Students as Partners

This month, our guest editor, Roselynn Verwoord, will be exploring students as partners. Roselynn is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC and a Fellow of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. She works as a Curriculum Consultant at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and as an instructor in teacher and adult education. She has engaged in several students as partners projects and can often be found writing about the role that power can play in partnerships.

At its core, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) involves enhancing the student learning experience. As such, students are the heart of SoTL. It should come as no surprise then, that partnerships with students are considered one of the principles of good SoTL practice. But what constitutes partnership with students? What might partnerships look like in practice? How might individuals know if they are engaged in a partnership or not? These are questions that many scholars and practitioners who explore students as partners think about.

Although there are varying definitions and understandings of what constitutes partnership, Healey, Flint, and Harrington provide a useful definition for understanding partnership. Specifically, they define partnership as a “specific form of student engagement, partnership is a way of doing things, rather than an outcome in itself.” They also provide a useful conceptual model for understanding the various spheres within which partnership may occur, including curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy; the scholarship of teaching and learning; subject-based research and inquiry; and learning, teaching, and assessment.

Students as partners is a popular and growing field, both within and beyond Canada. Since 2013, McMaster University has offered the Student Partners Program. This program sees undergraduate and graduate students contribute to enhancing teaching and learning through various pedagogical activities, including the design and development of new courses, resource creation, and collaboration on teaching and learning research projects. Internationally, institutions have partnered to develop and host the annual International Students as Partners Institute, a multi-day institute designed to build the capacity of faculty, staff, and students to develop, design, and implement initiatives to promote the practice of students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. There is also the International Journal for Students as Partners, which aims to publish partnership focused articles written collaboratively by students and staff. These are just a few of the many recent initiatives that have emerged as a result of increasing interest in the field of students as partners.

Principles of Good Practice in SoTL

Peter Felten’s journal article identifies five principles of good practice in SoTL, including 1) inquiry into student learning; 2) grounded in context; 3) methodologically sound; 4) conducted in partnership with students; 5) appropriately public. The article describes each principle and draws attention to the inclusion of students as a key principle for engaging in SoTL. Despite his call for partnership with students, he acknowledges that “while full partnership may not be practical or appropriate in all SoTL projects, good practice requires engaging students in the inquiry process.”
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Engagement Through Partnership: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

This 2014 report, by Mick Healey, Abbi Flint, and Kathy Harrington, is the result of extensive research conducted by Healey and colleagues in the UK and internationally. The report presents a conceptual model (see page 24) for exploring the ways students can be partners in learning and teaching, including through active learning; subject-based research and inquiry; the scholarship of teaching and learning; and curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy. It also proposes ways in which the development of partnership learning communities may help to guide and sustain partnership practice.
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Scaling Up Student-Staff Partnership in Higher Education

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and Jenny Marie’s guide is the result of the authors’ personal partnership experiences as well as extensive research which examined institutional-level project-based partnership schemes at higher education institutions in the UK. The guide is designed to offer support and guidance to “individuals, teams, or institutions in scaling up student-staff partnership” through a project-based model, a “common way that institutions have approached scaling up and embedding partnership within higher education.” The guide presents multiple stages of scaling up a project-based model of partnership, including gaining support and designing initiatives, through to implementation and evaluation. At each stage, the guide outlines suggestions for best practice and poses questions to help readers think through project logistics, as well as engaging in partnership authentically.
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Reimagining the Place of Students in Academic Development

This article was written by Peter Felten and a team of graduate student educational and academic developers from international contexts, including the UK, USA, Australia, and Canada. Given their unique positionality as students and educational developers, the authors advocate for a re-examination of the purpose and practices involved in academic development with a particular focus on academic development’s relationship to students. This article includes four vignettes that illustrate what is possible when students have the opportunity to embrace their essential roles as students. Through the vignettes, the authors propose “re-articulating the purpose of academic development toward the creation of conditions that liberate everyone involved in teaching and learning in higher education.”
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Enjoyed reading about Students as Partners? Learn about other topics we covered in the July 2019 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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