Students as Partners in Learning

Increase learner and educator engagement

What constitutes a partnership, and what are the benefits?

Student-educator partnerships are defined as “[a] relationship in which all involved—students, academics, professional services staff, senior managers, students’ unions, and so on—are actively engaged in and stand to gain from the process of learning and working together” (Healey, Flint, & Harrington, 2014). Partnerships have many benefits, from increased learner and educator motivation to greater perception of inclusion. In a recent study conducted at Brigham City University in England, 93% of students who participated in partnerships with faculty reported a greater sense of belonging at the institution (Curran & Millard, 2016).

Partnerships can take many forms. Pedagogical Partnerships, coauthored by faculty member Alison Cook-Sather and students Melanie Bahti and Anita Ntem (2019), includes the following examples:

  • At McMaster University, a research-intensive school in Canada, faculty partner with students to design, re-design, or review courses.
  • At the University of Virginia, students are involved in everything from new faculty orientation to the facilitation of design thinking workshops.
  • At Victoria University in New Zealand, a bicultural initiative titled akoranga (translated as “collective responsibility for learning”) equips students to provide feedback to educators through teaching observations and peer focus groups.



Consider designating one portion of a course to develop collaboratively with your students. For example, work with teams of students to select readings for each week and have those students lead the class discussion. Faculty and students at the Universiti Utara in Malaysia co-plan and co-teach particular units in their courses, usually in the latter third of a course after students have become oriented to key content and concepts. Participants report “deeper learning, a more engaging classroom environment, a sense of empowerment, increased competence, and enhanced relationships with instructors” (Kaur & Yong Big, forthcoming).


Related references

Cook-Sather, A., Bahti, M., & Ntem, A. (2019). Pedagogical partnerships: A how-to guide for faculty, students, and academic developers in higher education. Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University.

Curran, R., & Millard, L. (2016). A partnership approach to developing student capacity to engage and staff capacity to be engaging: Opportunities for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(1), 67-78.

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. London, UK: Higher Education Academy.

Kaur, A., & Yong Big, T. (Forthcoming). Untangling the power dynamics in forging student-faculty collaboration. In A. Cook-Sather & C. Wilson (Eds.), Building courage, confidence, and capacity in learning and teaching through pedagogical partnerships. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.