Building a sense of community and inclusion for our students
Colleague spotlight | Lindsey Thiel, speech and language therapist (SLT) researcher and lecturer
I am a speech and language therapist (SLT) researcher and lecturer. After completing my first degree, BA (Hons) in Linguistics and German, I taught English as a foreign language in Germany before returning to the UK to study BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy. I then completed an MRes in Psychology and PhD in Psychology, and worked as an adult community SLT for the NHS. I joined the Speech and Languages team at Leeds Beckett in 2015.
Q1 - Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with Carnegie School of Education
After completing my PhD at the University of Manchester, and gaining experience in teaching students during this time, I wanted to continue researching into assessments and interventions for people with aphasia and to be involved in training SLTs.
When the job at Leeds Beckett came up, I was working as an adult community SLT in Bradford. Leeds School of Social Sciences was the perfect fit with my interests and values. The Speech and Language Sciences team had a fantastic reputation for supporting students, collaborating with clinicians across the Yorkshire and Humber region, and excellent innovative teaching.
I also realised that the research being conducted at Leeds School of Social Sciences within speech and language therapy and psychology had a great fit with my own research interests and goals, for example, use of technologies to support people with communication disorders, development of patient-reported outcome measures, and psychological difficulties following stroke. There were clearly lots of opportunities for collaboration.
Q2 - What makes you passionate about your work around Speech and Language Therapy and why is it important?
As an admissions tutor, I have the privilege of getting to know students from the beginning of their journey into speech and language therapy. I love seeing students develop into SLTs during their time at LBU. I am lucky enough to be teaching on modules in linguistics, evidence-based practice and acquired language disorders, which are all aspects of speech and language therapy that I am passionate about. I run additional support seminars for students who are struggling with grammatical analysis, and the highlight of my teaching is when I can see that the content is starting to click, and students tell me that they are starting to understand a topic that was completely new to them.
Another aspect of my work that I am passionate about is my research into assessments and interventions to support everyday functional writing in people with aphasia (an acquired, multi-modal language disorder following brain injury). Writing skills have become more important than ever due to the growth of social media and online communication, and it is important for us to find ways to facilitate communication and reduce isolation in people with aphasia. I enjoy researching in this area but also working with our students on research projects.
Q3 - How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?
My most positive experience of research collaboration is with Dr Paul Conroy, my PhD supervisor at the University of Manchester. We have worked successfully together on evaluating writing interventions for people with aphasia.
Collaboration is an essential part of my role at LBU. We work closely as a Speech and Language Sciences team for module planning and delivery, which feels easy due to having a fantastic open and supportive relationship. I work closely with my co-admissions tutor, Dr Amanda Hynan. Our skills and knowledge complement each other, and we work together to ensure that the application process is a smooth as possible and that applicants get a sense of our LBU SLT community through, for example, attending applicant interview days.
A meaningful recent collaboration was with Lorette Porter (Course Director) and Dr Sarah James (Head of Subject). We recently held focus groups exploring the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic students of the course and placements. We have since set up a student-led Anti-Racism and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum for LBU SLT students. I have been collaborating with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists to discuss and plan how we can train students to support diverse populations.
Q4 - What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in the School of Social Sciences?
I am proud of our recent achievement to set up a student-led Anti-Racism and EDI Forum. A student commented that it has given the members the opportunity to have powerful conversations. I have been attending anti-racism and EDI meetings set up by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. We have discussed and shared suggestions about how we can train our students to support diverse populations and how we can improve the experience of our students. I have made changes to our teaching, including more use of case studies of clients with a range of cultures and languages, and sessions for students to reflect on their own values and culture. I have recently had the honour of receiving a nomination for the National Diversity Positive Role Model award.
I am proud of the aphasia research that I have been involved in since being at LSSS, particularly organising a British Aphasiology Society Research Update meeting which brought together researchers and clinicians, being on the committee of the British Aphasiology Society, publishing my PhD work into using technologies to support writing in aphasia, and supervising MSc students to continue this work and to develop a functional writing assessment.