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Thursday, June 19 • 11:30am - 12:20pm
CON5.11 – Transforming McMaster’s Teaching & Learning Institute By Engaging Students as Partners (Room A343)

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A central theme in recent pedagogical literature is the need to transform the higher education landscape by engaging students more actively as partners in teaching and learning initiatives (Cook-Sather et al., forthcoming; Felten et al., 2013; Werder & Otis, 2010). Moving beyond calls to attend to student voices, such work seeks to position students as change agents or co-inquirers who contribute actively to shaping teaching and learning research, educational development, and curriculum design (Dunne & Zandstra, 2011). The potential benefits of such a shift are multiple, and include the creation of transformative learning experiences for both students and those with whom they partner (Mihans et al., 2008; Partridge & Sandover, 2010) and the enhancement of teaching and learning initiatives via the integration of multiple perspectives (Cook-Sather, 2013). Nonetheless, such work is not without its challenges, foremost amongst which are the difficulties attached to dismantling entrenched structures of authority and developing means of sharing power meaningfully amongst students, faculty and others (Delpish et al., 2010). Establishing such partnerships is hard, and the democratizing potential of the students as change agents movement can thus, at times, be overstated (Weller et al., 2013).

Against this backdrop, the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL) named enhanced partnerships with students as one of four central goals in its recent strategic plan. The institute has begun to re-envision its relationship with students, beginning by developing a novel ‘student scholar’ program that employs 16 undergraduates as full members of institute project teams. Students have also been involved in renovating the institute space, in staff retreats, in meetings and in other aspects of core business.

This panel will share the perspectives of students, faculty, and institute staff involved in this initiative. We will provide a brief account of projects in which students have become partners, mapping these on to established models of student engagement (e.g., Healey et al., forthcoming) and testing those models in the process. Drawing from Cook-Sather’s (2013) sense of student-faculty partnerships as a threshold concept, we will also share the challenges we have experienced navigating these new pedagogical relationships, as well as our individual perspectives on transformational learning that has resulted. Particular attention will be paid to the question of re-thinking traditional power relationships amongst students and faculty/staff, and we will discuss our various responses to our initial attempts to translate this imperative into practice.

Attendees will learn about the existing literature on students as partners and about one case study that builds on that scholarship, and will be encouraged, through structured discussion, to identify challenges, opportunities and possibilities for engaging students as change agents in their own contexts.

Thursday June 19, 2014 11:30am - 12:20pm EDT
A343 McArthur Hall

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