1. Responsibility for social change
2. Making a difference for the better
3. Initiative to innovate
4. Collaboration to maximise impact
5. Living according to values
6. Empathy without judgement
These principles shape our direction of travel as a university and form the basis for our draft strategic plan beyond Raising the Bar. Partnerships with students are central to a number of current initiatives that have already generated positive change:
The URB@N project: The Undergraduate Research Bursaries at Northampton (URB@N) is a bursary scheme offering opportunities for current undergraduate students to participate in a pedagogic research project taking place at the university. The research involves working in partnership with staff, and projects are focussed on enhancing the student experience.
Student Ambassadors: Student Ambassadors at Northampton encompasses various strands, including students who are paid to represent the university at promotional events such as open days and higher education fairs; students who are trained to go and work in local schools to support learning and raise pupils’ aspirations; and students who are trained and paid to advise and guide their peers and devise methods of support and practical activities for student groups.
Student mentors: Student mentoring schemes are operating in some parts of the University (such as Social Sciences) where students volunteer to act as mentors to their peers. After a selection and training process, mentors offer support and guidance to their course peers on academic and pastoral issues.
Student representatives: UoN has an established mechanism for embedding active student contribution into programmes through student representation, whereby each programme has a number of ‘student reps’ (usually one per year) who are responsible for gathering feedback from their peers and presenting these at Board of Study meetings. Student representation is also an important part of larger committees such as School-based Student Experience Committees.
CAIeRO (Creating Aligned Interactive educational Resource Opportunities, based on the Carpe Diem model): The inclusion of one or more students as ‘reality checkers’ is a simple, yet effective way of engaging learners in course planning, e-tivity and assessment design.
Student-led teaching awards: The Students’ Union are about to launch a scheme to reward excellence in teaching at Northampton, where students will be the key drivers in nominating staff.
Through C@N, we see opportunities to build on existing activities that involve working with students as partners, and extending them into other areas. Examples from other institutions who have established institutional directives towards student partnerships include:
– Students as observers of teaching: Students can be trained to carry out teaching observations, and provide feedback to staff
– Students evaluating and developing course materials: Students can be actively involved in reviewing course-related materials (such as module guides; VLE presence; assessment briefs), providing feedback and contributing to their design.
– Students as ambassadors of technology-enhanced learning: Students are well placed to work in partnership with staff to identify opportunities for embedding technologies to support learning, and also advise and support staff in their development, including promoting, demonstrating and disseminating excellence through social media.
Working with students as partners is an area of growing interest, popularity and innovation in Higher Education. The University of Northampton is well-placed to shape this new and developing agenda. C@N brings together the wide range of existing innovative projects and initiatives at Northampton that focus on student partnerships for positive change, and provides a framework to innovate and extend our partnership opportunities.
Professor Alejandro Armellini
Director, Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Northampton
Dr Rachel Maunder
Learning and Teaching Excellence Co-ordinator, School of Social Sciences, University of Northampton