Following a successful application for an LEI Grant, we spoke with Beth Loveys and Imogen McNamara, both a student and academic who were involved in the Student as partners program. Hear about their journey on the Flipping the Cellar Floor project and how it impacted both students and staff.
Beth Loveys (Academic voice), Senior Lecturer and Education Specialist, School of Agriculture Food and Wine
Imogen McNamara (Student voice), Student, Fourth Year Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology with Honours
Tell us why you wanted to be involved with the Students as Partners program?
Beth: When I first heard about the concept of working with students as partners at a presentation by Mick Healey I immediately thought “Why am I not doing this already??” It seemed like the most obvious way to find out why things in the courses I taught didn’t work and what could be tried to make them better. As a teacher your aim to create learning opportunities for students and the best way to do that is to directly and explicitly involve students in the process. I could see students as partners as a great way to improve my teaching.
Imogen: I am a mature age, full-time student with a family and weekend job. Upon starting my degree, I had very minimal maths and science skills and it had been over a decade since I left school. My University journey has been a personal challenge from the beginning and is the hardest thing I have ever done. I quickly came to the belief that if there is anything I can do to make someone’s University experience better than it’s worth, being a part of and Students as Partners was a great program to do just that.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of SaP projects now and I find each project has different rewards. Through my SaP project work, I have been able to improve the future student learning experience by building new content for courses and learning support resources. I have built great relationships with my teachers and peers. I have learned more about the University structure and have seen learning and teaching from another perspective.
How do you think the Students as Partners program benefits those who are involved? What are some key transferrable skills can they develop?
Beth: The benefits of working in a team with staff and students are huge! As a teacher, I learn so much from the students who I work with. It gives you a unique insight into what it is like being a student today and also the factors that make it easier for students to achieve their own goals. Once you have this insight as a teacher your teaching consequently becomes more effective. You all learn how to communicate and work collaboratively but what is key to a Students as Partners approach is that both parties have the same goal- making education more relevant, engaging and fun.
Imogen: SaP has many benefits, from networking, leadership experience, working in diverse groups, knowledge and skill development. These are key skills in a number of industries for students to be employable, and some of these attributes can’t always be taught in the classroom.
It gives you a chance to bring your ideas to the table and work with teachers/researchers on projects and research that you may have thought was out of reach for a student. I have been fortunate enough to have met academics from across a wide range of disciplines. I have both attended and presented at several conferences, which has allowed me to share my SaP experiences with academics, educators and students from all around the world. As an Undergraduate, it is such a rewarding experience.
Tell us a bit about the ‘Flipping the Cellar Floor’ project – How were Student Partners involved? And what was the need for this project?
Beth: There was a clear need for learning resources that could be accessed by students anywhere and anytime. Our cohort of students in becoming increasingly diverse in terms of cultural background, age and experience. Class sizes are also increasing, putting the staff under greater pressure during face to face sessions. Because winemaking is largely a hands-on, practical activity it is very important for students to become competent at those practical skills that they will be expected to have when they join the workforce. To support their hands-on learning on the cellar floor and in the analytical laboratory we determined that instructional videos for students to watch and re-watch would be a great start.
We invited students to be involved right from the beginning. We felt it was important for all members of the team to start the process together. Students had a role in deciding which skills needed the most support, scripting for the videos, performing in the videos and narrating all scripts post-production.
Imogen: As students we were involved fairly early on in the project, there were some existing videos that were old and not well produced. We all took a video to review and provided feedback to the winemaker. The winemaker created scripts based on the key learning outcomes and messages that needed to be presented and again we each took a script to review and provide feedback. A poll was created to ensure a date would work for everyone and we filmed on a Saturday to ensure no additional noise or work was occurring at the same time. We all had the opportunity to narrate a video. In post-production, the videos were all reviewed as a group and feedback issued. The videos were then placed in an open-access course in MyUni for students in the degree program to access across multiple year levels.
In your view, how does the collaboration between academic and Student Partners benefit the delivery of courses for other students?
Beth: I think any co-created content immediately resonates with incoming students. From my experience co-created content targets those commonly difficult areas and also focuses the content towards the target audience, students!
Imogen: It allows for a student voice and perspective on what or how things are presented. Students often see things quite differently. Students may discover issues within a course that academics may have overlooked.
What other opportunities and projects are Student Partners involved in?
Beth: The opportunities for working in partnership with students is limited only by the imagination of staff and students. I try to involve students in many areas of my teaching. One really successful change that I have made is employing senior undergraduates as demonstrators in my practical classes. The support that senior students can give to junior students is targeted and relevant and thus significantly reduces the stress and anxiety in very busy practical classes. The students who are employed also have the opportunity to improve the practical content by identifying areas which are unclear or confusing and then working with me to improve them.
Imogen: I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of projects at the Waite Campus. Co-creation of online course content was certainly a highlight. Also, being a part of the team that builds the Waite Peer Mentoring Program which supports both Agriculture and Viticulture and Oenology Students across 4 year levels is something I am very proud to have been a part of. Peer Mentoring is a program that is thriving at Waite and is an ongoing opportunity for students to get involved.
If you want to get involved with the Students as Partners, get in touch. If you’re a student wanting to get involved with the Students as Partners program, please fill out the online form, or for teachers who would like to engage, get in touch with your faculty learning designer.
Beth gained her PhD in plant ecophysiology under the supervision of Professor Steve Tyerman in 1998. Her post-doctoral positions at the University of York with Professor Owen Atkin, and then at the Australian National University, with Professor Marilyn Ball examined the effects of climate change on plant growth, specifically temperature elevated CO2. In her current position as an Education Specialist at The University of Adelaide Beth is able to inspire the next generation of plant scientists teaching into Bachelor of Agricultural Science, Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology and Applied Biology. Improving student engagement in areas of plant science has been Beth’s motivation in recent years by the use of blended and active learning pedagogy. Beth’s success in implementing innovative teaching methodologies has been recognised by an Office of Learning and Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2015 and the Australian Society of Plant Scientists Teaching Excellence Award.
Since first year Imogen has worked alongside academics to create and enhance eLearning tools across 5 course programs, she has also invested time with her peers to create a Peer mentoring program that assists both Agriculture and Viticulture students across 4 year levels. She was the 2018 winner of The Barossa Foundation’s Elderton Excellence in Winemaking Scholarship. Imogen is currently undertaking the University’s honours program and was recently awarded The Ian Cocks Memorial Wine Research Scholarship.