A Systematic Literature Review of Students as Partners in Higher Education


  • Lucy Mercer-Mapstone University of Queensland
  • Sam Lucie Dvorakova University of Queensland
  • Kelly E Matthews University of Queensland
  • Sophia Abbot Trinity University
  • Breagh Cheng McMaster University
  • Peter Felten Elon University
  • Kris Knorr McMaster University
  • Elizabeth Marquis McMaster University
  • Rafaella Shammas McMaster University
  • Kelly Swaim Elon University




students as partners, student-staff partnership, higher education, systematic literature review


“Students as Partners” (SaP) in higher education re-envisions students and staff as active collaborators in teaching and learning. Understanding what research on partnership communicates across the literature is timely and relevant as more staff and students come to embrace SaP. Through a systematic literature review of empirical research, we explored the question: How are SaP practices in higher education presented in the academic literature? Trends across results provide insights into four themes: the importance of reciprocity in partnership; the need to make space in the literature for sharing the (equal) realities of partnership; a focus on partnership activities that are small scale, at the undergraduate level, extracurricular, and focused on teaching and learning enhancement; and the need to move toward inclusive, partnered learning communities in higher education. We highlight nine implications for future research and practice.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, University of Queensland

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone is a PhD student in the Sustainable Minerals Institute and a co-fellow in the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Sam Lucie Dvorakova, University of Queensland

Lucie S. Dvorakova is an honors student with the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and a summer scholar at the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Kelly E Matthews, University of Queensland

Kelly E. Matthews is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Sophia Abbot, Trinity University

Sophia Abbot is a Fellow for Collaborative Programs at the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching at Trinity University, United States. 

Breagh Cheng, McMaster University

Breagh Cheng is a recent graduate of the Honors Bachelor of Science Program at McMaster University, Canada.

Peter Felten, Elon University

Peter Felten is Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and Professor of history at Elon University, United States.

Kris Knorr, McMaster University

Kris Knorr is the Program Area Lead for Educational Development at McMaster’s MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching, Canada.

Elizabeth Marquis, McMaster University

Elizabeth Marquis is an Assistant Professor in the Arts & Science program at McMaster University and Associate Director (Research) of the university's MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching, Canada.

Rafaella Shammas, McMaster University

Rafaella Shammas is an honors Arts and Science and Biochemistry student at McMaster University, Canada.

Kelly Swaim, Elon University

Kelly Swaim is an honors student of history education at Elon University, United States.


Allin, L. (2015). Collaboration between staff and students in the scholarship of teaching and learning: The potential and the problems. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 2(1), 95-102. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.2.1.95

Amundsen, C., & Wilson, M. (2012). Are we asking the right questions? A conceptual review of the educational development literature in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 90-126. doi:10.3102/0034654312438409

Aroa, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: a new way to frame dialogue diversity and social justice. In L. Landreman (Ed.), The art of effective facilitation (pp. 135-150). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Bird, C., & Koirala, B. (2002). Partnership in education: A review of modalities and their potential application in service delivery within the government primary education sector. Kathmandu: European Commission Basic Primary Education Project.

Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (2013). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: The challenge of design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), 698-712. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2012.691462

Bovill, C., Aitken, G., Hutchison, J., Morrison, F., Roseweir, K., Scott, A., & Sotannde, S. (2010). Experiences of learning through collaborative evaluation from a postgraduate certificate in professional education. International Journal for Academic Development, 15(2), 143-154. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13601441003738343

Bovill, C., Cook‐Sather, A., Felten, P. (2011). Students as co‐creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: Implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2), 133-145. Retrieved from

Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2016). Cultivating student–staff partnerships through research and practice. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(1), 1-3. doi:10.1080/1360144X.2016.1124965

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: Overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student-staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71, 195-208. doi:10.1007/s10734-015-9896-4

Bryson, C. (Ed.) (2014). Understanding and developing student engagement. New York: Routledge.

Cook-Sather, A. (2014). Student-faculty partnership in explorations of pedagogical practice: A threshold concept in academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 19(3), 186-198.
Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2013.805694

Cook-Sather, A. (2015). Dialogue across differences of position, perspective, and identity:
Reflective practice in/on a student-faculty pedagogical partnership program. Teachers College Record, 117(2), 1-42. Retrieved from http://repository.brynmawr.edu/edu_pubs/32/

Cook-Sather, A. (2016). Creating brave spaces within and through student-faculty pedagogical partnerships. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 18. Retrieved from http://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss18/1

Cook-Sather, A., & Abbot, S. (2016). Translating partnerships: How faculty-student collaboration in explorations of teaching and learning can transform perceptions, terms, and selves. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(2), 1-14. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/10.20343/teachlearninqu.4.2.5

Cook-Sather, A., & Agu, P. (2013). Students of color and faculty members working together toward culturally sustaining pedagogy. To Improve the Academy, 32, 271-285.

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

Cook-Sather, A. & Felten, P. (2017). Ethics of academic leadership: Guiding learning and teaching. In F. Su & M. Wood (Eds.), Cosmopolitan perspectives on academic leadership in higher education (pp. 175-191). London: Bloomsbury.

Dawson, P., & Dawson, S. L. (2016). Sharing successes and hiding failures: “Reporting bias” in learning and teaching research. Studies in Higher Education, 1-12. doi:10.1080/03075079.2016.1258052

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, 1(2), 63-74. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.1.2.63

Flint, A. (2016). Moving from the fringe to the mainstream: opportunities for embedding student engagement through partnership. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(1), 1-6. Retrieved from https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/raise/article/view/382/340

Hart, R. A. (1992). Children's participation: From tokenism to citizenship. Innocenti Essay, 4, 1-38. Retrieved from https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/100/

Healey, M. (2016) Students as partners and change agents: A selected bibliography. Retrieved from: www.mickhealey.co.uk/resources

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education
Academy. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/engagement-through partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher-education

Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009). Developing Undergraduate Research and Inquiry. York: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resource/developing-undergraduate-research-and-inquiry

Kennedy, M. M. (2007). Defining a literature. Educational Researcher, 36(3), 139-147. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X07299197

Kuh, G. (2007, June 15). How to help students achieve. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(41), B12–B14. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Help-Students Achieve/31980/

Levy, P. (2011). Embedding inquiry and research into mainstream higher education: A UK perspective. CUR Quarterly, 32(1), 36-42. Retrieved from http://www.cur.org/publications/curquarterly/

Little, S. (Ed.) (2011). Staff-student partnerships in higher education. London: Continuum.

Macfarlane, B. (2016). The performative turn in the assessment of student learning: A rights perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(7), 839-853. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2016.1183623

Marquis, E., Puri, V., Wan, S., Ahmad, A., Goff, L., Knorr, K., Vassileva, I., & Woo, J. (2016). Navigating the threshold of student-staff partnerships: A case study from an Ontario teaching and learning institute. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(1), 4-15. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2015.1113538

Marquis, E. (2016 unpublished manuscript). Undergraduate research and student-staff partnerships: Supporting the development of student scholars at a Canadian teaching & learning institute. McMaster University. Manuscript in preparation.

Matthews, K. E. (2016). Students as partners as the future of student engagement. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(1) 1-5. Retrieved from https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/raise

Matthews, K.E., Cook-Sather, A., & Healey, M. (in press). Connecting learning, teaching, and research through student-staff partnerships: Toward universities as egalitarian learning communities. In V. Tong, A. Standen, & M. Sotiriou (Eds.), Research equals teaching: Inspiring research-based education through student-staff partnerships. London: UCL Press.

Matthews, K. E., Divan, A., John-Thomas, N., Lopes, V., Ludwig, L. O., Martini, T. S., Motley, P. & Tomljenovic-Berube, A. M. (2013). SoTL and students' experiences of their degree-level programs: An empirical investigation. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 1(2), 75-89. doi:10.1353/iss.2013.0020

Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Groenendijk, L., & Matthews, K. E. (in press). Idealism, conflict, leadership, and labels: Reflections on co-facilitation as partnership practice. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education.

Neary, M. (2014). Student as producer: Research-engaged teaching frames university-wide curriculum development. CUR Quarterly, 35(2), 28-34.

Newton, F., & Ender, S. (2010). Students helping students: A guide for peer educators on college campuses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Plymouth University (2016). Students as partners. Retrieved from https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/students-as-partners

Taylor, P., & Wilding, D. (2009). Rethinking the values of higher education: The student as collaborator and producer? Undergraduate research as a case study. Gloucester, England: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

The University of Queensland (2016). Student Strategy 2016-2020 White Paper. Retrieved from https://student-strategy.uq.edu.au/files/453/Student-Strategy_WhitePaper.pdf

Werder, C., & Otis, M., (Eds.). (2010). Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Werder, C., Thibou, S., & Kaufer, B. (2012). Students as co-inquirers: A requisite theory in educational development. Journal of Faculty Development, 26(3), 34–38.




How to Cite

Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews, K. E., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Knorr, K., Marquis, E., Shammas, R., & Swaim, K. (2017). A Systematic Literature Review of Students as Partners in Higher Education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1), 15–37. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i1.3119



Research Articles