Photograph of Helena DarkeSheffield Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE)

SURE is a scheme that offers an opportunity for students to become directly involved in the research activity of the University, take part in real-life research projects in subject areas that are of special interest, and experience what it's like to work in partnership with academic staff or collaboratively in a research group.

Case study: Helena Darke, BA Education, Culture and Childhood student

My research project was a sociolinguistic case study looking into the perceptions of identity and culture held by members of the Roma community of Czechia and Slovakia now living in Sheffield. My supervisor, Dr Mark Payne has been working with the Roma community for many years now, particularly with regards to their experiences in Sheffield schools. The Roma community are typically multilingual, often speaking Romani, Slovak or Czech, possibly other European languages depending on their journey to England, and then of course will be learning English in their new school.

I found the whole research process really enjoyable, I spent a couple of weeks in the school I conducted the research in, supporting certain Roma students in lessons. This work gave me a real insight into the subject of my research project, but also into surrounding issues, for example the difficulties faced by teachers having to manage a class of around 30 students, trying to prepare them or their GCSEs whilst having to support students who have potentially previously had very different experiences of schooling to that within the English system and who are also trying to overcome a language barrier whilst trying to learn. Whilst I had read about these issues and even studied some of them as part of my degree, seeing these issues first-hand was an entirely different experience.

I remember when I first came to University how daunting the idea of doing academic research was, and especially working collaboratively with an academic as a research supervisor, but Mark was enthusiastic and encouraging from the start. I feel I learned some really important skills regarding research dissemination and whilst my dissertation does not specifically look at the Roma community, the interview responses and my research findings definitely contributed to my dissertation thesis, which is researching communication between siblings who have a first language other than English.

Helena presented her research to Parliament at the Posters in Parliament event and received ‘International Research Project of the Year’ at the SURE Awards 2018.