Welcome to February’s issue: Students and staff co-creating learning and teaching

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Image Credit: Graphic Design by Joe Arton, Originals McKensie Wiebe and Brian Suh on Unsplash

Welcome to February’s theme of Teach Matters: Students and staff co-creating learning and teaching.

In this post, Catherine Bovill, Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development, introduces and situates this month’s theme.

In February, Teaching Matters will focus on students and staff co-creating learning and teaching. Student-staff co-creation involves shared decision-making and negotiation of curriculum design or elements of the curriculum, and a distinction can be made between “co-creation of the curriculum (co-design of a programme or course, usually before the programme or course takes place) and co-creation in the curriculum (co-design of learning and teaching within a course or programme usually during the course or programme)” (Bovill & Woolmer, 2019; 409). Student and staff co-creation has gained both popularity and traction within higher education over the last five to ten years as colleagues have become increasingly aware of the benefits of bringing students’ perspectives into discussions and decisions about learning.

Benefits from co-creation include: increased motivation and engagement; more developed metacognitive understanding of learning and teaching; more developed sense of identity; greater academic performance; more positive relationships and deeper trust; increased sense of responsibility for learning and teaching. What is also impressive is that many of these outcomes are shared by staff and students, even if experienced in different ways (Cook-Sather, Bovill & Felten, 2014; Bovill, 2020a).

Co-creation is ultimately disruptive: it challenges the accepted ways in which we have been led to believe teaching and learning should take place. Co-creation shifts learning and teaching from something we do to students, towards something we do with students. This is a subtle shift in language, but it is a powerful change, and opportunity. Co-creation is based on building relationships and trust with students, and enabling students to bring their experience into the curriculum, enabling learning and teaching to be more responsive and inclusive of students’ interests, needs and strengths.

However, even where we distinguish between co-creation of the curriculum and co-creation in the curriculum, there are still many different forms of co-creation taking place. For example, different students are involved and different numbers of students are involved. There is a big difference between the kinds of co-creation possible where one, or a small group of students, are selected to take part in co-creation of learning and teaching, or where a whole class, group or cohort are involved. There is also many different foci for co-creation, And in some co-creation initiatives students are rewarded (usually through pay, vouchers and/or refreshments), but this tends to be more usual where students are selected to be involved in a co-creation project which is not an integral part of a student’s studies. Where students are involved in co-creation in the curriculum, they most typically receive the usual course credit. Some of this variation in co-creation is captured in a typology of co-creation.

Co-creation of learning and teaching examples from around the world are varied and fascinating to explore, including for example: students and staff negotiating reading lists; co-creating new courses together; co-creating teaching materials; co-creating essay titles; and students and staff negotiating assessment weightings. For more examples and detail see Barrineau, Engström & Schnass, (2019); Bovill, (2020b) and Cook-Sather, Bovill & Felten (2014).

Over the next month, we can read about co-creation practice taking place at the University of Edinburgh:

  • Neneh Rowa-Dewar, Sharon Levy and Andrea Levy from the Usher Institute will share their experiences mentoring and participating on the Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses (SLICCs).
  • Amy Hardie and colleagues from the Edinburgh College of Art will reflect on coping with Covid through team teaching.
  • Ben Owers will discuss working collaboratively on authoring learning materials in a workshop environment.
  • Sharon Levy from the Usher Institute will write about co-creating content with undergraduate nursing students.
  • and more!

Previous Teaching Matters posts on co-creation:


  • Barrineau, S., Engström, A. & Schnaas, U. (2019) An Active Student Participation companion. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet.
  • Bovill, C. (2020a) Co-creation in learning and teaching: the case for a whole-class approach in higher education. Higher Education 79 (6) 1023-1037. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-019-00453-w
  • Bovill, C. (2020b) Co-creating learning and teaching: towards relational pedagogy in higher education. St Albans: Critical Publishing.
  • Bovill, C. & Woolmer, C. (2019) How conceptualisations of curriculum in higher education influence student-staff co-creation in and of the curriculum. Higher Education 78 (3) 407-422. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-018-0349-8
  • Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C. & Felten, P. (2014) Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Catherine Bovill

Dr Catherine Bovill is Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh and Visiting Fellow at the University of Winchester. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association and an Editorial Board member for Teaching in Higher Education. At Edinburgh she leads the IAD programme and course design team and the Learning and Teaching Conference team as well as supporting a range of strategic projects focused on student engagement. She regularly publishes and presents her work on partnership and co-creating curriculum internationally. In 2019-2020 she was a Fulbright Scholar based in the USA.

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