Student Partnership Staircase - sparqs


The student partnership staircase is a simple tool developed by sparqs and used over the years in multiple contexts to generate discussion about the role that students play in quality.

The four stages of the staircase are:

  • Information provider (completion of surveys).
  • Actor (collector and analyst of feedback).
  • Expert (recognised as experts in learning).
  • Partner (authentic and constructive dialogue).

The staircase sets out how students might, at a basic level, merely provide information to their institution by filling out a survey, but also take on more advanced roles such as jointly owning tools of feedback and having a legitimate voice as an expert of in their learning (for instance where they have a perspective on learning that is not widely understood), through to having a role as a real partner with their institution. While not every student will act as a partner all the time, and some may never do more than be an information provider, the tool enables reflection on how all four stages in the staircase might be evidenced, and how undertaking lower levels can enable the fulfilment of higher levels.

Used in our 2018 guide on engaging students in online distance learning, it has also been at the heart of various staff development activities, institutional workshops with staff and student reps, and sectoral presentations aimed at exploring partnership. In 2021 an article about the staircase by former sparqs colleague, Simon Varwell, was published in the International Journal for Students as Partners, which provides a full introduction to it and how it can be used.

The staircase is a basis for discussion about the ways in which institutions and students’ associations can reflect on the roles students do and should play in quality, examples of which might indicate each level of the ladder, and the structures and cultures that contribute to a strong and healthy partnership.

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