It is the ambition of UQ’s Student Strategy 2016-2020 to ‘offer a signature student experience that will change the way higher education is imagined’. One of the core ways that UQ plans to achieve this ambition is to adopt and embed a ‘students as partners’ approach to enhancing and transforming diverse aspects of teaching and learning – including design, delivery, evaluation, and governance – across the university.

UQ has a rich diversity of partnership work already happening around the university. UQ now aims to embed a coherent and university-wide culture of partnership by making students as partners an integrated approach throughout multiple levels of the institution.

What is students as partners?

Students as partners has become increasingly topical in higher education with growing uptake in universities around the world. The need to engage students as partners was born out of the student engagement movement – prioritizing the value that comes from students being actively engaged in their own learning [Ref 1].

Students as partners is a way of thinking and doing in higher education that re-positions students and staff as active collaborators in the diverse processes of teaching and learning – empowering students to be actively engaged in, and share the responsibility for, their own education.

Universities traditionally engage with students by listening to the ‘student voice’: asking students for their perspectives via surveys or course evaluations. Students as partners moves beyond seeing student perspectives as a source of data to actively engaging students in the design, delivery, evaluation, decision-making, and enhancement of teaching and learning [Ref 2, 3].

This is an exciting reconceptualisation of how students and staff work together – positioning students and staff as active collaborators who learn together in partnership.

What are the values of students as partners?

UQ aims to take a values-based approach to enacting partnership as a process that represents:

  • A way of thinking that positions students as partners, experts, and colleagues in – rather than evaluators of – teaching and learning.
  • A way of engaging where teaching and learning is something that is done with, rather than done to, students [Ref 4].
  • A way of working that nourishes partnerships based on respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility [Ref 2]

Students as partners positions both students and staff as having different but equally valuable expertise to contribute to the process of teaching and learning [Ref 2, 5].

How does students as partners work?

Students as partners activities in practice are hugely diverse. Students (at any level) and staff (professional, academic, casual, or permanent) can engage in partnership across diverse settings, including within or outside of curricula; between individuals, small groups, or large cohorts; in courses (also known as modules or units); among institutions and student unions or societies; on governance committees; or across entire programs of study [Ref 6].

The UK Higher Education Academy [Ref 3] published a students as partners framework based on dozens of documented case studies outlining two areas of partnership including four categories of partnership work:

Students & staff engaging as partners in the process of teaching & learning

  1. Learning, teaching and assessment (co-teaching)
  2. Subject-based research and inquiry (co-researching)

Students & staff engaging as partners in the enhancement of teaching & learning

  1. Curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy (co-creating)
  2. Scholarship of teaching and learning (co-inquiry)

Given this diversity of practices, students as partners can also be referred to as various other similar terms, including: students as change agents, co-creators, co-inquirers, co-researchers, or co-producers.

References

1.            Kuh, G.D., Why Integration and Engagement are Essential to Effective Educational Practice in the Twenty-first Century. Peer Review, 2008. 10(4): p. 27-28.

2.            Cook-Sather, A., C. Bovill, and P. Felten, Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty, ed. M. Weimer. 2014, San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

3.            Healey, M., A. Flint, and K. Harrington, Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. 2014, Higher Education Academy.

4.            ITaLI. About Students as Partners. 2016  [cited 2016 7 October]; Available from: https://itali.uq.edu.au/content/about-students-partners.

5.            Bovill, C., A. Cook‐Sather, and P. Felten, Students as co‐creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 2011. 16(2): p. 133-145.

6.            Mercer-Mapstone, L., et al., A Systematic Literature Review of Students as Partners in Higher Education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 2017. 1(1).

7.            Matthews, K., Students as Partners as the Future of Student Engagement. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 2016. 1(1): p. 1-5.

8.            University of Queensland, Student Strategy 2016-2020 White Paper. 2016.