Ana Cabral, Alison Pettigrew, Janet De Wilde (Queen Mary Academy) and Marianne Melsen (Students’ Union)
QUEEN MARY ACADEMY – QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
Our approach to co-creation
Co-creation and staff student partnerships are key drivers of QMUL’s 2030 Strategy. In order to promote co-creation in SSLCs, we have designated the roles of staff co-chairs and student co-chairs and proposed a dedicated training for staff co-chairs: ‘Co-chairing and co-creating in SSLCs’.
Academics acting as co-chairs are invited to reflect on their chairing approach and consider strategies which can, ultimately, lead to more student engagement and effect change. Following on from the creation of the training for staff co-chairs, the Students’ Union has also reviewed its training and student co-chairs are now offered training about co-chairing.
We followed a co-creation approach throughout the whole process of designing, facilitating, monitoring, and evaluating the training. Partners included staff from the Queen Mary Academy, colleagues from the Professional Services and the Office of the Principal (Education), academics and students (Queen Mary Students’ Union).
Aims and content
Our training looks at how to promote the development of strong partnerships between co-chairs and opportunities for co-creation in SSLCs. By the end of this training, staff-co-chairs are better able to: describe the principles of promoting student engagement through partnerships; apply those principles when co-chairing meetings; recognise & apply good practice based on the discussion of scenarios; devise effective partnership approaches as a co-chair and co-create completed actions that foster engagement and effect change.
The training is delivered online and asynchronously and includes the following topics: engagement through partnerships and co-creation, co-chairing and making students’ voice count: receiving contributions and communicating your position and are you partnership ready? – preparing your work with your co-chair. It includes videos, quizzes, scenarios and collaborative activities (discussion forum posts and posts on Padlet). All data are collated, and participants receive a summary of their contributions and feedback from our team.
There are 53 staff co-chairs across QMUL, 17 have already attended the course and 7 agreed to evaluate their experience (see Appendix 1). Participants have regarded the training as very useful (4.3) and (strongly) agree the course has been efficient (all areas presented have achieved mean values above 4). Most participants consider the possibility of making changes to their practice as a result of attending this course.
Co-creating this course (about co-creation!) with all those different partners was, definitely, the secret for the success of our training. It would not be possible to create it any other way. This co-creation approach allowed us to make the training much more adapted to the real context and needs of staff-student interactions in SSLCs (and consistent with the student co-chair version of this course).
One of the students involved in the co-creation of the course highlighted the benefits of working in partnership: “Working together in partnership with staff is about respect and understanding. We create, share and build upon our ideas to deliver high quality outcomes for our students. This co-creation is at the heart of our most successful projects, where we come together as equal partners with shared values and aspirations.”
Our experience co-creating and running the course has made us all reflect on how SSLCs should really be spaces for open discussion, active listening and action-focused, where issues can be discussed and resolved, and next steps can be identified. Participants have identified the need to acknowledge the issues involving power relations and develop shared identities as partners:
‘Be aware of the complexities of power relations with students and aim to be collaborative and reflective – this requires dedicating enough time and resources to co-creation’ (Sept 21 group)
‘Communicating and sharing power as SSLC co-chairs can be tricky as staff and students have such different perspectives. But nurturing the communal identity of the SSLC as a space for partnership will, I hope, enable constructive conversations and effective actions’ (Jan 22 group)
The course works as a safe (asynchronous) space where participants can consider power issues, share their experiences and articulate their concerns. Collaborative activities and group feedback from our team facilitate the understanding of power complexities and reframing of those concerns participants bring to the discussion.
Areas for further development and recommendations
Our main areas for further development are monitoring and updating the course, increasing numbers in terms of attendance, and developing more impact assessment tools.
When designing training on co-creation, we would recommend putting a very clear emphasis on the fact that power can be shared appropriately, and hierarchies can be disrupted because staff and student partners contribute in different ways. Students’ diverse profiles, backgrounds and experiences complement academics’ views, knowledge and expertise of the learning content and institutional context. Actions can be tailored to meet the needs and expectations of both partners.
Co-creation happens within the intersection of these two spheres with both partners becoming more aware of their identity and role and, at the same time, much more accountable because responsibilities are shared, and change is a common endeavour.