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Students as Partners Toolkit


Dos and Don’ts When Planning Your SaP Project

Imogen Harris-McNeill and Mollie Dollinger


DoInvolve students early
Don'tLeave your assumptions unexamined

Once you have scoped and provided a draft outline of your SaP project, it’s time to involve students. By involving students early in the process, the students can help inform the aims or outcomes of the study and provide you with feedback on your draft project design. Student partners can also help shape the team dynamics, including setting roles and responsibilities of the team members, which can help them feel more empowered in their new role in the project. 

DoHave realistic expectations of your partners
Don'tUnderestimate the time required

Students are often busy, and even in paid student partner roles, are balancing multiple priorities relating to work, study, and family responsibilities. It’s important, therefore, to have realistic expectations of how much time student partners can give to the project, as well as how quickly they can reach milestones. Check in with students often, even weekly, to make sure the project isn’t interfering with other aspects of their life. 

Also remember that student partnership takes time! There is no doubt that if staff didn’t involve students, tasks could be done quicker. But the point here is that without student partners, the tasks, and related outcomes, might also be inappropriately or poorly designed. So, if you take the time to do SaP and you’ll save time in the long run. 

DoReach out to diverse, even disengaged, students
Don'tEngage with the usual suspects 

Most likely your SaP project is about helping students, for example, those who may be struggling academically, disengaged from their studies, or struggling to adjust to student life. It only makes sense then to try to have your student partners be from these cohorts as well, as they can provide the best expertise on how to help their peers in similar instances. When recruiting student partners or participants make it explicit you are looking for students who may be unhappy or have been challenged in their studies. Whenever possible hire and/or engage with this student cohort to understand how the university can be a more inclusive place for all students.