How a Class Rep is like a Knitted Octopus 🐙
What do class reps and knitted octopuses have in common? Perhaps more than you might think. An individual class rep has a variety of jobs to do and forums in which they participate, we can think of those as the ‘tentacles’. They are performing a vital role, interpreting data and feedback from their class through a lens of constructive criticism. They deliver this evidence to SRUC and SRUCSA in a number of places: SLGs, SLCs, Campus Councils, Boards of Study, individual meetings, as well as delivering information back to their class.
Having a class rep who feels prepared and empowered to speak in one or many of these different forums gives us insight into the experience of our students. We have all been students at some point, but they are the experts in what it is like to be studying in our classrooms right now. They can highlight the good practice happening both inside and outside of class, as well as help us all find solutions to areas for improvement.
Like knitting, this isn’t necessarily an easy task.
Perhaps you have got the basics, a class rep who comes to Student Liaison Groups and shares feedback from the class, but you’re struggling to finish off the other tentacles. Perhaps you look at colleagues knitting and wonder if you’ve got a different pattern, as no department or year group of reps seem to turn out the same. Perhaps you’ve never been shown how to knit, try your best, but really struggle to get any elected reps at all. Or perhaps you’re just that person who could knit in your sleep and never has trouble getting class reps to come forward.
We see a range of challenges that staff and class reps face navigating the system, and we’d like to outline some of the steps SRUCSA is taking this year to help make the muddy waters of the staff-class rep partnership that little bit clearer.
SRUCSA – Making it easier to knit an octopus
Now, if we were knitting and came to a tricky bit, we’d hit YouTube for advice. We’re doing the same this year with the class rep system. Across all campuses our class reps are receiving training from sparqs’ Associate Trainers, who are all currently students at other HEIs with experience of being reps themselves. They are well-placed to guide our class reps on how to be good representatives, give an honest evaluation of the class’ attitudes, give depersonalised constructive criticism, and get the most out of their time of being a rep.
SRUCSA also want to make attending Campus Council meetings more appealing, so we are giving each campus council more resources to effect change on their own. Each campus council will be allocated a budget to distribute to local student projects as they see fit. This could be used to run social events on campus, for example. They will also be able to approve SRUCSA funding for clubs and societies, significantly streamlining the current system.
In the future, we will be finishing each year with a celebration of the achievements of the class reps. We will also work to generate an effective evaluation of what has or hasn’t worked this year. Here again, we will ask for input and advice from sparqs. Think of it as checking the seams of the finished piece, making sure no stuffing falls out, and adjusting the pattern for next year.
Working in partnership – Refining the knitting pattern
In an ideal world, our class reps would work in partnership with their programme team, an additional member who contributes to the continual enhancement of courses in a way that is accessible to them. We believe this is achievable, although it will take time. As SRUC works towards becoming a University, working in partnership with students in this way will be essential.
There is work to be done to create the class rep system of the future, and if we really want to progress it is important that we start knitting together. At the very least we’ll be able to share our ‘tips and tricks’, and we might find out that the patterns we’re using just aren’t best suited to creating the sort of class reps we need. Perhaps, we’ll decide that knitting isn’t that great, and we should try collage instead!
We want to start having these conversations with you, so that we can combine all our knowledge of what is good for staff and good for students into a class rep partnership that works for everyone.
Please get in touch with your experiences. If you have been trying something new with your reps or are struggling to get reps elected we would love to speak to you.