The underbelly of the staff student partnership.

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Image: Team Spirit CC0 from Pixabay

Contributed by Terese Bird @tbirdcymru

As Leicester Medical School’s Educational Designer I oversee the School’s one-iPad-per-student programme. The iPads serve as a digital platform on which we have freedom and flexibility to learn more creatively than traditional methods. Using off-the-shelf apps, our own VLE Blackboard, and ebooks shared out by our Library, students digitally take notes, answer and create quiz questions, research cases and build solutions together in every class session.

Things get really interesting, though, when students drive their own learning and create their own learning materials. I oversee a student-staff society MedRIFT (Medical Research into Future Technologies), which gives space to discuss and explore creative ways to learn medicine. When students feel confused about how this organ is affected by adjoining blood vessels and tissues, or lack confidence to face their first day in a ward round, we try to figure out a creative way to address this. Sometimes a student explaining something to another student addresses learning gaps particularly well. This is the notion of cognitive congruence (Lockspeiser et al., 2008). This 360-degree video of End-of-Life patient on a ward round is the result of a student-staff project, with student actors recreating the doctor’s actual experience on a ward. It highlights the need for empathy and skill in documenting and overcoming distractions to help the patient in front of them. More importantly, the film was created through a student-staff research partnership facilitated by Leicester Learning Institute, the Digital Innovation Partnership (Leicester Learning Institute, 2018).

It grew into a workshop in which students teach other students, as requested by the students in student-staff committee. Early research showed that these 360-degree video learning materials do help early-years medical students to feel more prepared for the realities of a ward round. I see this as open educational practice in that staff and students worked together, across the power dynamic, to benefit students’ learning. This project has now been presented, mostly by students, at six conferences and counting.

It grew into a workshop in which students teach other students, as requested by the students in student-staff committee. Early research showed that these 360-degree video learning materials do help early-years medical students to feel more prepared for the realities of a ward round. I see this as open educational practice in that staff and students worked together, across the power dynamic, to benefit students’ learning. This project has now been presented, mostly by students, at six conferences and counting.

This open educational practice is not without difficulty, however. When students and staff work together to create the materials, who owns the intellectual property? What if someone tries to monetise the materials, or use them for a questionable and out-of-context use? What if a participating student decides for whatever reason, after the fact, that they don’t like the fact they appeared in the film, and they request it to be taken down? All of the problems that typically arise with projects and research partnerships may very well arise with staff-student projects, and are that much more difficult to unpick because of the natural power dynamic and university’s duty of care to students. The is the underbelly of the staff-student partnership.

So far, I can say that students’ enthusiasm and creativity are too valuable to not include in designing learning and educational research. I remind myself to expect the unexpected, discuss and agree together as much as we can see before us.Ultimately, I hope to instill in the students a love for learning and research and for sharing the fruits thereof, as so much has been shared with me.

Read more:

Leicester Learning Institute (2018) Digital Innovation Partnership Virtual Reality Video for Learning [Online]. Available at https://www.dip.le.ac.uk/project-focus-virtual-reality-in-learning-teaching/

Lockspeiser, T. M., O’Sullivan, P., Teherani, A. and Muller, J. (2008) ‘Understanding the experience of being taught by peers: the value of social and cognitive congruence’, Advances in Health Sciences Education, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 361–372 [Online]. DOI: 10.1007/s10459-006-9049-8

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