In the co-design of learning, no one stakeholder is more important than any other and a learning community designs a solution to a challenge relevant to the community’s issues. Co-construction of learning affords young people a great deal of responsibility for thinking, planning, discussing, agreeing and implementing.

The skills required include facilitation and collaboration and this is not an approach that can be carried out piecemeal.  It requires a commitment to shared working and equality and it’s important that school and residential centre staff understand their roles in the co-design and co-construction community.  It also requires emotional maturity in young people to enable them to participate objectively.

Crucial to the success of co-design and co-construction is the on-going input of young people.  The approaches help them make progress in many areas of learning and particularly in key life skills.  It’s vital that they have a ‘real-life’ purposeful context and that young people are able to continue contributing to the process, once the residential itself is over, through involvement with the school’s residential evaluation and planning cycle.

The Learning Away partnership schools used two models to immerse their students and staff in co-design and co-construction – the ‘Mango’ model and the ‘Critical Thinking’ model, both of which are described extensively in this suite of resources.

Why this approach is effective

The ‘co-construction and co-design’ approach to planning and managing residentials has enormous and lasting benefits for young people.  Working alongside staff, they work as a learning community to plan and make decisions about their residential.  The ability to take a real and purposeful responsibility for themselves and others provides young people with a sense of ownership.  Co-design and co-construction techniques empower young people and allow them to take collective control of their learning – reflecting on their experiences and understanding how they might do things differently next time.

The role of school and residential centre staff in co-construction and co-design approaches is to facilitate (not dictate), ensure safety and plan the time needed for discussion, evaluation and decision-making.

The key benefits of a co-construction and co-design approach are that they:

  • enrich the residential experience through student ownership of the whole process
  • enable student voice to be heard and acted upon
  • maximise inclusion
  • develop team work skills
  • develop facilitation skills of both students and staff
  • promote a democratic approach to decision making
  • enhance safety as H&S issues are explored and agreed collectiviely
  • deepen relationships between students and staff.