An example of student-faculty partnership
by Ketevan Kupatadze
Dr. Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen, a colleague of mine from Denmark, is an educational consultant and has a long-standing experience with partnering with students to design pedagogical tools that are simultaneously educational, intellectually engaging, and fun. Tine designed an educational board game in collaboration with students with the goal of improving peer feedback on writing. The board game is open source.
Tine designed this board game based on 12 years of experience working with students and observing how the activity of peer feedback wasn’t always working due to various issues, among them students feeling that they were put on the spot, or the awkward feeling of having to criticize their friends. Tine believed that students “were experts at being students,” while she, as a teacher, was not, and so their opinions were irreplaceable. She could not have made the game appeal to students the way it does without their involvement. “I wanted it to be something that when put on the table would attract them,” she says. Her goal was that students be able to play the game without the teacher in the room, so students were involved throughout the entire process: designing and testing the game, as well as giving and collecting feedback on how to improve it.
Tine started out by partnering with a colleague and a student worker and did some early designs, after which she invited students to try to play the game. She also had student workers observe the game and give feedback on what worked and what didn’t while the game was played. Student workers who observed the game were different from those who she partnered with to develop its guidelines. Students who observed worked together with the students who designed the game and provided feedback, without instructors’ participation, which allowed them to be more frank. Tine says that this was important because “they might not have been so frank with me, knowing that it was my idea and that I was the teacher.”
Although developing an educational board game takes a lot of dedication and resources, she believes that one can have students as partners and co-inquirers of teaching and learning on different scales. There are strategies that one can use on a smaller scale, which I discuss in one my earlier blog post, “Examples of smaller-scale student-faculty partnership.” Tine mentioned that she puts students in pairs and asks them to identify what they find most challenging in an assignment (for example an undergraduate thesis), compares their answers to those of the students in previous years, and asks them to reflect upon the similarities and differences. She thinks of it as data. Tine views her research, student engagement, and teaching as interconnected and thinks that they should be understood more systematically as different pieces of a whole.
I asked Tine to tell me what would she advise somebody who is open to partnering with students on the scholarship as well as the practice of teaching and learning? She responded that she would advise doing it for the right reasons and with sincerity. If one does it, in Tine’s opinion, one has to actually think of students as equals and partners, a sentiment very similar to one that I share and about which I have written before in several blog posts. She recognizes that for some of us it might be very difficult to share the teaching space with students, so it is important that we reflect on our roles as teachers and our perception of what learning is, before deciding to partner with students.
Even though Tine’s experience is mostly with graduate students, she noted in our conversation that one should start partnering with students at the undergraduate level. Partnership, in Tine’s opinion, has to be embedded throughout the educational system. It takes time to discuss the framework with students: the rationale, the outcome, the goals, etc. but, it is worth it, because, in Tine’s words, it comes down to this: “What kind of people do we want to educate? People who need to follow orders? Or people who will be citizens? Citizens need to be able to make up their mind and participate in democracy.”
Tine’s professional webpage link: http://metodo.dk/
To learn more about the board game, please refer to the following source:
Wirenfeldt Jensen, T., & Sandholm Jensen, G. (2011). Engaging Students in the Peer-Feedback Process Improved Peer-Feedback on Texts Through the Conceptualization of a Board Game. Proceedings of Iceri2011 Conference. Retrieved from http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/41845123/Engaging_students_peer_feedbackboardgame.pdf
Ketevan Kupatadze, Senior Lecturer in Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, is the 2017-2019 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Kupatadze’s CEL Scholar project focuses on student-faculty partnerships.