Co-design and co-construction

Co-design and co-construction of learning is a partnership between teaching staff and their students (and the residential provider if appropriate) to develop and deliver creative learning.

In the co-design of learning, no one stakeholder is more important than any other, allowing a learning community to design a solution to a challenge relevant to the community’s issues. Co-construction affords young people a great deal of responsibility for thinking, planning, discussing, agreeing and implementing. This approach can therefore have a huge beneficial impact on the design of a residential programme.

This page offers a summary of Learning Away partnership schools’ in this area and the way they use co-construction to design and deliver their residentials. You can also explore this approach in more depth within our Co-construction resource.

Two Learning Away partnerships during the first phase of the project committed to co-constructing and co-designing their residentials, using two different models: the ‘Mango’ model and the ‘Critical Thinking’ model.

The Thomas Tallis partnership used the democratic Mango Model of ‘home, council and community’ to shape the design, planning and delivery of school council activities as well as residentials.  Young people work together in these groups to discuss and agree decisions and engage in deep reflection, which enables the student voice to be heard in parallel with that of adults.

The Walney partnership used the Critical Thinking approach.  At its heart is the creation of a classroom community where all members work and learn together within boundaries, following guidelines agreed by their group.  Many ‘tools’ are taught and used to support learning, encourage positive communication and ensure understanding and a feeling of security.

The two models have common core principles:

  • Learning takes place within a democratic learning community.
  • Learning is set within a real context and so is purposeful.
  • Roles are allocated to facilitate learning.
  • Young people are provided with the skills to lead learning.
  • Young people make key learning decisions.
  • Debriefing the learning deepens young people’s understanding.

Read detailed case studies about the Thomas Tallis residentials here and here, and Walney’s residentials here.

Other Learning Away partnerships worked extensively with student leaders; staff and student leaders designed, planned and delivered residentials together. Explore this topic further in our Student Leadership resource.

Partnerships that co-designed and co-constructed residentials noticed key benefits, including that they:

  • enriched the residential experience through student ownership of the whole process
  • enabled student voice to be heard and acted upon
  • maximised inclusion
  • developed team-work skills
  • developed facilitation skills of both students and staff
  • promoted a democratic approach to decision making
  • enhanced safety as H&S issues were explored and agreed collectiviely
  • deepened relationships between students and staff.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

Access free resources to help you plan your own brilliant residentials.

Have a look at our theory about how change happens on brilliant residentials.

Read our recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. 

Read our independent evaluation report.