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  5. Summer Series of Journal Clubs: an opportunity to develop employability skills and a sense of community amongst students in secure environments

Summer Series of Journal Clubs: an opportunity to develop employability skills and a sense of community amongst students in secure environments

Project leader(s): 
Karen New, Fiona Moorman and Hannah Gauci
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived

Students in secure environments have few opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and may be more isolated from any learning-community than the typical student base at the OU. In common with other OU students, many SiSe students have low prior levels of academic qualifications and tend to start their studies at Access or L1 modules.  However, many students do not complete their qualifications. This may have significant long-term implications in terms of their future employability.

This project builds on the positive experiences from a previous eSTEeM project, providing Online Journal Clubs (OJC) for OU students (Moorman and New, 2020). This current project explores a proof-of-concept model for Journal Clubs within secure units.  We believe that Journal Clubs for SiSe students offer an enrichment opportunity, aid study skill development and may facilitate peer-peer learning and the development of a sense of community amongst participating students. In turn, this may have implications for motivation and retention. 

In this project, face-to-face Journal Club events were run by LHCS Staff Tutors, who were also experienced ALs (with significant experience working with SiSe students). The events were planned in three secure units, HMP Oakwood, HMP Whatton and HMP Bure, all category C prisons. All prisons have well supported Education Teams and a large number of students studying with the OU. In each unit, two events were planned, the first as a workshop, providing study skills guidance (e.g. finding/evaluating information, presentation skills) and the second, approximately two weeks later, as a journal club, where students gave presentations to their peers/facilitators.

The main challenges associated with this project may not be surprising to those involved in education in secure units: student participation was outside of their control, with attendees being reassigned to conflicting duties/appointments at the same time as planned journal club events, and timings of events restricted or changed due to events occurring with the prison. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic brought a premature end to the project, since all visits to secure units were cancelled indefinitely. Indeed, the events at HMP Oakwood were cancelled and therefore not included in this report.

Nonetheless, our findings suggest that SiSe students valued the opportunity to participate in Journal Club events, indicating that they had felt part of a community. Furthermore, events provided the opportunity for SiSE students to develop key study skills, which may help their transition through academic levels. Participation may also develop employability skills, including communication and interpersonal skills, critical awareness and a proactive approach to self-development. 

In terms of next steps, SiSe students indicated that they would value more clubs, on a regular/more frequent basis. As part of this project, we have developed a ‘faciliator pack’ providing guidance on running sessions. Building on the success of this project, we would like to investigate the role of Journal Clubs run ‘by-students-for-students’, as well as Journal clubs as Outreach events (i.e. open to non-OU students). Finally, the role of Journal Clubs for female SiSe students should also be investigated.

Related resources

New, K., Gauci, H. and Moorman, F. (2021) Summer Series of Journal Clubs: an opportunity to develop employability skills and a sense of community amongst students in secure environments. eSTEeM Final Report (PDF)

SiSe Instructions for Summer Series (MS Word)

SiSe advertising flyer (MS Word)

SiSe Guide to Presentation Skills (handout for students) (MS Word)

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