Getting started with Students as Partners

Getting started with Students as Partners

Getting started with Students as Partners

Student partners
Teaching & Learning
Team Collaboration
It may be your first time, or it may be your one hundredth, whatever your experience is, it’s always a good idea to reflect before starting a Students as Partners (SaP) project.

There’s a lot of interest in students-as-partners these days – and for good reason. Partnering with students benefits both staff and students. Staff develop greater insight into student needs and experiences while students gain valuable employability skills and create a legacy to support the next generation.

But while the benefits of partnership are well known, getting started can be tricky.

Deakin’s Students as Partners Framework sets out four broad approaches to students-as-partners to help you consider how to approach a new partnership project. For example, maybe your goal is to get as many student ideas as possible to provide feedback on a new policy. You might take a ‘students as sounding boards’ approach and set up an online poll, or virtual discussion board, for students to submit feedback and ideas.

Alternatively, run focus groups with a specific cohort of students to understand their use of various support services. Rather than do this alone, we’d recommend you take a ‘students as influencers’ approach and hire a couple of student partners. Together, you can develop focus group questions, facilitate the session, and analyse the findings.

More information about the four approaches, and examples of how they might work, are available on the Students as Partners SharePoint site.

Graphic of four approaches to students as partners. 1. Students as sounding boards. 2. Students as influencers. 3. Students as decision makers. 4. Students as co-creators


Regardless of the approach you decide to take, it’s critical to reflect on two key questions before you begin:

  1. Am I truly open minded about what the outcomes or outputs of this project may be? (i.e. am I ready to share this project with student partners?)
  2. Do I have the time in my workload to support the students successfully in this project?

The questions are important because authentic partnership requires a commitment to the process of exploration and relationship-building with students, both of which can take time.

Finally, it’s important to remember why we engage in partnership in the first place – to respect and appreciate the expertise students have in what it’s like to be a student.

Successful partnership projects are mediated on the idea of reciprocal learning. Staff learning about students’ lived experiences, and students learning from staff about a discipline, project management, or how an organisation works. So before beginning, ask yourself, ‘What am I going to teach or share?’ and ‘What am I going to learn?’

To find out more, contact Dr Mollie Dollinger ( to chat all things SaP.

You can hear from Dr Mollie Dollinger first-hand and learn more about getting started with a Students as Partners project on our latest Tales of Teaching Online podcast episode.

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.

How inclusive education can lead to better assessment design

How inclusive education can lead to better assessment design

How inclusive education can lead to better assessment design


Teaching & Learning
Inclusive Education
Learning Innovations 

As educators, we have much to gain by recognising different ways of knowing and doing as we reimagine education and its outcomes. It is a misconception that designing inclusive assessment only benefits a few, when in fact, it impacts more learners than we imagine.

‘Students can, with difficulty, escape from the effects of poor teaching, they cannot (by definition, if they want to graduate) escape the effects of poor assessment.’ (Boud 1995, p35)

Deakin’s Dr Joanna Tai and Professor Margaret Bearman offered this provocative quote to introduce the landscape of inclusive assessment and kick off a conversation at a recent inclusive education community of practice panel event, ‘Designing inclusive assessment with neurodiversity in mind’. They grounded the discussion by outlining that inclusive assessment supports all students to show their capabilities, regardless of personal circumstances or background characteristics.

Last month’s event explored approaches to inclusive assessment design through a discussion that spanned recent research in this area, Indigenous Knowledges, and the concept of neurodiversity to explore this emerging landscape.

Dr Jessamy Gleeson began by sharing, ‘part of the design of all of our units involves moving from western models of teaching and learning to models that incorporate Indigenous Knowledges’. She challenged participants to consider how we might position ourselves differently to the demonstration of capabilities through assessment using this lens.

Jessamy identified approaches adopted at The National Indigenous Knowledges Education Research Innovation (NIKERI) Institute. Assessment tasks emphasise the importance of Indigenous voices and knowledge, draw on concepts like reflexivity and locatedness, and move beyond written tasks to use oral presentations, group work, and reflections.

Beth Radulski, autism and neurodiversity activist and researcher, at La Trobe University, explained neurodiversity is not something a person ‘has’ or ‘is’ but rather something society is. There is no list of conditions that are ‘neurodiverse’.  She frames it as a spectrum of all human brains and includes all neurotypes—even those we consider ‘the norm’ (i.e. the neurotypical brain).

Beth advocates an approach where students work towards developing their strengths rather than simply managing their limitations. In assessment, grading based on subject learning outcomes and key strengths should apply to all students, not upon cultural norms that privilege and marginalise different groups.

All presenters acknowledged that including students in the design of assessment materials is also a powerful step forward in this area.

Further exploration of how assessment affects student learning in unexpected ways is needed. The more people we listen to with expertise in different equity groups, the more robust the principles and practices of assessment will become.


Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.

Deakin at STARS 2021 conference with Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor

Deakin at STARS 2021 conference with Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor

Deakin at STARS 2021 conference with Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor

Teaching & Learning
Inclusive Education
Best practice

Deakin continued its leadership in higher education with significant representation from staff sharing their innovative practice with colleagues nationally and internationally at the STARS 2021 annual conference in July. Here, Dr Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor from Deakin Learning Futures, discuss their STARS contribution on designing for inclusion and reflect on the successful event.

Too often, we treat accessibility as an accommodation, putting the onus on individual students to disclose their need for alternative learning materials.

If we design for accessibility and inclusion from the outset, it not only reduces the need for students to make such disclosures, but it can benefit all students by supporting a range of ways to engage with the content.

CloudFirst learning design incorporates Deakin’s Inclusive Education principles, through clear and scaffolded learning outcomes, the use of different media and activity types, provision of transcripts and text alternatives, and embedded support and regular opportunities for feedback.

Our CloudFirst CloudDeakin templates feature built-in accessibility requirements, such as appropriate colour contrast and structured headings. Incorporating this into the learning design process supports teaching staff to create inclusive, accessible learning experiences from the very beginning, creating better experiences for students and reducing the need to retrofit alternatives later.

This approach generated lots of enthusiastic discussion and positive feedback from the audience, with one audience member commenting, ‘this is terrific – Deakin leading in so many ways!’.

The plenary sessions, from Prof. Simon Marginson, Dr Jennifer Keup, Prof. Mark Brown and our own former VC, Emeritus Prof. Jane den Hollander AO, and student panel prompted us to reflect on what we’re here for and what we want to achieve, both through our individual and institutional practices and as a sector; a call to draw on the lessons of the last 18 months to create a better future for our students, our universities and our society.

Overall, the conference was a welcome opportunity to reconnect with colleagues across higher education to reflect, both on the past 18 months and on our vision for the future. You can access papers and read the full conference proceedings on the STARS website.

If you would like to learn how to use the CloudFirst templates and design inclusive and accessible unit sites, Deakin staff can enrol to access our self-paced resources via the CloudFirst website.

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.

Announcing the 2021 Deakin Learning and Teaching conference

Announcing the 2021 Deakin Learning and Teaching conference

Announcing the 2021 Deakin Learning and Teaching conference


AUGUST, 2021

Learning & Teaching 
Best practice
Annual conference

Deakin Learning Futures is excited to announce preparations are well underway for the annual Deakin Learning and Teaching Conference. Taking place on Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11 November, the theme for the 2021 event is: Design, Deliver, Enable, Lead. The program will showcase how these four capabilities underpin teaching and learning at Deakin and support the student experience. 

The conference will see the Deakin community come together to share new ideas about learning and teaching practice and reflect and connect about the challenges of recent times. Importantly, the event is also a chance to recognise achievements and acknowledge the valuable contribution of Deakin students as our partners in learning and teaching. 

Call for submissions now open

All Deakin staff engaged in learning and teaching are invited to contribute submissions to the conference. We also encourage collaborative partnerships with students to feature in this year’s program.

The options are open to present ideas in engaging and innovative ways. Presentation proposals can be anything from panels and paper presentations to interactive workshops, audio visual work such as podcasts or videos, or even a quick-fire thesis presentation. Submissions should demonstrate one of the four capabilities that form our conference theme.

Submit your proposal and abstract via the 2021 Learning and Teaching Conference submission form before the closing date Sunday 26 September, 5pm.

Blended conference format

With the challenges of the pandemic still in our midst, the two-day conference will offer a combination of located and remote opportunities for participants and attendees. While the intention is to run a blended event, the conference will run entirely virtual should COVID-19 restrictions apply.

Key dates to remember

The key dates for the 2021 Learning and Teaching conference are:

  • Thursday 26 August – submissions open
  • Sunday 26 September, 5pm – submissions close
  • Tuesday 12 October – registrations open
  • Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11 November – conference delivered in blended mode

For further information about the conference, contact or visit the conference website.


Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.

Collaborative Learning with Microsoft Office 365 tools

Collaborative Learning with Microsoft Office 365 tools

Collaborative Learning with Microsoft Office 365 tools 


JULY, 2021

Team Collaboration
Digital Learning
Teaching & Learning

Collaboration is one of the top five most in demand global soft skills today. By implementing collaborative learning, you can boost students’ employability and help them develop skills such as communication, conflict resolution and teamwork, which are essential in the workplace.  

Dr Isma Seetal, Dr Tara Draper and Dr Puva Arumugam recently organised a series of workshops about how collaborative learning and Microsoft Office 365 tools can enhance student learning. 

Collaborative Learning  

We define collaborative learning as goal-oriented group work where students work on joint activities, and in doing so, co-construct knowledge by sharing and negotiating ideas. Interactions are at the heart of collaboration. As students collaborate, they not only interact with their peers and teachers but also with resources and interfaces through a range of activities.   

A well-structured collaboration can have a positive and significant impact on students’ satisfaction and support their individual learning, leading to better engagement and performance. It can also stimulate their openness to diversity by increasing their exposure to different viewpoints.  

Despite the educational benefits to collaborative work, students typically find working together difficult. We can support students through scaffolding of the collaborative activity and instructor guidance.  

Tools for Collaboration Learning

Using online tools for collaborative learning has a positive influence on group interaction. It provides opportunities for students to get emotional support from group peers. It also facilitates teachers’ interaction with students, increasing opportunities to provide pedagogical guidance, help and technical support.  

 As part of the Deakin community, you have access to the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools. Most of the Office Apps are integrated into Microsoft Teams. This is the collaborative hub where students can work on artefacts, interact extensively, plan their work and much more.  

The right tool for each stage of the collaborative project 

Before assigning project topics, for example, gauge students’ prior learning. You can easily do this by creating a form in Microsoft Forms 

If students have not worked collaboratively with peers in their class prior to the assigned project, consider creating a community space using Yammer. Students can use Yammer to get to know each other, share resources and post questions.  

Microsoft Planner and Lists can help students organise and track their project tasks seamlessly. As students delve into their project work, they can use OneNote, Microsoft’s digital note-taking App, to capture and synthesise research or take meeting notes.  

Students must often produce an artefact by the end of their project. Using Microsoft Sway, they can collaborate in real-time or asynchronously to produce artefacts such as newsletters, reports and interactive presentations. 


Learn more about using Yammer in teaching and learning by visiting our new Yammer SharePoint page. You can also find a range of helpful tips and guides to get started in Microsoft Teams using our updated Microsoft Teams user guide. 

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.

Inclusive Education Community of Practice –  Effective allyship

Inclusive Education Community of Practice – Effective allyship

Inclusive Education Community of Practice – Effective allyship


JUNE, 20201

Community of Practice
Inclusive Learning

 It has been a couple of weeks since the first Inclusive Education Community of Practice (CoP) session for 2021The team from the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation led a conversation aboutEffective allyship – supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peopleThe session took place during Reconciliation Week. 

Importantly 2021 marks twenty years of Reconciliation Australia and almost three decades of Australia’s formal reconciliation processThe theme this year was More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.  

This session was a dialogue between Gunditjmara man Mark Rose (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy and Innovation), Narungga Woman Deb Milera and Gunditjmara man Tom MolyneuxThey discussed ways to meaningfully become effective allies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  


The most important point for reflection from this session was the great emphasis each speaker placed on engaging with the stories and lives of First Nations Peoples.

As Gunditjmara man Mark Rose puts it, ‘Part of the reconciliation conversation is having tough conversations about the things that went on in our national history. Not to dwell on the past, and not to make one party feel good here, then the other party feels bad, but for us to collectively accept as truth-telling the things that have happened in this country as indigenous and non-indigenous people.

‘We must come to a peace about these perspectives and put in place mechanisms so that they never happen again. To me, that’s what reconciliation is, it’s about national maturity’.  

This is about us all. Indigenous and non-indigenous people engaging in interesting and robust conversations and through them building our collective knowledge.  

Put your toe in the water and try it. If you’re a person of good heart and sincerity and you do step over the cultural line, don’t worry about it when no one’s going to beat you up, but you know we’d rather you have a go than not have a go’.
Gunditjmara man Mark Rose

In having such conversations, we should aspire to identify, acknowledge, and challenge the assumptions we all carry because this will move us all towards positive reconciliation. 

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our DTeach Newsletter.