Originally posted on 3 April 2017
A growing number of students across the world are engaging as genuine contributors to all aspects of university life, sometimes in very non-traditional ways; for example, in co-designing curricula or leading peer mentoring programs. ‘Students as partners’, as a particular approach to student engagement, calls on universities to shift from merely ‘listening to the student voice’ to seeing students as ‘“active collaborators” and “co-producers”, with the potential for transformation’ (Dunne & Zandstra, 2011, p.4).
This blog is being created for, and by those who are engaging with others – students, lecturers, tutors and other staff – as partners in global learning. As one of a series of activities supported by my Australian Learning and Teaching Fellowship (ALTF), Engaging students as partners in global learning I hope that this blog will become a space for new ways of thinking about the possibilities and challenges of ‘partnership’ between students and staff, as they engage in learning and teaching in, and for an interconnected, globalised world.
Welcome here are new questions, issues and challenges, raised without any specific expectation of answers but an aspiration for dialogue.
What is ‘global learning’? In the interconnected, interdependent world of the 21st century, we all – students and staff – need to develop the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that will enable us to live and work, justly and effectively, in diverse cultural and geo-political contexts. Whether we live and work in our increasingly pluralist countries of birth, or abroad, development of these capabilities is vital. According to Jones and Killick (2007, p.112) such global learning entails: demonstrating culturally inclusive behaviour; valuing cultural and linguistic diversity; applying critical thinking skills to problems with an international or intercultural dimension; reflecting critically on one’s own cultural identity; and developing a global imagination. Active engagement in global learning is equally important for students and teachers because it involves issues of identity; it can involve students and teachers in what Mezirow (1991) called ‘disorienting dilemmas’, which lead to altered perspectives. This has profound implications for learning and teaching.
To date, little attention has been given to how and why students engage – or disengage – with the opportunities for global learning they encounter at university. My hope is that ‘Engaging students as partners in global learning’ will help to change this.
The concept of ‘global learning’ itself raises many questions that beg to be explored. Taking a ‘students as partners’ (SaP) approach to global learning raises many more!
Some questions that come to mind are:
1. Questions of culture: Is the concept of SaP culturally blind, or bounded? Given that it originated in the Anglo-American education systems, in response to particular conditions in those countries, what sense might those from other (pedagogical) cultures make of the concept? What might people from different cultural backgrounds learn from each other by engaging in SaP experiences, and how might this intercultural engagement in turn, change the way we conceptualise SaP?
2. Questions of access and equity: Is it possible to engage a whole cohort of students as partners in a ‘massified’ higher education system? If so, how? If not, does SaP run the risk of further entrenching privilege by engaging elite students?
3. Questions of epistemology: SaP approaches assume that students have valuable expertise about their own learning – what is the nature of this expertise, and what responses can be made to the claim that students have limited insight into their own learning needs?
4. Questions of power: What does a ‘partnership’ between staff and students mean, or what might it mean when there are obvious differences in power, knowledge and recognition and reward for the work of those on either side of the ‘partnership’? How can we/should we negotiate power in these relationships?
5. Questions of imagination: Given the competing discourses of higher education and the ascendency of neo-liberal values, where the positioning of ‘students as consumers’ is increasingly a ‘given’, (how) can we – staff and students – imagine another way of being (in) a university?
I hope that the blog becomes a place where we discuss questions such as these – and many more – from multiple perspectives. I hope that the blog challenges, enriches and extends our thinking about student-staff partnerships in global learning and fosters a critical awareness of the interrelationship between ourselves and the social conditions, in which we learn and teach.And I hope that students, academic staff, and professional staff contribute to this blog throughout 2017, either by leaving a short comment or contributing a full piece. To inquire about contributing a full piece to this blog, please email Wendy Green email@example.com
Dunne, E. & Zandstra, R. (2011). Students as change agents – new ways of engaging with learning and teaching in higher education. London: Higher Education Academy.
Jones, E. and Killick , D. (2007). Graduate Attributes and the Internationalized Curriculum: Embedding a Global Outlook in Disciplinary Learning Outcomes. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17 (2), 165-182
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.