illustration by Clare Reid
Are teaching and learning things we do to our students, or with our students? Catherine Bovill, a Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement and member of the Learning and Teaching Team at the Institute for Faculty Development at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and currently a Fullbright Fellow at Elon University, thinks it ought to be the former, and writes extensively on co-creation in learning and teaching.
Co-creation can be defined as “occupying the space between student engagement and partnership, to suggest a meaningful collaboration between students and staff” [In the UK, the term “staff” includes people who are in the United States called faculty], “with students becoming more active participants in the learning process, constructing understanding and resources with academic staff.” Her article “Co-creation in learning and teaching: the case for a whole-class approach in higher education” (Higher Education December 2019) is a valuable introduction to these ideas and a strong case for integrating co-creation in teaching and learning in higher education.
Bovill highlights, through her research, that most institution-wide initiatives involving co-creation and other forms of student engagement often only invite the contributions of a small handful of students, while instructors co-creating with students in their classrooms, usually considered small-scale, can actually involve a greater number of students. Bovill outlines the different levels of whole class co-creation and gives a number of examples, from collaborative decision-making to crowdsourced study guides to writing the final exam together as a class.
Bovill helpfully reviews the literature, highlighting all of the learning benefits and best practices whole-class co-creation leads to. Bovill also makes the case that whole-class co-creation is a more inclusive approach, but does caution that faculty need to be prepared to meet the diversity of learners where they are for it to be a truly inclusive experience. She also underscores that whole-class co-creation leads to the building and strengthening of positive relationships, both between faculty and students and between the students themselves. The literature is clear that it is these positive relationships that help students persist and excel in university.