We, as institutions, are brilliant at listening to students and engaging them in conversations about their teaching, learning and general experience of university. However, when it comes to finding fresh and innovative ways to improve the student experience, it is often left to committees, boards and senior management.
Here at the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching we’ve decided to try a new, playful, student-centred approach, allowing us to get real, in-depth, authentic feedback from students.
Overnight the pandemic levelled the experiences of students and staff like no other development in students-as-partners (SaP) practice. While some existing inequities were exacerbated, and some new ones emerged during the pandemic, we all found ourselves going through a collectively-shared trauma and checking in on, and caring for each other, from our isolated bedrooms and kitchen tables. At the same time, we found ourselves working with tools and approaches that were new to many of us. This unprecedented and sudden change to the daily running of mass Higher Education created different kinds of dialogues between students and staff, which were fundamentally underpinned by empathy.
In 2020, shortly before the pandemic and the UK lockdowns, the Oxford Centre for Staff Learning and Development (OCSLD) at Oxford Brookes University began a project to develop and publish the practical wisdom of teaching in HE for our staff and readers internationally. We invited HE teachers to complete an online survey which investigated what resources they currently used—and also wished they had—to inform their teaching practice. Our respondents were mostly UK-based colleagues, but a few were based in China, Italy and New Zealand. Respondents had a wide range of HE teaching experience, reporting between 5 and 50 years with an average of 19.97 years (SD = 9.99). Most respondents were from humanities and social sciences disciplines, with a smaller number from STEM disciplines.