Expanding the students as partners approach to student-centred redesign of transitional spaces
Engaging students as partners often focuses on curriculum development activities and scholarship of teaching and learning. However engaging students as partners in broader institutional activities could yield significant value to both the broader student communities and institutional agendas. Separately, research into belonging provides evidence that a comfortable, friendly and inclusive environment that affords a range of interaction between users is important for cultivating community. To respond to both of these ideas work is being carried out by teams, consisting of undergraduate students, departmental staff and a CHERS PhD researcher to redesign transitional spaces in College. These spaces were identified as having transitional potential and by virtue of their location to connect different year groups, courses and departments.
In addition to improving the functionality and accessibility of these spaces for group interaction and discussion between users, projects are placing students at the heart of understanding how spaces can increase a sense of individual, departmental and institutional belonging, for example exploring how use of wall space and aesthetic can achieve this. The StudentShapers are using a series of methods to consult their departmental student body, including surveys, remote software tools where users can submit and upvote redesigned floorplans and later in-depth focus groups with students and interviews with academic staff to finalise design generation.
This approach to transitional space redesign is producing spaces that are more aligned with the needs and wants of the user and is empowering StudentShapers and their peers to take greater ownership of departmental spaces. This active participation in shaping the learning environment seems beneficial for active learning and sense of belonging and expands the remit of ‘students as partners’ beyond typical boundaries demonstrated in recent literature.