Students as co-inquirers: A requisite threshold concept in educational developmentJournal of Faculty Development, 26 (3) , 34-38.
This essay describes Carmen Werder’s, Shevell Thibou’s and Blair Kaufer’s experiences with student-faculty collaborations on course and curricular development and the ways in which these experiences have been transformational for each. This is one of the few studies co-authored by a faculty member, a graduate student and an undergraduate student who participated in student-faculty collaborative process on curricular development. The process was part of the Teaching-Learning Academy (TLA) at Western Washington University. As the authors state, the essay “explores how partnering with students to study teaching and learning constitutes a threshold concept that is transformational, irreversible, and discursive”(p. 34).
The authors consider student-faculty partnership to be “threshold learning” because it opens up new and previously unconceivable ways of understanding something. After the experience with such partnership, both students and faculty comment that there is no way back for them. Students have developed a new and different understanding of their learning and are more enthusiastic, more motivated to learn. They comment that learning, as a result of the partnership, has started to excite them as it turned into a dialogic and community building activity, creating a welcoming space for faculty and students to share freely what they thought and/or knew.
As the authors reflect on their experience, they point out several important shifts in their understanding of teaching and learning that seem transformational. They start to: a) understand learning as a dialogic experience that is divergent and difference driven; b) question the power structure and the hierarchical dynamics inherent in contemporary education system that make it difficult for students to be active learners; and c) value equality that comes with partnership and that enables all participants to have a voice in the decision making process.