Co-creating and co-delivering resources with students

Mario Pezzino on University of Manchester campusThe challenge

Microeconomics 3 is a second year compulsory module for Economics students in the BA Economic and Social Studies (BAECON). The purpose of the module is to provide a rigorous and deeper understanding of the concepts and techniques learnt in year 1 and, this way, to ensure that the students can confidently progress to take more advanced Economics modules in year 3.

There are, of course, a few challenges. Even if in year 1 students had the opportunity to take two introductory microeconomics modules and learn essential mathematical techniques, there still remains some variability among the 500+ students registered to the unit over their grasp of essential concepts and skills. We can roughly identify two groups that require some consideration. The first group is composed of those students who are confident in their quantitative and digital skills, but tend to view Economics typically as a collection of theories and models; they tend to restrict their approach to the discipline (and economic phenomena) to the stylised models and simple examples provided in the textbook. The other group of students tends, instead, to be less confident in their quantitative skills and, while often keen to apply economic intuition to economic phenomena, these students are often confused (and discouraged) by the mathematical tools and notation. The challenge for the instructor is to inspire and develop the critical thinking of the former group, while boosting the confidence in their technical skills of the students belonging to the latter. How to expose the class to more advanced (some would call them threshold) concepts, special cases and more advanced techniques without turning the course into a mathematics module? How to ensure that all students (including those who tend to struggle with the maths) are inspired and develop the confidence to reason outside of the boundaries of the textbook?

Addressing the challenge

Over the years, I have made use of mathematical software (e.g. Mathematica) in my teaching. The software allows me to show to the class that students do not need to be overly concerned about calculations (the computer deals with the algebra and produces great graphs) and they should focus on understanding and assessing the models considered in the course. To those students who like the more technical side of economics, the software would allow them to play with the maths and see how results would change in response to the introduction of new and more complex/realistic assumptions. A challenge remains: how to make sure that students meaningfully engage with the software and, through its use, acquire an appreciation of economic theory and applications? One way to go, the less exciting but often necessary, is to make the use of the software a requirement, an ILO and, therefore, part of the assessment. I recently explored another solution: co-designing and co-teaching resources with students.

In the last few years, during the summer I normally collaborate with students who have taken the module to cocreate various aspects of the course, in particular teaching resources, approaches to assessment and feedback, and ways to elicit student views. Just releasing these resources with the new class would not be as impactful as ensuring that the student co-creators are also explicitly and directly promoting them. This could be done in a number of ways; e.g. a written/video message by the co-creators could accompany the resources released on Blackboard; co-creators could also be given access to the discussion board to encourage engagement and address queries related to the resources. Recently, I have explored co-teaching as a way to maximise the impact that co-creators and their resources can have on new students. Co-teaching has taken two forms. The more direct one has been having a senior student teaching a portion of a lecture with me. I normally start the lecture as usual and the co-creator sits with the rest of the class. On cue, they pretend to ask a pre-prepared question that would require me to address a more advanced extension of the model that I had just described to the class. Of course, accidentally, I would have ready a Mathematica notebook to address the questions of the student and co-deliver more advanced concepts to the class (for a detailed description of my latest experience with co-teaching you can see Pezzino and Riganti (2022)). As you can imagine, the students who experience this bit of theatre are initially somewhat shocked, seeing a fellow student engaging critically with the material and willing to discuss their notes and ideas in front of the class. This experience, however, makes a few of them interested in exploring additional extensions to the model, learn more about the software and co-create additional resources with me during the summer.

Of course, it is not always the case that a student will have the confidence to speak and teach in front of the class, especially in a room with 500 fellow students. Students and instructors can also co-teach asynchronously. All my lectures have a number of pre-recorded 15/20 mins videos that address the key concepts covered in the textbook. Most videos have now an additional 5 mins appendix in which students co-creators give hint for revision, offer additional applications to the theories that I covered, and show how to use the software to reproduce and extend the models considered in the textbook. Again, we teach together and we push a little the boundaries of the syllabus.


Anecdotal evidence, based on various conversations with students who have taken the course, seems to indicate that exposing students to explicit forms of co-creation and delivery had increased a sense of trust in the module. Some students described the fact that recognising how their learning experience in the course was enhanced by the partnership between the instructor and senior students made it easier for them to trust the syllabus and the organisation of the module. Interestingly, in student evaluations at the end of the module, it is not often the case that comments praise the contribution of co-creators to the module; at the same, however, those comments of students complaining about the lack of real-world economic scenarios, the lack of applicability of the models taught and the challenging mathematical analysis have disappeared.

Students who enjoy maths and economics can be inspired to go beyond the textbook. Students who are less confident can find reassurance in being taught technical concepts by senior students who took the module the previous year. Every year, increasing numbers of students belonging to both groups are interested to engage with me in some form of co-creation during the summer. All in all, I found this approach to be rewarding (to me and to the students involved) and the most effective in boosting engagement and interest in the course. 

  • Designing, creating and (when possible) delivering material with students can be an engaging way to approach threshold concepts and help students become critical thinkers and develop digital skills.
  • Making current students appreciate the contribution of student co-creators can improve engagement with the module.
  • Lectures are more engaging and fun to teach.
Top Tips
  • Start small: perhaps initially collaborate with one student on one specific project. Partnership is fun and rewarding, but it also requires effort, time and commitment.
  • Give lots of freedom to the co-creators; relinquishing some power is not easy, but it is essential to build a partnership. Ultimately, however, it is the instructor’s responsibility to support the co-creators and deliver the best learning experience to the new cohort of students.
  • Just releasing co-created materials may not be enough. Find ways to accompany the resources with direct messages from the co-creators. Co-delivery may unlock positive peer effects.

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L. and Moore-Cherry, N. (2016), Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student−staff partnerships, Higher Education, 71, 195−208.

Mario Pezzino and Andrea Enrico Riganti, 2022, Co-creation of teaching resources and co-teaching,


School: School of Social Sciences

Discipline: Economics

Academic: Mario Pezzino

Course: Microeconomics 3

Cohort Size: 500+

Themes: Co-creation with students

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