Hello, and welcome to A Dash of SaLT. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. SaLT is an acronym for society in learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal. So let's get stuck in shall we.
Welcome to A Dash of SaLT. Today I'm joined by Dr. Courtney Marsh to talk about her work with the interdisciplinary consortia. It's also known as IDC in crime, criminology and criminal policy. And it focuses on societal impact and her connection with engaged learning in Europe. Courtney is currently involved as a senior researcher in CaST, which stands for communities and students together. It's an Erasmus Plus 2019 key action two strategic partnership for higher education. So I'm delighted to have you as a guest on a dash of salt today, Courtney.
Yes, thank you for having me.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the IDC and, you know, what are some of the topics that are researched as part of this?
Right. Yeah, so at Gent University, I was fortunate enough to get a position in in the Faculty of Law and criminology. And so overall, that's that's kind of the research area. But we had a project come in for the Erasmus Plus CaST that was on engaged learning, so not necessarily connected, by the projects way, but we connected them through our faculty in our department. Within the IDC, though, we we look at a lot of different topics. So and both asked kind of a local level. So sometimes just in Gent here in Belgium, or sort of Belgium level, there's an EU level and then we go a bit wider as well to an international level. And we look at things like vulnerable groups in detention, policing, which is my area and police mobility, and look at some kind of areas in the drug worlds, youth crime and youth crime prevention. And then we have some other things that cross borders a bit more so a bit more internationalised with things like cybercrime, terrorism, organised crime, big data. And then we get a bit more into police agency responses and policy responses and laws to these global phenomena in some cases, and it's only kind of a small section of what we studied, because it really the consortium is quite large. And we have a various different researchers, which is fantastic to have all this minds working together on these different topics. But those are just kind of a fair few of what what we get into
what would you say are the strategic goals, what is the IDC what are they trying to get out of out of this consortia and how does this impact communities and societies as a whole
so to kind of go back quickly as the IDC so I see crime, criminology and criminal policy. And it was created about 10 years ago, and it was only started as a pilot. And so it's never they didn't go into it as a permanent thing. So it was kind of a test run and the pilot initiative, and then after they realised the the resourcefulness of it and usefulness of it. So was funded as a permanent research structure within the faculty in Gent University as well. And this particular one, so the IDC crime, criminology and criminal policy is based in Faculty of Law and criminology, and it focuses, as I said before, and a lot of different criminological topics and policy responses there. But there are other ones as well. So we work together with the other consortiums in Ghent University. And the idea kind of the, the overall goal of this was interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration, I suppose. So it's involved in co creation initiatives with local partners, and projects that link the social sciences and humanities and then also with STEM subjects as well, so science, technology, engineering and math. And so we look at things like that as well as other kind of more meta topics like engaged learning or societal impact measurement. And so start kind of there. And then in terms of the strategic goals, as I said it was it was a pilot project to start, and then it flourished to what it is now, about 10 years later. And the idea is to kind of foster this knowledge translation and exchange that leads to societal impact in stimulate partnerships in cooperation with both the academics within our consortium, the other consortiums within the university, but then also external academics and policy and practice partners from different disciplines. So there's a large emphasis on interdisciplinarity. Plus, then we also want to have a focus on transdisciplinarity. And this will come through a bit more with the engaged learning this, but we not only want to work with other academics in different disciplines, but we also want people from outside of academia. So the IDC is connecting researchers, and the research that they do with people from communities, the public sectors, industry and civil society, to make kind of that real world connection and have that societal impact. So we're looking at a few different things there. And one example very less was timely topical, that has come out of consorting recently, is research looking at the the pandemic and COVID-19 responses, in particular relation to verbal partner violence. So we're looking at kind of touchy topics like that, which is criminology, I suppose, in a nutshell, but determinants of what's what's causing it, what's making it happen, specifically during the pandemic. So we're looking at these kinds of social problems, if you can call them that, probably liked word for it. And during some is quite time, they'd like the COVID pandemic, but also makes an impact for not just researchers in the field, but those that experiences or knowledgeable with it, or touch it in some way in their lives.
That's really, actually fascinating. And, you know, I want to talk to you a little bit more about sort of the impacts of COVID. And sort of what you've seen come out of that, and what you're planning on doing with that. But one of the things that you also touched on, was that that idea of the interdisciplinary aspects of this the IDC, and what would you say would be, like the pinnacle of importance for the collaboration of the IDC, and in who does that affect, actually, who's involved in this collaborative process and, and what comes out of it?
The consortium brings together researchers, from the faculties of law and criminology naturally, yes, that's what we're talking about. But then also, we have faculties of psychology and Educational Sciences, political and social sciences, and Medicine and Health Sciences. And they all come together to work on topics like security, crime, deviance. And these are from perspectives of local, national, European and international perspectives. And so the idea is that it's kind of a bottom up grassroots approach to it. We had the existing researchers, in our faculty as well as the other faculty faculties that were already collaborating together. And but the IDC brings it together and kind of a more structured way. And it makes it research more adaptive to the infrastructure that we have going on here, and the IDC, and helps facilitate and even stimulate new collaboration and then deepen what's already there. So we're seeing the IDC, it's kind of a formal structure now. But it came out of something quite organic, that was already happening. And in particular, we're seeing a lot of cross disciplinary work that we don't always see that, particularly across the AHSS and STEM fields, you don't always see that collaboration there. So seeing something like that now come out of the IDC has been fantastic night. I think it really makes such an impact when you're doing community research. Because so often, community or even social research isn't based in just one thing. That's to try and say that society and social interactions are just one thing in there. Absolutely not. So we need that interdisciplinarity to make to make it make sense. So we see that, but then there's also the transdisciplinarity where we want to involve the community and we want we want their input as well as What impact we can have on them? So seeing it all come together in a formal way, it's really been quite incredible for me to come into as a young researcher at Gent university.
Yeah, um, so that actually brings me to wanting to ask you some questions about your current research project that you're on. It's obviously, as we've already said, Here, previously, it's on engaged learning in Europe. And we know that that's really a hot topic nationally, internationally, in higher education, it's definitely something that you're starting to see the ripple effects that that are happening from one country to another. And then all this sudden, this collaborative processes, and networking is beginning to happen internationally, where everybody comes together from that European mindset in in how engaged learning looks and how it works. And you and I both know that there's many different names that have to do with engaged research or community based learning, or global citizenship learning or these types of things. If you can tell us a little bit about what engaged learning is in the European context, and why IDC feels that it's an important aspect of their consortia.
Right, so it starts I'll start with your second question first on why we feel like it's an important part of it. And pretty plainly, it's one of our pillars, one of our action pillars, so it was built into the consortium best engaged learning is his priority for us. So as the connections not so hard to find in that way, and but for us, particularly within cast we've taken, there's so many different types of engaged learning, as you said earlier, and you can go in a lot of different directions with it, we took kind of, I suppose a more narrow approach, we include a lot more in our research. But the the most important part for us was, and I say I had no part in the naming of this project, but I think it's brilliant cast. So communities and students together, the idea is that there needs to be a benefit to the student. So we see that with their involvement in in the community and in society, but that you could kind of so well do by an internship. So originally, when I was first thinking, engaged learning, that's what I saw. But for us, it needs to go a bit further. So not only does the student need to benefit and get this kind of real world experience in some way, but also, the community needs to interact, and not just benefit from the services being rendered. So the idea is that, yes, they will benefit in a real world solution, solve problem solving type of way. But they also need to be involved in the process. So it's, it's not just a matter of the students going out and saying here is this, you know, thing we've done or made or created or what have you. But it's going into whoever the community consists of at the time, and in talking to them and collaborating with them and seeing what it is that can actually benefit them, and what comes out of that. And then the students going back with, obviously, with a relationship to the university, and working on this problem, and then there's a lot of back and forth between the students and the community to come up with an actually beneficial, I suppose product is probably not the right word, but it's the best term I can think of, in the end. So it's that kind of collaboration between communities and students, but in a mutual way. So mutual partnership is what we say quite often within the cast remit. So it's a bit unique in that way, rather than just community service learning, or an internship, and the communities need to be equally involved in it.
Yeah, um, one of the things that you said was that strikes me is that that idea of putting the university sort of at the heart of the community, but at the same token, you can switch it around and say that the community is the heart of the university. And sometimes, in the past, there has been, here's the university, this is what happens behind the walls or the gates of the university. Here, they Yep, they're plopped in the middle of this community. But then this is the community. You know, what this this engage learning idea is bringing the two together. And I liked what you said about, you know, that it's an interaction between the community and the the benefits that they're receiving as community interacts rather than just is access consumers from benefiting from the students, group projects or things that they're bringing into the community. It's that whole idea of interaction, which is actually the epitome of what Just say CASP stands for, again, communities and students together. I love these types of acronyms that that really speak to exactly what engaged learning is, has the pandemic presented any challenges for Engaged learning and for this project that you've been working on?
Absolutely, we see it a lot. So the whole idea of communities and students together is obviously limited when we're in the middle of a pandemic, and aren't meant to be together. So the whole together, part of it was quite limited. And obviously, there are adaptations to it online. But in some cases, the communities that were meant to be in mutual partnership with don't have access to internet or computers or things like that, or at least not stable access. So it's made it quite quite difficult. You know, in in the book that we just published, engaged learning in Europe, most of the countries have a section on how they've had to cope with COVID. In the last year, a lot of this evaluation was happening, just during the beginning of COVID, when people were first having to adapt to it. And what, in particular, it was our Italian case, example, University of Parma, their engaged learning initiative was placing university students into local schools in Parma. And the these women like Erasmus students, so they would be from countries where their native language was not Italian. And they were put into the schools and they taught subjects, whatever their subject happened to be, but in their native language, so they would be teaching maybe science in German, or history in Russian or something like that. And so to have to adapt to some like that, where the whole idea is that there's this collaboration in the classroom. Before, I think there's a bit more of a structure to it now, but in the very beginning, you know, people didn't know what to do schools just kind of closed before they copped on to the the online learning thing. So it's, we've seen a lot of impacts mathway. And we're seeing also a lot of rapid adaptations to it that have been quite successful. So one of our partners as well and receive Exeter in the UK had quite a successful run of their annual they call it grand challenges, and they adapted online last year. So they saw a good turnover of that to an online platform. But ideally, I think this is happening a lot with universities. And we were adapting as best as we can. But everybody is just kind of waiting until we can get back to, to as close to normal as, as we were before. One of the reflections in the book was on, you know, kind of what worked and what didn't, particularly with COVID and online platforms. And one of the the reflections that came out from the UK was this, when you're in an online platform, you you miss that opportunity for kind of organic conversations and things like that. And I find anyway, so often, some of the best ideas come out of these kind of offhanded side conversations, and some of your most brilliant ideas come out of something that isn't really, it wasn't meant to come out of that, but it just happened happened upon you. And you really miss that interaction online. Because if you have a break, you shut your computer, you log off and you go do what you're doing. Whereas before, you might have gone to that a coffee with someone and started chatting about, you know, who knows what, and something could come out of that. So we're missing that connection there with the online but, I suppose we're doing the best that we can.
So I want to talk a little bit more about the about the project and some of some of the countries that were involved in this particular project. And then I want to talk a little bit more about the publication. As you know, you know, I read your publication, I reviewed your publication. And yes, and firstly, I think that it's, it's really written in a in a, in a reader friendly way, you know, each of the elements having, you know, those ideas about lessons learned and what worked and what didn't work and how each of the partners who wrote, you know, bits and pieces on what what they, what their project was and that type of thing. It really just came to comes together really, really nicely. And again, we'll talk about it a little bit more in a minute. But what I'd like to know is for you to tell us a little bit about the various countries that were involved because this was a multiple country project and what maybe what were some of the the key pieces that struck you as part of this project with the country
Right, have got my book open here just to make sure I get all of the university names Correct. With the the translations from the native languages, cast is with Erasmus Plus there's six partnering universities. So we've Belgium, naturally, which is going to university here in Ghent, Belgium, um the University of Turku in Finland, and Otto von Guericke, university Magdeburg in Germany, at University of Parma, in Italy, at University of Malaga in Spain. And then finally, the University of Exeter in the UK. So those are the six part universities. As you said, I'm glad to hear that the book was quite readable because taking six universities were all but one don't speak English as the native language. There's always kind of a bit of a risk there when you're doing it, but glad that it came together well. And hopefully it's useful in years to come. But yeah, so we have the six universities, they're at six wildly different initiatives that come out of it. And which we have the same structure for each of the chapters, so that there was kind of an overall framework of this, we wanted to keep it loose in order to be able to accommodate all of the different types of initiatives that we had come out of it, which was one of the things that's reflected on in the last chapter is the idea that in we touched on earlier that engaged learning, it's two words, but it means so many things. And it can be so many things, which to me is one of the greatest strengths of it's the flexibility you get from engaged learning. And that you can have, you could have a sociology or a criminology based example. But then you can just as easily have an engineering based example. So that the flexibility and just the wide range of what you can do, I find it so fascinating, even though I've been studying this for a bit. Now, I still think it's so interesting to see all the different versions that you can get from engaged learning. And it's one of those things I've I don't know why I've been thinking about this in the last two weeks in particular, but it's I just, I wish I had this when I was an undergrad, I wish I had an experience like this, especially in the book, we have a section for interaction with students who are involved in you can see really, everyone who took part in it really found it to be quite a benefit to them. And it's so different to something that they've done. And I just, I can't help but wonder like, maybe how different my undergraduate experience could have been if I had experienced something like this, and then connected to the community that I lived in, in this way. And I just I didn't have that I kind of blew in to my university. And I left after I still love my university, and I have a connection to the university. But I don't have a connection to the community in a way that some of the students who had engaged learning opportunities might.
Yeah, I think it's really interesting and really important, especially in an international context, as well, what you were missing, you know, that lack of community, by not being able to participate in in something that could is very, is is actually quite easily implemented. Or maybe it's, it can be a little bit difficult in conceiving, or conceptualising what the community group, you know, the school and community project might be, but then once it's conceptualised, it's actually very, quite easy to, to implement or to re implement, you know, as as you go on. So we're coming to the end of our conversation. But I wanted to ask you, how can the listeners find out more about the work of the IDC in about engaged learning?
Right, so there's a website that we have. So if you can google IDC, crime, criminology and criminal policy, you get, and should be one of the first ones that comes up, and we have a Twitter that we tweet, retweet a lot of the research that's being done, so it's asked crime underscore, you, Ghent. And then there's a new blog website that's going to be launched soon about more of the research that we're doing. And so there's a few different resources there for the IDC cast also has a website. I think if you learn Google CaST Erasmus Plus it comes up easily enough. And then we have we have the book as well, which is through our website, or it's connected to U Gent as well. So if you found my research page, it would be on there. So there's few online resources and in that way,
thank you so much for joining me today. I do look forward to having some conversations from a societal on a sociological perspective in the future. And I wish you all the best in your continued journey at University of Gent,
fresh thank you so much
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on A Dash of SaLT, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Season with just the right touch of experts in education and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to A Dash of SaLT on Podbean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.