From the ethnographic observations of the pilot subject committees and focus groups, themes were drawn out from the data and cross-checked by multiple members of the research team. The themes identified were: practical processes; communication, dialogue and discussion; student engagement and participation; relationships, power and collaboration; and personal development and confidence.
The wiki was valuable in helping create the agenda and inform all members of the tabled items prior to the committee. However members need time to adjust to the new process and become active in contributing to the agenda formulation.
The new structure provided better use of time to discuss the items raised in a format that assisted discussion. As highlighted by the following quote
“It’s incredibly creative. I think what its probably shown is that.” Nursing Student Rep (Nursing student rep focus group)
The discourse generated good ideas and actions, however it was felt that these were not always documented appropriately and assigned clear responsibility.
Communication, Dialogue and Discussion
The observations and comments within the focus group provided clear evidence of communication, dialogue and discussion between all members of the committees. Highlighted in the following quotes taken from the focus groups.
“There was much more discussion. This was by far the most proactive meeting I’ve seen across the three years, having the ability to do it all workshop style.” Nursing Student (Nursing student rep focus group)
“It was mainly focussed around the students and the staff interacting together and talking about the issues. And I think for most of the session, for nearly the two hours we were in here, I think that’s what happened. Nothing else really happened; it was all about the discussions with the students and the staff. I think a much better use of the time. We scraped away anything that didn’t need to be in there.” Sports Staff Member (Sports staff focus group)
“I feel we’ve had more action points from this than any other subject committee meeting we’ve had…..because it’s been discussed people feel they have to take responsibility for it.” Nursing Student Rep (Nursing student rep focus group)
Student Engagement and Participation
Student engagement was clearly noted within the committee interactions, with students leading discussions and involved in setting actions / outcomes and leading feedback. The following comments demonstrate the increase in student engagement.
“Students just inputted when they felt they could and there was much more fluid discussion about ‘What are the issues?’ Students would contribute suggestions about how to perhaps solve some of those problems as well.” Sports Staff (Sports staff focus group)
“It is strength of the system to collate individual responses or agenda points and also how prepared they are to tell us individually what they’re thinking.” Nursing Staff (Nursing Staff FG, p7)
Student rep attendance and interaction with the wiki was noted as a concern by both staff and students
Relationships Power and Collaboration
There was evidence of a shift in power in the dynamics between staff and students. With staff and students commenting that they enjoyed the change in format of the meeting and this helped increase collaboration on items discussed in the meeting.
“You see definitely a different side to them, don’t you, than the formal either teaching or in the other meeting style it was very formal, everybody was in their place. This is a lot more casual and a bit more conversational.” Sports Student (Sports student rep focus group)
“I think for a rep it’s much more supportive. And I think you also got the best out of people because, working in smaller groups, you can be creative….” Nursing Student (Nursing student rep focus group)
The use of a student Co-Chair in the Nursing Subject Committee was well received by both staff and students who supported the role and benefit to the students having a student working alongside the Head of School.
Personal development & confidence
Students and staff felt more able to speak out confidently, articulating their ideas and thoughts at times they would normally have felt unable to talk.
“It’s the confidence to speak up and that is the most casual I’ve felt speaking with lecturers than I have all three years I’ve been here. I think if you can do that form year one you’re going to have some really strong relationships with your lecturers, which is important to learn.” Sports Student Rep (Sports student rep focus group)
“This format meant that I felt more confident to have an opinion. It was more of a conversation rather than being talked at.” Nursing Admin (Nursing staff focus group)
Areas for Development
The following were identified as things to consider for the future:
- wikis should be live all year round, prioritised by chair and updated live in the subject committee meeting with discussion points and actions;
- further thought should be provided prior to the meeting as to group formation and assignment of discussion items to groups;
- action points need to be clear with responsibility allocated and completion dates set;
- encourage further student reps to attend providing a more equal balance between academics and student reps.