A key challenge to all disciplines is ensuring that their curriculum provides students with the necessary range of skills to prepare them to be active global citizens. For political science educators, this has been reflected in emphasis being attached to a range of teaching innovations that have included a focus on role-plays and simulations, different approaches to assessment and the importance of feedback the use of technology the development of skills such as writing policy briefs and giving oral presentations the provision of placements and the integration of research methods.
This article describes the development of an innovative model of student learning that takes place outside the bounded nature of the established curriculum through the creation of a Policy Commission. The Policy Commission was established in 2013 by the University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dominic Shellard, after a series of conversations with colleagues in the Depart-ment of Politics and Public Policy, to create a platform where students and academic staff could work together to respond to issues of a contemporary concern over a time-limited period of enquiry. The Policy Commission sought to genuinely engage students as co-producers where students worked with staff to produce policy responses. It reflects on the experience of running the Policy Commission at De Montfort University over three academic years. The Policy Commission was open to participation from all university students, albeit with a disciplinary home in the Department of Politics and Public Policy. This study drew upon qualitative and quantitative data that was obtained from the students who participated. This included interviews with students that were undertaken after key events during each of the three iterations of the Policy Commission.
For the students who engaged in Commission work, the process of researching and discussing the ideas that formed the basis of the reports provided a major learning curve in terms of their understanding of the subject matter as well as developing skills in the areas of problem analysis, project management, presentation, confidence, social media, and communication. With an increasingly competitive employment market and a growing number of graduates, students must be offered as many opportunities as possible to broaden their skills and expertise. When asked about the expected impact that the Policy Commission would have on their future employment prospects, the majority of students who responded to the questionnaire regarded it as being particularly positive. To this end, the Commissions offered students an exceptional opportunity to meet politicians, observe, and intervene in the policy-making process, from the initial gathering of ideas, through researching existing proposals to the final formulation of tangible solutions. Indeed, the Commissions also challenged the students to be more engaged citizens. As such, the Commissions were an embodiment of our belief that politics means more to young people than Russell Brand’s ‘not voting revolution’. The Policy Commission module provides students with a creative learning environment that truly advances a co-learning and co-production educational experience.
The teaching of political science has a tendency towards traditional classroom-based learning environments. This article describes the development of an innovative model of student learning that takes place outside the bounded nature of the established curriculum through the creation of a Policy Commission. The Policy Commission established an innovative ‘community of action’ that challenged traditional perceptions of the lone student as a producer of knowledge. This article describes the work of the Policy Commission, which engaged students in the act of ‘doing Politics’ and discusses the impact that it had on student learning. The article examines the potential of the Policy Commission model to offer a new form of learning.
Engaging students as co-producers: A critical reflection on the policy commission model
Alasdair Blair, Steven Griggs, Eleanor Mackillop
First Published September 21, 2017 Research Article