Malmö University 2016

Team: Sissel Braekhus, Christel Brost, Cecilia Christersson, Evelina Kramsu, Patricia Staaf
Supporters: Anita Acai, Mick Healey

Malmö University is a young university with five multidisciplinary faculties and a heterogenic student population. The university strives to make a difference in society and to prepare students to become change agents, as described in Strategy 2020 (http://strategi2020.mah.se/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Final-2020-ENG-PDF.pdf): Malmö University students shall be actively stimulated to develop an ability to identify, initiate and lead processes of change that meet the challenges faced by society. 

The university has extensive collaboration with outside partners and strong focus on developing a model for student-active, challenge-based learning. A challenge for us is to engage students as partners in educational enhancement. It is hard to get students (apart from the ones involved in the student union) involved in curriculum development. A reason for this might be that they are not considered as partners or change agents within the university in the same way as they are outside of the university, in spite of what is written in the The Strategy 2020, which claims that: Malmö University students shall be actively encouraged to participate in the university’s developmental efforts.

This challenge is the reason for us to apply for the Summer Institute. Over the last year, we have been working with both pedagogical enhancement and a new framework for quality enhancement and it has become clear to us that the concept of “Students as partners” might be a way to establish quality in both education and research. By including the students as partners in the quality enhancing work, we hope to bridge the gap between what’s required in documents and what actually takes place in the classroom. We have run two workshops together with Mick Healey but to reach the goals in Strategy 2020 we need to find a way to work strategically within the whole organisation.

To do so we would like to build on good examples and identify models for successful staff-student development. We have identified such example in the Bachelor program Graphic Design. In this, program students do a “sharp” project with stakeholders outside the university to develop their skills as change agents and they are also engaged in curriculum development. In other words: students at the Graphic design Program are considered as partners both to stakeholders and to the University. 

The course development work has been described and discussed by Christel Brost – teacher and former program coordinator –  in a piece of SoTL work. In her study she used Designs for Learning, a socio semiotic and multimodal approach (Selander & Kress, 2010) as a starting point.   The model they put forward in Designs for Learning, were introduced to students in order to evaluate the redesign of the 4th semester of their bachelor program. The model was chosen since it fits well in a design environment. The intention of the authors was to borrow from the field of design, and apply to education. But to reinstate their findings, back in to education of designers, has proved very useful. It simplifies the students understanding of curriculum design. We would like to explore if this is transferrable to other programs. 

Christel concludes that students are not critical of the content of the courses but they point out the introduction as a problem, which Selander and Kress calls the staging of the transformational cycles. Very seldom do the students feel that it is clear WHY they are asked to get going on something. That is also relevant when it comes to engaging students in curriculum enhancement.

By participating in The Summer Institute, we hope to use this example to further develop a model that can be transferred to other programs as well as to strengthen the program Graphic Design.

We plan to share Students as partners through the Center for Teaching and Learning by arranging workshops on the theme but also to implement the concept in multiple pedagogical courses to make Malmö University staff benefit from the Summer Institute experience. 

Since the students in the team are first year students at the Graphic Design Program, they will be able to bring their experiences back to share with their fellow students in the additional two years that they will be students at Malmö University. 

We believe that all attending team members will benefit from this experience by getting new perspectives on our work and, hopefully, bring home a plan on how to successfully promote students as partners. We anticipate this will strengthen us as a group and in our individual roles: as students, teachers, pedagogical developers and pedagogical leaders – for sustainable change at our institution. 

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