Empowering Partnerships: Enabling Engagement

Ken Evans, Stuart Townley, CEMPS; Steve McCorriston, Business School (University of Exeter)

The Empowering Partnerships: Enabling Engagement project will build upon the existing positive partnerships within the institution and will be structured around four research themes: Science and Mathematics; Technology and Engineering; Philosophy of Contemporary Dilemmas; and Economic Understanding. These four themes reflect cutting-edge research activity: the Environment and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall; the Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing; the EGENIS Centre researching the social impacts of genomic science; and the Centre for Risk and Ambiguity in economics. These are well-aligned to the secondary school curriculum, and are key areas for the future which students will need as they mature and become active citizens. Each theme will be the focus for one lead school and its cluster schools, located in four different areas of the South West.

Underpinning the planning, preparation and delivery of the project will be the core skills of communication, creativity and team work. Each theme will be led by a core team of three experts, a subject academic who is a leading researcher in that theme, an education expert from the Graduate School of Education, and a teacher from the lead school in each theme. This core group will act as co-ordinating leads for the project but will draw on the expertise of other academics in the topic area, as appropriate. The lead subject academic may draw in other academics in the field if, for example, a school or students had a specific area of research with which they wanted to engage. The lead teacher will work actively with at least 5 other teachers across the schools cluster, acting as the co-ordinating link between schools and the university. The core team will work together collaboratively to develop an engagement plan of activities for the duration of the project and a legacy plan for beyond the lifespan of the project. This core team will then work with ECRs and with schools to realise the planned activity in practice.

Common to each theme will be the preparation of research engagement activities which address different aims:

- communicating contemporary research to enhance the curriculum;
Activities addressing this aim will principally be concerned with a broad student audience, seeking to make cutting-edge research accessible and meaningful to the everyday lives of young people, and to support teachers in integrating contemporary research appropriately into the curriculum. It will be characterised by wide engagement, such as for example, through an off-timetable day for a whole year group to participate in workshops on economic awareness;

- engaging students from a diversity of backgrounds and abilities to raise ambition;
Activities addressing this aim will principally be concerned with reaching and enthusing disadvantaged students and raising their own aspirations and ambition for their future careers. These activities are likely to be characterised by sustained intense engagement with students over a period of time, for example, through one-to-one mentoring in mathematics, or a series of practical engineering sessions at the university.

Thus, the Empowering Partnerships project will provide opportunities to establish strategic and sustainable partnerships between schools and the university, which will generate effective and engaging interactions between researchers, students and teachers and which will support researchers, particularly early career researchers, to develop the transferable and career management skills in the context of a work environment and to expose them to the world of work beyond HE.
 

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