Student Partnership Agreement in Action: Work-Based learning Module

A Question and Answer with the Head of Work-Based Learning, Policy and Practice on working in partnership with students on the creation of the Work Based Learning (Placement) module.

Date: 6 January 2023

Can you summarise what project you wanted to work on in partnership with students?

As part of the London Met Lab: Empowering London an exciting Work Based Learning (Placement) module was launched in 2020 to give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and get experience within a not-for-profit organisation or micro start-up business in the local community. 

The innovative module was designed to allow students to help positively address one or more of the six challenges currently facing London, and affect change. The six challenges, identified by academics with expertise in these areas are: poverty and deprivation; discrimination; the environment; health improvement; social wealth and crime and these are covered in the module each week. The module is accessible to many as a 15 credit alternative placement module option at Level 5 or 6.

The module is unique in being written and taught by academics from a wide range of subject areas along with Careers, Enterprise and Work Based Learning colleagues. Students learn about the six challenges facing London (and many big cities around the world) and complete between 40-70 hours of placements (which can be remote or in situ).

As this was a brand new module, it was a great opportunity to work in partnership with students to get them involved in the design and delivery of the module from the outset.

Can you talk about how you went about working in partnership with students?

Students attended an online focus group in August 2020, when we were in the depths of Covid, and brought with them ideas and suggestions for the module specification.

All of the students were extremely positive about the module and had some important input to be incorporated into the module. They requested that students were provided with the opportunity to choose from a range of placements and that these should include chances to work with small organisations where students could have more of an impact than would be possible in a large organisation.

Another recommendation was that remote work placement hours be made available to students, which has been maintained as an option post-lockdown.

The students recommended that the University run classes on the Work Based Learning Module more than once each week, as it was likely there would be clashes with other modules since it covered a wide range of courses.

Students were happy to see alternative formats for the assessment and stated that such a module was long overdue at London Met, as so many students want to make a difference to their local community, and it would be great to get credits for this type of work.

The Work Based Learning module is now in its third year of running and throughout students have provided informal, but important, feedback (in addition to the formal module feedback). Student feedback has been used to shape the approach to delivery, for example re-ordering the workshop topics, alternatives to the formative assessment element etc.

Which principle(s) of the Student Partnership Agreement is addressed through this project?

Looking at the five principles of the Student Partnership Agreement, my first reaction is that considering the module’s purpose and the student input to it, all five have relevance!

Of course the most appropriate is Collaborative and Creative, for obvious reasons, involving students in decision-making wherever we can. However, thinking about the whole of the Student Partnership Agreement (SPA), this project required us all to be fair, honest and transparent (Principle 1) in what we could and would do. Additionally, demonstrating mutual respect and kindness (Principle 3) in the process of collaboration, but also through the community support focus of the module’s work placement which aims to liberate and include people from disadvantaged backgrounds (Principle 4) in the community. Finally, the module aims to enable the success and achievement (Principle 5) not only of the community, but by empowering students to have work placement experience in something they care about and may have personal links to, and to help them succeed in their future careers.

What would be your number one piece of advice for someone wanting to embed more partnership working with students?

Make the partnership accessible, they are busy people!  Rather than just giving students the full module specification, I provided a summary, highlighting the main details and their purpose in critiquing the approach to delivery.

Where you would like students to be involved over the longer-term, set out what is expected, over what period of time at the outset and make it bitesize and easy to engage with.

Finally, really listen to their contributions, as you would in any professional collaboration, they have a lot to give us.