Activity 1.3: Redefining the relationship between student+universtiy

This activity is intended to compare and critique the 3 models of students, the consumer model, the co-producer and the one that puts the student at the centre of a community of practice.
In my view the first 2 models have inherent flaws in how students are supposed to play their role and they do not explain fully what is happening in HE. If we see students as consumers of a service and therefore we explain what is happening in HE we are missing some aspects in the explanation or we are adjudicating to the model to many issues. Questions like this came to my head while reading: What happens with students who have studied all their life in a private school and for them paying for education is nothing new for them? What if their parents are paying for the fees and haven’t even asked them selves about this issue? What if they are considering that they are paying for the expertise and experience of their teachers and for being in a safe place to learn? This approach of students as consumers as the only explanation makes not much sense to me. Definitely education should not be treated as a market place and should not be seen as a service empty of value and humanity. And yes I agree students who see them selves as consumers of a service for which they are paying are missing a big part of the university experience.
I agree with some of the critiques exposed by McCulloch. I do agree that the model of student as consumer de-emphasises to much her/his role as a learner, it takes away her/his responsibility of doing the hard work to learn and in a sense it seems like the money you are paying will easy the struggle learners have to go through in order to transform and grow intellectually. But I do not think it means automatically that students will not have a deep learning experience. The idea of “satisfaction” as a core aspect in the learning experience is awful. There is a limit to this and I do agree that there is a responsibility in teachers to engage and motivate students but it is not about making of the lecture a circus. If one reads about how boring or un-understandable the lectures of brilliant thinkers were, i.e. Newton, Einstein or John Nash but how motivating it must have been to have the chance to listen to them. Learning is not only about having fun it is about reflecting, struggling, rethinking one self in the process. It is far from being measurable in a satisfaction survey.
In order to find some solutions to this problematic model, McCulloch proposes a different one, the student as co-producer but not without some difficulties and inconvenience. The student as co-producer is meant to be partner in the production of knowledge, therefore they are given some responsibility in the work. They are also involved in the community at a collective level. In that sense they should be brought into the decision-making process, involve them in the curriculum as well as give them control of some parts of their learning environment. This is one of the strong points in this model from my perspective. Not so sure about the curriculum bit as maybe students do not have the knowledge nor the expertise to plan or design a curriculum but maybe they could be part of the discussion and think together in how to assess the course maybe. The learning environment is for me one of the key points to exploit in this model of student. This model is enriched and improved by Coffield who developed the idea of community of practice where learning is seen more as an inductive process, a process of becoming active and engage participants of a community interacting not only with teachers but also with fellow students. The goal in this approach is building and being part of a community of practice, learning is becoming a participant, students are apprentice and teachers are expert mentors, knowledge is an aspect of practice and knowing is belonging and participating. Very much what happens with academics in their field. It is very much about belonging to the community and working hard in the pursuit of new knowledge that could enhance the understanding of the field and create new applications. Learning is seen as an ever evolving organic process. In this view students have power but in order to exercise it they need to engage and commit participating proactively in their community of practice.
To conclude my reflection in relation to the idea of redefining the relationship between students and their universities the model to follow is the one where students are part of a community of practice with all the responsibilities it entails and taking the commitment seriously transforming in a proactive manner the areas of their concern. Adding to the community and enhancing the university experience.

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