Co-creating with Students

Nick Monk: Smiling man with brown hair and tailored blue jacket.
Nick Monk, CTT Director

Hello again from the CTT. We wish you well as we move towards the holiday season and the end of the semester.

I wanted to take a little time to reflect on the Fall Teaching and Learning Symposium the CTT hosted in partnership with the EVC’s office. It was our first hybrid symposium, with previous events having been either 100% face-to-face, or 100% online. This dual mode presented a number of challenges – many of which center on equity between those present in the room and those connecting remotely. That, however, is a conversation for another day.

Co-creation was the broad theme for the symposium and we were delighted to host Professor Alison Cook-Sather as our keynote. As you may recall, we defined co-creation in higher education as a collection of practices from leadership and administration, through curriculum design, to classroom activities, that demand the engagement of students in ways that set aside – as far as is possible – the dynamic of teacher-pupil and other established hierarchies.

I wanted to revisit these ideas by sharing with you some of the very thoughtful feedback we received from our audience during Professor Cook-Sather’s keynote, and developing from that some thoughts about areas that may be best suited at the university to promote the success of our students. Firstly, there was a great deal of appreciation among participants at the symposium for the idea that co-creation empowers students and also promotes equity and inclusion. The comment that "we need to create an environment in which it feels natural for students to be partners in all aspects of university activity," is representative.

A response to the question of where we see co-creation already operating at the university is also worth sharing as it focuses on typical classroom activity that might be encountered on a daily basis: "one building block of co-creation most of us use is pair and group work. Taking the outcomes and synthesizing responses with the instructor is a first step into inviting students to build their understanding." Participants could also see ways to further develop co-creation with their students through experiential learning projects, having students curate resources, and designing syllabi and assessments. Greater challenges were acknowledged when the conversation turned to implementation. One person asked for suggestions on "how to get recalcitrant administrators and program directors on board, especially those who insist on a one size fits all teach to the test mentality?" Another asked, "in what ways can we motivate students to participate in this program when they are sometimes struggling with multiple roles and responsibilities in life?"

These questions highlighted the ways it can be difficult to implement co-creation and its many sub-genres. It can be done, however, and as always, we have to look at individual courses and assignments, as well as the structures that support that teaching. How can we incentivize instructors and students to work together on co-creation? What structures can we create that support it? How do we create a teaching and learning culture where the links between co-creation and diversity, equity, and inclusion are better recognized?

A small step towards these ends are the CTT’s various teaching grants, in which we invite eligible faculty to apply for funding to support work with students. The fourth round of teaching grants, with a maximum award of $60,000, are now open for interested participants to apply.

The CTT wishes you happy holidays!