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Ako in Action: Co-constructing learning and teaching with students and staff

Wednesday 3 July: 5:30pm – 7:00pm, poster session



Dr Kathryn Sutherland
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Ali Cooper
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Emma Tennent
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Isabella Lenihan-Ikin
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Dr Irina Elgort
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand



Our university has embedded a bicultural approach to learning and teaching that recognises the value of akoranga, translated in our strategic plan as “collective responsibility for learning.” Akoranga derives from the Māori word, ako, which means both to teach and to learn, and is enacted, in part, through “including students in the design, development and evaluation of learning and teaching, and by learning how to learn and teach from each other. We see the process of akoranga as key to developing lifelong learners” (L&T Strategy, 2017, p. 6).

This poster describes a partnership approach where students and staff co-conceived, designed, developed, trialled and launched a programme to reflect upon and improve learning and teaching at our university. The poster also depicts the challenges, failures, missteps, and thrills along the way. Deliberately avoiding the ‘students as partners’ label (because why should students be the only ones who have to adopt a new identity as partners?) we named our programme Ako in Action, and we encouraged all participants to think of themselves as both learners and teachers. Ako in Action is grounded in five key principles from our university’s learning and teaching strategy: whanaungatanga (an extended family of collaborative learners), rangatiratanga (autonomous learners and leaders), whai mātauranga (intellectual curiousity), kaitiakitanga (the guardianship of knowledge and wellbeing), and manaakitanga (a generous fostering of knowledge). We collected both reflective commentaries from staff and students, as well as pre- and post-programme data. Our evaluation shows that Ako in Action provides staff with iterative, regular, just-in-time, reflective student perspectives on their teaching, and students with increased awareness of their own capacities as learners and leaders. Participants also develop empathy for others and a stronger commitment to reflective, deep learning.


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