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Walking Several Inches Taller: Student Reflections on a University Conference on the Lived Experience of Refugee Children and Families.

Rosie Walker


The development of higher order thinking skills is an important pedagogic outcome of Foundation and BA degrees within the UK as it enables students to work positively with complex issues within early years practice.  Our annual conference, held at a university within the West Midlands, is one strategy for this development.  The conference under consideration was held in 2017 and was entitled ‘Lived Experience of Refugee Children and their Families.’ This offered students an experience of understanding at first hand the plight of refugee children and families and the implications for practice. At the end of the conference the students were asked to critically reflect on their experience and to present this as a 500 word piece of writing during the fortnight after the conference. 

Using a hermeneutic and interpretive approach to analyse the writing, three key themes emerged which included: the impact of learning through first-hand experience, changes in perspective previously informed by negative media coverage and developing politicisation and positioning of self as a result of the conference. Students identified a number of actions they would take as a result of their learning. The value of a critically reflective opportunity after conferences was highlighted as an essential part of developing higher order thinking and gaining maximum impact for the student learning from the experience.


University conference, critical reflection, student learning, hermeneutics, written reflection

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