class representative handbook
class representative handbook Brought to you by VUWSA Class Reps
Kia ora, and thank you for volunteering to contributing to the quality of learning and teaching at Victoria University by taking on the role of Class Representative. As a Class Rep, you are able to facilitate immediate improvements in learning opportunities for you and your class. You are a vital link between your class, your lecturer and the University. At the same time you will personally benefit from the training and experience of being an advocate and a spokesperson for a group of your peers. Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) values this role very highly. It is committed to making sure that students have the best learning opportunities that it can provide and values communication with students to achieve that goal. The Victoria University of Wellington Students Association (VUWSA) has been contracted to manage the class representative system by ensuring that class reps are appointed in each class, that they receive training for the role and that they have a point of contact for advice and guidance on dealing with any issues. This Handbook aims to provide you with written guidance on how to be effective in your role. It will be complemented by training sessions and personal contact with the VUWSA Class Representation Organiser, Dr. Fiona Beals.
David Crabbe 2012 Assistant Vice Chancellor (Academic)
Josh Wright 2012 VUWSA Vice President (Academic)
What happens now?
the role of class reps
The Importance of Class Representatives Responsibilities of Class Representatives
Working with the support of the Class Representation Organiser and Course Co-ordinator/s, you should: You should NOT:
being visible: from face to face meetings to virtual reality Working with Facebook
what a class representative should focus on
Course Content and Structure Teaching Methods Assessment and Feedback Academic Support Course Organisation and Management Teaching Facilities and Learning Resources Personal Development Student Involvement Student Privacy
9 9 10 11 12 12 12 13 14
assisting students who have a problem
15 programme reviews 15 benefits for being a 16
staff/student liaison meetings
class representative Academic Personal Food and Prizes Other Opportunities for Representation
support and services available VUWSA VUWSA Contacts Useful Resources and Services Relevant VUWSA Services Victoria Services
16 16 16 17
18 18 18 19 19 19
class rep functions 20 class rep registration form
introduction what happens now? 1. Register
Fill out the registration form with your correct contact details. Return the form to your lecturer who will then pass the form on to your School Manager. The School Manager will compile a list of Class Reps to send through to the Class Representation Organiser at VUWSA, the organisation contracted by VUW to provide support and training to Class Reps. Your details will be entered into a database so you can easily be contacted.
2. Attend a Training Session
To register quickly for Training, check out the Class Rep page on the VUWSA website and email the Education Organiser with your preferred session and time. Do this as soon as possible to ensure that you donâ€™t miss out.
Check Out: www.vuwsa.org.nz/representation/class-reps-2/
Remember, you have to attend ONE training session EVERY Academic Year to qualify for the Class Rep Certificate. There are two levels of training: Basic (for first time Class Reps) and Advanced (for returning Class Reps). Sessions are designed to inform and empower you in your role. They show you how you can best serve your class. They include guest speakers and food.
3. Be Visible and Known
Introduce yourself as the Class Rep to your course co-ordinator/s; provide them with your contact details.
Organise a meeting with your course co-ordinator/s to discuss how best to work together during the trimester. Talk about how they would like to receive feedback from the class and how you work together to address any issues that may arise.
Make yourself and your contact details (email only) known to your classmates by standing up in class and introducing yourself. Ask your lecturer to put your details on Blackboard, your course webpage or your programmeâ€™s noticeboard so it is easy for people to get in touch with you. Consider providing your lecturer with a photo so that other students can recognise you.
During the Trimester, provide further opportunities for your class to talk to you so that you can provide feedback to staff involved in your course. Talk with your course co-ordinator/s to how you might best do this.
Visibility and feedback are the most important responsibilities of a Class Rep!
In the past, Class Reps have:
• Provided time (10-15 minutes) after lectures so that students can talk to them;
• Re-introduced themselves and their role to the class throughout the Trimester;
• Used a discussion board on Blackboard or the class webpage;
• Negotiated with their co-ordinators a strategy to use Blackboard notices and/or class emails;
• Created a Class Facebook page for general discussion (check out our tips on using social media if you are keen to start a course Facebook page).
the role of class representatives the importance of class representatives Your voice Matters. As a Class Rep, you are seen as a leader who can speak and share the experiences of your class. When you speak, the University listens.
Class Reps provide the first point of contact for other students in their class. They are able to quickly resolve basic problems and offer support and guidance. But most of all, they are the eyes and ears of the students at Victoria. They provide an important link between students, academic staff and the office of the Assistant Vice Chancellor (Academic). Class Reps provide an important point of consultation when changes need to be made or are being proposed. Without Class Reps, the student voice at Victoria would be small and absent in decision-making. Essentially, Class Reps work within Victoria’s academic representation structures to provide constructive feedback to academic staff and student representatives in Faculty and University committees regarding the quality of teaching and assessment, course content and facilities.
International research shows Class Reps are the most effective form of student representation in university structures. This is because Class Reps can bring about change that other students can see and experience. Victoria has recognised this and has a Class Representative policy to ensure that every Undergraduate student has access to a Class Rep and that Postgraduate courses have the option of electing Class Representatives.
responsibilities of class representatives
• Provide course and programme related feedback • Ready to provide a student perspective in student consultation.
• Take the views of Class Reps and the Student Forum to faculty and University Committees
• A space to discuss student opinion on the student experience at Victoria
• Directs student consultation and voice through to Faculty and University Committees.
• Have a voice in programme and policy approval/ development.
Class Representation Organiser at VUWSA: Providing Support and advice/Ensuring a clear flow of information.
Working with the support of the Class Representation Organiser and Course Co-ordinator/s, you should: At the beginning of the Trimester:
• Make sure the students you represent know you and how to contact you;
• Attend a training session.
Then, in your course: • Ensure that the aims and objectives of your course are being covered in learning and assessment; • Consult with fellow students to identify highlights in course learning and teaching approaches, arising issues and student needs;
• Be available to listen and prepared to help/support students with their concerns;
• Keep lecturers informed of positive aspects of course delivery and assessment and any arising issues. And, in your school with the support from the VUWSA Education Office: • Attend Staff/Student Liaison meetings and any Class Rep meetings called by your school, the Class Representation Organiser or the Student Forum;
• Relay University, Student Forum and VUWSA Information to your class;
• Consult with students on University matters when they arise;
• Participate fully in Academic Reviews of Programmes when they occur.
You should NOT: • Overload yourself with Class Rep work to the extent that it has a negative impact on your studies or stress levels;
• Deal with large scale or intensive advocacy cases;
• Deal with harassment or serious conflict cases;
• Counsel students with personal problems.
In these situations listen to the student and refer them onto the VUWSA Student Advocate.
being visible: from face to face meetings to virtual reality Most Class Reps want to know at the end of the Trimester that they volunteered for a reason and that they made a difference to the learning and teaching happening in their course. However, if you are keen to feel that your role matters, then it is important to be proactive. This means BEING visible. You should be known by both the students in your course and/or programme and the teaching/support staff in your course and school. Generally, Class Reps rely on making themselves physically known. They may stand up in front of the lecture theatre or make regular meetings with the academic staff in their course. Some Reps even make themselves known to support staff, such as the course administrators.
Make it your Goal this Trimester: have your name positively known by all the students in your class and the teaching staff in your course!
However, relying on the times that you can physically show yourselves to others can be quite restrictive. Not all students attend lectures and some Class Reps find themselves representing a cohort of students in a programme so getting around to all papers can be very difficult. This is where social media can be very helpful. But, in using social media, Class Reps also have to ensure that their use is ethical and that applications like Facebook enhance learning rather than backfiring on the Student Experience.
working with facebook Here’s some tips for working with Facebook:
• In setting up a group, make sure your Class Group is a ‘Private’ Group.
• Use the wall posts for general course discussion and support. For example, supporting each other through assignments, providing clarity on aspects within the course outline, encouraging each other to get through various aspects of the programme. • Use the page to provide a forum for organising study groups and social occasions; instead of complaining about issues in the course, which should be taken through official university structures in order to ensure issues are actually addressed.
• Use the events for social events, study events and even for assignment deadline reminders!
• Do not use the status updates to talk about problems within the course. This can easily escalate out of your control. You might find that a simple question could end up leading to personality attacks and/or just destroying the morale of your class. • Instead, use the wall posts to ask students to email you on any issues that they feel are occurring in the course. This keeps the discussion to a one-on-one scenario and can help confirm the extent of the problem (ie. is it an issue for one student or most students).
• It is your role as class rep to ensure a positive constructive environment. This means telling students what is appropriate to post and, if needed, moderating content posted by other students. This gives you control over discussions that may go out of control.
• Any questions about Facebook, contact the Class Representation Organiser at VUWSA.
what a class representative should focus on As a Class Rep, your key role is to provide feedback to your lecturers, course co-ordinators and the university on the experiences of students in your course. From time to time, students may come to you with a variety of issues and problems. The following are areas that are within the scope of your role.
course content and structure At the beginning of a course, a Course Outline should be made available to all students. The Course Outline is the University’s formal contract with you in your course. It provides you with links to key policies, procedures in your school, course objectives and topics, meeting times, staff contact details and assessment information. Questions to focus on: • Does the course follow the stated course aims and objectives?
• Do students understand the course aims and objectives?
As a Class Rep, you should read your course outline carefully. Be proactive as well – if you can see potential issues, talk to your co-ordinator ASAP.
• Have students been consulted when major changes have been made to the course described within the course outline? If you have a clear Course Outline that is being well followed, make sure you tell your Course Coordinator. If an issue arises, you should first talk about it with the Course Co-ordinator, then with the Programme Director or Head of School. Feedback on course content and structure should be given in Staff/Student Liaison meetings and in programme reviews.
teaching methods Students should feel that the way in which content is being delivered in a course promotes learning and achieves the intended outcomes of a course. Questions to focus on:
• Do students feel they understand the content of lectures?
• How adequate are the support materials and electronic resources provided for student learning?
• Is the speed of delivery in lectures appropriate for students?
• What aspects of lecture delivery are helping students learn? How? • Are there any aspects of lecture delivery that could be improved? How?
Issues about individual staff should not be brought to Staff/ Student Liaison Meetings and should not be talked about on social media status updates or discussion boards.
Teaching methods are very personal; so make sure anything you feedback acknowledges the strengths of individual lecturers and has encouraging aspects to share. If you have experienced a good lecturer, speak on behalf of your class and tell that lecturer that the class respect, enjoy and learn from their lectures. However, if an issue with teaching methods arises, it should be talked about, and brought up quickly, with the Course Co-ordinator. As a Class Rep, it is also helpful to have a number of suggestions, such as: providing powerpoint handouts, including multimedia in the lecture, recording the lecture or repeating key points.
assessment and feedback Anything stated about assessment in the Course Outline (including deadlines) cannot be changed after the second week of a Trimester without consent of students.
All course assessment should relate to specific learning objectives in the course outline. Assessment should be fairly weighted and evenly spread, due dates for items of assessment should be fair and not within the exam period or Trimester break and all assessment criteria needs to be clear and accessible for all students.
Returned work must have sufficient marker feedback so that students understand what they did right or wrong. It should be returned in time for students to use the feedback in their next piece of assessable work. Student ID numbers, rather than names, should be used in any publication of assessment/exam results. Class Reps often find that the majority of issues brought to their attention pertain to Assessment.
Questions to focus on:
• Are the assessment criteria and guidelines clear to students?
• Have students received sufficient feedback?
You may find students approach you with a variety of personal issues (often regarding deadlines, marking and exams). For most individual matters, encourage students to first talk to the lecturer as soon as possible and offer to sit in as a support person. In the case of exams, all students are expected to attend and sit unless they are seriously ill or injured. If this is the case, advise the student to talk to Student Health or Counselling (24 hours either side of exam) as they may be able to apply to be considered for an aegrotat pass. If you are finding that assessment is clear, and that students are finding it a learning experience, make sure you tell your Course Co-ordinator. If students are unclear about deadlines, criteria or feedback, first look at all documentation given on the assessment including what is in the course outline. Then talk to the Course Co-ordinator and ask them to clarify with the class any confusion. If it appears that students are disadvantaged in any way, talk to the Class Representation Organiser about your options. Feedback on course/programme assessment should be given in Staff/Student Liaison meetings and in programme reviews.
academic support There are a number of services at Victoria to support students; however, not all students are aware of these services. Questions to focus on:
• Do students know where to go for advice and/or support?
• Do students on placement or work experience feel that they are supported? • Are Victoria staff responding to emails or phone messages left by students?
Check out the Class Rep page on the VUWSA website for an update list of support services and contact information.
As a Class Representative, it is good to know what Victoria does offer and how to contact these services. Check out the Class Rep page on the VUWSA website for a list of referral services. If students do not feel that they are receiving adequate support on campus or on placement, talk to the Course-Co-ordinator or Staff member overseeing placements, then talk to Head of School. Feedback on academic support should be given in Staff/Student Liaison meetings and in programme reviews.
course organisation and management The point value of courses should equate to the workload required for the majority of students in your class (1pt =10hrs).
Students need to be able to balance their course requirements within their study programmes and lives outside of the University. Questions to focus on:
• How are students finding the workload?
• Are assessments well placed throughout the course to help students balance their workload? If individual students have issues around balancing the work of a course with other factors in their lives, refer them to the range of resources and workshops offered by Counselling Services.
Victoria also has a Workload policy regarding the clustering of Assessments around the same time. If a student has an issue with 3+ assessments being due in the same week then talk to the Course Co-ordinator about the possibility of an extension. However, this should be done well in advance of the due date; lecturers are unlikely to give extensions for what they may see as poor time management. Feedback on course organisation and management can be given in Staff/Student Liaison meetings and in programme reviews.
teaching facilities and learning resources VUW is committed to providing an environment that facilitates teaching and learning. Questions to focus on: • Is the classroom/lecture theatre temperature at a good level?
• Do students have access to library resources?
• Do students have access to Library and ICT facilities?
Victoria is committed to providing good quality teaching facilities and learning resources.
If you do find issues here, you should bring them up with the Course Co-ordinator as soon as they arise. Temperatures can be adjusted and resources can be put on Close Reserve in the Library. Schools can also work with the University to ensure that access to the Library and ICT is appropriate for the needs of your class.
personal development Students should feel that their academic study is helping them develop specific skills and attributes that they can use beyond the course of their study.
Students do not just learn for the sake of learning. Most students have goals beyond university. It is important that the skills and content students are learning is transferable into other papers and into future career choices.
Questions to focus on: • Do students feel that they are building the necessary discipline skills to continue their study and work aspirations? • Do students feel that they have an idea of how their course of study is connected to job/ career opportunities? If individual students have questions about their personal development, then refer them to Student Learning Support Services or VicCareers. If you have questions relating to several students, talk to your Course Co-ordinator and Head of School. Feedback on personal development can be given in Staff/ Student Liaison meetings and in programme reviews.
student involvement The University relies on Class Reps to contribute to formal processes in the school such as Staff/Student Liaison meetings and programme reviews. All students also have an opportunity to evaluate their courses (within a three year cycle) through Centre for Academic Development (CAD) evaluations. Students can now access the results to previous evaluations on the CAD website. Questions to focus on:
• What happens to the course evaluation forms?
• How is student feedback addressed?
Victoria is committed to providing students with opportunities to feedback into course delivery.
As a Class Rep it is important for you to know that the University takes these evaluations seriously. Lecturers need to have good results in teaching evaluations if they are seeking promotion and Heads of School/Programme Directors are expected to address any areas of concern that have been highlighted by students. As the Class Rep in your class: • Help your co-ordinators and programme directors to get the best possible evaluation by giving them useful formative feedback throughout the trimester; • Enncourage your fellow students to attend the final lectures of a course so that their voice and opinions are included in the end of course evaluations.
student privacy All NZ Universities are bound by the New Zealand Privacy Act. What this means is:
• Any disclosure of personal information must be based on informed consent;
• Students cannot be pressured to provide the consent;
• A student can withdraw their consent to any disclosure of personal information at any time, even if they signed the agreement on the enrolment form that allows disclosure. Any issues involving student privacy and informed consent should be taken to the Lecturer involved and/or the Head of School.
assisting students who have a problem The following steps outline the process for resolving such issues. If you need help don’t hesitate to contact the Class Representation Organiser or the VUWSA Student Advocate. Four Steps to Resolving issues: 1. Clarification Discuss and clarify specific details with the student. Listen to their story and consider whether the issue is isolated or whether it affects other students as well. 2.
Direction If the issue is a personal one, refer them to the VUWSA Student Advocate. If it affects other students in the class then ask for feedback from the whole class. Either speak to the class directly or get them to email you through Blackboard or Facebook. Make an appointment with the lecturer to discuss this feedback. At any point in this stage, feel free to contact the Class Representation Organiser for advice and support.
Resolution Meet with the lecturer and work together with them. Act as a Representative and be diplomatic rather than confrontational. Briefly state the information you have and advise them of the students’ views on the matter. Take notes at your meeting with the lecturer so you have a written record. Seek joint solutions and if possible agree on a course of action. Report the outcome together to the class.
4. Referral If no solution is found contact the Class Representation Organiser who can make sure the issue is raised at a higher level.
staff/student liaison meetings Staff/Student Liaison Meetings are an important opportunity for shared communication between Schools and Class Reps. They are typically called and facilitated by the Head of School, Programme Director or School Manager. When they occur, Class Reps are required to attend. How to approach the meeting: Before the meeting, consult your class for positive feedback and any issues or ideas for improvements that could be talked about at the meeting. Consider all the points of feedback within the mandate of your role. Remember, issues to present at Staff/Student Liaison Meetings are ones that involve the School and its students as a whole, not individual staff. Issues can range from the small and practical to larger and more involved. Go in with a positive attitude and most issues will be able to be resolved! Take notes of any actions you need to take as well as information to report back to your class.
programme reviews Every programme of study at Victoria is formally reviewed on a seven year cycle. Class Reps are expected to feed into these reviews when they happen. If you are focusing on all the points of feedback within the mandate of your role you should find this process quite simple. It is expected that Class Reps will:
• Talk to students in their class about their course of study;
• Complete the Class Rep survey, and where possible, encourage other students to contribute their perspectives; • During the week the panel meets, attend and share a student perspective on the programme to the panel. The VUWSA Education Office fully supports Class Reps in all stages of the review process.
benefits for being a class representative academic Victoria Plus Award Points The Victoria Plus award, administered by Vic Careers, recognises the significant contribution of students to volunteering and student support work. Attending training and representing your class contributes to your completion of this Award. Class Rep Certificates If you attend a training session, at the end of the trimester you can request a Class Rep Certificate. The Certificate is a valuable addition to your CV. Class Rep Scholarships There are a small number of Scholarship awards available each Trimester in recognition of Representatives who have been acknowledged by University Staff and Students as visible and active contributors to the learning experiences of their fellow students.
personal Personal Gains Personal skills gained in representation include: decision-making, communication and negotiation. If you are considering an academic career, becoming a Class Rep is a great way to get to know the staff in your area.
food and prizes Class Rep Functions Next year, the Class Representative Organiser hosts a catered Scholarship function where all Class Reps can attend and celebrate their achievements. Catering is also provided at the training sessions. Class/School Functions As a Class Rep you can access some funding for Class/School Functions and arrange one for you and your classmates. Check out the back of this Handbook for more information. Regular Prize Draws and Food Prize draws will be held for all trained Class Reps at the end of each trimester and during training sessions.
other opportunities for representation Faculty Delegates Faculty Delegates provide an essential student voice within the University decision making process and are the next step in University representation. Delegates are formal members of Faculty Boards and Committees. They can also sit and vote on the Student Forum. Only Class Reps can apply for Delegate positions. For more information, or if you are interested in becoming a Faculty Delegate, talk to the Education Organiser.
support and services available VUWSA The Class Representative System is organised and administered by the VUWSA Education Team under contract to the University. The Education Team is headed by the Vice-President (Academic) who is supported by the Education Officer and the Education Organiser. You can expect the Education Team to maintain frequent contact with all Class Representatives and to receive relevant email newsletters throughout the year. The Education Organiser is available for any queries you may have regarding your role and responsibilities. The Education Organiser can direct you to the appropriate Victoria staff member or, in the case of major issues, to work with the Vice-President (Academic) to ensure that any issues raised are addressed at higher levels within the University structure. The Education Organiser facilitates wider student consultation on proposed changes to ensure that your voice is carried up the University decision-making structures. They can help you develop your own consultation mechanism if you wish to survey or talk to your class. VUWSA also provides an independent Advocacy service for students requiring personal support in addressing personal and academic issues. You can also refer students to VUWSA for bus passes, the food bank, student calendars/diaries, and information on clubs and representative groups.
VUWSA contacts VUWSA, Kelburn Office a. Level 2, Student Union Building
p. 463 6716
The Kelburn Office is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (closed when VUW is closed). Any general queries can be referred here and will be passed on to appropriate service. Bride Hood, President
p. 463 6986
The VUWSA President is responsible for the overall effectiveness of VUWSA and advocating for a better university for students. Josh Wright, Vice-President (Academic)
p. 463 7406
The Vice-President (Academic), or AVP, oversees all student representation at the University and ensures that the issues you raise are taken to the appropriate VUWSA, VUW staff and services.
Dr. Fiona Beals, Education Organiser
p. 463 6987
The Student Advocate is available to any student with personal issues or concerns during their study at Victoria. The VUWSA advocacy service is free, professional and confidential and, whilst based at Kelburn, is available to all levels of study at every campus.
useful resources and services The Class Rep page on the VUWSA website has a list of valuable resources and services for your role and is the first place to look if needing anything specifically straight away. www.vuwsa.org.nz/representation/class-reps-2
relevant VUWSA services Check out the VUWSA website for information on the following services:
• Campus Angels
• Free Bus Passes
• Car Parks and Lockers
• Free Flu Shots
• Publications and Student Media (Salient and VBC)
• Rep Groups
• Food Bank
• Advocacy Service
• Free Bread
• Student Job Search
victoria services Accommodation Service
p. 463 5896
p. 463 5310
p. 463 5021
Financial Support and Advice
p. 463 7474
Maori Student Support
p. 463 6001
Pacific Student Support
p. 463 6670
p. 463 5308
Student Learning Support (SLSS)
p. 463 5999
p. 463 5393
Disabilities Support Services
p. 463 6070
class rep functions Class Rep functions are a great way for students to get to know each other at the beginning of a trimester or to celebrate the successful completion of courses at the end of a trimester. There is limited funding so it is best to get your application in as soon as possible to ensure approval. Class Representatives should work together with their classmates to set a function date and encourage their classmates to sign up. Decide with your class what you would like to do and what support you want to seek. In the past such support has included:
• A contribution towards end-of-course pizzas;
• Food for Class Rep facilitated study groups;
• Non-alcoholic drinks and picnic items for a before-section Teacher’s College celebration;
• A contribution towards Hangi food;
• Sausages and meat for end-of-course BBQs.
Once your class has decided on an idea, email the Class Representation Organiser for consideration and, hopefully, approval. You will need in your email:
• The idea that your class has proposed;
• The number of students attending;
• What you would like funding for;
• The date and time of your event.
Email the Class Representation Organiser (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least one week before the function. Class Representatives must organise a venue. You might talk to lecturers or School Managers about the use of a large classroom or similar. There are plenty of outdoor areas if the weather is fine, or alternatively you may contact VUWSA to find a suitable venue within the Student Union Building. If your application is approved, you will have to work with the Class Representation Organiser on organising the food and the funding of your event. Students will have to provide any drinks or additional items themselves. Please make use of this subsidised service and encourage your classmates to take part.
class rep registration form details* (PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY)
Phone (day time):
returning form Please return this form to your lecturer, who will pass the form on to the School Manager. Once your registration arrives at VUWSA, you will receive a follow up email with further information.
clause I understand that VUWSA may give my name and phone number to my faculty representative for communication and information support purposes. I also understand that the Privacy Act 1993 applies to this information and that I can access or change it at any time at the VUWSA office.
* You MUST fill out these sections for your application to be processed.
a. Level 2, Student Union Building
p. 463 6716
www.vuwsa.org.nz KELBURN OFFICE Level 2, Student Union Building p. 463 6716 e. email@example.com
PIPITEA OFFICE GB08 Old Government Building p. 463 9479 e. firstname.lastname@example.org
KARORI OFFICE Common Room p. 463 9781 e. email@example.com