Skip to Main Content

Students as Partners Toolkit


Reflecting On and Evaluating SaP

Dr Trent Hennessey, Danielle Ambriano, Dr Karen Miller, and Craig Patterson


The importance of reflection and evaluation 

Reflecting on and evaluating SaP initiatives is vital to understand the experiences of both students and staff involved in the partnership (Burnie et al., 2021). It’s highly recommended to undertake reflection and evaluation activities at various points in a project rather than only after its completion. This way, a feedback cycle can be created to enable continuous improvement and the creation of reporting, as well as making students feel heard at a partnership level.

Pre-project activities

Consider developing a pre-project reflection session or survey with students and staff to capture their initial understandings of SaP, their expectations for the partnership, professional development interests, and other key topics useful to surface at the outset of a project. Incorporating reflective activities from the beginning of a partnership can establish a baseline of understanding that may be interesting to compare after the project when examining the learning and development outcomes of an initiative.

Mid-project health checklist 

At the start of your Students as Partners project you probably set out to create a “…reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally…” (Cook-Sather, Bovill and Felten (2014). But how do you know if you’re on the right track? Below are some thought prompts that you can use to circle back to your intentions and evaluate how your project is going while there’s enough time left to change. You may want to print this or modify it to create your own version; where possible we’ve identified and included questions from the first checklist, and questions from our experiences. We recommend you complete this with your student partners, even if you consider it separately and come together for a conversation to work towards a shared understanding.  

Themes  Criteria Rating
Personalised and supportive learning opportunity for student partner(s) 
  • Is the student partner still motivated and are they meeting their personal goals? 
  • How does the student partner understand the value they bring and the role they’re playing (empowerment)? 
  • How have the staff in the project supported the student partner to develop new skills or attributes? 
  • If asked, what would the student partner say these are? 
  • Was the student able to modify either the project design or structure (I.e., meeting times, meeting topics) to suit their needs? 
  • Logistically speaking, what improvements can be made (communication; accessibility; workload; time management)? 
  • Request an overall reflection on the personalised and supportive learning opportunity for the student partner(s) 
  • Are student partners effectively prioritising their studies? 
  • Do student partners think they have enough context and background information? Have they identified any skill gap that you can address?  
Possible ratings:
  • Needs improvement or modifications
  • Meets expectations
  • Exceeds expectations 
Time management 
  • Have all key stakeholders been kept updated on the project and been provided a chance to provide feedback (traffic light system)? 
  • Staff check-in and reflect on whether they’re under-estimating demands on the student partner. 
  • Coombe et al. (2018) identified time management as the most common challenge experienced by participants in their pilots (p. 89). How are student partners managing their time? 
Student as Partners Project Milestones or Objectives 
  • Has the scope of the project changed from the initial expectation? 
  • Are any aspects no longer relevant, or not going to be met by the project deadline? 
  • Would the student partners describe the partnership as authentic, or do traditional power imbalances remain? (Coombe et al. 2018, p. 91) 
  • Have early goals been met and/ or is progress on track for remaining goals? 


Post-project reflections and evaluations

End-of-project reflections and evaluations with staff and students can be undertaken using a variety of approaches, including surveys, focus groups, and written reflections. Consistent with the partnership model of working together, student partners can play an active role in designing and co-facilitating these activities. Another useful idea is to seek permission from participants to use content from the reflection and evaluation activities in testimonials for future promotions.

When designing your reflection and evaluation activities, creating space for more open-ended responses will help capture the broad range of learning and personal and professional development from the initiative. For example, evaluations with student partners have found SaP projects developed their confidence, enhanced their study and professional skills, helped them forge new social connections, and provided them with a sense of making a difference and more deeply appreciating how the university works (Burnie et al., 2021).  Themes within staff feedback have also revealed some interesting findings, with staff benefits centring on an enhanced sense of trust between staff and students, a deeper understanding of the student experience, a perceived shift from traditional hierarchical models of expertise, and increased motivation (Burnie et al., 2021).

Regardless of which approach you and your student partners choose, engaging in reflection and evaluation activities can support a shared understanding of the value of SaP which, in turn, can increase engagement and advocacy for the continuation of SaP initiatives. 

The following list contains some areas you may like to explore in your SaP reflection and evaluation activities.

Experience of the project  

  • Benefits and value
  • Challenges and pain points
  • Relevance and adequacy of training, professional development, and support
  • Operational and process improvements 
  • Future innovations and ideas

Experience of the partnership  

  • Understanding of students as partners approach
  • Power-dynamics of working in partnership

Personal development and social connections 

  • Motivations and expectations 
  • Confidence
  • Connections within the project
  • Connection to the broader university

Professional development  

  • Knowledge and skill development 
  • Applications and transferability of learning to studies, employability, and work