In Conversation with... Fiona Hyland

Author/Producer Dr Fiona Hyland
Published in Autumn 2008 newsletter
Date Published 24 November 2008
Pages 1


One in the occasional series of "In Conversation with ..." pieces written for our newsletter


Fiona, you've been working for ESCalate since February, how have you found the first few months?

Well, talk about jumping in at the deep end! I started work on Monday 11th February, knowing that I was going to be kick-starting a project on internationalisation by moderating two focus groups in Leicester that Friday! So there I was, on Monday morning, writing the questions! Happily, I have found that one of ESCalate's strengths is that the team are always ready to offer their considerable expertise. Now that the internationalisation project is coming to an end, I can look back and appreciate the high quality research advice, collaborative networks, and practical support I have experienced.

So, what did the internationalisation project find?

Many of the staff and students who came to the 15 focus groups we ran were able to recount many instances of personal and professional development as a result of teaching and learning in a multicultural environment. However, they also described many challenges. The full report can be found at It's full of suggestions from participants for good teaching practice, internationalising the curriculum, and it gives voice to staff and students from a range of disciplines.

We are now exploring the idea of using "videopapers", text linked to video and audio, to present the findings, so that readers can hear from participants themselves, as they consider the issues.

Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?

Actually, I trained as a psychologist, and have a BSc and PhD from the University of Bristol. I specialised in health psychology which is a fantastic training arena since it's a discipline with so many variables! So for instance, when attempting to investigate whether stress is related to illness I had to measure socio-demographic variables, life events, daily hassles, social support, personality, health-related behaviours, trait anxiety, and physical and mental health. Looking at these variables longitudinally gave me an understanding of how to work with quantitative data. In other work, this time at the University of Cambridge and the University of the West of England, I used a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to evaluate and develop services for breast cancer patients and for women with a familial risk of breast cancer. Alongside my research work, I enjoyed some teaching in psychology and research methods and so have experience of sitting there on a Sunday afternoon with a big stack of student essays to mark before Monday morning!

What can you offer to the ESCalate community?

I think as a Subject Centre researcher I hope to be of value at three levels. Firstly, and most obviously, as a researcher – designing and carrying out research addressing key issues of value to the community, as in the case of the internationalisation project. Secondly, as a point of contact for members who would like to explore their research ideas and proposals and gain new perspectives. I understand that whilst many of the people who access ESCalate's services are experienced researchers, not everyone is. In the past, staff and students have contacted ESCalate for research advice especially in relation to the funding offered by ESCalate, and I hope that people will continue to feel that they can approach us whatever the extent of their research experience. Finally, I hope to be of value by engaging with the Education community through, for example, departmental visits and attending conferences, to gain a sense of the latest trends, innovations and advances as they develop – and feeding these back via reports in the ESCalate Bulletins and Newsletters.

Assessment for learning, for example, seems to be an exciting and rapidly developing area of research. The HEA Annual Conference in Harrogate this July included one strand on assessment with cutting-edge research on the innovative use of podcasts, digital audio, and guided reflection as just three examples of the work going on in this area.[2] Since the theme of the ESCalate research grants for 2009 is "assessment", I expect that we will receive many enquiries over the coming months as members consider how they could start, or continue, to contribute to this area.

How should people contact you?

I work part-time for ESCalate, but am available on email daily, so this is usually the best way to contact me. I am always interested in hearing from staff and students about how ESCalate, and its research activities, might best serve the education sector in HE. Enquiries about ESCalate project funding should be made to the Academic Co-ordinator whose details are shown on the Projects & Funding webpage (

In Conversation with... Dr Fiona Hyland is ESCalate's researcher and is contracted to work part-time for three days a week.

Email: Tel: 0117 3314323