Staff-student partnerships in pedagogic research: benefits; challenges and lessons learned

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


McCulloch (2009) has argued for a reconceptualisation of the student role, where contested discourses of students as ‘customers’ are replaced by notions of students as ‘co-producers’. Positioning students as active co-producers of knowledge recognises the valuable contribution that both staff and students can make to the process of learning and knowledge construction. This promotes collaborative relationships between staff and students (Neary & Winn, 2009), and mirrors the increasing interest in partnerships, where staff and students can work together in a variety of ways to facilitate educational change (Little, 2011). Building on this principle, this paper presents a particular form of staff-student partnership coordinated by the University of Northampton, involving students collaborating with staff members on educational projects designed to impact on learning and teaching practice. Undergraduate Research Bursaries at Northampton (URB@N) involves undergraduate students working with staff as co-researchers on pedagogic research projects. Now in its fifth iteration, the scheme has grown and developed and is now an embedded part of learning and teaching innovation at the institution. Over 60 pedagogic research projects have taken place since URB@N began, with nearly 70 students working as paid researchers during this period. Annual feedback from staff and students provides growing evidence of the notable benefits afforded to those involved. However, there have also been challenges encountered along the way, which have informed the ongoing development of the scheme. This paper reports on my experience of participating in, and coordinating, the URB@N scheme. I will explain its origins; underpinning principles; and operational process. I will also draw on the annual feedback that has been collected from staff and students in order to explore the particular benefits afforded by URB@N, including enhanced employability skills; research skills; authentic access to the student voice; new staff-student relationships; and the promotion of pedagogic research at the institution. I will also consider some of the challenges that have been encountered, including quality assurance; levels of student skill and expertise; and barriers to real ‘partnership’ working between students and staff. My aim is to facilitate a short discussion – encouraging input from colleagues in the audience – in order to unpack some of these issues and consider possible ways forward. Through a collaborative discussion about URB@N, colleagues will have the opportunity to explore the potential of similar schemes in their own institution, and also contribute to ongoing discussions about staff-student partnerships, and how they can be effectively nurtured (Little, 2011).
Period12 Sep 201313 Sep 2013
Event titleResearching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Third Annual Conference: The Future of Student Engagement: Partnerships, Practices, Policies and Philosophies
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionNational