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Breaking Down the Hierarchies: Students as Partners in Higher Education Teaching and Learning

Political Parties
Public Policy
Qualitative
Policy-Making
Gorana Misic
Learning Innovation Officer
Gorana Misic
Learning Innovation Officer

Abstract

The term ‘students as partners’ aims to capture an aspiration for working together with students in higher education beyond traditional hierarchies and expectations about expertise and responsibility in teacher-student relationship. This is based on the scholarship of teaching and learning that puts an emphasis on a more authentic co‐inquiry, a more democratic intellectual community, and shared responsibility for learning among students and teachers. Following this idea, I designed an MA course 'Political Parties, Policy-Making And The Accountability Challenge In The Digital Age'. Recognizing that students have individual strengths, weaknesses and learning styles, the course offers engagement in areas in which students have traditionally been excluded, namely curriculum and assessment design. In this sense, to make the course more student-centered and enhance ownership and responsibility for learning, the course offers a choice of assessment in terms of choosing the weight of some assignments and choosing the type of assignment students feel are the most appropriate for their learning style. The students also have an option to participate in syllabus/content design through choosing case studies within the course framework. Moreover, the course assignments are oriented towards collaborative work, peer learning and reflection. In this way, students are not merely recipients, but rather producers of knowledge and co-creators of teaching and learning: they are in charge of what they learn and how they are assessed. Finally, when it comes to teaching strategies, the course is grounded in experiential learning paradigm and teaching with case studies and simulations. The aim of this paper is to inquire into my course design, classroom practice, and its impact on student learning. More specifically, the aim is to explore the idea of students as partners especially when it comes to engagement, enhancing motivation, learning, as well as responsibility for learning. The results will contribute to better understanding of strategies for practicing student-centered teaching and improving the classroom experience. This ongoing classroom-based research relies on instructor’s observations, student feedback, assignments and reflections, as well a focus group conducted with students at the end of the course. Keywords: students as partners, classroom-based research, teaching, learning, course design