Bringing student voices into university teacher induction

In a groundbreaking study that challenges traditional norms of teacher induction, a team of researchers from the University of Venda and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa has proposed a visionary approach that leverages the involvement of students in the induction of new university teachers.

The study, titled “Inclusion of students as key stakeholders and agents in the induction of new university teachers: Disrupting the induction status quo”, sheds light on the transformative power of incorporating student perspectives into the induction process.

Published in the esteemed journal, Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, this research explores an approach that could reshape the way higher education institutions introduce new academics to their teaching roles.

The study is authored by Fhatani Ravhuhali and Hlayisani Mboweni-Pataka from the University of Venda, along with Lutendo Nendauni from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Their work marks a departure from conventional teacher induction practices, which often exclude students from the process.

Instead, the researchers advocate for a paradigm shift that recognises students as central stakeholders and agents in shaping the academic landscape.

A collaborative educational ecosystem

The researchers draw from a broad theoretical framework and innovative practices, incorporating Students as Partners (SaP) pedagogical principles.

The SaP approach, originating from international academic hubs like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, emphasises collaborative efforts between students and faculty to enhance teaching and learning. This pedagogical framework challenges hierarchical structures and passive student roles, promoting shared responsibility and respectful collaboration.

This South African study applied the SaP approach to the induction of new university teachers, aiming to amplify student voices and perspectives. By involving students in debriefing sessions and round table discussions, the induction process becomes a dynamic exchange of insights and expectations.

This collaborative effort not only empowers students but also enriches new academics’ understanding of students’ challenges and aspirations. Such an approach transforms the induction process into a continuous, evolving journey of improvement, encouraging a more inclusive and effective teaching environment.

Empowering new academics through student engagement

One of the key findings of the study lies in the value of involving students in the induction process. By sharing their experiences, challenges, and expectations, students provide new academics with invaluable insights that enable them to refine their teaching methods.

This interaction not only fosters empathy but also facilitates a deeper understanding of students’ diverse backgrounds and needs. As universities strive for educational excellence, this study underscores the pivotal role of student inclusion in cultivating a holistic and effective learning environment.

Shaping the future of higher education

The implications of this study are far-reaching, calling for a radical shift in the way universities approach teacher induction. The study highlights the importance of co-creating knowledge and embracing student agency in shaping educational practices.

By integrating students as active stakeholders in decision-making processes, institutions can bridge the gap between students and academics, ensuring a more harmonious and impactful learning experience.

The study urges institutions to examine their own induction practices and recognise the unique contributions that student participation can offer. It encourages further research to explore the potential benefits of student inclusion in the induction of new academics across different institutions and settings.

Inclusive environments

As universities strive to create inclusive educational environments that prioritise collaboration and innovation, this pioneering study offers a blueprint for educational transformation.

In a world where education is continually evolving, this South African study challenges us to view students not merely as recipients but as partners in shaping the future of higher education.

This study is a beacon of innovation that may guide institutions toward a more inclusive, empathetic, and effective approach to teacher induction, ultimately paving the way for a brighter and more empowered generation of academics and students alike.

Dr Fhatani Ravhuhali is a senior educational and academic development practitioner and HOD Academic Development Unit (ADU) at the Centre for Higher Education Teaching and Learning (CHETL), University of Venda; Hlayisani Fredah Mboweni-Pataka is an educational and academic development practitioner at the ADU at CHETL, University of Venda; and Lutendo Nendauni is an academic literacy lecturer at the Fundani Centre for Higher Education and Development (CHED), Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa.