For Rudolph Asumda, teaching is a calling. Previously a tutor at a university college in Accra-Ghana, moving to the UK was an opportunity to delve deeper into a subject that he felt needed to be addressed, the prolific use of social media and its impact on our mental health. Despite being fully immersed in his PhD, Rudolph still had a passion to teach, so he applied to the Brilliant Club Scholars programme, which provided vital training and incredible teaching experience.
The Brilliant Club is an award-winning charity that exists to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly-selective universities. They do this by mobilising members of the PhD community like Rudolph to share their academic expertise with state schools on paid placement programmes.
Analysing the pitfalls mental health groups on social media
The Brilliant Club asks its members to teach modules based on their research, providing secondary school students with a taste of university education and introducing them to critical thinking skills. Rudolph’s research concerns social media and mental health, specifically the effect of online mental health groups and forums. Social media use is growing, Rudolph says, and online support groups can be a double-edged sword:
To some extent, social media brings us together and can be an effective way to help people with mental illness but there's also the downside we’ve seen reflected in several case studies where people who have joined these platforms have been exposed depressive triggers and negativity.
These are heavy topics, Rudolph states, which means he’s had to communicate his research differently to a younger audience.
"The internet was created for academic purposes, but the students don’t know that. They take it for granted. Recontextualising social media this way allows me to share my research without exposing students to potentially harmful themes."
Unlocking the door to a teaching career
Rudolph is currently on placement in two secondary schools, something that would have been very difficult to achieve without the Brilliant Club. Though he worked as an Assistant Lecturer overseas, teaching in the UK requires knowledge of different policies and procedures specific to the country.
"As someone who has trained to teach overseas, coming to the UK is a different board game. It gave me a sense of what to expect in regards to the UK education system, including issues such as safeguarding."
Rudolph plans to teach after he finished his PhD and work with the Brilliant Club has been essential in helping him gain the experience necessary to file for fellowship to the Higher Education Academy.
"I’ve been fortunate because my current role allows me to carry out assessments and give feedback to students, which are key criteria for securing the fellowship."
A Brilliant opportunity
Not only has the Brilliant Club allowed Rudolph to step closer to his future teaching career in the UK, but it has also helped to support his research and professional networks. Working closely with secondary schools, he has been able to work as an external invigilator and he can now support his research with data from student focus group discussions.
"The Brilliant Club is a respected charity, so the reception I get when I come into these schools is very good indeed. They trust the content you’re going to deliver is of a high standard and worth the students’ time. It really is the place to be."