Dr Katie Strudwick is Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln, UK and Associate Professor of Criminology. As a long-standing member of the British Society of Criminology’s Learning and Teaching Network and Principal Fellow of the HEA, her expertise focuses upon student engagement, employability, and partnerships with Policing. Kate has published extensively on co-creation and co-development of teaching and learning through Student as Producer.
For educators, efforts to understand the varied components which have the potential to make change facilitating an empowering student experience, have been at the forefront of discussions within Higher Education. Students’ role and agency, and where and how these fit with developments through scholarship and student engagement during their learning journeys, has additionally raised the importance of the need to build the wider sense of belonging for students, through flexible curriculum design and collaborative spaces.
For Higher Education to be transformative, students need to have a secured and valued role and place in their experiences. This can be enhanced through their voice and interactions as partners being embedded across all paths in their learning journey. For students embarking on further study there are several key responsibilities that institutions hold, which sit alongside their civic mission and duty, to develop learning communities and student support. It is indeed in this context that institutions can ensure the required routes are available and accessible to guide students in their own paths while at university.
During my time working in Higher Education, as an Associate Professor in Criminology, and then as Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln, I have been instrumental in facilitating opportunities for collaboration with students, promoting their engagement and participation within and outside of the curriculum. My practice has aligned with values within Student as Producer (Neary et al 2014) Student as producer research-engaged teaching, an institutional strategy, including active engagement and participation, and embracing key elements of the Student as Partners model co-creating, co-producing, co-learning, co-designing, co-developing, and co-researching (Healey et al 2014: 21). By adopting this ethos in my practice, I have been fortunate enough to work in an institution that has enabled me to democratise the learning and teaching process, whereby students are seen as active citizens.
My work has focused upon involving students by creating a community of practice between students and academics, enabling both to construct their own knowledge, whilst being framed within core principles. In this sense students are not seen in an instrumentalist way as a consumer, but as co-partners in the learning process.
The University of Lincoln has been a vehicle for such developments, providing a supportive community for academics and students to develop research-engaged teaching strategies, and opportunities for participation and collaboration for students. In sum, we have done the very rudimental actions of asking students and involving them. The points set out below sum up my key observations as an educator, enabler and facilitator.
Engaging students- getting the context and commitment right!
The University of Lincoln has institutionally embedded Student as Producer (SAP), as a teaching- research model for over a decade. This model was developed by Professor Mike Neary ‘Student as producer: research-engaged teaching, an institutional strategy’ (2010 to 2013) and enables students to become producers and collaborators, rather than passive consumers of information (Neary and Winn 2009). This is approached through engagement and participation with research-engaged teaching and learning. As a model its legacy has been shown through its sustained contribution at the university, with it being a committed part of teaching, learning, research, and quality assurances.
At the heart of the new strategy at the University of Lincoln UoL Strategy the Teaching, Learning and Student Experience strategy continues to embody the value of student engagement and co-creation in learning, with a revised Student as Producer model being developed for the future. Student as Producer is more than a vehicle to develop student engagement, it goes above and beyond this and is not a conventional form of student engagement. The model is set as an underpinning principle for teaching and learning with research in a collaborative way, being comprehensive with a far-reaching impact. It is indeed this correlation that has allowed for “… an exploration of the reshaping of core elements of engagement and participation” (Strudwick 2017: 82).
Creativity in your interpretation and application
Drawing upon my experiences embedding and facilitating student engagement through practice, there is arguably a certain level of scalability when adopting such models. With possibilities that are enhanced by active engagement from students as equal partners, they can indeed inform changes from within the University. In practice, it is integral that students are involved in the planning stages of initiatives, with input into the design processes, which go beyond just facilitating opportunities, but ensures that projects are driven by students’ contributions in an accessible and inclusive way. Thinking creatively about student engagement, and where students fit in the different pathways, enables a myriad of routes to be developed for students, allowing greater involvement in their own learning journeys.
These roles for co-creation fit within the principles and values of Student as Producer, making them an ‘enabler for change’. It is clear from wider practice at the University of Lincoln that there is much to be gained from being flexible and adaptable with how the model is interpreted – there is no one size fits all! The variation with student engagement opportunities has been shown at the University of Lincoln through exemplars UROS, Student teaching and support panels and the Festival of Learning.
Embrace partnerships and collaboration
Providing a supportive community for academics and students, through research-engaged teaching strategies and opportunities for participation and collaboration for students, has a dual focus. It is outwardly looking and enhances collaboration and collegiality across disciplines and departments, identifying with the University holistically. At the University of Lincoln, we have the ethos of One Community, a set of values which values diversity and varied contributions One Community.
This ethos acknowledges the value of co-creation and what comes from a community, with Student as Producer being a bridge by which collaboration is ubiquitous at the institution. It allows the institution to identify teaching and research on an equal footing and work with students to disseminate new knowledge. As Neary identified with his explanation of the original Student as Producer model:
“A fundamental principle of curriculum design whereby students learn primarily by engagement in real research projects, or projects which replicate the process of research in their discipline. Engagement is created through active collaboration amongst and between students and academics” (Neary et al 2014:9)
There is a focus on this connection as described in the Strategic plan (2022-27) UoL Strategy ‘Transforming Lives and Communities‘ with its core themes to collaborate, challenge and transform, seeking to grow a collaborative network. By promoting students’ engagement away from the ‘simple transmission of knowledge’ (Neary, 2020), and towards the academic freedom of the university (Neary and Winn, 2009), the student as producer model remains an ‘organising principle’ at the University of Lincoln.
Back in 2010 Browne argued that the review ‘will shape the landscape of higher education …” (Browne 2010:25) and indeed it did, with its focus on increased marketisation. Student as producer has championed how and where to embed student engagement in learning. It has democratised the learning process by facilitating sustainable practices for developing student engagement in research and teaching communities. By identifying partnership values to enhance participation and engagement for all, embracing students as producers, partners, co-creators or active beneficiaries has “made significant gains in furthering our understanding about what ‘student engagement‘…opportunities are interesting to students.” (Strudwick 2017: 85).
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2010) ‘Securing a Sustainable future for higher education: an Independent review of higher education funding and Student finance’. Available from http://www.gov.uk [Accessed: 10 September 2016].
- Healy, M., Flint, A. and Harrington, K. (2014) Engagements through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. The Higher Education Academy https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/…/engagement_through_partnership.pdf.
- Neary, M. (2020) Student as producer: How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach?. Winchester: Zero Books.
- Neary, M., Saunders, G., Hagyard, A. and Derricott, D. (2014) Student as producer research-engaged teaching, an institutional strategy. York: The Higher Education Academy.
- Neary, M. and Winn, J. (2009) ‘The Student as producer: reinventing the subject experience in higher education’, L. Bell, H. Stevenson,. and Neary, M. (eds) The future of Higher Education: Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience. London: Contiuuum.
- Strudwick, K. (2017) Debating Student as producer – Relationships; Contexts and Challenges for Higher Education. PRISM Casting New Light on Learning, Theory and Practice, 1(1) 73-96.