The interdisciplinary Lincoln Equality of Attainment Project (LEAP) was launched by the University of Lincoln (UoL) in the 2018-19 academic year to examine the differential student outcomes (commonly referred to as degree attainment gaps) frequently observed among some under-represented groups of undergraduates and in terms of ethnicity, disability, gender and socio-economic background
The UoL has a strong strategic commitment to creating a culturally diverse community where different ideas, values and beliefs are acknowledged, valued and respected equally and embedded into all the core business within the University. LEAP embodies this position within the institution’s mission and strives to help the University better understand its own context-specific reasons why differential student outcomes exist and persist.
Vitally, LEAP seeks to provide advice on how differential attainment might be addressed through research-informed and evidence-based changes to curriculum design and teaching and assessment practices as seen in the LEAP annual action plan (see Downloads on the right).
To achieve its aims, LEAP brings a mixed-method approach to its work. Quantitative student data from the University’s central data team offer the opportunity to examine differences in student academic performances across Colleges, Schools and Programmes. Qualitative data collected by a combination of techniques enable LEAP to explore in more depth student and staff perceptions and experiences of where barriers exist and how good practices can be shared to ensure all students have equal opportunities to achieve their full potential.
The LEAP project is underpinned by the following principles:
- To create a sense of belonging for all staff and students in the academic community
- To enable what are sometimes difficult conversations
- To investigate the causes of differential outcomes (attainment gaps) and work to reduce or eliminate these gaps where possible to do so
- To develop a range of resources and toolkits for academics to help students achieve equality of attainment at School, Programme and Module level
- To ensure inclusive and collaborative practices in curriculum design, teaching and assessment becomes 'the norm'
- To share best practice in embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the university environment and in programme validation processes
- To ensure the academic community has positive and diverse role models embedded throughout
- To empower all staff and students to 'call out' if they see non-inclusive practice or discriminatory behaviour, and to create channels of communication to enable this.
Informed by its research, LEAP has developed the Lincoln Equality Toolkit for Student Success (LETSS) — a dynamic and evolving toolkit that aims to provide resources and activities for staff to facilitate the application and promotion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in their teaching and assessment and other professional activities. This includes raising staff-awareness of issues for ethnic minorities, and other under-represented groups, at a local level and providing bespoke support to streamline pedagogical practices in order to help address differential outcomes and improve our under-represented students’ academic experience.
Dr Xiaotong Zhu
Xiaotong’s research interests include assessment and feedback in HE, the experience and success of international students in UK HE, and student self-regulation. She is currently leading the cross-institution, interdisciplinary Lincoln Equality of Attainment Project (LEAP). LEAP seeks to use a research-informed, evidence-based approach to addressing equality gaps in the student experience and student success in Higher Education (HE) with a primary focus on teaching and learning contexts. As part of her leadership role for LEAP, Xiaotong established, and is Chair of, the Student Success Champion Network, consisting of academic representatives from all Schools in the institution, and a student advisory group with an aim to empowering the student voice. With expertise in evidence production and evaluation, Xiaotong has a track record of playing strong management and leadership roles in several external research projects and has exemplary use of mixed methods. She has supervised a number of undergraduate student-led research projects on understanding degree attainment gaps from the HE transitions and assessment perspectives. She has been supervising PhD research since 2021. Academic profile
Rhianne obtained both her BSc and MSc at the University of Lincoln in Psychology and Psychological research methods before becoming a member of staff in 2019. Her main focus has been social research investigating areas of equality diversity and inclusion with a specific focus on ethnicity and intersectionality. Since joining the university, Rhianne has been involved in a number of high-profile projects focussing on student engagement and equality, diversity and inclusion. Rhianne also co-chairs the People of Colour (POC) staff support network. Rhianne is the Senior LEAP Research Officer and provides operational support on the Lincoln Equality of Attainment Project (LEAP) working alongside Xiaotong Zhu to develop and introduce the Lincoln Education Toolkit for Student Success (LETSS). Staff profile