This project, funded by the Community University Partnership Programme (Cupp), is a partnership between Stay Up Late (a charity promoting the rights of people with learning disabilities) and the School of Applied Social Science at University of Brighton. The Cupp seed fund supports new and emerging areas of partnership between the university and local community organisations. The project will pilot and evaluate an innovative way of facilitating collaborative learning between adults with learning disabilities and students on qualifying social work courses.
The project was grounded in an understanding that people can find sharing their personal stories exhausting and that the often alien environment of a lecture theatre can compound this. Over a series of three meals, naturally-occurring conversations will be encouraged in which students and people in need of support find out about each other’s experiences, dilemmas and hopes. The project was conceived as an exploratory piece of work which, centrally, seeks to question some of the boundaries and barriers around education, practice and research.
In line with the core aim of exploring non-traditional spaces for – and forms of – engagement, the meals will not be in university premises but in appropriate and accessible venues in Brighton suitable for discreet discussion. The events will take place outside of university teaching hours and fit as conveniently as possible with the availability and commitment of all participants. The process will be evaluated with a mixed method approach, using participant observation, questionnaires and one-to-one interviews. The research is qualitative, seeking to understand the experience of – and meanings attributed by students and service users to - a particular form of collaborative learning. The objectives of the research are exploratory in nature and the methods reflect this. Thus, semi-structured observations of meals will be undertaken; students will complete a brief questionnaire following attendance at each meal; semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with people with learning disabilities; and interviews will be undertaken with Paul Richards (the Director of Stay Up Late) and Jem Price (Principal Lecturer in Social Work).