sense of achievement and increased my confidence in my own abilities which will be important to take with me into my future career.”
“I highly recommend the programme to other students, for the opportunity to make a positive change to our university, to develop an abundance of transferable skills.”
Overall, this experience was enjoyable and beneficial for all involved and is something I would implore academics to engage with in the next cycle.
You can view the full published article from this research project on UDORA* here: https://derby.openrepository.com/handle/10545/624898
*What is UDORA?
The University of Derby Online Research Archive (UDORA) is a publicly accessible, Open Access database of University of Derby (UoD) research publications and other research output. Its main aim is to showcase and disseminate this research to as wide an audience as possible and is also a key component in supporting our REF submission.
With over 5000 records, UDORA is a comprehensive, evolving resource which highlights our researchers, their work and the University’s commitment to the development of Open Research.