Impact Story

Fostering future leaders in a time of uncertainty

Published on 11 August 2022

The impacts of Covid-19 on teaching and learning at IDS have been both challenging and radical for our postgraduate and professional learners and faculty.

Making the formal decision to teach online for the 2020–21 academic year was not easy. Substantial preparation and support went into making this transition. IDS and the University of Sussex provided additional resources and training for staff.  Throughout, we focused on tailoring our pedagogies to ensure a world-class learning experience for our students and to imbue a sense of IDS community and  belonging. IDS teaching staff were phenomenal in rising to the challenge of online teaching, upskilling and learning new modalities for the delivery of higher education.

Teaching online has helped us to realise new benefits for our students and for IDS and our experiences have made us aware of new innovative possibilities for using technology and methods which can have pedagogical advantages. As Covid-19  restrictions in the UK began to relax over the year, we made further adaptations  and welcomed some face-to-face interactions.

Student satisfaction high

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, IDS students reported high levels of satisfaction. In the 2021 Postgraduate Student Experience Survey, our PhD students reported a satisfaction rate of 90%. In the 2021 IDS End of Course Evaluation, Masters students reported a satisfaction rate of 83%.

Expanding our PhD cohort

Building on our thriving PhD programme, we introduced a new PhD: Development Studies by Published Works. This degree is designed for researchers with an existing portfolio of published work who haven’t had the chance yet to get a doctorate but have potential for future leadership in international development. During the academic year, starting in September 2021, 60 students were registered for our PhD degrees.

Find out more about our world-class postgraduate degrees and professional development opportunities.

Decolonising teaching and learning at IDS

Working with staff and students, we continued to explore ways to decolonise our curriculum, learning and teaching at IDS. This is a challenging initiative given that we are a UK-based institute that works on global issues, inextricably linked with the histories of coloniality that inform today’s structural inequities and inequalities. Our  work has included updating and diversifying reading lists, drawing more on other  forms of expression (poetry, art, performance) in our teaching, and highlighting students’ experience.

Recent student feedback included: ‘I also found IDS’ forward-thinking, progressive  ethos around decolonising development studies incredibly important and valuable’.  And ‘Being exposed to decolonising content was eye-opening, provocative and an  emotionally engaging and necessary experience.’

Empowering our students

In 2021, we asked our students how IDS had helped them to make a development impact. They told us that their time at IDS had empowered them to make bold decisions about committing to development initiatives in their own countries; to be able to use their voice to oppose inequality and injustice. Some students spoke of IDS having developed their capacity to share a common initiative and to build a space in which to debate and contribute to development aims. Other students spoke of learning how to have the strength to complete challenging assignments with partners and other organisations.

In terms of national influence and impact in students’ respective countries, one student was elected a Member of Parliament during their academic year and was able to use experience gained at IDS to better comprehend and contribute to policy processes as an MP. Another student drafted national social protection policy, applying critical takeaways from IDS teaching to organise consultations at national and subnational levels. A third student has been actively involved in the implementation of the transgender rights protection bill.

Professional development and learning achievements

We work with organisations and individuals at the forefront of social change to help maximise the impact of their work by providing vital research, evidence and facilitating learning. In the past year, our professional development and learning portfolio continued to evolve, falling into three broad categories:

  • specialist short courses for development professionals and practitioners
  • facilitated learning opportunities for individuals and organisations
  • learning processes embedded within development programmes.

Across our portfolio of learning activities, our virtual platforms have been key in helping us to facilitate a more inclusive approach to learning and extend our global reach.

The IDS specialist short course programme regained momentum after a hiatus caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions. Successful courses in 2021-22 included:

  • Contribution Analysis for Impact Evaluation
  • Making Trade Policy Inclusive
  • Global Development and Policy
  • Shaping Policy with Evidence
  • Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning

We saw growth in demand for our facilitated learning for individuals and organisations. Examples from the past year include ‘Organisational learning for good governance globally’ designed and delivered in collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and ‘Stimulating evidence uptake’ commissioned by the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development in coordination with Jordan’s Ministry of Education.

We also collaborated on a range of learning activities embedded within multiyear development programmes. Our learning component of the Covid-19 Response for Equity programme, with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), met the need for ongoing, real-time reflexive learning about programming to maximise effectiveness in rapidly changing contexts of crises. And together with partners in the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP), we supported the professional development and learning of 35 new SSHAP Fellows who are applying their social science expertise to humanitarian emergencies in a locally relevant way.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IDS.


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