Day 2 of Jisc Change Agents Network Conference

Kickstarting Day 2 of the conference was Colin Bryson and Fanni Albert from Newcastle University, with a great keynote on authentic partnership.

Colin is Director of Combined Honours at Newcastle, and Fanni is a BA Combined Honours student and project leader for PICNIC: Newcastle’s short-term student exchange project.

Colin gave a great introduction, grounding the roots of the student partnership movement in critical and radical pedagogy, such as the work of Paulo Freire.

I particularly appreciated his suggestions of what is required to make a student truly feel like a partner – that participation and contribution must be both valued and valuable, among other points:

Fanni spoke about how the Combined Honours programme sought to empower its’ students through student-staff committees and student led working groups. Where students were keen to make a contribution to the development of their programme but there may not be an existing student representation role for them, they have created new roles to their suit their students’ skills and interests.

Colin made the point that there is a potential that such student partnerships can bypass traditional routes of student representation, which might not always be well received. Also, it is probably true that such partnerships only reach highly engaged students. Introducing the idea of “Universal Partership”, Colin identified that student partnership inside the curriculum is the most inclusive approach, because it’s the one thing that all students do. Colin has developed Combined Honours modules where students have an active role in co-creating their own assessments and assessment criteria. However students can worry about the effect of such partnership “experiments” on their degree, or may say that they simply don’t want to engage as a partner.

Engagement and truly transformative learning involves stepping out of comfort zones – and this doesn’t always result in positive module feedback (at least part way through the module anyway)!

Though numerous students (including Fanni) were able to identify how these opportunities for partnership were among the most valuable experiences of their education.

Evernote Camera Roll 20170421 101402

A Periscope recording of the talk is here (courtesy of Clare Killen) and it’s well worth a watch.

Resources on Student Engagement from this Keynote

Colin highlighted a number of useful resources during his talk, some of which can be found here:


Birmingham Digital Students – Student-Staff Partnership in a Digital Age

Graham Lowe & Jack Hogan, Birmingham City University

Birmingham Digital Student is a collaborative project between a number of institutions: Birmingham City University, the University of Birmingham, Newman University and Aston University. BDS is a student/staff partnership to celebrate digital projects and innovative practice.

The BDS project has been co-produced with students from each institution, right from inception. The project comprises of three key elements: a website, an event and a publication.

Graham highlighted that finding out about all the good practice in one institution can be a challenge, but Birmingham Digital Student has been a great opportunity to bring projects to the surface and share and celebrate them. They plan an event in Birmingham in June, as well as a publication of some kind, though they aren’t sure what form the latter will take yet…

More resources from Day Two of JISC CAN 2017 can be found here, and Sarah Knight’s Storify is here. I also did a second video recap, which came out OK, but as I mentioned in my post on Day 1, I want to move towards more of a reflective process in future.

Maybe time to dig out my reflective practice materials from Lancaster’s Supporting Learning Programme again?


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