student-faculty partnership Annotated Bibliographies

Bovill, Bulley,  (2011). A model of active student participation in curriculum design: exploring desirability and possibility. In C. Rust Editor (Eds.), Improving Student Learning (ISL) 18: Global Theories and Local Practices: Institutional, Disciplinary and Cultural Variations (176-188). Oxford: Oxford Brookes University Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

The authors explore the desirability and possibility of active student participation (ASP) in curriculum design. They offer the description of the levels or forms of ASP in curriculum design by adapting Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) ladder model of citizen participation from community planning literature.

The adapted ladder is of particular interest to anyone willing to experiment with active student participation in either planning the entire curriculum, course or modifying some aspects of the course or assignment(s). Although the concept of a ladder might suggest that what’s on upper level is to be considered better, the authors say that this is not the case. Different levels of student participation depend on particular circumstances, faculty goals, etc. depending on institutional setting, faculty member’s comfort level with inviting students to collaborate on course design, the level of maturity and expertise of student body, they further argue that it might be desirable to increase active student participation slowly and in stages (p. 183).

Bovill and Bulley also give specific examples of what each ladder of ASP might look like in practice. For example, ‘Partnership  – a negotiated curriculum’ could be “student experience and work used as basis for curriculum; students actively and meaningfully negotiating curriculum with tutor” (p. 181); ‘Students in control’ might involve “Student designed learning outcomes and projects. Student led journal clubs, student led journals” (p. 181). They also acknowledge that “[l]ocating examples of this top rung is challenging within the current higher education context, where our systems of quality assurance require courses to be validated and reviewed on the basis of clear intended learning outcomes and assessments”(p. 181).

As we implement more practices involving students as partners in curriculum design and development, the authors also note that there has to be more research done and evidence collected that evaluates the outcomes from different levels of ASP, as well as faculty and student experiences with partnership and its implications (p. 184).

Cook-Sather, A. Alter, Z. (2011). What Is and What Can Be: How a Liminal Position Can Change Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 42(1), 37-53.

Alison Cook-Sather and Zanny Alter focus on student experiences as pedagogical consultants in a faculty development program at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. The authors claim that this type of collaboration between student consultants, faculty and undergraduate students enrolled in a course has “the potential to transform deep-seated societal understandings of education based on traditional hierarchies and teacher/student distinctions” (p. 37). Cook-Sather and Alter borrow anthropological concept of liminality and revise it as “a threshold between and among clearly established roles at which one can linger, from which one can depart and to which one can return” (p. 38) to describe the shift in the relationship between faculty and students and emphasize the fact that having students as educational consultants falls outside of all previously established roles and categories in higher education system.

The context of Cook-Sather and Alter’s study is Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges’ Student as Learners and Teachers (SaLT) program, which employs students as pedagogical consultants to faculty. Both students and faculty go through an established training process. The authors report several important changes in both, students’ and faculty’s perception of teaching and learning, as well as the relationship between them, as a result of the experience:

  • It prompts literal and metaphorical (re)positioning of the student consultants in the classroom, changing their perspective on learning and teaching, as well as their traditional roles as students;
  • It exposes the participants to ambiguity and vulnerability, which in the end helps in developing the capacity to be between “all fixed points of classification” (p. 48);
  • Student consultants  report becoming better students as they are able to understand better the professors’ perspectives and goals and experience deeper learning as a result of being exposed to multiple angles;
  • Faculty report being more willing to shift their teaching and more open to a dialogue with students; move towards less hierarchical and more dialogic understanding of teaching and learning; and
  • Students report being willing to take more responsibility for their education and active participants in their education.

In conclusion, the authors argue that such partnerships have a potential to move us toward a more democratic education: the potential to generate a democratic dialogue about teaching and learning between students and faculty.

Cook-Sather, Alison Bovill, Cathy Felten, Peter  (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This book written by Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill and Peter Felten is an invaluable guide for everybody who wishes to develop student-faculty partnership in higher education institutions. Student-faculty partnership is a relatively new concept that recently has gained much popularity in the US and internationally. The authors of Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and teaching: A Guide for Faculty offer theoretical framework for developing such partnerships combined with very practical guidelines for those interested in developing small or large scale partnerships between faculty and students. The authors do an exceptional job of combining theory with practice, grounding their ideas on evidence-based pedagogy, while offering many practical examples for those who are thinking of developing small-scale partnerships with students in their courses or large-scale partnerships on the departmental and university levels.

Starting with the basic question of how faculty together with students can deepen learning, Cook-Sather, Bovill and Felten offer a compelling analysis of the nature of student-faculty partnerships, the reasons for faculty and for students to embark on such endeavor, and the essential elements for such partnership to be successful. When defining partnership, the authors maintain that there are three important principles to be taken into account: respect, reciprocity and responsibility. All of these basic characteristics of successful partnership set faculty and students up for developing trusting and respectful relationships, for sharing not only power, but also risks and responsibilities for learning.

Cook-Sather, Bovill, and Felten also recognize the challenges that this type of partnership between faculty and students faces serious challenges in the higher education system in the US and internationally. One of the most interesting claims they make is that such partnership destabilizes the consumerist model of higher education, in which students assume passive role in their process of education being on the receiving side of the expertise that faculty share with them. Unlike this model, faculty-student partnership allows students to have an active role in this process, designing not only what but also how they wish to learn. Such a change in students’ role promotes student engagement resulting in improved learning.

In various chapters of the book, the authors provide the definition, as well as guiding principles of student-faculty partnerships; answer questions and address concerns of the faculty who might wish to initiate a partnership of this kind; offer various examples of small and large-scale partnerships based on the needs, as well as resources available for individual faculty and for administrators, departments and universities; and detailed guidelines, combined with many examples, for initiating successful student-faculty partnerships on course design, curriculum development and pedagogy.

Cook-Sather, Felten,  (2017). Ethics of academic leadership: Guiding learning and teaching. In F. Su M. Wood Editor (Eds.), Cosmopolitan perspectives on academic leadership in higher education (175-191). London: Bloomsbury.

In this article, Cook-Sather and Felten draw on Appiah’s ‘rooted’ (2005) and Hansen’s ‘embodied’ (2014) cosmopolitanism to argue that academic leadership of current higher education system should not aim for some sort of uniform and universal values, but rather embrace the differences of the people and the circumstances of local environments. Leadership should consider partnership, and reciprocity upon which partnership is based, as fundamental for its success (p. 175). The authors recognize from the start that the ethics of reciprocity and partnership challenge western higher education system and that they, by proposing it, work against current dominant model(s) of the system. Quoting Hansen (2014, p. 4), Cook-Sather and Felten agree that education should cultivate “moral sympathies, deepened democratic dispositions, and a serious sense of responsibility for the world,” but instead, as it is practiced today, it functions as a way of “training human capital” for national and multinational economic markets (p. 177). Using Walker’s (2009) description, they argue that by today’s academic leadership education is perceived as “an instrumental investment to improve productivity, […] and its] interactions are reduced to profit-seeking exchanges (p. 177).

As a counterpoint to such “dehumanized” education system, Cook-Sather and Felten employ Nixon’s “ethics of connectivity” (2012), according to which certain fundamental changes should be introduced to the education system in order to bring the ‘human’ element back into focus: it should redirect its attention at the process of teaching and learning; let go of ‘learning outcomes’ since the value of learning lies in its un-determinability, in the open, unknown outcome of the process ([education] “constitutes an uncharted, unpredictable journey into self-awareness, self-understanding, and knowledge of the world in which we live”(p. 179)); and try to develop an inclusive and collaborative relationship between teachers and students (p. 178).

Cook-Sather and Felten focus on three major concepts that should define future education philosophy: liminality, reciprocity and partnership. They employ the term ‘liminal’ or ‘liminality’ to describe an ideal space for higher education institutions. It is a stance, that in their opinion and when taken willingly (not as an imposition), embraces ambiguity, marginality and in-betweenness. It refuses to adhere to “classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space” (p. 181). When positioned in a liminal space, one acquires a unique opportunity to challenge the assumptions that had turned into unquestionable and unquestioned truths though time. They write that when someone is in a liminal space, they are “ambiguous, neither here not there, betwixt and between all fixed points of pure possibility whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise” (p. 181). The concept of reciprocity, as described by the authors, entails “balanced give-and-take” (p. 181), although both sides might and should have different things to offer and to contribute. The difference in experiences and perspectives is not diminished in the process, but rather acquires a heightened value. Thus, education can become a perpetual dialogue between equal, but diverse parties that collectively share responsibility (p. 182). When it comes to partnership, Cook-Sather and Felten reiterate their definition of it stating that it is “a collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualization, decision making, implementation, investigation, or analysis” (p. 182).

Connecting these concepts back to cosmopolitanism, Cook-Sather and Felten remind us of the original Greek use of the term ‘kosmopolites’, meaning the ‘citizen of the world’ and referring to one’s obligation and responsibility towards all humans and their allegiance to humanity. But, also propose to consider the local realities, local interests, contexts and settings, following Appiah’s philosophy of ‘rooted’ cosmopolitanism in which there is no tension between the universal and the local. Viewing ‘unfinishedness’ as the very quality of education, of what “makes us educable” (p. 186), Cook-Sather and Felten propose that the leadership be open to new ideas, values and practices; that they reconsider education as a space of encounter, of a dialogue though which one acquires new identity, but this very identity is undetermined and can never be predicted.

Healey, Mick Flint, Abbi Harrington, Kathy  (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

Writing primarily for the teaching faculty in higher education institutions worldwide with interest in engaging students as partners in learning and teaching, as well as for the administrative staff willing to develop institutional culture of partnership, Mick Healey, Abbi Flint, and Kathy Harrington’s Report titled Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (2014) claims that developing partnerships between faculty and students in the area of teaching and learning is a pedagogically sound endeavor for it generates student engagement and, consequently, delivers better learning experience.

As authors make a pedagogical case for developing student-faculty partnerships in learning and teaching in higher education, they offer a conceptual model for exploring the areas in which students and faculty can work together; outline the models for sustainable and successful partnerships; identify tensions that might arise with the shifts in power relationships, risk-taking, the development of trust, etc.; and, identify areas for further research.

Healey, Flint and Harrington view student-faculty partnership as a process rather than goal and outcomes driven activity and, as such, one that has the potential to dramatically transform the purpose and structure of higher education that is largely based on delivering results in the form of outcomes through assessment. The authors maintain that unlike the current model that is end-oriented, the student-faculty partnership is pedagogy that is “(radically) open to and creating possibilities for discovering and learning something that cannot be known beforehand” (p. 9).

Manor, Bloch-Shulman, Flannery, Felten,  (2010). Foundations of Student-Faculty Partnerships in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In Carmen Werder Megan Otis Editor (Eds.), Engaging Students Voices in the Study of Teaching and Learning (3-15). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

The authors begin by outlining some of the shortcomings of the traditional instructional model in higher education, arguing that in this model students feel powerless, as if decisions were made for them instead of by them. Professors are viewed as the only experts in the room, developing in students a fundamental misconception about teaching and learning as a process through which knowledge is transferred from one to another, rather than a process during which meaning is co-constructed. Such misconception also devalues the opinions and the input of their peers, whose thoughts are dismissed as irrelevant and unimportant. All of this in the end translates into student disengagement with the process of learning, with the material and with their peers.

This traditional model of education is challenged by student-faculty partnership on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Through partnership, students acquire voice and with it, a greater responsibility for their education. Simultaneously, faculty is prompted to listen to student voices and accommodate them, relinquishing the authority that was previously assumed and unquestioned. Hence, partnership causes decentralization and disaggregation of the classroom as power is now shared between the instructor and the students, which in itself, fosters a more democratic model of teaching and learning.

From the SoTL perspective, student-faculty partnerships shift the focus from teaching (faculty) to learning (students) and allow students to ask questions related to SoTL research.

Mercer-Mapstone, L Drovakova, S. L. Matthews, K. E. Abbot, S. Cheng, B. Felten, P. Swaim, K. (2017). A Systematic Literature Review of Students as Partners in Higher Education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(2), 1-23.

In this comprehensive literature review on the subject of Students as Partners (SaP) Mercer-Mapstone et al. are guided by an overarching question about “[h]ow are “students as partners” practices in higher education presented in the academic literature” (p. 4). The article offers a comprehensive analysis of the percentage of publications authored by faculty/academic staff, undergraduate students, and post doctoral researchers; percentage of publications coming from specific disciplines, as well as the types of partnerships frequently undertaken, a detailed and clear picture of the positive and, in some cases, negative, outcomes of student-faculty engagement, and finally, proposes areas within the subject of student-faculty partnership for further investigation and development.

The authors also address some of the major characteristics of student-faculty partnerships, highlighting the importance of reciprocity in the relationship, which can be understood as a form of shared responsibility in the process of learning, shared goals and risks, viewing students as co-learners and/or colleagues, i.e. a relationship that destabilizes the traditional power hierarchy between the faculty and students. Interestingly, the authors conclude that the analysis of current scholarship about subject of student-faculty partnerships shows that this does not always translate into shared authorship: the vast majority of research published on the topic of SaP is authored primarily by faculty, concluding that “[w]hile our literature review captured a plethora of SaP practices premised on the ideals of reciprocity and shared responsibility, the artifacts (publications) of those interactions tended to be staff-centric” (p. 14).

Werder, C Thibou, S. Kaufer, B. (2012). Students as co-inquirers: A requisite threshold Concept in educational development. Journal 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.