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Greater Manchester Diversity Researchers’ Forum meeting: Wed 9th Nov

The next Greater Manchester Diversity Researchers’ Forum meeting has been arranged for Wednesday 9/11/11 2:30pm – 4:00pm.

We are pleased to confirm that Suzanne Vaughan from the University of Manchester will be delivering a presentation on her PhD research into ‘The Impact of Relationships, Ethnicity and Culture on Medical Students’ Learning and Success.‘  Please see below for the abstract.

The venue is Room C2.17, 2nd Floor, C Block, Ellen Wilkinson Building, The University of Manchester (Please note the venue is a different room to where the forum meetings have been held previously). Please click on the following link for the university’s site map:

Please confirm your attendance for the meeting on 09/11/11 as soon as possible
 as this would help with the seating arrangements. If you would like any further information then please contact either Nasreen Mansoor or Waqas Tufail.


Medical students’ come from increasingly diverse backgrounds, partly due to institutional efforts to widen participation. Access, however, does not equal full participation and there is evidence to suggest that ‘minority’ students experience their education differently. It has been established that students who perform least well academically are more likely to come from an ethnic minority background, yet efforts to establish the reasons for this using an individualistic, student-deficit model have so far failed (McManus et al. 2008). This PhD project examines students’ learning from a situated, social perspective in order to examine experiences and achievement together; the following research questions are addressed: 1. How do relationships mediate students’ learning and success? 2. How does ethnicity/culture/background impact on these relationships?

The project, undertaken at one institution, comprised 3 phases: 1) 14 interviews and were undertaken in a collaborative pilot project. 2) A social networks survey was administered to 140 students. 3) 18 interviews undertaken with students recruited from phase 2. All interviews were in-depth and semi-structured with students in years 3 & 4. Sampling was stratified by ethnicity, gender and site of hospital placement. Data were analysed initially using grounded theory to highlight emerging themes, then further analysed using sensitising concepts from socio-cultural theories of learning (specifically Communities of Practice and Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capital and field).

Students describe the importance of relationships for their experience and learning as they gain various forms of support through their networks including financial and emotional. Key for their learning are the resources that facilitate participation in the practices of medical education, as tacit and explicit knowledge is also accessed through relationships with peers, senior students and medical professionals. Students describe informal group learning as integral to success, enabling them to access a wider body of information than would be possible alone, and to gauge their knowledge in order to direct future learning. Findings suggest, however, that there are social divides amongst students as the activities students participate in differ and relationships are sought with ‘people like them’ often along cultural or religious lines. Students describe collaborative learning, but also learning opportunities as a limited resource to be competed for, possibly exacerbating group tensions.

In a student-led, problem-based learning environment with a well documented ‘hidden curriculum’, social networks play an important part in helping students understand what is required of them as future doctors. As patterns of these relationships differ according to a students’ cultural background, it is very likely that students’ are building very different ideas of ‘competence’ and ‘success’ which are translating into different exam performance.

McManus I.C., Richards P., Winder B.C. & Sproston. K.A. (2008) Final examination performance of medical students from ethnic minorities. Medical Education 30:195-200 Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press



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