A first-time staff-student liaison committee in the School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies (SOPHIS) is set to launch next semester allowing students to raise and discuss academic issues on behalf of the student body from all disciplines in the school.
The committee, with student representatives from all year levels, will have a student-initiated agenda. Matters raised and discussed at the meetings will then be shared with key staff members and referred to the School Education Committee.
Envisioned to meet a few times a semester, the committee will create a forum in which students could have a voice on more structural issues such as the kinds of units currently offered by SOPHIS, as well as assessment and feedback.
Lecturer, Dr Suzy Killmister said such a mechanism does not currently exist to allow academic staff to get a sense of how students feel about certain matters. The initiative will endeavour to make the school a more welcoming space.
“If [students] have got opinions about certain kinds of assessment – what works and what doesn’t – that’s useful in for us to know and would be easier for us to implement,” Dr Killmister said.
“Some things aren’t within our control to change, but we could take it higher up but that would be a longer-term project.”
SOPHIS student, Tess Astle said the committee looks like a more productive approach to student feedback and staff-student relationships – especially compared to current methods.
“This committee is better as it takes a more proactive approach, it happens during the semester and creates a forum where students are given some agency for changing and improving their current course,” she said, adding that as the meeting agenda is set by both students and staff this empowers students to feel as though their voices are being heard and they are more involved with their learning.
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary History, Dr Kate Murphy agreed, saying staff wanted a more dynamic way to seek and respond to [student] feedback throughout semester.
“We decided to establish the committee because we were getting lots of useful informal feedback from students about teaching approaches & innovations, timing of assessment and feedback and unit offerings,” she said.
Tess is hopeful that the initiative will be valuable for everyone involved.
“I think a committee like this can really stand to benefit both students and staff. This committee starts a much needed conversation between staff and students here at Monash. I also think the committee creates good relationships between SOPHIS students off all areas. There are rarely interactions between students of different levels [and disciplines] and I think this committee creates a sense of connectedness between SOPHIS students that seems more supportive, especially when modern universities can be so isolating.”
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