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December 2019

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In the introduction and chapter 2 of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we offer brief reference to five stories of how pedagogical partnership programs have developed in other contexts. Here we present more complete versions of those stories, told by the founders of the programs.

Story 1: Student Partners Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Beth Marquis, Associate Director (Research) at the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching

What kind of institution is McMaster University and what purpose does the partnership program aim to serve within that institution?

McMaster is a medium-sized (~30,000 students) medical doctoral, research-intensive university in Hamilton, Ontario. While the university consistently ranks among the top in Canada for research intensity, it also emphasizes high quality, evidence-based teaching and learning, and is often noted for its leading role in developing pedagogical approaches such as inquiry- and problem-based learning.

The Student Partners Program (SPP), housed within the university’s central teaching and learning institute (the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching), aims to contribute to the university’s efforts to develop and support high quality, evidence-informed pedagogy, and to provide opportunities for personal and professional development for students, faculty, and staff interested in working in partnership to enhance teaching and learning. Increasingly, it also seeks to contribute to efforts to enhance equity and inclusion on campus by supporting partnerships that encourage power sharing, destabilize hierarchies, and draw on and showcase a wide range of student and faculty voices and perspectives.

What does the McMaster program do?

The SPP currently has several overlapping strands. One central component focuses on supporting student-faculty co-inquiry on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) projects. A second, modeled after the Students as Learners and Teachers (SaLT) program, engages students as course design/delivery consultants who partner with faculty to design, re-design, or review courses faculty partners are teaching. A third stream connects students with faculty and departments working on program-wide curriculum development or review. Finally, student partnership has also been integrated into a major fellowship program supported by the teaching and learning institute. Faculty awarded “Leadership in Teaching and Learning Fellowships” are encouraged to work in partnership with students on their fellowship projects, which focus on evaluating course impact or implementing program-level change. In all cases, the aim is to develop collaborative partnerships wherein students make meaningful contributions to the intellectual development of the work undertaken. Support is provided for SPP participants on topics like course design, research methodology, and project management, and participating teams are encouraged to disseminate their efforts broadly—including at our annual SPP symposium and campus teaching and learning conference. Many SPP participants have also co-presented their work at local, national, and international conferences, or co-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Students in all program streams are compensated for their contributions. Typically, most work approximately 3-5 hours/week throughout one or more academic terms on their SPP projects. Since the program began in 2013-14, 313 students and 157 faculty/staff from across campus have participated. Further information about the program is available on their website.

McMaster also aims to contribute to the ongoing growth and development of student-faculty pedagogical partnerships by participating in and contributing to the community of partnership practitioners internationally. Key among these efforts is the university’s work to develop and host the International Journal for Students as Partners, an international, peer-reviewed journal supported by the MacPherson Institute and published by McMaster University Library Press. McMaster staff, faculty, and students were among the inaugural members of the international editorial team and continue to play a leading role in developing and editing the journal. The MacPherson Institute also hosts an annual, international institute for Students as Partners, which brings together students, faculty, and staff from around the world to connect, collaborate, and develop projects focused on pedagogical partnerships in higher education. Since 2016, approximately 245 people have participated in the institute, coming from eleven countries worldwide.

Why did McMaster choose this structure over another?

The overlapping structure of the SPP developed in response to the mission and mandate of our institute and interest from staff, faculty, and student participants. The various streams of the program allow us to integrate students meaningfully into much of the work we do to support teaching and learning at the course and program levels, and through the development of teaching and learning knowledge via SoTL work. This range of options also makes space to engage a wide number of faculty, staff, and students who may have different interests, priorities, and immediate goals; while some may be particularly interested in working on teaching and learning scholarship, others prefer to focus on course or curriculum design and review.

In developing and refining the program, we were also influenced by the growing body of scholarship on student-faculty partnership, and sought to draw from existing models while adding to and adapting these for our context. As the program has grown over the years, we have also prioritized conducting research connected to it, including work exploring faculty, staff, and student experiences of the program, projects considering the extent to which participating relates to change in faculty teaching practices, work assessing the accessibility and inclusiveness of the program, and research focused on understanding the extent to which the SPP contributes to efforts to enhance equity and inclusion on our campus. Likewise, research has also been conducted on the international institute as a vehicle for supporting and developing pedagogical partnership in various contexts. This research is itself conducted in partnership (as part of the SPP) and is synthesized with informal feedback gathered from participants and used to refine and enhance the program as it grows.

What does the McMaster program not (yet) accomplish?

Although the SPP has grown rapidly over the five years of its existence, we remain conscious of the fact that it still engages a relatively small portion of the university community. While this is perhaps inevitable, we wish to continue exploring how we might support the growth of partnership initiatives within Faculties and departments to complement the work done in the centrally supported program.  A consequence of the localized/context specific approach we have taken is that creating a campus-wide community of partnership practitioners is somewhat challenging. Development events for faculty, staff, and students throughout the year have begun to bring individuals together across projects, and efforts to extend these opportunities are ongoing.

We also hope to continue to expand our efforts to understand the ways in which the program does (and does not) contribute to equity and inclusion on our campus, and to ensure opportunities to participate are broadly accessible. Lastly, while the program does include student-initiated projects, it remains true that the vast majority of SPP-funded projects are initially proposed by faculty or staff. Looking ahead, we’d like to explore means of further encouraging student-proposed projects and initiatives.


Story 2: Co-Create UVA, University Of Virginia, Virginia, United States

Dorothe Bach, faculty co-creator, Center for Teaching Excellence

Keaton Wadzinski and Jacob Hardin, student co-creators, ReinventED Lab

What kind of institution is UVA and what purpose does the partnership program aim to serve within that institution?

The University of Virginia (UVA) is a large public research institution with a strong commitment to undergraduate education. Although student self-governance and leadership has a long history at the institution, students’ perspectives had not been included in conversations about academic learning and pedagogy. Co-create UVA was designed as a platform for student and instructors to reimagine and co-create teaching and learning together.

What does the UVA program do?

Co-create UVA was founded in 2014 as a partnership between a student-led organization, ReinventED Lab, and the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia. The program consists of multiple initiatives, including six to eight paid undergraduate student teaching consultants, student-facilitated design thinking workshops, student-faculty luncheons at our new faculty orientation, and course development grants for faculty and student teams.

For the Center for Teaching Excellence’s week-long Course Design Institute, undergraduate student consultants work in pairs with individual instructors, providing feedback on clarity, transparency, motivational quality, language, and tone of syllabi and assignment descriptions. In addition, during the academic year, undergraduate student consultants meet one-on-one with instructors to discuss data collected through in-class observations and/or student focus groups. Currently, undergraduate students provide over forty consultations per year.       

In student-facilitated design thinking workshops, instructors and students work together to generate new ideas for improving undergraduate education and teaching together. Furthermore, each year, approximately thirty students join sixty new faculty at the provost’s new faculty orientation to excite professors about their work with students, to discuss opportunities for collaboratively enhancing learning spaces, and to share perspectives on how to best respond to critical incidents inside and outside the classroom.                

Finally, Co-create grants offer financial support for instructors and students to co-design courses together.

Why did UVA choose this structure over another?

Most of Co-create UVA’s initiatives were driven by the desire to integrate students’ perspective into already existing Center for Teaching Excellence programming. For example, each year, approximately 100 faculty participate in the Center’s week-long Course Design Institute and are eager to receive feedback on drafts of syllabi and assignment descriptions. In addition, we had reached capacity with our existing consultation program and sought to expand services by leveraging the expertise of students. The new faculty orientation provided another existing forum for students to share their perspectives and ideas. Finally, student-facilitated Design Thinking Workshops were the result of Co-create UVA’s student leaders’ expertise in design thinking and their eagerness to use the approach in the educational space.

What does the UVA program not (yet) accomplish?

As a Center, we currently work largely with individual instructors. As we begin to offer more curriculum design support for departments and schools, students will engage in this arena as well.


Story 3: National Australian Learning and Teaching Fellowship on Engaging Students as Partners

The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Kelly Matthews, Associate Professor, Curriculum, Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation, recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship (2015) to develop “Students as partners: reconceptualising the role of students in curriculum development”

What kind of institution is University of Queensland (UQ) and what purpose do the partnership programs aim to serve within that institution?

UQ is a large (50,000 students), comprehensive “Group of Eight” university in Australia, which means it is one of the oldest universities in the country. UQ is typically ranked in the top 50 in global league tables largely due to research outputs. Nonetheless, UQ aspires to be a leader in teaching and learning.

The purpose of UQ’s partnership program and whom it serves depends on whom within the university you ask. Many would not know about it. Senior leaders hope it raises the profile of the university in teaching and learning while raising UQ’s performance on national metrics on student outcomes (e.g., satisfaction and employment). Many students engaged in the program see participating in partnership as a part of the journey toward a career while also hoping to be a part of positive change at UQ. Many faculty and staff engaged in partnership hold strong beliefs about how learning should happen and the purpose of higher education as a social good, and partnership speaks to their beliefs.

What does the UQ program do?

The National Fellowship has supported a range of activities through the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation at UQ. The goal has been to harness student insight and creativity to transform science curriculum so that students graduate with a clear sense of learning outcomes and employability skills. A diverse set of high-profile and high-impact activities were undertaken, which sought to:

  • Raise the profile of students as partners in the higher education community and question the assumed position of students as passive consumers of their educational outcomes;
  • Gain insight into students as partners activities nationally and at UQ, and into the views of both students and academics on the transformative potential of student-academic partnerships;
  • Build the capacity of academics and students to partner on matters of teaching and learning; and
  • Foster links among national scholars in students as partners research and practice, connecting scholars (both students and faculty) internationally.

These aims were achieved through a series of overlapping activities:

  • Establish an Australian community of scholars with international ties
  • Map students as partners activities across Australia
  • Pilot student-academic partnership activities at UQ
  • Develop guiding principles and case studies
  • Facilitate workshops and roundtables

These activities aspired to achieve the following tangible outcomes in relation to students as partners:

  • A national community of scholars—the Australian Students as Partners Network currently includes around 550 people—on students as partners, which is linked into international networks with hub website.
  • National profile for students as partners linked to inter/national societies and sustainable activities, including being a part of starting The International Journal for Students as Partners; coordinating an international literature review on students as partners publications involving colleagues from Canada, UK, and US; engagement in the International Students as Partners Institute hosted in 2016-18 at McMaster University; coordination of the Australian Students as Partners Roundtable as an annual event started in 2015; lots of talks and workshops across Australia to introduce the concept of partnership and to support ongoing implementation and research; and supervising PhD students researching partnership
  • Local impact on UQ policy to further students as partners as a mindset and in practice—inclusion of students as partners as a central pillar in our university-wide student strategy policy that seeks to promote practices through an expansive view of partnership across a range of appropriate practices and programs including funding for a series of new programs that enable students and faculty/staff to partners on projects (similar to McMaster and Winchester Student Fellow/Partner programs) and for students to be engaging as observers and consultants with faculty (inspired by the SaLT program). Running alongside our focus on students as partners is a professional learning thread through a community of practice for those engaging in such practices at UQ and plans to integrate students as partners practices and language into our new faculty teaching development program.
  • Case studies of students as partners including those published in Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education and on Matthews’ website, through the nationally funded “Transforming Practice Program” on students as partners in 2016 involving eleven Australian universities piloting students as partners programs and UQ’s new pilot programs.
  • Publications documenting research and practices that contribute to the broader movement

Why did UQ choose this structure over another?

The fellowship is unique in that it centers on a person who is developing expertise and sharing knowledge in ways that bring people along. My approach has been to “enjoy the journey”—the process of learning about engaging in teaching and learning partnerships—and hopefully inspire others to want to learn and engage. I am not focused on a single program but rather on creating space for people to engage with the ideas, values, and principles of students as partners so they can enact and embody partnership, if they wish to. A key aspect of my approach is to bring outside views and expertise to Australia, so we are learning together with and through others.

At UQ, the idea of engaging students as partners in teaching and learning has been taken up at the highest levels through the university’s student strategy policy, while a core group of dedicated and experienced staff—and increasingly students—have been advocating for such practices for some years now. UQ is now in this tricky space where work on the ground—where teaching and learning happens—is meeting ideas from senior executives and administrative staff seeking to “operationalize” students as partners in clear and simple ways. I see my role as creating dialogue between these groups and maintaining transparency while advocating for expansive views of partnership that give primacy to a learning process that is values-based and messy.

What does the UQ program/approach not (yet) accomplish?

The programs, and the language of students as partners, does not reach across the university. The newer programs arising from the university’s student strategy tend to be focused on an elite group of students, which is problematic on many levels.


Story 4: Program at Kaye Academic College of Education, Be’er Sheva, Israel

Partnership at Kaye College, Be’er Sheva, Israel

Lea Kozminsky, College President

Ruth Mansur, Partnership coordinator

Moria Propost, student pedagogical consultant

Iska Naaman, student pedagogical consultant

What kind of institution is Kaye College and what purpose does the partnership program aim to serve within that institution?

Kaye Academic College of Education is an institution of higher education in Southern Israel for teacher education and the professional development of educators, including kindergarten, elementary, and high school teachers. Courses at the college address the entire spectrum of the teacher’s career, from the training stage to induction and professional development of teachers. The college is located at the country’s geographic periphery and it continually strives for pedagogical relevance and students’ perspectives to be heard.  Approximately 5,000 students study at the college every year in the various frameworks, serving the Jewish and the Bedouin population of the Negev Desert. Studies at Kaye College are taught in both languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Promoting ongoing dialogue between the Jewish and Bedouin students and faculty members is exemplified through joint initiatives in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Students mentor each other to improve academic skills, literacy, computer fluency, and testing strategies. 

What does the Kaye program do?

Being a teacher education institution we recognize pedagogy to be “our discipline,” so following the SaLT program we have developed a pedagogical partnership initiative. The program was founded at the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year with twelve pairs of third-year undergraduate students and faculty members, and it consists of students as teaching consultants. Its aim is to strengthen the reciprocal responsibility of faculty and students for the enhancement of teaching and learning within the college and to become a model of pedagogical dialogue for the students in their future career as teachers. The partners volunteered to participate in the program, and they are paid for their participation. The program has been initiated by the college’s president, jointly with the academic administration, and exemplifies mutual decision-making and planning of the various stakeholders: the forum of academic leaders within the college (heads of academic programs and academic centers), the Center for Teaching Excellence, and student representatives from the student-led organization. The partnership is on a one-semester basis, and the student consultants observe a course offered in the college (but is not part of their study program) and meet one-on-one on a weekly basis with the instructor of the course to discuss data collected through in-class observations. Students also meet as a group once a week with a coordinator (a retired faculty member) to discuss their experiences and insights.

Why did the Kaye initiative choose this structure over another?

This initiative comes following several years of collaborative learning of faculty members to develop and implement relevant pedagogies throughout the academic programs, including project-based learning, place-based learning, experiential learning, and heutagogy. We chose the student-faculty partnership over other structures hoping to include students’ perspectives in our teacher education process, and thus to improve our current pedagogical practices, and contribute to the conceptualization of learning and teaching as collaborative processes.

What does the Kaye program not (yet) accomplish?

Our program is in its initial stages (operating less than one semester) and it focuses only on pedagogical partnerships between students and faculty.

  • At the time being we encounter logistical difficulties to gather the faculty as a group and on a regular basis to discuss their insights.
  • Beyond classroom observations, some faculty members already proposed to expand the scope of the partnership and to include partnerships aimed at co-designing of courses.
  • We have not yet collected data as to the program’s impact on our students in their clinical teaching within the school system.
  • In the future we may see the participating faculty and students as pedagogical agents within different academic and administrative departments in the college.

Story 5: Ako in Action, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

Dr. Irina Elgort, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Academic Development (CAD)

Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, CAD Student Mentor and undergraduate BSc/LLB student

Ali Leota, CAD Student Mentor and undergraduate BHlth student

Dr. Kathryn Sutherland, Associate Professor, CAD

What kind of institution is Victoria University of Wellington and what purpose does the partnership program aim to serve within that institution?

Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) is a mid-sized (~22,000 students) research-intensive university in Aotearoa New Zealand. Known for its capital-city location and its top rank in the country for research quality, VUW prides itself on being a values-based institution, with several national award-winning teachers, high global rankings in many subject areas, and a commitment to sustainability and well-being.

With the introduction in 2017 of Te Rautaki Maruako (TRM), the university’s new Learning and Teaching Strategy, the university embedded a bicultural approach to learning and teaching that recognises the value of akoranga, translated in the strategy as “collective responsibility for learning.” Akoranga derives from the Māori word, ako, which means both to teach and to learn, and is enacted at VUW through “including students in the design, development and evaluation of learning and teaching, and by learning how to learn and teach from each other. We see the process of akoranga as key to developing lifelong learners” (TRM, 2017, p. 6). One long-standing example of akoranga already in place at VUW is a robust and extremely well-subscribed class representatives system: 97% of undergraduate courses had a class rep appointed in 2017. Class reps serve as liaisons between the other students in the class and the course instructors.

In 2018, the university’s commitment to akoranga was further cemented through the sponsorship of a new student-staff partnership program called “Ako in Action.” The initial plans for this pilot program were co-conceived by a team of three students and two academics, following their attendance at the McMaster University Change Institute, and then a workshop with Alison Cook-Sather at Massey University.

What does the Victoria University of Wellington partnership/curricular co-design program do?

Students and staff work in partnership on the two key components that comprise Ako in Action: observations of teaching and consultations on the design of learning and teaching.

The overall goal of Ako in Action is to develop an environment of akoranga by affirming the principles of reciprocity in learning and teaching, with staff and students learning from each other. The purposes of Ako in Action are captured by the following values embedded in Te Rautaki Maruako, the Learning and Teaching Strategy:

To help develop whai mātauranga (intellectual curiosity) through reflective practice:

  • Support academics and other staff involved in learning and teaching in seeking student perspectives on their teaching
  • Increase students’ awareness of teaching and learning at the university and reflection on their own learning processes

To foster whanaungatanga (an extended family of collaborative learners) through collaboration between academics, students, and academic developers:

  • Develop meaningful and ongoing teaching- and learning-focused interactions within and between Victoria students and staff
  • Welcome students more deliberately into the Centre for Academic Development whanau (extended family)

To develop rangatiratanga (autonomous learners and leaders) in teaching and learning:

  • Develop student and academic leaders and champions of akoranga
  • Encourage leadership in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL)
  • Give students and staff new entries for their CVs, transcripts, promotion/award/job applications

To demonstrate manaakitanga (the generous fostering of knowledge) through our learning and teaching practices:

  • Develop empathy among Ako in Action participants for each other’s experience
  • Provide staff with iterative, regular, just-in-time, informal student perspectives on teaching
  • Encourage an ongoing reflective dialogue between staff and students

To foster kaitiakitanga (the guardianship of knowledge and well-being) by respecting and protecting the interests of Ako in Action participants:

  • Acknowledge and mitigate risks associated with staff and students’ participation in the program

Students in the pilot program in 2018 received a scholarship for their contribution to both the pilot partnerships and to the co-design of the full Ako in Action program launching in trimester one 2019. They conducted several classroom observations for a pilot group of associate deans, as well as learning and teaching design consultations for new and existing courses. Based on the pilot, we agreed that Ako in Action activities should be conducted by teams that include at least two student partners, so that is how we have structured the 2019 program. Whether this format will be sustainable remains to be seen.

In 2019, student partners will each complete 30 to 50 hours of Ako in Action partnership, and will receive either a scholarship or points towards one of two leadership programs offered by the university. Scholarship recipients will also work closely with the Centre for Academic Development on various teaching and learning events that benefit from student involvement. For example, six of them helped to plan and run a full afternoon workshop (three hours) of the recent Introduction to Learning and Teaching program for recently arrived academics.

For the first full iteration of Ako in Action in 2019, all student participants will take part in both classroom observations and learning and teaching design consultations. They will first participate in four weekly reflective training and development sessions with the two academic developers and two student mentors (both of whom participated in the pilot program). At the end of the four-week Ako in Action induction, student partners will also participate with staff partners in Open Classrooms Week—an event where award-winning teachers across the university open their lectures to visitors. These visits will serve as practice teaching observation sessions. Then, after completing up to twenty hours of observations or learning and teaching design consultations, all students and staff participating in Ako in Action will attend a celebration event at the end of the trimester. Staff participants will include the following key groups: recently arrived academic staff; academics from a faculty that is introducing a brand-new degree program; and professional staff who are designing learning experiences for students and desire to take a co-design approach.

Why did Victoria University of Wellington choose this structure over another?

The values embedded in our learning and teaching strategy draw from Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and represent New Zealand’s, and our university’s, commitment to partnership. These values lend themselves to the co-construction and co-design of reflective, collaborative, and dialogic teaching and learning experiences. By honouring the students’ participation through scholarships—rather than by paying them as employees—we allow them to retain their identities as students. We ask everyone participating in Ako in Action to think of themselves in partnership; it is not just “students as partners” but also “academics as partners” and “professional staff as partners” and “Centre for Academic Development staff as partners.”

What does the Victoria University of Wellington program not (yet) accomplish?

As Ako in Action will run fully for the first time in 2019, we are still in the very early stages of knowing what will and won’t work. It is not clear whether a minimum of two students per partnership will be feasible long-term. However, the students in the pilot believe that it will bring multiple perspectives, imbue them with courage that may be lacking when solo, and will ensure back-up if one or other student is not available at crucial times, so we are determined to give it a try. We are also keen to explore how Ako in Action can complement the existing Class Representatives scheme, that has been in place for many, many years.