Australian higher education has been exploring student engagement at various levels throughout institutions for the past several years. While different models have been adopted and student input has been sought at different stages of their tertiary education, little has been done to recognise the potential for student leaders to contribute in the areas of curriculum development and reform, not only at the governance level, but right down to the faculty and unit level. Successful case studies in this area have shown that the more responsibilities and leadership opportunities afforded to students, the more likely they are to take on such opportunities and gain from them.
In July 2013, with the support of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, the University of Western Sydney established the Student Leadership in Curriculum Development and Reform Project, with membership from several universities across the Australian higher education sector, including; the National Union of Students; La Trobe University; University of Sydney; University of Southern Queensland; and The University of Queensland. The project’s aim is to explore the current student leadership and engagement landscape of the Australian higher education sector, noting the pockets of work, both in the Australian context and overseas, and makes mention of the productive ways in which we can harness student contributions to improve areas of learning and teaching in our institutions. The project has explored the responsibilities, capabilities, motivations and impediments of current student leaders through student focus groups and a national online questionnaire, and will subsequently highlight various success models which can be used as exemplars for our future student leaders.
Since its conception, the project team has successfully identified several key themes from the student focus groups including; visibility of opportunity; level of institutional maturity; training, support, guidance and expectations; and capabilities and motivations of successful student leaders. This presentation will specifically provide detail on the background of this project, give an overview of the research, and explain how developing student leaders is beneficial for improving student engagement, graduate capabilities, and more broadly, teaching and learning in the higher education sector.
The project team includes; Ms Deanna Taylor (National Union of Students); Professor Jane Long; (La Trobe University); Professor Marie Carroll (University of Sydney); Mr Andrew Lee (The University of Queensland); Dr Karen Noble (University of Southern Queensland); Professor Elizabeth Deane (University of Western Sydney); and Mrs Kylie Stanley (University of Western Sydney).