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Part 2 – Students As Co-Creators: Is it worth it?

Alex Tornero

Alex Tornero

This blog is Part 2 of a series of two blogs on Co-Creation. It will focus on one of co-creation’s most promising approaches; the Whole-Class approach. 

We will set a basic understanding of co-creation, discuss the whole-class approach, go over its advantages, point out its drawbacks, and wrap up with a conclusion.

Co-Creation With Students

Co-creation consists of developing deeper relationships between students and teachers. It’s all about getting students to take ownership, develop goals, design projects, assess outcomes, and share what they learn. 

When the right approach is taken, it will result in better student-staff relationships, more student collaboration, and an increase in student engagement and participation.

However,  it’s important to make the right judgments about which parts of university are ready for experimentation, and what is the right approach to take. 

One promising approach is whole-class co-creation, which focuses on making co-creating opportunities inclusive, and having all students participate, not just some.

Whole-Class Approach

Co-creation can be used in many ways and its practices can vary, but one of the more well-rounded approaches is whole-class co-creation in learning and teaching. 

It’s when you invite an entire group of students to work together and negotiate parts of the learning process with the teacher and each other, whether it’s face-to-face or online.

This includes: negotiating the content or subject matter; discussing the purpose of their work; discussing the teaching approach; developing ways to better work and learn together; or suggesting their preferred approach to evaluations.

This leads to students consistently being engaged and developing ownership over their learning. When you discuss students’ feedback with them, it changes the dynamic in the classroom, it moves students from passive consumers to more active participants. 

Students begin to feel empowered to make a difference in their course, and they feel their learning is more authentic and relevant. 

Through whole-class co-creation, every single students’ view and opinion is heard — it creates a learning community and environment that’s beneficial for all; and ‘all’ is the keyword here.

There are other models of co-creation that have some very compelling benefits. However, they involve using only a selection of students — meaning the benefits are only available to a small number — this could increase existing inequalities and end up not tackling lower levels of engagement.

The focus of co-creation should be on students’ learning and making the opportunities accessible to all of them — the whole-class approach offers a practical way to do so.

Student-Teacher Relationships

The whole-class approach hugely relies on students and teachers trusting and respecting one another — recognising that the responsibility for learning is shared.

When building good student-teacher relationships, teachers will have to take the first step by showing willingness to share power and giving students room to participate. It will also take time to build trust and respect, so it’s key to demonstrate that you value the contributions of every single student. 

Positive student-teacher relationships aren’t just a key element of co-created learning and teaching — they’re also an outcome of co-creation. The benefits of having positive student-teacher interactions are many:

  • Good academic performance.
  • Students’ academic success.
  • Higher educational aspirations.
  • Personal and intellectual development.
  • Student satisfaction.
  • Enhanced motivation.

See, for example; Cuseo 2007; Komarraju et al. 2010; Kuh and Hu 2001; Lundberg and Schreiner 2004, Bovill 2019.

Challenges

Large Classes

The larger the class, the harder it is to implement co-creation. Get your process down with small classes first (as they allow for deeper forms of interaction and negotiation), then scale up when you’re ready.

Time Constraints

Teachers who use co-creation normally experience time pressure. Make sure you aren’t spending extra hours on trying to apply co-creation methods, instead re-prioritise the time you already have, and do it within class limits.

Difficult Classes

Every teacher knows what it’s like to have a ‘problem class’. When you invite students to co-created learning and teaching and they don’t wish to take part, remember that the opportunity to participate is equally important as the right to not participate. 

Sustaining Co-Creation

It takes effort to maintain an approach like co-creation. You’ll adopt a potentially career-long commitment to engage deeply with each new group of students and to consistently respond to their needs.

Conclusion

Overall, this teaching approach can promote deep engagement through greater levels of student agency and shared decision making — it allows the benefits of co-creation to be experienced by bigger numbers of students. 

However, it only works when departments and institutions aid teachers in adopting the new approach — to establish whole-class co-creation there must be significant support offered to staff for teaching and learning enhancement.

P.S. Did you find this blog useful? Read part 1 here. To get a more in-depth understanding on the whole-class approach, look at Bovill 2019.

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About the author

Alex Tornero

Alex Tornero

Alex is a Marketing Officer at Unitu. He manages Unitu's social media presence, creates marketing strategies and runs our campaigns. He is keen on making an impact with his work and being able to provide relevant and helpful content.
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