The interdisciplinary LEAP project 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 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.
To achieve its aims, the LEAP project brings a mixed-method approach to its work. Quantitative student data from the university’s central data team offers the opportunity to examine differences in student academic performances across Colleges, Schools and programmes. Qualitative data collected by a combination of techniques enables 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.