Empowering learning by leading collaborative seminars in partnership with students

Who was involved in your partnership work, and how did everyone become involved?   

All students and lecturers on the MSt Theology and MPhil Theology are involved as part of their enrolment in the course and teaching hours.   

What did you set out to achieve in your student-staff partnership work?   

Our goal was (and continues to be) to work in partnership with students to run seminar sessions in a way that gives students ownership over their learning.   

When and where did you work together? 

We worked together during our regular teaching hours and on our own as part of our normal expected engagement on the course. 

How did you work in partnership?   

Every week, we try to put the onus on students to own their learning experience through the way we ask them to prepare for our seminars. For example, we may ask students to: 

  • bring a collection of excerpts from a reading list that piqued their interest for us to discuss in the seminar; 

  • upload an essay outline to Canvas, based on possible prompts and a set of readings, for us to workshop via peer feedback in the seminar; or 

  • find YouTube videos of current scholars discussing their work to add to our course Canvas site for all of us to watch and discuss.

By engaging with these assignments, our students actively co-create their seminar experience and the focus of our discussions. For example, working with students to co-create the videos on our Canvas site has enabled us to collectively confront the diversity of the scholars we engage with in our course and engage with an increasingly diverse, student-led curriculum.  

What did you learn from working in partnership? 

By taking this approach to our seminars, I have learned that co-creation can cultivate a supportive learning environment where students feel valued, included and empowered to actively participate in their educational journey. Involving students in this way has also been a much more productive way of enhancing students’ teaching and learning than anything I could do on my own, especially in my efforts to make the course more inclusive and accessible.  

In this approach, there is the potential for seminar discussions to drift off topic or into rabbit holes due to their student-driven nature. However, we have found that by scaffolding the discussions with directive prompts and stepping in to direct seminar discussions back to the assignment when needed, staff can combine our subject knowledge with students’ knowledge of their own interests and future goals to co-create the seminars’ learning directions in line with course learning objectives. The student-led nature of this approach also enables us to learn about what students are interested in and design assessments that reflect these interests, furthering the course’s inclusive, student-centred practices. 

What advice would you give to other students and staff who may wish to take a similar student-staff partnership approach? 

My advice to fellow tutors would be to prioritise student-centred learning and recognise that students have a lot to teach staff as well as the other way around. By embracing partnership with students, we can create more inclusive, dynamic, and personalised learning environments.

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