Changing a university culture to embed student learning partnerships

Shrinika Weerakoon


A common complaint from university lecturers is that students are ‘not interested’ and that it’s ‘difficult to get students engaged in learning’, portraying a passive student nature and student-blame culture. This paper draws on experiences at a university in a developing nation, Sri Lanka, where a student-led national insurrection led to thousands of student deaths, requiring universities to change teaching attitudes and the methods used to train those graduating. The article describes how a teaching-learning partnership evolved and was sustained to improve student learning and skills. Lecturer training-course comments and related student responses were analysed and lecturers were asked to use a 'script' when teaching. Initially, the script had only an 'Instructional Component', responding directly to staff complaints that students failed to follow, or followed poorly, guidance for effective learning. When that too failed, a further analysis led to the incorporation of a 'Motivational Component' to this script, which specifically clarified for students the partnership roles of teachers and students in order to bring about specified student learning benefits. This proved most effective in embedding a successful teaching-learning partnership, which engaged students and increased learning; it also changed lecturers' culture and their conceptions about student passivity.


engagement; change; higher education; skills, training

Full Text:



Ames, C.A. (1990) 'Motivation: What teachers need to know.' Teachers College Record, 91(3), 409-421.

Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for quality learning at university, 3rd edn. Buckingham, UK: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Chickering, A. W. and Gamson, Z. F. (1987) ‘Seven principles for good practice in under graduate education.’ AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3-7.

Ekaratne, S. and Weerakoon, S. (2013) 'How a nationwide student uprising brought about transformative quality enhancement in Sri Lankan Higher Education.' In: Gordon, G. and Land, R. (eds.) Quality Enhancement in Higher Education: International Perspectives. Oxford, UK: Routledge, 225-234.

Knowles, M.S. (1980) The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy (revised and updated). New York: Cambridge The Adult Learning Company.

Land, R. and Gordon, G. (2013) 'Meanings of Enhancement.' In: Gordon, G. and Land, R. (eds.) Quality Enhancement in Higher Education: International Perspectives. Oxford, UK: Routledge, 13-27.

National Union of Students (2009) Students baffled by feedback. Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2017).



  • There are currently no refbacks.