Exploration of how curriculum co-creation advances student and staff aims for Scottish higher education
Lubicz-Nawrocka, Tanya Michelle
The Scottish higher education landscape has been evolving to place a greater emphasis on student engagement, in common with the higher education sector internationally. In the last ten years, discussion of curriculum co-creation and student/staff partnerships in learning and teaching have become increasingly prevalent in facilitating high levels of both student and staff engagement. My study seeks to provide a deeper understanding of what curriculum co-creation means in practice at Scottish universities, and how this approach affects students, staff, and their higher education institutions. My thesis focuses on how undergraduate students and staff at Scottish universities conceptualise co-creation of the curriculum, and how these conceptualisations relate to their aims for students within higher education. I draw on a wide range of interdisciplinary literature to examine aims for higher education and key themes in 21st Century higher education. I position co-creation of the curriculum within the wider literature on student development, student engagement, and student/staff partnerships while also looking at how different conceptualisations of the higher education curriculum affect how it can be co-created. I integrate different methodologies into my multi-phase, qualitative study. Through criterion and snowball sampling, I identified 24 staff and student co-creation practitioners at five Scottish universities who engaged in 15 curriculum co-creation initiatives. I conducted 20 in-depth, semi-structured interviews and one focus group discussion with these individuals during Phase 1. In Phases 2 and 3, I incorporated photo-elicitation methods embedded in an arts-based approach within four further focus group discussions and worked with two undergraduate student co-researchers using co-inquiry methods to learn from 25 students and staff who were not co-creating curricula. Drawing on aspects of a constructivist grounded theory approach, I analysed cross-cutting themes which emerged. My findings focus on participants’ aims for higher education, conceptualisations of student engagement and curriculum co-creation, and the benefits and challenges of co-creating curricula. I offer a new definition of curriculum co-creation that extends beyond broad notions of student/staff collaborations in curriculum development. I define the term as the values-based implementation of an ongoing, creative, and mutually-beneficial process of staff and students working together to share and negotiate decisionmaking about aspects of higher education curricula. Examining further the notions of creativity in curriculum development, innovation to develop enjoyment of learning and resilience, and democratic engagement to promote positive civic impact are particular contributions that my research makes to deepen current understandings of cocreation of the curriculum. I advance connections between risk in curriculum cocreation and the development of self-authorship to help individuals face complex challenges and develop stronger democratic societies. Curriculum co-creation enacts participants’ aims to foster not only individuals’ personal and professional development but also their ability to advance social justice and have a positive impact on their communities.