The Benefits of Students as Curriculum Co-creators

Posted on: February 12, 2020

Excerpted and adapted from chapter 4 of  Developing Your Teaching: Towards Excellence by Peter Kahn and Lorraine Anderson. You can download the full chapter on which this article is based here.

Life-long learning is now an idea that has very much become a reality as our graduates can expect to have portfolio careers rather than one job for life, with the associated demands of regular up-skilling or re-training. Part of this change is also the expectation that students will play a more active role in their learning journey through higher education. What might this look like? For some students, it may be engaging more proactively with their courses as class representatives or making the decision to sign up for a work placement or internship; that is, responding to the available opportunities. This kind of engagement can create mutually beneficial partnership working for everyone involved.

Here are three ways to incorporate student participation in your teaching:


1. Work Placement for College Credit

Placements could be included in any taught degree programme; whether as an option instead of a dissertation, or as an alternative to the equivalent credits in taught courses, and provide an authentic, practical and engaging route into multi-partnership working. Among its many benefits:

  • Students gain skills and experience the reality of a work environment. This can lead to a lot of personal as well as professional learning which can mean that sometimes they find it is not the one for them.
  • They can link the University’s graduate attributes to their personal learning goals and can then articulate these skills on their CVs, enhancing their employability.
  • The employers frequently see the students as future employees. This can lead to further partnerships with the student: honours projects, part-time work, research, and higher degrees. ­
  • Professors can also benefit and learn new things from: specialist talks on courses, field classes, joint supervision of research students, and publishing papers together.


2. Student Feedback

Students can benefit from the shared learning experience that can be created by effectively designed feedback methods. Learning from student feedback can help to develop your teaching in a number of ways including:

  • ­leading you to a better understanding of how students learn; ­
  • appreciating what works and what doesn’t in terms of your teaching practice; ­
  • ‘road testing’ new teaching approaches; ­
  • responding effectively to student concerns or anxieties; ­
  • and validating your current approach to practice.


3. Students Actively Participating in Curriculum Development

Creating a new space for this kind of development can turn a potentially passive learning environment into one that facilitates student engagement and active learning. It can also lead to students engaging not just with the activity itself but in how they adopt a meta-analytic approach to the whole experience, demonstrating a ‘student understanding of pedagogy’. Other benefits may include:

  • giving students ownership ­
  • helping them develop confidence to put forward their perspectives ­
  • ensuring that the students involved each recognise the skills they’re developing and how this valuable evidence can be added to their CVs

Co-construction can be perceived by some to be a risky as well as an innovative undertaking. It raises a lot of questions for you, your students – and for your institution. But it can also provide excellent opportunities for peer learning and support in addition to individual student learning.

For more on this subject, including real-life case studies,  download the full chapter from which this article was excerpted and adapted here.

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Developing Your Teaching: Towards Excellence is one of the many titles in our Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education series. This indispensable series is aimed at new lecturers, postgraduate students who have teaching time, Graduate Teaching Assistants, part-time tutors and demonstrators, as well as experienced teaching staff who may feel it’s time to review their skills in teaching and learning.

Browse the Series

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