Involving students in your inquiry

In recent years, there has been a move towards engaging students as partners in SoTL. UBC’s Strategic Plan also emphasizes the importance of undergraduate students engaging in research as well as community engaged learners outside of the university. For example:

Core Area 2: Research Excellence (Strategy 8) – Student Research

Core Area 3: Transformative Learning (Strategy 13) – Practical learning

Both core areas stress the importance of students engaged in research and engaged / hands-on experiential learning opportunities. As more higher education institutions begin to stress the importance of engaging students both in and outside of the classroom, it is also important to think about how you can engage students to work collaboratively with you (and other students) in your current / future SoTL inquiry.

Kay, Dunne and Hutchinson (2010) for example, provide a framework for four approaches in which this can occur:

Students as evaluators 

Students as participants

Students as partners, co-creators and experts

Students as change agents

While these approaches often overlap, it is important to consider what level of engagement is most meaningful for your own SoTL inquiry, and how it will impact / benefit students in your classroom. While a project focusing on community engaged learning / experiential learning may engage students more directly in the research / practical learning process, there are other approaches that one may take. Get in touch with us if you would like support in this area!

Explore SoTL projects involving students as partners/co-researchers:

Enhancing personalized learning and engagement in a class with large enrolment

Exploring the Potential for First-Year Undergraduate Courses to Participate in Research Projects at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum


It is important to consider who you are inviting to participate in your project, and who you may be excluding. It is important not to make assumptions about who should be excluded based on their abilities, gender, race, class, and so on. Also consider any language barriers that may prevent students from participating in your project, and ensure that there are steps put in place that will maximize equal participation (a third-person who is fluent in both languages, translated text, etc.)

Additional resources on ethics:

MacLean, M., & Poole, G. (2010). An introduction to ethical considerations for novices to research in teaching and in Canada. Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(2), 1-10.

Burman, M., & Kleinsasser, A. (2004). Ethical guidelines for the use of student work: Moving from teaching’s invisibility to inquiry’s visibility in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Journal of General Education,53(1), 59-79.

Additional Resources:

  • 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(2), 195-208.
  • 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.
  • Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2016). Students as partners: Reflections on a conceptual model. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(2), 1-13.
  • Kay, J., Dunne, E., & Hutchinson, J. (2010). Rethinking the values of higher education – students as change agents? Gloucester: QAA. Retrieved from:
  • Lock, J., Johnson, C., Hill, L., Ostrowdun, C., & da Rosa dos Santos, L. (2021). From Assistants to Partners: A Framework for Graduate Students as Partners in SoTL Research. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 9(2), n2.
  • Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews, K. E., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., … & Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic literature review of students as partners in higher education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1).
  • Werder, C., Thibou, S., Simkins, S., Hornsby, K., Legg, K., & Franklin, T. (2016). Co-inquiry with students: When shared questions lead the way. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(2), 1-15.