Dr Danijela Serbic, Professor Victoria Bourne, Dr Eilidh Cage, Dr Ines Mendes and Dr Nuno Nodin from the Department of Psychology, recently established a new pedagogic group called THESIS - Teaching in Higher Education: Supporting and Inspiring Students.
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves and your roles with the Department of Psychology?
Dr Danijela Serbic (THESIS founder and convenor): I am a lecturer and I teach on clinical/health psychology and research methods courses. I also coordinate third year Research Projects and Dissertations courses. I am a Chartered Psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My research expertise is in psychology of chronic pain and I am particularly interested in the impact of chronic pain on university students’ well-being.
Professor Victoria Bourne: I am a Teaching Focused Professor, having started at Royal Holloway as a Teaching Fellow nearly eight years ago. I have two key roles in the Department: I am the Director of Undergraduate Programmes and I coordinate the Research Methods and Statistics undergraduate teaching. I work closely with Teaching Focused academics across the College to help support their teaching practice and career development, and through the British Psychological Society I provide training and career development for academics in Psychology Departments across the UK. In 2017 I became a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Dr Eilidh Cage: I am a lecturer (teaching-focused) and I teach developmental psychology. I have also recently become the Senior Tutor for the Psychology Department. My research examines the experiences of autistic adults, including their experiences at university.
Dr Ines Mendes: I am a lecturer and a clinical psychologist. I teach mainly within the domain of clinical psychology, and I also coordinate Placements for the MSc in Clinical Psychology. My research expertise is in psychotherapy research, and more recently I have been researching the risk and protective factors in the development of mental health.
Dr Nuno Nodin: I am a Teaching Fellow in the Psychology Department. I have been teaching at UG and PG levels, with a focus in Clinical Psychology-related topics. Before coming to Royal Holloway I worked as a researcher in the charity sector. My current areas of interest and research supervision are the mental health of sexual minorities, online dating, and sex education.
2. You have all recently established a new pedagogic group called THESIS - Teaching in Higher Education: Supporting and Inspiring Students. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
We are a team of teaching-focused professors, lecturers and teaching fellows in the Department of Psychology who are very passionate about our roles. There are many research groups in our department and at Royal Holloway, but teaching-focused/pedagogic groups are almost non-existent, yet teaching and supporting students is our primary role, hence THESIS was established.
3. What was the motivation behind establishing the group?
The motivation was to consolidate all teaching practices and initiatives in the Department of Psychology and develop new ones. We aim to reach out and support current and prospective students as well as colleagues, and to influence educational practice in Royal Holloway and beyond.
4. What do you hope it will achieve?
The face of higher education has changed immensely in the last few years.With increased tuition fees and a strong emphasis on both teaching and research excellence and student employability, it is probably more challenging than ever to maintain high standards in educational practices. We see THESIS as a support platform in this process and hope that we will be able to impact the work of teaching colleagues, students’ learning and their experiences of higher education.
5. What initiatives have been set up since the launch of THESIS?
Since THESIS was established in November 2017, we have worked on a few initiatives, one of which was to help students develop their employability skills. We invited all third year Psychology students to write a blog about their psychology-related work experiences. Five winning blogs were recently published on the THESIS website, and we really hope that their stories will encourage first and second year students to apply for similar work experiences. We also organised student well-being talks and symposiums. For example, we recently presented a symposium titled 'teaching and supporting students with invisible disabilities' at a British Psychological Society conference, and also at the Royal Holloway Arts and Social Sciences Teaching & Learning Symposium. Currently, we are working on setting up a staff blog page on the THESIS website, and soon we will be inviting colleagues (in and outside of Royal Holloway) to share good practice and inspirational stories on any aspects of teaching and supporting students and colleagues.
6. What do you all enjoy most about working within the Department of Psychology?
Danijela: Working with super friendly and supportive colleagues. Helping our students achieve their maximum potential and above all, enjoy learning.
Victoria: I have two days in the academic year that I love, and they really epitomise why I love working at Royal Holloway. First is the Department Panto. By the end of term we are all ready for a break, and the panto is a great opportunity to relax and have fun with colleagues and students. Second is Graduation. The setting of Founder’s, seeing the students at the end of their studies, and meeting with their parents is always inspiring and very rewarding.
Eilidh: Working with fantastic students and colleagues. Over the past year I have most enjoyed working on a student mental health project with four of our students as co-researchers.
Ines: Great working environment, warm and helpful colleagues, cheerful and committed students. Learning opportunities to grow and develop our careers. And the Department of Psychology Panto!
Nuno: It is a very friendly environment to work in; people work very hard but also find the time to go to the pub together for a drink regularly and we celebrate colleagues’ birthdays with cake!
7. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourselves…
Danijela: I have discovered that working with and educating young adults puts me in a privileged position of being able to impact their futures and the type of citizens they become.
Victoria: I really love helping the students to develop into critically thinking, independent researchers. More recently, I’ve discovered how rewarding it is to support more junior teaching staff, and to help them develop their career pathways and confidence to become excellent educators.
Eilidh: I have discovered how much I want to improve the situation for students experiencing mental health difficulties.
Ines: It has helped me to create opportunities to integrate my two professional selves, the lecturer and the clinical psychologist, where one can inform the other.
Nuno: I have discovered that I thoroughly enjoy working towards improving equalities in the higher education context, particularly in relation to LGBT+ students and members of staff.
Discover more about THESIS and the work they are carrying out on their website and their Twitter page.