To be participatory or not to be? : Feedback  from a student’s perspective.

The post is a compilation of the first thoughts of the Oxfam Novib Academy students on reading Duncan Green’s post for LSE’sInternational Development Blog. Head of Research at Oxfam GB, he shares his
experience when teaching at LSE and explains how he organically used a
participatory approach (PDIA) in his classes to create structure and content
with his students. 
His post is written from his experience as a
professor; however, as students, how would this look like for us? Let’s see the
conversation that ensued amongst us!
Given below is a link to Duncan Green’s post:

Lisette: “It’s great how people re-discover the fundamentals
of “participation” the second they have taken their eyes off it. I
think it’s important to tailor a subject to the interests and demands of the
students who are currently following it. But, as having been a Student
Assistant in subjects that I am also following, I know that there are always
the standards, demands and expectations of the university and their education
committees. In that sense, as long as the subject has a clear format with clear
learning goals and outcomes- it is a workable format.

For students it can be
great to have a say! But an important point to note is that this works well
BECAUSE they are Master’s students who have a semi-outspoken interest in
issues. I guess the same experiment with Bachelor students would end-up in higher
funny-video content…. And sometimes it can be nice for a student to
experience a well structured, thought-out  subject where all one has to do is follow the

Maybe this is a typical
social scientist’s answer, but I would say: the success and usefulness really
depends on the context!”

Tasneem : “While I am all for PDIA approach as it sounds very
democratic and engaging, I would have some concerns regarding content changes.
During my Bachelors for example, we had a very ‘left’ oriented development
economics professor. There were a lot of students in my class however who did
not agree and who wanted to study economics from a neo-liberal perspective. He
tried to integrate everyone’s demands into the curriculum, but he also did NOT
modify it much. He wanted us to be exposed to something apart from the
mainstream, which I think now in retrospect everyone is thankful for. 
So participatory definitely sounds very appealing perhaps for the structure of
the lectures, but sometimes students need to be ready to explore the ‘(un)interesting’
and trust the professor in terms of the content. And Lisette, I definitely agree with you about the level of the
students (MA or BA). I think the success of the method is very much correlated
to the size of the class as well. I am surprised he managed to pull this off with
a 100 students!”

Jan: “Providing students with the opportunity to be heard can
be very useful to improve education. Students appreciate it when other people
(show they) care about their opinions. From my point of view, however, this
should not be overdone, in particular concerning the content of university
teaching. Students enter university to familiarize themselves with a critical
attitude, one that helps them to continuously expand their horizon. Knowledge
brought to students in lectures should be seen as providing them with the
fundamentals/tools to ‘grow’ such an attitude. The real learning, however,
comes from the students themselves. For example, when they are working with
basic tools and knowledge; as an intern, participating in discussion groups,
writing essays or articles. A professor can ask the students for advice to
improve the transfer of knowledge, but doing this every lecture is time/energy
consuming and even perhaps an obstacle for professors who would like to follow
their own path!. An evaluation at the end of the program, or after 4 weeks, is
much more suitable as the students 1) have already an overview and 2) have also
a better feeling of what kind of professor they are sharing feedback with”

Duncan Green’s post definitely got a conversation
going amongst us at the Oxfam Novib Academy! If you want to join in the
conversation, feel free to contact us and reblog!


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