Higher Education

, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 195–208 | Cite as

Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student–staff partnerships

  • C. BovillEmail author
  • A. Cook-Sather
  • P. Felten
  • L. Millard
  • N. Moore-Cherry


Against a backdrop of rising interest in students becoming partners in learning and teaching in higher education, this paper begins by exploring the relationships between student engagement, co-creation and student–staff partnership before providing a typology of the roles students can assume in working collaboratively with staff. Acknowledging that co-creating learning and teaching is not straightforward, a set of examples from higher education institutions in Europe and North America illustrates some important challenges that can arise during co-creation. These examples also provide the basis for suggestions regarding how such challenges might be resolved or re-envisaged as opportunities for more meaningful collaboration. The challenges are presented under three headings: resistance to co-creation; navigating institutional structures, practices and norms; and establishing an inclusive co-creation approach. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance of transparency within co-creation approaches and of changing mindsets about the potential opportunities and institutional benefits of staff and students co-creating learning and teaching.


Co-creation Partnership Student engagement Democratic education Diversity 


  1. Ahlfeldt, S., Mehta, S., & Sellnow, T. (2005). Measurement and analysis of student engagement in university classes where varying levels of PBL methods of instructions are in use. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(1), 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allin, L. (2014). Collaboration between staff and students in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The potential and the problems. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 2(1), 95–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), 216–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college?. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, R., & Hallam, S. (1999). Teaching for supercomplexity: A pedagogy for higher education. In P. Mortimore (Ed.), Understanding pedagogy and its impact on learning (pp. 137–155). London: Paul Chapman.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauman, H.-D. L., & Murray, J. J. (2010). Deaf studies in the 21st century. In M. Maschark & P. E. Spencer (Eds.), Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education (Vol. 2, pp. 210–225). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2006). Intellectual development in the college years. Change, 38(3), 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bovill, C. (2014). An investigation of co-created curricula within higher education in the UK, Ireland and the USA. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51(1), 15–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., & Felten, P. (2011). Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design and curricula: Implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2), 133–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bovill, C., Felten, P., & Cook-Sather, A. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching (2): practical guidance for academic staff and academic developers. International consortium on educational development conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 16–18 June.Google Scholar
  11. Bryson, C., & Hand, L. (2007). The role of engagement in inspiring teaching and learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(4), 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carey, P. (2013). Student as co-producer in a marketised higher education system: A case study of students’ experience of participation in curriculum design. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 50(3), 250–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chapman, P., Blatchford, S., & Hughes, S. (2013). Lightening up the dark side: A partnership approach between a students’ union and the university. In C. S. Nygaard, S. Brand, P. Bartholomew, & L. Millard (Eds.), Student engagement: Identity, motivation and community (pp. 271–289). Faringdon: Libri.Google Scholar
  14. Cook-Sather, A. (2011). Layered learning: Student consultants deepening classroom and life lessons. Educational Action Research, 9(1), 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cook-Sather, A. (2015). Dialogue across differences of position, perspective, and identity: Reflective practice in/on a student-faculty pedagogical partnership program. Teachers College Record, 117, 2.Google Scholar
  16. Cook-Sather, A., & Agu, P. (2013). Students of color and faculty members working together toward culturally sustaining pedagogy. In J. E. Groccia & L. Cruz (Eds.), To improve the academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development (Vol. 32, pp. 271–285). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  17. Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  18. Cook-Sather, A., & Li, H. (2013). Lessons from international students on campus living and classroom learning. Conference of the professional and organizational development network in higher education. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November.Google Scholar
  19. Delgado-Bernal, D. (2002). Critical race theory, Latino critical theory, and critical raced-gendered epistemologies: Recognizing students of color as holders and creators of knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Delpish, A., Holmes, A., Knight-McKenna, M., Mihans, R., Darby, A., King, K., & Felten, P. (2010). Equalizing voices: Student-faculty partnership in course design. In C. Werder & M. Otis (Eds.), Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning (pp. 96–114). Sterling, VA: Stylus.Google Scholar
  21. Dunne, E., & Zandstra, R. (2011). Students as change agents: new ways of engaging with learning and teaching in higher education. Bristol: ESCalate Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Education/University of Exeter. Accessed 7 August 2014.
  22. Errington, E. (2001). The influence of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation in traditional university settings. In F. Lockwood & A. Gooley (Eds.), Innovation in open and distance learning. Successful development of online and web-based learning (pp. 27–37). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Felten, P., Bagg, J., Bumbry, M., Hill, J., Hornsby, K., Pratt, M., & Weller, S. (2013). A call for expanding student engagement in SoTL. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 1(2), 63–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Felten, P., & Bauman, H.-D. (2013). Reframing diversity and student engagement: Lessons from deaf-gain. In E. Dunne & D. Owen (Eds.), Student engagement handbook: Practice in higher education (pp. 367–378). Emerald: Bingley.Google Scholar
  25. Gärdebo, J., & Wiggberg, M. (2012). Importance of student participation in future academia, In J. Gärdebo & M. Wiggberg (Eds.), Students, the university’s unspent resource: Revolutionising higher education using active student participation, (pp. 7–14). Pedagogical Development Report 12. Uppsala Universitet.Google Scholar
  26. Goldsmith, M., & Gervacio, N. (2011). Radical equality: A dialogue on building a partnership—and a program—through a cross-campus collaboration. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education: Spring (3) Article IV. Accessed 28 Nov 2013.
  27. Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  28. Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009). Developing undergraduate research and inquiry. York: Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  29. Healey, M., Jenkins, A. & Bovill, C. Students as partners in learning, In J. Lea (Ed.), Enhancing learning and teaching in higher education: Engaging with the dimensions of practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (in press).Google Scholar
  30. Hughes, C., & Barrie, S. (2010). Influences on the assessment of graduate attributes in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), 325–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hutchings, P., Huber, M. T., & Ciccone, A. (2011). The scholarship of teaching and learning reconsidered: Institutional integration and impact (Jossey-Bass/Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  32. Jarvis, J., Dickerson, C., & Stockwell, L. (2013). Staffstudent partnership in practice in higher education: The impact on learning and teaching. 6th International Conference on University Learning and Teaching (InCULT 2012). Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 90: 220–25.Google Scholar
  33. Keeney-Kennicutt, W., Baris Gunersel, A., & Simpson, N. (2008). Overcoming student resistance to a teaching innovation. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(1), 5.Google Scholar
  34. King, C., & Felten, P. (2012). Threshold concepts in educational development: An introduction. The Journal of Faculty Development, 26(3), 5.Google Scholar
  35. Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Shuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2010). Student success in college, creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  36. Ling, T. (2000). Unpacking partnership: The case of health care. In J. Clarke, S. Gerwirtz, & E. McLaughin (Eds.), New managerialism, new welfare (pp. 82–101). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Little, B., & Williams, R. (2010). Students’ roles in maintaining quality and in enhancing learning—is there a tension? Quality in Higher Education, 16(2), 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mann, S. J. (2008). Study, power and the university. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  39. McCulloch, A. (2009). The student as co-producer: Learning from public administration about the student–university relationship. Studies in Higher Education, 34(2), 171–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mihans, I. I., Richard, J., Long, D. T., & Felten, P. (2008). Power and expertise: Student-faculty collaboration in course design and the scholarship of teaching and learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(2), 16.Google Scholar
  41. Moore, N., & Gilmartin, M. (2010). Teaching for better learning: A blended learning pilot project with first year geography undergraduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 34(3), 327–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moore-Cherry, N., Healey, R., Nicholson, T., & Andrews, W. Inclusive partnership: Enhancing student engagement in geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education (in press).Google Scholar
  43. Nixon, J. (2011). Higher education and the public good. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  44. Nygaard, C., Brand, S., Bartholomew, P., & Millard, L. (Eds.). (2013). Student engagement: Identity, motivation and community. Faringdon: Libri.Google Scholar
  45. O’Meara, K., Terosky, A. L., & Neumann, A. (2008). Faculty careers and work lives: A professional growth perspective. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34(3), 1–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sheth, J. N., & Stellner, W. H. (1979). Psychology of innovation resistance: The less developed concept (LDC) in diffusion research. Faculty working papers, College of Commerce and Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Google Scholar
  47. Shulman, L. S. (1993). Teaching as community property. Change, 25(6), 6–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Simkins, S., & Maier, M. H. (2010). Just in time teaching: Across the disciplines, across the academy. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.Google Scholar
  49. Swedish National Union of Students. (2014). Improving teaching and learning in Swedish higher education: A student centred perspective. Stockholm: Globalt företagstryckeri.Google Scholar
  50. Taylor, C., & Robinson, C. (2009). Student voice: Theorising power and participation. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 17(2), 161–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Bovill
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Cook-Sather
    • 2
  • P. Felten
    • 3
  • L. Millard
    • 4
  • N. Moore-Cherry
    • 5
  1. 1.Academic Development Unit, Learning and Teaching CentreUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK
  2. 2.The Teaching and Learning InstituteBryn Mawr CollegeBryn MawrUSA
  3. 3.Center for Engaged LearningElon UniversityElonUSA
  4. 4.Centre for Enhancement of Learning and TeachingBirmingham City UniversityBirminghamUK
  5. 5.School of Geography, Planning and Environmental PolicyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

Personalised recommendations