I was recently invited to participate in the National Roundtable on Students as Partners organised by Kelly Matthews – this was part of Kelly’s Fellowship work and was held at University of Queensland in September. The Students as Partners approach to curriculum development and university engagement is broadly defined by authentic collaboration between staff and students both within the classroom and outside. By developing effective partnerships with students the intent is to facilitate a sharing of expertise from all parties and mutually reciprocal learning. Such relationships also underpinned by recognition that:
‘students not only identify areas for enhancement, but ways to carry out that enhancement, as well as helping to facilitate implementation where possible’
(Williamson & Jones, 2014, p.6).
Kelly’s roundtable exemplified the Students as Partners approach, featuring key speakers in the field (staff and students) and reflections from all about considerations in terms of enacting student as partners within various contexts. Lisa Belfiore and I presented on our student-staff partnership and as the previous blog described, Lisa (a PhD, FiF student) is contributing to approaches to embedding the FiF experience more widely within UOW. This shifts the focus of the fellowship away from the concept of ‘listening to student voice’ and instead moves towards engaging students as co-producers of knowledge. Lisa is an active collaborator who is contributing to the production of actual resources that will feature on the website, further enriching fellowship outputs in terms of authenticity and applicability.
Our most recent activity in this regard is the distribution of a survey to FiF staff members across UOW – the survey which has so far attracted over 250 responses seeks to showcase advice from our FiF staff to current FiF students, ultimately normalizing the concept of being ‘first-in-family’ and recognising the success and achievements of those who ‘have gone before.’ As part of this initiative, Lisa will also be making short video vignettes with those staff members who have indicated willingness to participate.
Attending Kelly’s roundtable also allowed Lisa and I to reflect more on ways that students as partners can underpin approaches to supporting and retaining diverse student bodies. For those students who may already feel like imposters and demonstrate a low sense of belonging, the students as partner’s framework can facilitate meaningful ways to engage with the campus. If handled effectively, these partnerships can raise student esteem by signaling to students that institutions value them both as learners and also as individuals with life experience and knowledges to contribute. For further details about the Student as Partners approach and Kelly’s Fellowship please follow this link.