All posts by Fiona Saunders

Decolonising higher education curricula: Authentic guiding narratives from academic and learner communities

My colleague Dr Theresa Nicholson presented this powerful call to action on Decolonising our STEM Curricula at EuroSoTL 2022 last week. For those who weren’t able to attend, or who asked for the slides, you can access them via the link below.

The project drew on student diaries and stories from scholars to develop a compelling argument for decolonising all our curricula in Higher Education.

In the Student Diary Project, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
undergraduate student diaries provide powerful, personal perspectives that underpin the need for decolonising. These first year students draw on personal experiences of ‘otherness’ and cultural difference, as well as advocating a range of practical measures. In Stories from Scholars, academic narratives provide an insight into ‘teacher’ perspectives on decolonising. Collectively, these demonstrate an understanding of the transformational value of the process, not only for curricula, but
also for individual students and wider society. There is considerable commonality between these two community narratives, though students seem less aware of the potential benefits of decolonising on their own personal role in future society. Authentic community narratives such as these provide compelling evidence that will
help persuade, engage, and guide academic and learner partnerships in their decolonising activity.

We also developed an easy to use yet comprehensive decolonising toolkit specifically for STEM disciplines, which was co-created with our students, and which is now publically available here

A Tale of Two Communities of Practice: Building SoTL across a diverse Science and Engineering Faculty

My colleague Professor Mark Langan and I presented this Tale of Two Communities at EuroSoTL 2022 yesterday. For those who weren’t able to attend, or who asked us to share the slides, you can access them via the link below.

Encouraging academics to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning ( SoTL) when they already have busy and diverse workloads is a persistent challenge across the University landscape. Focusing on experiences in the Faculty of Science and Engineering in our home institution of Manchester Metropolitan University , we shared the story of two distinct Communities of Practice, both of which operate differently as they create spaces to enable academics to gather and learn from each other whilst developing shared SoTL practice. 

Community of Practice 1 was formed in 2018. Named “Education Escapes”, we wanted this to be a place to ‘escape from the day job’, and to debate contemporary subjects catalysed by thought-provoking educational speakers. Membership is diffuse and transient with all academics in the Faculty invited to monthly meetings. 

Community of Practice 2 was formed late in in 2019 and named “EPC Community” to reflect its more focused approach to staff development. Membership is by Head of Department invitation, and aligns to members’ commitment to the Education, Pedagogy and Citizenship (EPC) Career Pathway (an education-focused promotion track). We have around 50 academic members, meeting six times a year with the explicit aim of building capability in SoTL and mentoring members for promotion. 

Our session at EuroSoTL drew on the personal reflections of the two convenors, and written reflections of members’ experiences of the two communities, in two ways. Firstly, through the lens of Wenger’s (1998) three characteristics of Communities of Practice (domain, community and practice) and secondly, using Trigwell and Shale’s (2004) three components of scholarship; knowledge, practice and outcomes. We shared candidly what has worked and not worked in both communities and explored tensions experienced by academics as they step beyond their disciplinary fields and into the domain of Scholarship of Learning and Teaching.


Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Trigwell, K. and Shale, S. (2004). Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching. Studies in Higher Education29(4), 523-536.

Many Faces of Science and Engineering

The aim of the Many Faces project was to showcase the diversity of talent within and across our Science and Engineering disciplines at Manchester Metropolitan University.  The project generated a highly diverse and visual set of role models for students, with the aim of raising our students’ aspirations, confidence and sense of belonging in the Faculty. In this Advance HE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2022 Presentation, we showcased the optimism, inspiration and ambition of our Manchester Metropolitan Science and Engineering students, staff and alumni by sharing the posters, social media posts and videos that comprise the “Many Faces” campaign.  We also shared how to replicate such a campaign and also provide ideas as to how to maximise its impact (for example embedding it in personal tutoring discussions, graduate skills and employability sessions and at open days)

To hear more about the project watch this short video I made here,

The Many Faces of Science and Engineering is a highly visual campaign whose aim was to bring centre stage the talents, the experiences and the ambitions of often underrepresented groups of students including disabled, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic, and LGBTQ students.  Flowing through the project are the voices and lived experiences of often marginalised groups in society.  Indeed, the campaign was developed and led by one of our own recent alumni and all the materials were co-created by the “Faces” themselves. The project has directly sought to showcase role models for students, to address the 2020 call made by Professor Paul Miller for students to be able to say “I see you, I hear you, I belong”  

Example Campaign Poster

Whilst there have been other campaigns that have showcased diversity in STEM disciplines ( for example the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 175 Faces of Chemistry in 2016), our campaign was innovative in that the “Faces” were overwhelmingly our own students, our own members of staff and our own alumni, telling their own stories, sharing their own ambitions and offering invaluable advice for the next generation of Man Met students.  In doing the project, we are also now able to maximise its ongoing impact and the changes it has effected by using the posters and profiles of the “Faces” to underpin Personal Tutoring and Employability activities across the Faculty. 

For a flavour of the Many Faces Campaign and to inspire you please have a look our Many Faces website, or watch these short student videos

Educating the NetFlix Generation: Evaluating the impact of teaching videos on educational outcomes across a Science and Engineering Faculty

This blog post and associated video presentation explores and evidences the use of teaching videos creatively yet consistently across a large Faculty in a post 92 Institution to both enhance the student experience and help improve educational outcomes.  Our project is centred on a major initiative in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University running since 2017, which has led to the creation of over 2000 videos and screencasts to support students across the full range of STEM disciplines.  Student feedback on the videos via comments to staff, or through NSS, and internal surveys  has been consistently positive.  Students say that they like the videos as they enable them to better prepare for examinations, clarify coursework requirements and familiarise themselves more quickly with “hard to understand” or threshold concepts.

Click here and the mp4 version of the presentation will download

There is an emerging consensus across the Faculty that the widespread provision of videos has made a significant contribution to recent improvements in student performance and in retention across all levels of UG study. What is innovative about this work is that we do not rely on anecdotal evidence of the impact of teaching videos on student performance, but that we have been able to measure it in a quantitative study of 1248 first year and second year undergraduates out of a Faculty of 6000 students. Whilst controlling for demographic factors, entry qualifications and level of engagement with the institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), regression analysis revealed that viewing more videos positively correlated with final unit mark. Although effect size was small, video view was the only significant contributor to improved unit performance besides entry qualification and ethnicity. When repeating the analysis to measure the probability of passing the unit, getting a 2:1 or getting a 1st, videos significantly improved the chance of getting a 2:1 or a First, but did not predict pass rates significantly.  These are important findings, given the importance of retention, transition and good honours outcomes to the landscape of HE today.

My leadership journey at Man Met Uni – Reflections 2 years on

This short talk was given on 3rd Dec 2019 to staff at Manchester Metropolitan University, who have recently taken on a new management role. The slides are available here as a reflection on my leadership journey in the 2 years since I have been “Managing at Man Met Uni”. They cover my own rather winding path to an academic leadership position, my leadership philosophy as it has developed and what I have learnt in these two hectic, challenging and formative years.