Cooperation formats and opportunities

Unit 2

Welcome to unit 2 – Cooperation formats and opportunities! In this unit you get insight into …

  • different (cooperation) formats within the framework of student engagement.
  • opportunities of engagement.

Learning goal

  • You know more about the different degrees of engagement.
  • You have a clear idea of the possible roles you can take on as a student.

Focus and degree of student engagement

Student participation can take different formats. The following classification may help to define student engagement.

The objects of student engagement

We can define the objects of student participation by considering what is shaped by engagement. Ashwin and McVitty (2015) distinguish between three main objects of engagement:

  1. Engagement to form individual understanding: engagement initiatives to improve learning outcomes.
  2. Engagement to form curricula: student engagement initiatives to develop the courses they study.
  3. Engagement to form community: student involvement in shaping institutions and societies.

Degrees of student engagement

To clarify the understanding of student engagement, we consider not only the objects but also the different degrees of engagement. According to Ashwin and McVitty (2015), one way to define the degree of engagement is to analyse how one of the three objects of student engagement (see above) is influenced by the students’ engagement. Ashwin and McVitty (2015) distinguish between three degrees of student engagement:


“In consultation, the idea is that students are asked for their views on a fixed process. Thus the object of engagement is not transformed by students’ engagement, but rather small amendments might be made.” 1


“In partnership, the emphasis is on reciprocity in relationships between students and academics, along with a shared responsibility for what is happening in the learning environment […] Here students engage with a pre-existing object of engagement, but there is the potential for this object to be transformed through the collaborative work of students, academics and their institutions.” 1


“In leadership, the emphasis is on the ways in which students can create new objects through their engagement. In this degree of engagement students set their own terms for what engagement entails and for the outcome of engagement.” 1

1 Ashwin, Paul; McVitty, Debbie (2015): The Meanings of Student Engagement: Implications for Policies and Practices. In: Adrian Curaj, Liviu Matei, Remus Pricopie, Jamil Salmi und Peter Scott (Hg.): The European Higher Education Area. Cham: Springer International Publishing, S. 343–359

Your opportunities to get involved

What does this classification mean for you? What kind of roles and opportunities of engagement can you take?

Students as consultants

Students share their knowledge and opinions within a well-defined context.

Areas of consultation

  • Formation of understanding: students are asked about the comprehensibility of the learning materials.
  • Formation of curricula: students are consulted about the content of their courses.
  • Formation of communities: students share opinions and raise issues through formal feedback and representation systems.
Students as partners

Students actively interact with academics about teaching and learning.

Areas of partnership

  • Formation of understanding: students and academics cooperate in teaching and learning to co-construct knowledge.
  • Formation of curricula: in partnership with academic staff students actively form the courses they will study.
  • Formation of communities: students form interest groups (student associations) to co-create higher education institutions – i.e. define student charters.
Students as leaders

Students create new elements of knowledge. Existing subject knowledge and university realities are critically reflected upon to develop something new.

Areas of leadership

  • Formation of understanding: i.e. students develop their own program of study to address those topics that are relevant for them.
  • Formation of curricula: the development of a curriculum is the responsibility of the students. They take the lead.
  • Formation of communities: students raise their voice outside of established student associations. They follow their own agenda instead of waiting for requests from universities.

Being more than a learner …

To get an idea of the roles that students can play, let’s take a look at the practical side of things. The following list gives a first insight into the different initiatives and the related roles a student can take.

Student as a buddy

Buddy systems of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria

Go back to module roles and cooperation formats