Tag Archives: Students as Partners

Thinking ahead


By Jill Lebihan

(Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research)

Don’t judge me too harshly but I was pleased that this week (9th June 2016) saw the release of the results of the 2016 HEPI Student Academic Experience survey.  The HEPI report is based on a relatively large survey of the student population (a bit over 15,000 respondents from across the HE sector).  The report covers the usual satisfaction and value-for-money/student-as-consumer stuff, but it also reports on students’ happiness and their own sense of motivation and responsibility for learning.  Many of the issues that the report considers will be discussed at SHU’s forthcoming Learning and Teaching Conference and I have a vested interest or two.

One area of the report which shows there is dissatisfaction is in support for students to develop their own interests. So I’m drawn to sessions in the Learning and Teaching conference that address this problem, in particular to the solution of co-designNatasha Taylor and Will Roberts have used Google+ to engage students as active participants and co-producers of their learning resources, rather than passive consumers.  Getting students to design their own learning package is a way to support them to develop their own interests and share those with peers, so I’m going to see what practical tips Natasha and Will have to offer.  Stella Jones-Devitt is also concerned with student engagement and she is going to be looking at ways of making barriers to participation more permeable, allowing a bit more flux and flow between roles of teacher and student.  She’s asked me to do a bit of roller-derby-style blocking in that session, so I’ll be digging out my shin pads.

HEPI, with impeccable timing, have also just published a report on students’ views on freedom of speech on campus, and their conclusions provide food for thought for Liz Austen and my own session on ‘Safe Spaces’.  The HEPI/YouthSight report suggests that many students are not as opposed to restrictions on speech and discussion on campus as we might assume, even though the NUS has been very vocal in its opposition to Prevent.  The report concludes that students are, at the very least, confused in their views on freedom of speech.  I think we may find, in our workshop, that lots of us are conflicted on this matter.  I’m looking forward to having the chance to explore all of this a bit further with colleagues at the event.

3.6 Students as CEOs (Course Enhancement Officers 2.0)

The Course Design Consultancy project was supported by the Higher Education Academy’s Students as Partners Programme in 2012/13.  It began as a small-scale pilot which aimed to have a positive impact on the learning experience by engaging students in the quality enhancement processes at Sheffield Hallam, in particular with regard to the re-approval of existing courses.

The activities that were initiated last year have been continued and developed, in line with the expectations stipulated in Chapter B5 (Student Engagement) of Part B of the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Quality Code for Higher Education.  This chapter calls on institutions to seek contribution from students in curriculum design, and recommends that students are supported and trained in order to enable them to engage appropriately.

Many improvements have been implemented to what has now been renamed the Course Enhancement Officers scheme, including the introduction of a ten-hour training program for students taking part, to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake quality enhancement work which is integral to university business.

In this presentation we will introduce the national context in which the scheme was developed, reflect on what we learned from the first iteration of the initiative, and explain how the conclusions drawn from our experience have informed the scheme’s progress.  We will outline how it has developed into a scalable model which can be embedded as good practice across the institution.

Collaborative Learning (2014)

Jackie Cawkwell, Mark Boylan & Adam Talbot

The presentation shares how a small project investigated the staff and student experience of a piece of group work (summatively assessed as a group presentation). The core modules (Level 4 Business Analysis and Financial Analysis for Business) were identified as being of interest due to size (600+) and that they attract mixed evaluations, indicating some dissatisfaction.

Data collection was undertaken by a mixed team of academics and a student researcher, with surveys, analysis of module evaluations and a technique known as process value mapping (PVM) as a focus group task. This technique is drawn from the world of business, but applied, we believe, uniquely within HE as an exploration of a learning experience. PVM leads to mapping, categorising and evaluating a process.

Whilst collaborative learning is seen as important for the development of both learning gains and employability skills, it is often reported as causing concern for both staff and students. It was our conjecture that these issues need to be addressed early in the student journey. Consequently, the project rationale was to:

  • describe activities and associated supporting interventions;
  • identify and evaluate strengths and opportunities for further enhancement;
  • evaluate the usefulness of PVM as an enquiry tool;
  • contribute to the knowledge base on collaborative learning in HE and ways to research this.

We will share our initial findings and also explain the techniques adopted for the investigation and reflect on this as one approach to exploring the student experience.

The project was a collaborative process itself, with a student researcher, two principal investigators and a Programme Leader ‘client’. We will reflect upon the implications of this approach in terms of student engagement in the research enquiry and the learning gains of the student researcher.