The Evolving Learner Identity and Pathways Conference, held at South East Technological University’s (SETU) campus in Wexford, proved to be an engaging and enlivening presentation of research into widening access between further education and training (FET), and the higher education sector.
The event was an opportunity for researchers and educators to develop creative collaborations that explore how student identities develop from an educational and personal perspective. The day-long conference included a series of talks from experts from the region’s further education and training sector, as well as those working in higher education at SETU and further afield.
The event was organised by Dr Veronica Kelly, senior lecturer at SETU who commented that, “Many adult students returning to education choose further education as a starting point in this journey. They may then consider moving into higher education. This theme was explored throughout the day. Research was also presented around opportunities and risks for students navigating this process, and significant life events and identity changes that interject in the development of student identity”.
According to Dr Kelly, themes of equality, diversity, and inclusion are significant to the experience. “Understanding how student identity unfolds can impact on teaching and learning, student support services, institutional structures, and pathways through education. How this identity evolves and the significant moments for students in this process can uncover potential opportunities for enhanced approaches to teaching and learning, curriculum development, and developments around educational policy,” she added.
David Denieffe, Vice President for Academic Affairs at SETU, was a keynote speaker at the conference which highlighted the opportunities for engagement between further and higher education in a “unified tertiary system”. He commented, “This engagement can only benefit all learners as it continues to enable learning pathways and support structure”.
Keynote speaker, Lindsay Malone, Director of Further Education and Training at Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board WWETB commented “The conference is a wonderful opportunity to come together and showcase synergies between further education and higher education from across the region. WWETB looks forward to continuing to work with colleagues from SETU to create and promote progression pathways for our learners”.
It is hoped that this conference will develop into further seminars and research symposia between further education and training, and the higher education sector in the south east in the future.