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A Room with a View: Learning through Lockdown

By fola.brady.19, on 11 June 2020

Just as businesses are adapting to the remote working environment created by lockdown, so must staff and students at the IOE in order to maintain learning during Covid-19.

On a personal level, this has taken me from my room in Camden Town to the left-hand corner of my mother’s attic (there are birds living in the roof on the other side and I don’t particularly want to befriend them). Yet, even from my “desk” (read: shelf), with its temperamental Wi-Fi, soundtrack of occasional muffled arguments or hooting from the ceiling, and even the carousel of visiting cats – I feel I will have grown as a learner by the time I return to UCL.

During an average term – working out of the computer room in the IOE wing, accessing the Newsam Library and its facilities or studying with friends in the downstairs lobby – one can’t help but become accustomed to an interdependent environment. The community at the IOE is shaped by its work in pedagogy. Projects such as those to improve education for marginalised or SEN groups embody the drive for social change through research and discussion. This collaborative environment is to the benefit of all, and research is shared frequently through talks and presentations open to all students and staff. Learning is further guided by academic writing workshops and retreats hosted by the Academic Writing Centre, where peer-supported learning is used to create co-operative working patterns and to hone research and writing skills.

The loss of the benefits of physical presence at Bedford Way, therefore, has made me a more versatile learner. Without the facilities and consultation available to me there, information is more difficult to disseminate, outstanding work appears mountainous and morale can drop. As such, my work is mandated to be streamlined. Despite the endless reams of hours available to me to leaf through PowerPoint slides, my focus is increased to prevent my work drifting into ineffectual browsing. My academic circles have moved online, with new modes of exchange are emerging and flourishing to partially fill the deficit of life at the Institute – and they will stay, integrated into mine and others’ working strategies irrevocably in the future.

But beyond developing strategies to cope with the challenges of remote work, the situation is a retrospective highlight of opportunities at the IOE I could perhaps have utilised more over my first year there. Clearly, Covid-19 has placed a premium on proximal interaction but the understanding of my own cognition and academic values I have gained from learning through lockdown means that I will engage more fully with the IOE when I return in person. Certainly, I will be attending more writing retreats, since the value of exchange and collaboration has increased exponentially. Lines of feedback from academic staff have also become crucial and I wish I had taken further advantage of the opportunities at the IOE for collaboration before term was interrupted. However, recent provision by the IOE,  such as the Writing Buddies scheme established by the Academic Writing Centre in light of student feedback on isolation will prove invaluable in creating networks for academic betterment.

I may currently be confined to a perch between a fold-up sun lounger and the Christmas china, but my sense of affiliation to the community at the IOE is renewed. In the short restful periods between avoiding family members and ushering out wayward sparrows, I look forward to engaging with the new IOE podcast, which promises to span the breadth of the Institute’s research in education and social science, with its customary focus on application in policy and practice. The utilisation of Blackboard Collaborate on a faculty level to share experiences of remote learning and to gain one-to-one academic support is a coping mechanism that promises to improve communication long-term, rather than merely stem the loss of face-to-face interaction. Dissertation discussions, webinars and Q&A sessions have moved online and the consistent contact by the academic support staff at the IOE means that physical distance is little obstacle to accessing the resources of community learning.

I will look forward to participating more fully in life at the IOE when term eventually starts. But until then, I will renew my use of the resources hosted by the staff to improve myself academically and socially during lockdown.

Becoming a researcher at undergraduate level: You can do this!

By IOE Digital, on 8 June 2020

UCL Changemakers

UCL ChangeMakers workshop

By Omar Hallab, Social Sciences BSc

As someone who has been able to harness the power of conducting research at undergraduate level both inside the classroom through opportunities within my department and later outside university in the professional sphere, I am here to share with you the benefits I have gained.

1. Building confidence

As a BSc Social Sciences student, I have been rigorously trained in both quantitative and qualitative methodology.  Whatever UCL degree you are undertaking, you are likely to get exposed to research methodology in your field, especially through our Connected Curriculum ‘which aims to ensure that all UCL students are able to learn through participating in research and enquiry at all levels of their programme of study.’

The first time I witnessed real-life impacts of research at university was through a UCL ChangeMakers project – a Social Sciences Consultancy lead by Dr Katie Quy.  ChangeMakers funds departmental projects allowing ‘students and staff to work together in partnership to bring about improvements to the student learning experience at UCL.’ Our project consisted of collecting data from students to improve both their learning experience and student-staff relations. We designed a survey for students on our programme in order to gain insights into four key domains: demographics, module development, careers and administration. We then followed up by conducting focus groups. As a team, we analysed the data and synthesised findings in a report which we presented to our department at the end of the project. The department was very pleased with our work, and we have already starting witnessing fundamental changes in our educational experiences. For instance, the department has already developed new politics modules, and the Careers Service now specifically targets jobs for our degree.

The project felt very special since it was conducted by students, for students. I have been able to draw on and develop the methodology skills I acquired and I also got the chance to improve my writing and oral communication skills. Being part of this team exposed me to teamwork and constructive feedback and has allowed me to grow in confidence.

2. Career opportunities

My advice to current students is to definitely think about undertaking work experience during your studies. UCL has a plethora of resources to support you in sourcing meaningful, relevant internships that can help you work towards your future career. A lot of these opportunities are research-based, so do engage with UCL Careers!

In my second year I started seeking summer internships in the field of social research through which I could build on the skills I had been developing. I attended UCL Careers’ training sessions, which provide invaluable support on building your CV, writing your Cover Letter, finding internships and even editing your LinkedIn page. I decided to apply for an internship at Ipsos Mori and eventually received the position.

At Ipsos Mori, I worked as a Public Affairs/Market Research Intern in the Social Research Institute, with a focus on delivering large-scale evaluation projects for clients including the Home Office, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department of Transport and the European Investment Bank. I gained exposure to diverse projects, each expanding on my capabilities as a researcher. I had the opportunity to work on topics I was passionate about – from roads reform and community cohesion, to investment finance and trade policy post-Brexit. I was encouraged to design my own timetable, and think rationally about how to distribute my time across the different projects. This internship was fundamental in shaping my professional character. I learned to be flexible, work well under time pressure, pay attention to detail and remain organised. I was able to undertake training sessions that directly fed into the skills needed to complete the evaluation projects. One of my favourite aspects of the internship was the intellectual and critical skills it required me to draw on. I was asked to think about ‘the story behind the data’, and engage with ‘the ‘bigger picture’. I believe this approach has now streamed into other aspects in my life, whether it is in completing data collection for my dissertation or reading an article in The Economist. I also gained a sense of the kind of jobs I should be aiming for in the future.

3. Considering further study

Undertaking research experience at university can be a great way to build on your knowledge, and navigate your position in the world of academia. My advice is to go ahead and email your favourite professors whose research you are passionate about to ask about future opportunities – many staff are keen on and encourage student-staff collaborations.

Many departments and research centres here at UCL are on the look-out for current students to help on research projects that are relevant to the topics they study. During the summer of 2019, I volunteered as a part-time Research Assistant with the Department of Social Science. Led by Dr Rachel Rosen and Dr Veena Meetoo, the opportunity consisted of a mixed-method evaluation of a local authority (LA) project for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). We critically evaluated the literature on community cohesion and integration in the context of UASC in the UK, and worked on developing a theoretical framework through which we could analyse the data collected – answering the question ‘What values do the concepts of “integration” and “community cohesion” bring in relation to UASC’s wellbeing.’

As someone who is passionate about the topic of migration, this was a great opportunity to understand the mechanisms through which knowledge is generated in the field and learn directly from leading scholars. Intellectually, it challenged me to build a theoretical framework, an opportunity that made me strongly reflect about whether I want to study a master’s related to politics and migration.

Finally…

My final piece of reflection is this: Research can be an inward-looking task. Through research, you will find yourself reflecting on your passions, your contributions to the world and what kind of jobs you would like to do in the future. You will discover a lot about yourself through the process, and hopefully, you will be grateful for the person you have become through your work.

 

 

Debating Amongst the Best: My Journey at the 2020 World Universities Debating Championship in Bangkok

By IOE Digital, on 4 June 2020

Assumption University Campus

The Assumption University campus was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Pictured is the lake and pagoda surrounded by the lush greenery of campus, glistening under the afternoon sun.

By Basak Su Aray.

Basak is a second year Social Sciences BSc student at the IOE and a committee member of UCL Debating Society.

It was the first weekend of November, and under the fluorescent lights sat ten or so of us, some scribbling last-minute notes while others studied the panel of adjudicators who were about to assess our performance. The trial for the 2020 World Universities Debating Championship was short yet intense, consisting of a single round of debating. By the end of the afternoon the judges had made their picks. Hearing my name called out amongst three others to represent UCL at the tournament was a moment of shock and joy I will never forget.

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Good places to eat and drink around UCL

By tina.yang.17, on 5 December 2019

Pasta. cherry tomatoes and mozarella

The city of London celebrates its great diversity in many ways. One of which is its abundant culinary choices. Simply exploring around UCL, you will easily find cuisines from all over the world. With so much choice on offer, it can sometimes be tricky to quickly spot the ideal one during your lunch break when you are ravenous after a lecture. So if you fancy an exciting food journey beyond what our campus canteens could offer, here’s a list of drinks and food that you can count on.

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Make the most of studying resources across UCL and London

By linda.wystemp.17, on 24 October 2019

At UCL and across London there is a vast array of different study resources available to help you make the most of your time at university. This list will give you with a quick overview of the resources, physical and online, that will hopefully make your learning, research, and study sessions a little easier and a little more productive.

IOE students studying in the Newsam, Library

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Combining full-time studying with part-time working: if I could do it, so can you!

By Joana Maia, on 2 October 2019

Does working while studying seem impossible to you? Would you like to combine your full-time studies with some part-time working, but you find that too scary? This blog was written for you, then! I will share with you my experience as a full-time MA student and part-time worker, and provide some tips which may be useful for those who are students and wish to start working.

Person working sat at a table with a notebook and a cup of tea

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One day in the life of an IOE undergraduate student

By qtnvifi, on 24 September 2019

When I started university I was terribly anxious about what to expect in terms of my daily programme. After all, university is quite different from school and it’s hard to know what to expect. I remember that, for me, reading about a typical IOE student’s day would have been helpful, so I thought of writing about it for prospective students. Therefore, in the next paragraphs I will describe a typical term day in the life of an IOE student from morning to night.

IOE students sat in class

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What to take to University

By qtnvifi, on 24 September 2019

Suitcase, bedding and baskets placed on a bike

University is a huge change in one’s life. Especially if you’re moving to a foreign city, away from home, it can feel daunting when you start thinking about what to take with you, in order to make sure you have all that you need. I remember that when I started university, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to create a sense of hominess in my new accommodation and I would forget to bring important things. However, inspired by a few tips and tricks from older students, I managed to put together my own little oasis of cosiness.

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