Student Researchers: Potentials and Challenges
In this paper, we explore the particular potentials and challenges associated with working with student undergraduate researchers acting as part of a wider academic research team in order to find out more about student experience. We report on a project in which two undergraduate student researchers collected data about the experience of second year BA students on a social sciences module that aimed to integrate innovative social media practices in order to enhance student understanding. We explore the experience of the student researchers by reflecting on interviews with them, as well as data they collected over the course of the project: their field notes and transcripts of interviews conducted by them. In line with previous literature on insider research, we found that the student researchers facilitated greater student engagement offering insights into aspects of the student experience that others would not have been able to, but that they also struggled to achieve a critical distance from the project and the views of students participating in the project. More specific to this context however, the student researchers’ contribution was negatively impacted by a lack of confidence in their research skills and a strong desire to please the academic members of the research team by reporting the successes of the project and underplaying the difficulties. We argue that supporting undergraduate students to act as insider student researchers is an exciting avenue for development in research into student experience in higher education, but that particular attention needs to be paid to the development of skills and confidence among student researchers and that a high degree of reflexivity is required in relation to the communication that occurs between students and academics who are part of the same research team.
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