Student Staff Partnership Forum - Case Studies
In order to support excellent practice in Student Staff Partnership Forums (SSPFs), we have gathered case studies of great work in and around SSPFs from across the University.
The four case studies below explore the following:
Improving Student Staff Partnership Forum in Performance and Cultural Industries: details the comprehensive re-thinking of SSPF in this school, including use of ‘Town Hall’ meetings for action planning
Engaging students to provide feedback through regular meetings in Biomedical Sciences: exploring the significant benefits of regular meetings between School Rep and the Director of Student Education
Interactive Student Staff Partnership Forums: The Lifelong Learning Centre ‘World Café’ model: discussing how a ‘World Café’ model SSPF can build community and foster engagement
Creating a productive SSPF in Electronic and Electrical Engineering: exploring how ‘module resolution’ processes, pre-SSPF meetings, and agenda setting can foster productive meetings
We hope to grow this list of case studies over time. If you have great SSPF or partnership practice which you would like to share, please contact LUU’s Academic Representation Team at AcademicSupport@luu.leeds.ac.uk.
Improving Student Staff Partnership Forum in Performance and Cultural Industries
Challenge: The School of Performance and Cultural Industries was experiencing difficulties in encouraging students to engage in Student Staff Partnership Forums. They wanted to create increased student engagement and a sense of belonging.
Solution: Students and staff worked in partnership to identify innovations which could improve SSPF and through it, student voice and community:
SSPF numbers and membership: In order to ensure that staff did not outnumber students at SSPF, more Course Reps were recruited. The membership of SSPF was also expanded to include additional engaged students who have been through a selection process – e.g. PCI Society Committee, Peer Mentors, Interns.
Rep Training: A School-specific training session for all student members/course reps was held immediately before the first Student Staff Partnership Forum. LUU agreed to train local staff in the delivery of its Course Rep training. The Assistant School Education Service Manager (ASESM) then adapted this to present it locally. This was a key component to the success of these initiatives. A local guide to SSPFs was produced and shared at training.
'Town Hall’ meetings run parallel to academic activity: ‘Town Hall’ meetings are opportunities for a group of people with a shared interest - in this case, a year group - to meet and discuss shared concerns. In this instance, they were used to establish an Action Plan:
These meetings took place within level 1-3 year groups and for PGTs. The first meeting was held in Week 3.
They were run by the ASESM (making use of their background in student voice and facilitating student discussion), alongside School Reps and Course Reps. Importantly, while academic staff helped to shape the agenda, they did not attend these meetings. This encouraged students to think of the Town Hall as a space distinct from their learning and teaching, and in which they could express their voice both individually and collectively. The resultant environment was student-led and SES-facilitated, and offered an informal and comfortable platform to share feedback, information and initiatives.
At the first Town Hall students were able to express their perceived priorities. They were invited to write down challenges/ concerns anonymously (Online, this could be done via an anonymous platform like Mentimeter). These were grouped under headings, and students were invited to vote on which of these they would like SSPF to tackle. Five key areas of concern were identified across UG and PG. These effectively became the School’s Action Plan.
Action Plan Working Groups: Following this, SSPF working groups were established to tackle the five core concerns raised in the first Town Hall. These groups consisted of students and staff. A second Town Hall was run in Semester 2 to share Course Rep-led progress, take questions, and gather feedback.
Pre-meetings: In addition to Town Halls, staff created a pre-meeting for student members to discuss the issues and agenda of SSPF, and School Reps met with the School Education Service Manager or Assistant School Education Service Manager on a monthly basis.
Outcomes: Reps and year groups alike felt empowered, and were better motivated and more prepared for SSPF as a result of the Town Halls. There were improvements on the NSS (National Student Survey) student voice score, significant improvements to PTES (Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey), and an enhanced sense of community and belonging within the School.
Engaging students to provide feedback through regular meetings in Biomedical Sciences
Challenge: Engaging students to provide feedback
Solution: The Director of Student Education and School Rep met on a fortnightly basis between SSPFs.
The communication channel was kept going between SSPFs, so that students did not have to wait for the Forum to raise concerns and have them resolved. The quick turnaround on this made students feel that their opinions were valued.
The meetings enhanced the relationship between the DSE and School Rep, built trust, and broke down barriers. Forums became more collegiate and solutions-oriented. There was more time to discuss issues, and positive initiatives resulted.
The meetings had a wider benefit for both Rep and DSE. For the DSE they served as an informal touch-point to canvas student opinion. For the Rep, they facilitated further understanding of academic planning process, and offered the opportunity to seek clarification on School and Faculty business (eg. meeting agenda items), further enhancing their effectiveness.
Interactive Student Staff Partnership Forums: The Lifelong Learning Centre ‘World Café’ model
Challenge: LLC has a very diverse range of programmes and delivery patterns, so feedback from one programme may have no relevance for another. While they had always had good attendance from staff and representatives at events, they wished to make more of the opportunity of bringing them together.
Solution: In 2019/20 they trialled a World Café style Student Staff Partnership Forum, with the intention of collaborating with students and facilitating discussion for large groups (further information on the World Café format is available here):
Room layout: They set out the room like a café with flowers, refreshments, serviettes and tablecloths to create a different atmosphere when people entered the room. The tablecloths were paper and participants were encouraged to write and draw on them during their discussions. (Online, this could be done via the breakout rooms and whiteboard function on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra).
Themed tables and facilitation: Each table had a different theme for discussion and a facilitator to give a very brief introduction, use prompts if necessary and try and make sure everyone could contribute. Facilitators included our School rep, a member of LUU and some of our teaching staff. The themes were the new student education priorities: community; curriculum; student experience; student success. After 15 minutes people moved to a different table and could build on the comments made by the previous group by adding to the tablecloths. After 3 rounds the facilitators led a short summary discussion for their theme. (Online this could be achieved by having facilitators move between breakout rooms on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra).
Outcomes: This event created a very rich discussion raising some areas they could address across programmes which wouldn't have emerged in their previous format. For example, student reps said they would like more opportunities to get to know students and staff in other years and on other programmes. In response the Centre is launching an LLC Learning Community this year which will be a multi-disciplinary community of students and staff for sharing and developing new ideas and perspectives about Lifelong Learning. They will have a monthly theme for conversations about a specific topic. This will include guest speakers, events and visits followed by facilitated conversations. In addition, the event was fun and received very positive feedback. The Centre will be trialling an online version of the World Café via Teams or Collaborate in Semester 1 of 2020/21.
Creating a productive SSPF in Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Challenge: In Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Student Staff Partnership Forums were often preoccupied with student complaints relating to individual modules and were not productive spaces for resolution of these issues.
A ‘Module Resolution' process parallel to SSPF: The Director for Student Education (DSE) created a robust, alternative ‘Module Resolution’ process. Course Reps who have gathered feedback suggesting problems on a module complete a simple form, which is passed to the Student Support Office (SSO). A meeting is then arranged between the DSE, Module Leader and Course Reps, in which the DSE acts as a neutral chair. This has proven a much more effective avenue for dealing with module issues.
Pre-SSPF meetings and agenda setting: This practice was combined with a partnership and development-oriented approach to preparing for and running SSPFs:
The agenda for the forums is informal and mutually agreed by the School Reps and DSE.
Prior to the SSPF, the DSE and School Reps meet in order to discuss the proposed agenda items, and to identify possible initiatives to discuss with the whole Forum.
Within the SSPF, there is always space for the School Rep to introduce their own priorities, and part of the time is reserved for a longer 'round-table' discussion on a selected topic, for example: opportunities for employability support, or feedback mechanisms for coursework.
Outcomes: The move away from a mode of frequent module-related problem-solving created a significantly more open and productive SSPF, a better atmosphere, and more effective student voice. The Forum is a constructive space, focused on the development of beneficial initiatives and planning related to academic matters, community and sustainability. The success of representation in the School is evidenced by their UG and PGT School Reps winning the team Student Academic Rep of the Year Award in 2020.