Partnering with a Student Intern: an academic viewpoint
Lindsey Jones SFHEA is a Lecturer in Deaf Education within the School of Health Sciences. In this post she reflects on the benefits of working with two Student Partner Interns to effect manageable changes to her teaching practice while balancing a busy workload, and how it is hoped these changes will benefit students on this specialist professional course.
When the opportunity arose to work with some Student Partner Interns to develop our online learning, we jumped at the chance to have fresh eyes look at our programme. I met Emma Smith and Poppy Eastwood over Zoom (as is the way now) and found them sharp and enthusiastic to work with me to improve our student experience. The changes that I will make to my online modules because of the collaboration with Emma and Poppy are small and manageable, but I’m optimistic that they will have a positive impact on my students’ learning as well as improving my teaching both online and on campus.
The Deaf Education programme at Manchester has been running for over 100 years. We are leaders in the field, offering the PGDip in Deaf Education, a Department of Education requirement for qualified teachers to work as Teachers of the Deaf. Our students can study with us full-time on campus, or part-time either on campus or as a distance learner. We’re a small team (2 members of staff) but we work hard to ensure our students have a positive learning experience with us. Students on our online programme are as far flung as Cyprus, and within the UK we have students in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and, in England, as far south as Cornwall and as far north as Northumberland.
As a highly experienced teacher I’m constantly seeking for new ways to improve my practice, but as a relatively new academic I sometimes despair at my never-ending to do list and worry that I’m so busy doing, that I’m not dedicating enough time to reflecting. So, I can understand that you may read this and think that working with interns seems like a good idea, but you simply don’t have the time to talk through these things with a couple of students; it’s probably easier if you take a quick look at your modules yourself. Yes, maybe, but I would argue that the three hours or so that I spent with the interns have certainly saved me time at a basic level – I don’t now have to go through my module checking links are working and up to date etc – but on a more time-intensive level I now don’t have to spend tens of hours sourcing interactive software that’s compatible with Blackboard: the interns have researched and evaluated this for me – great!
However, the time gained that I value most is that which the students on our programme will gain – as a result of my collaboration with Emma and Poppy my module will be better set out and navigating my module will be more intuitive for students, thus reducing the time they need to spend clicking through content. The purpose and relevance of my tasks will be clearer and will stand out from the main content, allowing students to better plan what they need to do, strengthening their time management skills and hopefully supporting their own work/life balance.
The only disappointing thing about my project was that it came to an end (although I’ve already signed up for more) and I have recommended the project to my colleagues in the Division. If anyone wants to share a cup of coffee over Zoom to find out more about my intern experiences, I’m always happy to chat. Working with the interns gave me an opportunity to dedicate time to listen to and, crucially, act upon the views of students, and I’m optimistic that the changes I will make as a result of this experience will have a positive impact on teaching and learning in Deaf Education at Manchester.
Lindsey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org