Active Student Participation

How can you work with active student participation?

What can active student participation look like? Why do students and teachers work with it? To answer some of these questions, we have looked at a variety of examples of active student participation at Uppsala University.

What can active student participation look like? Here are a few examples from the film:

  • Field trips and sessions organized by the students: There are several ways students can contribute to the teaching. Students can organize field trips for each other, highlight a missing perspective by inviting a guest speaker, or hold workshops and seminars for fellow students. For ideas, see examples of active student participation in a course.
  • Students as mentors or seminar leaders: Several departments at Uppsala University have mentoring programs or so-called "Supplemental Instruction", in which more experienced students lead small study groups for fellow students. See the film and learn more about mentoring.
  • Students as supervisors in problem-based learning (PBL): At some courses in the medical program, the students work as PBL supervisors. Read more about PBL and see the film.
  • Students as ambassodors of higher education: Masters students in sustainable development have started an organization Ekolibria, where they work with secondary school students on sustainable development issues. See their presentation on how Ekolobria works or check out their homepage.  
  • Student-led courses: At CEMUS it is employed students who lead the courses. See the film about CEMUS and the written material in Good Examples, or check out the homepage. 
  • Students review course literature: The Uppsala Student Union runs a literature review project where it has, for example, collaborated with the Department of Law. See their presentation at the ASP days, or read more on the union's website.
  • Students highlight perspectives they feel are missing: Students from the engineering program have started an organization, The Reflective Engineer (Den Reflekterande Ingenjören, DRI), that, among other things, organizes seminars around issues students feel are missing from their ordinary courses, such as ethics and sustainable development. Check out the film and read more about DRI!

What can I do?

Start working with ASP

Challenges and Opporunities

Start simple! Concrete Examples

There are endless ways to work with active student participation. A characteristic feature of ASP is that students have the opportunity to be a resource in each other's learning, and that students contribute to teaching. Often this involves a collaboration between students and teachers, both of whom are involved in a partnership for better learning.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY? More active students leads to more engaging and stimulating teaching, for both students and teachers. Read more about the research, or watch the film "What are people taking from ASP?". 

WHAT CAN I DO? There are several examples of how you can easily start working with ASP. You can start here to get some tips and advice, or check out our Good Examples

What does research say about active student participation?

Here you can find summarized articles on different forms of active student participation. The articles are organized under five themes and can act as support material for students and teachers that would like to start working with or further develop active student participation initiatives. You can also find a larger list of selected readings in pdf form here. 

Student and Faculty Partnerships

Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education Mick Healey, Abbi Flint, Kathy Harrington, 2014

This reading offers a pedagogical case for students as partners in teaching and learning, recognising it as a process of student engagement, a central notion being partnership learning communities. Building long-lasting partnership learning communities requires embedding it within the culture and ethos of the university, as well as critical reflection on how it is built. Healey et al. include a wide variety of examples of ways of working. 

Full citation: Healey, M., Flint, A., Harrington, K. (2014) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

Supplemental Instruction: 

​Benefits of Guiding Supplemental Instruction Sessions for SI Leaders: a Case Study for Engineering Education at a Swedish University Joakim Malm, Leif Bryngfors, Lise-Lotte Mörner, 2012

This study explores the benefits that the student leaders of Supplemental Instruction (SI) may gain with a focus on engineering students at Lund University. The authors include many quotations of SI leaders reported experiences and show an overall positive picture for the gains that SI leaders experience. The themes of improvement are reported as improved communication, improved interpersonal skills, improved leadership skills, improved self-confidence, and deeper understanding of the course content.

Full citation: Malm, J. Bryngfors, L., and Mörner, L. (2012) Benefits of Guiding Supplemental Instruction Sessions for SI Leaders: a Case Study for Engineering Education at a Swedish University. Journal of Peer Learning, 5(1). 

Peer Tutoring

​The effectiveness of peer tutoring in further and higher education: A typology and review of the literature Keith J. Topping, 1996

Topping defines peer tutoring as, “people from similar social groupings who are not professional teachers helping each other to learn and learning themselves by teaching” (1996, p.322) and explains that it is characterized by role taking. Topping covers many of the pedagogical advantages of peer tutoring shown in the literature. One of these benefits Topping draws on is that, by delegating the management of learning to the students in a democratic way, peer tutoring “seeks to empower students rather than de-skill them by dependency on imitation of a master culture, and might reduce dissatisfaction and unrest” (1996, p. 325). The article goes through many forms of peer tutoring, noting than the form can varying depending on context and purpose.

Full citation: Topping, K. (1996) The effectiveness of peer tutoring in further and higher education: A typology and review of the literature. Higher Education, 32, 321-345. 

Co-creating curricula

​An investigation of co-created curricula within higher education in the UK, Ireland and the USA Catherine Bovill, 2014

This research investigates students and staff working in partnership to co-create curricula from the UK, Ireland, and the US. In focus is the approach taken in each partnership example. The author explored the following questions: What levels and types of student participation in curriculum design have been achieved in the three examples? What approaches have been used to achieve student participation in curriculum design? and What are the outcomes for students and staff?

Full citation: Bovill, C. (2014) An investigation of co-created curricula within higher education in the UK, Ireland and the USA. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51(1), 15-25. 


​A call for expanding inclusive student engagement in SoTL Peter Felten, Julianne Bagg, Michael Bumbry, Jennifer Hill, Karen Hornsby, Maria Pratt, Saranne Weller, 2013

These authors discuss why certain students tend to be excluded from SoTL (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning), how SoTLs could increase the diversity of student voices heard within their initiatives, and what the potential benefits of doing this are. Their starting point is the transformative potential of student-faculty partnerships in curriculum development, teaching, and SoTL, yet Felten et al. digress directly into the challenges that exist within these contexts. Indeed, “an uncritical adoption of student engagement practices might reinforce existing hierarchies amongst the tutor-student and student-student relationships” to the extent that the “presence of institutional and social power relations can, therefore, lead to the silencing of some students’ voices” (Robinson 2012:10 as cited by Felten et al. 2013). “At the same time, a society’s exclusionary practices linked to gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation and socio-economic status can be reconfigured in the academy to also silence certain voices” (Felten et al. 2013:64). As such, they acknowledge that there is no homogenous student voice and argue for a critical approach as to which voices are silenced or excluded in SoTL work.

Full citation: Felten, P., Bagg, J., Bumbry, M., Hill, J., Hornsby, K., Pratt, M., Weller, S. (2013) A Call for Expanding Inclusive Student Engagement in SoTL. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 63-74.