Staff-student partnership - a mind-set change for all

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In recent years, awareness of the benefits of student-staff partnerships across the UK and beyond has increased substantially, with many institutions promoting practices which shift from a transmission mode of learning to an interactive collaborative ethos where all participants - staff and students - contribute to, and benefit from learning situations (Cook-Sather et al., 2014; Crawford et al., 2015; Curran & Millard, 2015; Healey et al., 2014). However, there can still be reluctance or a capacity deficit on the part of both staff and students in adopting a partnership approach, and as Healey et al. (2014, p.60) highlight ‘… the understandings of the impact of partnership work – for students, staff, institutions, society more broadly – remain relatively poor, and there is a need for a greater evidence base around the benefits of partnership’. This paper provides the basis for demonstrating how staff-student partnership as an ethos creates a more favourable learning environment, in which individual learning is optimised by developing student capacity to engage and staff capacity to be engaging. Drawing from interviews which capture rich descriptions of the lived experience of those involved in staff-student partnerships, the data reveals that whilst participants experienced partnership in nuanced ways, there was a striking degree of accord in the descriptions of the impact of partnership on the individual. Also of note is that the process of student-staff partnership can be very different across the disciplines, suggesting that one size does not fit all. In some areas, the role of the student partner is well defined; indeed the students have to formally apply for the role and undergo an interview. In other areas, the partnership is more organic and as issues are highlighted and ideas develop into interventions, then so do the roles of the partners. Nevertheless, although the processes are different, the common theme across all successful partnerships is that they provide an opportunity for staff and students to work together with a common purpose, hear each other’s perspective, and break down barriers by developing relationships outside of the classroom that have impact on what happens in the classroom. Is this the future of student engagement? The evidence-base presented here suggests that partnership should be an ethos or a process of engagement; it works best when it becomes a mind-set, not just at individual level but at module, course, discipline and institutional level. It is predicated on relationship building, which breaks down the ‘them and us’ status quo and enhances student belonging, self-confidence and engagement, which is critical to enabling student success.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRAISE
Subtitle of host publicationConference 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 6 Sept 2017
EventRAISE Conference 2017: Perspectives on student engagement; looking forward...thinking back - Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20178 Sept 2017


ConferenceRAISE Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleRAISE 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • students as partners, staff-student partnership, transformative


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