I have been listening to my research interviews with students this morning and reflecting on my own experiences of being a student. It has prompted a number of thoughts which I am struggling to put into a narrative so in no particular order:
Fear – fear of failure, fear of non-completion. Myself and others have described the fear that your success depends on the judgement of an individual. It depends on a set of complex rules and regulations which you don’t always know and may fail to use them to your advantage. It is described as survival. Making it through the module, passing and moving on to the next one. Hoping each time you pass and can progress. What sort of learning experience is this?
Being different – I always thought that exploring who you are and being different was what university was about but the reality is that being different can be a bad thing. Whether that difference is your culture, the way you think, the colour of your skin; these all place risks on you. We say we value original thought but what it seems most want is for student to be like us, to think like us, to conform.
Us & them – in reference to students and lecturers. I struggle with this one because as a lecturer, I don’t see this but as a student it feels like us and them sometimes. Having sat through subject committees as both, I felt pushed into an us and them mentality when in the role of student. My job is to advise lecturers on teaching, learning and assessment practices and I know a heck of a lot about learning technology. As a student, all that expertise was pushed aside. I was a student, how could I possibly know better than the lecturers how to teach and how technology should be used?
This makes me wonder about how we get students to evaluate. I think it has to be as partners. We should see students as the talented adults they are. We should view them as new colleagues just starting off in their careers. They have a little less experience and knowledge in the particular area we work in but they also have vast skills and experiences in other areas. Some of our students have set up and run charities or social enterprises or businesses as students, whilst they are studying.
Anyway, a bit rambling but what I conclude is that we need to really think about how we view students. I think we need to have more respect for them and value what they bring to our institutions. Partnership!