Students as Partners is currently a hot topic in higher education that is challenging taken-for-granted assumptions about the role of students in learning, teaching, and university decision-making.

Students as Partners (SaP) creates space for students and staff to work together on teaching and learning. Students become active participants with valuable expertise to contribute to shaping learning, teaching, and the work of the University alongside academic and professional staff.

The Students as Partners approach covers a wide range of activities, both in and out of the classroom. One of the most commonly cited definitions for teaching and learning partnerships is:

A collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualisation, decision-making, implementation, investigation, or analysis. Cook-Sather, Bovill, & Felten, 2014, p. 6-7

Get involved in a UQ Student-Staff Partnership

Who is included in Students as Partners?

Students as Partners is an ethos 'that values the collaborative interaction between all members of the university community' (Matthews, 2016, p.3).

Partnerships can involve:

  • students with students (peer mentoring)
  • students with staff, including professional staff and academics/faculty
  • students with senior university administrators
  • students with alumni or members of industry.

Excerpt from Five Propositions for Genuine Students as Partners Practice (PDF, 111KB).

What are the benefits?

A review of 65 empirical studies (PDF, 1.1MB) published on Students as Partners in university teaching and learning (2011 to 2015) reported a range of beneficial outcomes for both students and staff.

For students:

  • increased student engagement/motivation/ownership for learning
  • increased student confidence/self-efficacy
  • increased understanding of the 'other’s' experience (e.g. students understanding staff experiences)
  • enhanced relationship or trust between students and staff
  • increased student learning about their own learning (metacognitive learning, self-evaluation, self-awareness)
  • raised awareness of graduate attributes or employability skills or career development
  • increased sense of belonging to university or discipline or community
  • improved student content/discipline learning (actual or perceived)
  • positively shifted identity as student/learner/person/professional
  • enhanced student-student relationships.

For staff:

  • enhanced relationship or trust between students and staff
  • development of new or better teaching or curriculum materials
  • increased understanding of the 'other's' experience (e.g. staff understanding student experiences)
  • new beliefs about teaching and learning that change practices for the better
  • re-conceptualisation of teaching as a collaborative process to foster learning.

Good practice principles

There are five interrelated principles for good practice in partnership that can guide meaningful, power-sharing, and influential partnership approaches across a diverse range of institutional contexts and Students as Partners approaches.

You can read more about these principles in The International Journal for Students as Partners (PDF, 111KB).

Good practice should aspire to:

1. Foster inclusive partnerships

Ideally, institutions will direct attention to the experiences of a diversity of students as the focus of partnership work, while also offering a plethora of partnership opportunities that specifically seek to include students and staff from all backgrounds in meaningful, power-sharing learning partnerships that shape the university.

2. Nurture power-sharing relationships through dialogue and reflection

Power, whether discussed or left unspoken, is always a factor in student-staff partnership interactions. Those in partnership should aspire to share power.

3. Accept partnership as a process with uncertain outcomes

Partnership gives primacy to the co-creation of shared goals and outcomes that are mutually decided during the process of partnership. As such, the outcomes of students and staff engaging as partners are unknown at the beginning of the joint endeavour.

4. Engage in ethical partnerships

Engaging in partnership should be governed by ethical guidelines; conducted in an ethical process and for ethical outcomes.

5. Enact partnership for transformation

Transformation begins through our own active reflection and ongoing dialogue with others about who engages and why in partnership, what it means for higher education, and how we advocate for SaP more widely.

Case studies

Here is a collection of case studies of real practices and approaches for engaging Students as Partners in learning and teaching.

2018 case studies

2017 case studies with reflections on practice

See the journal Learning and Teaching Together in Higher Education

2017 case studies

2016 case studies

2015 case studies

View the 20 case studies of partnership work (PDF, 10.3MB) generated from the 2015 National Students as Partners Roundtable at UQ.

Have a case study to share?

Complete the case study template (DOCX, 71KB) and email Kelly Matthews at k.matthews1@uq.edu.au to share it.

Join the network

Together we can extend the reach and impact of student-staff partnerships via the Australian Students as Partners Network.

We currently have approximately 550 network members passionate about student-staff partnerships; students and staff from Australia and overseas are welcome to join.

Regular email updates keep the Network connected, along with the annual Australian Students as Partners Roundtable event.

There are many benefits of joining the Australian Students as Partners Network.

Network members:

  • are connected virtually with like-minded students and staff
  • receive updates featuring latest events, research and practices
  • share their work via newsletters
  • contribute ideas and case studies to the website
  • engage in events and activities related to Students as Partners.
     

Join the Australian Students as Partners Network

Student partners

Stuart Russell

Stuart is conducting analysis of data from the ‘Students as Partners: reconceptualising the role of students in teaching and learning’ study. He is also co-facilitating workshops on Students as Partners at the 2018 International Students as Partners Institute, hosted by McMaster University, Canada.

Alexander Dwyer

Alex is conducting analysis of data from the ‘Students as Partners: reconceptualising the role of students in teaching and learning’ study. He also co-facilitated workshops on Students as Partners at the 2018 International Students as Partners Institute, hosted by McMaster University, Canada.

Lucie Sam Dvorakova

Sam is co-designing and facilitating international workshops; collaborating on an international, systematic literature review; and co-authoring publications. She is spreading the ideas of SaP through peer networks, her position as a Student Representative on the ISSoTL Executive Board, and through conferences.

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone

Lucy is planning and co-facilitating international and local workshops on SaP in teaching and learning; co-researching on an international, systematic literature project; and writing scholarly publications. She is encouraging Students as Partners discussion and practice through her network of peers at her local institution, as well as through workshops and conferences.

Jarred Turner

Jarred is contributing to an international, systematic literature review on Students as Partners. He is also co-researching SaP projects at various universities, through interviews with participants.

Fadia Khouri Saavedra

Fadia is setting up a UQ Students as Partners Community of Practice. This CoP aims to offer a co-learning and co-creation space in which UQ staff and students can share their knowledge, experiences and ideas; learn from each other; and get involved in SaP projects.

Lorelei Hine

Lorelei is undertaking qualitative analysis of interviews from the ‘Students as Partners: Reconceptualising the role of students in teaching and learning’ study.

Benjamin Luo

Benjamin is currently involved in understanding the SaP initiative from the perspective of students, by conducting qualitative and quantitative analysis of student written comments.

Lauren Groenendijk

Lauren is conducting comparative research on student and academic attitudes and perspectives on the concept of Students as Partners, specifically in the sciences. She is also co-designing and facilitating international workshops on SaP, as well as collaborating on an international, systematic literature review.

Yitong Bu (Coco)

Yitong is acting as a co-evaluator on a Technology-enabled Learning Grant in the School of Mathematics and Physics, exploring the perspectives of students on the use of dynamic, interactive simulations for quantitative problem-solving and mathematical thinking. Her work will inform further implementation of such simulations in teaching and learning in maths and physics at UQ. Coco also participated in a National Roundtable on Engaging Students as Partners in Global Learning.

Naima Crisp

Naima is planning and co-researching SaP projects at UQ through interviews with academic leaders.

Yiet Hean Goh

Goh is planning and co-researching SaP projects at UQ through interviews with academic leaders.

Jeremy Edirisinghe

Jeremy is acting as a co-evaluator on a Technology-enabled Learning Grant in the School of Mathematics and Physics, exploring the perspectives of students on the use of dynamic, interactive simulations for quantitative problem-solving and mathematical thinking. His work will inform further implementation of such simulations in teaching and learning in maths and physics at UQ.

Students as Partners Network

Interested in research and activities related to student-staff partnerships?

Join the Australian Students as Partners Network and share your ideas with likeminded academics.
 

Join the Network