May 2023 | Volume 24 No. 2
Students as Partners
The concept of Students as Partners is not a new approach, but COVID-19 accelerated the need for this to address gaps created by work-from-home and travel restrictions.
When final-year dentistry students were unable to go overseas for their capstone experience, Professor Michael Botelho of the Faculty of Dentistry seized the opportunity to create a range of projects that involved peer-to-peer partnership for teaching and learning. The aim was to get students involved with peer teaching and its delivery, allowing them to learn skills they will need in their future careers – including content creation, communication skills, problem-solving and teamwork.
In one small group project, dentistry students created a student manual and videos on clinical photography and on clinical digital scanning skills. The resources were uploaded to the HKU Libraries DataHub for use by future students. Senior students used these resources to conduct hands-on workshops for junior students about these skills. The senior students also surveyed the recipients for feedback for future improvement and were interviewed themselves, with the outcomes written up for publication.
These projects fed into Professor Botelho’s role leading a project funded by a University Grants Committee teaching grant to develop a Community of Practice across the University on Students as Partners.
“From this experience, I was able to design a framework about how you might be able to go about implementing Students as Partners across other faculties, which is basically having students take an integral role in the educational process. They are not consumers of a product, they are co-contributors and collaborators,” he said.
In his new role, he has organised meetings and workshops on the Community of Practice with academics and students from a range of faculties across HKU, who have shared good practices. Aims and objectives have been produced as well as resources, with a collective publication planned based on presentations that focussed on three key stages of a Students as Partners collaboration. These are: creation and design, implementation and performance, and evaluation and sustainability. Professor Botelho noted that this is a generalisable framework that can help anyone wishing to undertake Students as Partners confidently implement projects in their faculties.
Pushing the boundaries
Other faculties had already embraced the Students as Partners concept in recent years and they shared their experiences through the workshops. In Medicine, for instance, MBBS students led the Near-Peer Teaching Programme in which senior students tutored junior students via Zoom during pandemic restrictions to support biomedical and clinical learning. In 2021–2022, 45 sessions were hosted, benefitting more than 150 first- and second-year medical students. In Education, students have worked with faculty and in-service teachers to develop innovative teaching packages suitable for online and face-to-face teaching in Hong Kong schools.
But Professor Botelho wants the boundaries pushed further. He thinks the Students as Partners approach can broaden beyond education and extend to research and service. This could include anything from working with an NGO to participating in student committees and coaching HKU sports groups, and he is proposing recognition for students, such as credits on their transcripts or faculty or University prizes. The main requirement would be that the project not be part of their regular learning experience, so for example, nursing student placements in a hospital would not count, but having nursing students engage in peer mentoring or teaching within that placement could.
“On research, obviously there are a number of projects that students already work on but they don’t always get formal recognition for that. Likewise, for service. They are doing these things outside of classroom time on their own motivation. If there is a framework for recognition, it will engage more students to become more involved in their education within their course or even beyond the University,” he said.
The level of contribution from staff and students can be flexible, but he expects initiatives will be led more by teachers at first, which is why he is focussed on raising awareness and creating resources for them.
“It never ceases to amaze me the potential we have with our students and their skillset, dynamism, energy, enthusiasm and insights. I hope we can tap into this rich resource and help our students contribute more through enhanced partnering in teaching and learning, research and service,” he said.
A series of Students as Partners Community of Practice Seminars were held in the CETL Learning Lab where teachers share their experience working with students in the partnership projects.
It never ceases to amaze me the potential we have with our students and their skillset, dynamism, energy, enthusiasm and insights. I hope we can tap into this rich resource and help our students contribute more through enhanced partnering in teaching and learning, research and service.
PROFESSOR MICHAEL BOTELHO