A PERSHORE College lecturer and dyslexia specialist has been honoured for her research into benefits of studying horticulture for neurodiverse students.
Sheona Goodyear has completed a Masters degree in Inclusion and Special Educational Needs at the University of Birmingham and has won the Annie Deakin Prize, which recognises the most innovative and original dissertation.
Her research was focused on the experiences of students aged from 16 to 18 who were studying horticulture at Pershore College – including students with conditions such as autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
The main finding was that vocational studies and hands-on learning had significantly benefited the group by promoting stronger mental wellbeing, increasing confidence and raising esteem levels of the neurodiverse students.
Sheona’s dissertation achieved an impressive 92 per cent. She has been working at Pershore college since 2004 and now lives onsite as a residential warden.
She says she hopes her findings will encourage more young people to pursue a career in horticulture.
Sheona said: “It was amazing to win the award and I hope now that my research will go on to be published and be evidence of the huge benefits of vocational learning and in particularly studying horticulture.
“There is not a lot of research on this particular age group. I wanted to investigate how the practical activities involved in the profession were impacting students and it was clearly having a positive effect.
“The students all benefitted both with their own wellbeing and then developed confidence to apply their knowledge in an academic setting as well.
“My research shows the wider benefits of following a career in horticulture and it’s an industry crying out for qualified young people. It’s not just about digging and weeding, it’s a scientific field that is modern and vibrant.
“I would like to thank all of the students for their contributions. They generously shared their time and talked openly about the challenges they had faced. They were at the heart of this research and the prize is a credit to them too.”
Helen Kinghorn, WCG group deputy principal and college director at Pershore College, added: “Sheona’s research further proves the benefits of horticulture courses and it is deserved that her work receive such high praise from Birmingham University.
“She joins the growing list of highly-respected and skilled staff we have at Pershore College and strengthens the college’s offering as a centre of excellence for horticulture nationwide.
“We would like to congratulate Sheona on her prize and hope that her research will introduce more young people to the vast range of benefits studying horticulture can bring.”