By Kathrine S. H. Jensen and Dr Liz Bennett
The ‘Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants project’ is moving along at a good pace. We have completed two preparatory training sessions with the eleven student consultants, had interest from seven members of staff and the first student/staff partnerships are underway. Furthermore all of the students and project collaborators have created a profile on the online Ning platform that we are using. We are hoping to see the students sharing reflections and experiences on it following their consultancy activities.
The training sessions
The project coordinator introduced the project aims, timeline and processes in particular the dual focus on feedback and inspirational teaching. The partnership approach was explained as well as the aim of positioning students as ‘experts in the student experience’ with the ability to offer unique and valid perspectives that are beneficial to staff and have the potential to improve and develop teaching and learning interactions.
As an icebreaker activity, we asked the students to give an example of their best and worst teaching experiences. The academic trainer Dr Liz Bennett presented an overview of different approaches to teaching and learning and led the student activity with some case studies that enabled them to rehearse the consultation scenarios of meeting lecturers and discussing the consultation tasks as well as the subsequent feedback session (the case studies were kindly sent by Dr Crawford from University of Lincoln – see previous post on the project about the involvement of Dr Crawford).
We added some dress up with moustaches, scarves and glasses, which made the role playing activity somewhat easier and the students joked, had fun with the accessories and seemed fairly relaxed. As a result of the role playing activities the students practised and discussed important aspects of being consultants, such as:
- how should they introduce themselves?
- how would they explain the project?
- how would they frame what they talked about positively, so for example not asking about issues or problems but instead talk about aspects and focus.
In the feedback scenario students also discussed the need to be sensitive, how to present potentially problematic feedback by using examples from their own experiences and perhaps importantly, how they could give feedback from a position of validity/authority and have confidence in their authentic student voice. Importance of being non judgmental were also covered. The students were encouraged to use some principles for good feedback in this activity and we also put a lot of emphasis on the students not so much working as “problem solvers” but as offering a perspective, opening up dialogues and opportunities for reflections on teaching and learning practice.
Understanding the principles and issues of feedback
Following the first session, one thing that Dr Bennett and I thought perhaps the students did not quite evidence an understanding of was the potential vulnerability of being in the position of getting feedback on you work. Below Dr Liz Bennett, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Professional Development, who has been designing and delivering the training session for the student consultants, reflects on an activity that was used to address this concern
“In order to develop the students’ empathy with the role of a lecturer I used a lightening presentation activity at the second session. Students gave short presentations (lasting only 2 minutes) on a topic of their own choice, something that they felt passionate about. The aim of this activity was multiple: in part it was about them realising how vulnerable you are as a lecturer standing up and talking in front of people. It also showed how challenging it is to talk about a subject and students struggled to fill the 2 minutes that they were given. The activity helped students to practise their skills in giving feedback that was constructive and developmental. Because they were critiquing their colleagues, they were more empathetic to the process than they were in the role play exercise last time. Although only three students were selected (at random by taking their names from a hat) they all experienced the anxiety that presenting can engender as they waited to see who would be picked out of the hat.“
Posted by Kathrine S.H.Jensen (@kshjensen)