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Students as Co-Inquirers: A Long History with Deep Roots

By Carmen Werder

The Students as Co-Inquirers special interest group formed when ISSOTL began, making it one of the inaugural SIGs. The formation of this group was a natural outcome of the work that had been happening for many years under the auspices of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). In fact, the roots go back to 1998 when the Carnegie Campus Conversations program began with 150 or so institutions signing on to begin a dialogue about their learning environments. At Western Washington University (WWU), that conversation made an important turn in 1999 when one of our education faculty members wondered, “where are the students?” That question initiated an immediate response from those of us involved and our institutional commitment to this co-inquiry has never wavered. At the same time, one of the other Campus Conversations schools – Elon University -  also foregrounded the role of student voices in their work. As a result, CASTL awarded WWU and Elon a “Going Public” award to advance the collaboration with students, and we used the support to co-present with students at a CASTL convening in 2000.

Under the auspices of its Campus Program, CASTL continued to be the leading advocate for engaging student voices by sponsoring a cluster of institutions who shared that commitment called “Sustaining Student Voices” (2003-2006). This cluster, which WWU led, also included California State University (Long Beach), North Seattle Community College, University of Maryland (College Park) , and the University of Washington (Bothell). Together, these faculty and student cluster participants developed a set of “Eco-principles for Sustaining Student Voices in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” In 2006, before that year’s ISSOTL conference in D.C., CASTL again carried the banner with its Institutional Leadership Program sponsoring a second cluster of schools committed to “Sustaining Student Voices” (2006-2009). Again coordinated by WWU, this cluster included some of the same institutions as the previous iteration, California State University (Long Beach) and North Seattle Community College, and also added  Illinois State University, Elon University,  and later University of Nevada (Las Vegas). For an overview of these collective contributions, see

Like ISSoTL itself, the Students as Co-inquirers SIG has a deeply rooted history in the work of CASTL. But I would be remiss in recounting this history if I didn’t highlight the role that Megan Otis played in creating it. Megan and I worked together for many years beginning when she was an undergraduate and then a graduate student at WWU and culminating when we co-edited and contributed to Engaging Student Voices in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Megan was the one who pushed for us to propose the SIG and drafted the proposal to create it. The 78 members listed on our current SIG list serv can thank Megan Otis, CASTL, and the many wonderful colleagues who participated in the Student Voices initiatives over these many years.

Since forming, this SIG has advanced a number of proposals to the ISSoTL Board to support students as partners in this work including advocating for scholarships for student travel, lower student conference rates, and creating a student position on the board. Recently, a number of SIG participants joined together in a proposal for a special issue of Teaching & Learning Inquiry focused on “students as co-inquirers,” and we’re happy to report that the TLI editors have enthusiastically endorsed the proposal with a publication date of 2016. Anyone interested in joining this lively SIG can contact co-chairs Carmen Werder, or Roselynn Verwoord,

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