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December 2019

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In our introduction to Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we offer a brief overview of the kinds of partnership we focus on in Students as Learners and Teachers (SaLT). Here we describe the context of our institutions, the emergence of SaLT in this context, and how the SaLT program came to assume the structure it has.

Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges are two selective, liberal arts colleges located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Established in 1885 and 1833, respectively, each has Quaker roots, enrolls approximately 1,300 undergraduate students from diverse socio-economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds, and offers a rigorous curriculum. Both have high teaching and research expectations for faculty and strive to foster a sense of independence and social responsibility in their students. These colleges offer multiple opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty members in research and other arenas. Each school has a strong system of student self-governance, and students self-regulate on both an academic and a social level through their respective honor codes. The ideals of each institution rest on a system of mutual trust and respect among all members.

SaLT emerged in this context from a pilot project conceptualized in 2006 and launched in 2007. In response to a group of five faculty members from different departments at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, each of whom expressed a desire to make their classrooms more inclusive of and responsive to the increasing diversity of students enrolled in their courses, we used a start-up grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a pedagogical partnership program focused on addressing the challenges these faculty members had articulated. Starting at the micro level and growing to encompass forums at the meso and macro levels as well (Takayama, Kaplan, and Cook-Sather 2017), the SaLT program has implicitly and explicitly endeavored to support the development of more inclusive and responsive classrooms and campuses (Cook-Sather 2018a, 2019).

Aiming to support the five faculty members who expressed a desire to make their classrooms more inclusive and responsive, Alison met in the fall 2006 semester with several focus groups consisting of students who identified as people of color, members of groups underrepresented on campus, or allies. She sought their advice on how to structure and launch the pilot partnership program, and they recommended hiring students of color as the first cohort of student consultants to work with the five faculty members. Following their advice, Alison paired each of the faculty members with a student of color who expressed interest in participating or was recommended by a faculty member.

The students visited one session of their faculty partners’ courses each week, took detailed observation notes, and met with their partners weekly to analyze, affirm, and, where appropriate, make suggestions for revising pedagogical approaches. They also met with Alison once a week to discuss the insights generated through their particular positions and perspectives, to develop language for naming what they know and wanted to say about teaching and learning practices, and to identify strategies to support the efforts of the faculty partners.

In response to faculty feedback on this experience and with support from a second grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the pilot expanded in 2008 to include optional seminars to which all faculty could apply, each seminar linked with a one-on-one, semester-long partnership with an undergraduate student partner. Again Alison met with a group of students, this time a mix of students who had piloted the program and others who expressed interest, to decide what the evolving program should look like and what is should be called. The planning group decided to keep the basic structure of the pilot, with the weekly observations and meetings, and they chose “Students as Learners and Teachers” for the name of the program. The students chose “student consultant” for the name of their role for the dialogic emphasis and because they thought the outside world would recognize the term “consultant.” (See O’Hara 2015 for a student partner’s perspective on this experience.)

After seeing the benefits faculty members experienced through these seminars and pedagogical partnerships, the provosts at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges decided that all incoming faculty members on both campuses should have the opportunity to participate in a seminar and pedagogical partnership during their first year if they chose to do so. Therefore, starting in 2010, during their hiring negotiations with the provosts, all new faculty on both campuses have been invited to participate in a seminar and pedagogical partnership with a student partner in exchange for a reduced teaching load during their first year. During these negotiations, the provosts share a basic overview of the SaLT program so that the incoming faculty members can make a decision about whether or not they want to participate. Any faculty member at any point in their career at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, whether part-time, full-time, on a tenure track or on a long-term, continuing, non-tenure-track appointment, or visiting can work in a pedagogical partnership with a student partner through SaLT.

Once Alison has a list of faculty partners who plan to participate in SaLT during any given semester, she sends them an email message explaining the premises, structures, and components of the program—a very short version of what is explained in detail in this book. Faculty partners receive a set of guidelines. We discuss the guidelines in chapter 6, and a version of them is included in full in the “Guidelines for Student and Faculty Partners” resource. These guidelines provide the basic structure and support for faculty partners, and the incoming faculty are supported in the seminar as well.

Students consultants are second- through fourth-year undergraduates who major in a variety of subjects and range from having no formal education course work to pursuing a minor in educational studies or certification to teach at the secondary level. These students seek out the role of student partner or are recommended by faculty or other students, and they are compensated for their work through stipends, work-study, or academic credit. If they are working in a classroom-focused partnership, they are not enrolled in the course their faculty partner is teaching at the time of their partnership, and often they have no experience in or knowledge of the subject matter. As we discuss in chapter 1 and the “Threshold Concepts to Partnership” resource in relation to threshold concepts in classroom-focused pedagogical partnerships, the focus of the partnership work is pedagogy, not content. If, however, students are participating in a curriculum-focused partnership, they typically have subject matter knowledge.

If student partners in the SaLT program are working in classroom-focused partnerships, they participate in a two-hour orientation and receive the same set of guidelines for developing a pedagogical partnership as their faculty partners. We discuss the orientation along with the guidelines in chapter 6, the “Sample Outlines for Student Partner Orientations” resource, and the “Guidelines for Student and Faculty Partners” resource. Student partners also meet weekly with Alison and other student partners to discuss how best to nurture faculty growth and development. Their main “training,” therefore, is on the job—an approach each group of student consultants has affirmed because each partnership is unique and needs to be responsive to the particular faculty partner with whom they are working, not prescribed in some way. As one student consultant put it, “every partnership will look different and every focus will be approached in a way that is unique to the collaboration dynamic” (Brunson 2018). If student partners in the SaLT program are working in curriculum-focused partnerships, they and their faculty partners tend to work much more independently.

SaLT remains the signature program of the Bryn Mawr and Haverford College Teaching and Learning Institute. At this point in the program’s history, all faculty members who join the colleges are invited to participate in the program in exchange for a reduced teaching load (Cook-Sather 2016), and faculty at any stage of their careers can participate in stand-alone pedagogical partnerships with student consultants focused on pedagogical practice or curriculum design and redesign. As of this writing in 2019, 258 faculty members have participated in over 370 partnerships with 178 student consultants. As Schlosser and Sweeney (2015) argue, these partnerships allow partners “to hold a space” within which they can “develop practical wisdom about teaching and learning together while increasing effectiveness” during the time they collaborate.

While the explicit goal of the program remains to support faculty and students in engaging in reflection on and dialogue about teaching and learning to affirm and revise pedagogical and curricular approaches, SaLT also always aims to affirm and honor the experiences and knowledge of all students, including and especially those traditionally underrepresented in and underserved by higher education (de Bie et al. 2019; Cook-Sather 2018b), to develop more inclusive and responsive classrooms (Cook-Sather and Agu 2013; Cook-Sather and Des-Ogugua 2018), and to support students in developing citizenship and leadership skills (Cook-Sather and Luz 2015; Cook-Sather et al. 2019). One student partner captures the power of this work in the quote below:

“It is empowering to see strong, passionate, intelligent and active women of color on campus be able to be in prestigious academic positions…[and]…important for other students of color or underrepresented groups to have seen … that their perspective was welcomed, would be treated well and was valued as a driving force to change classroom dynamics.”

Student partners quoted in Cook-Sather and Agu, 2013, 277


Brunson, Mary. 2018. “The Formation and Power of Trust: How It Was Created and Enacted Through Collaboration.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 23.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2019. “Increasing Inclusivity through Pedagogical Partnerships Between Students and Faculty.” Diversity & Democracy 22(1).

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2018a. “Developing ‘Students as Learners and Teachers’: Lessons from Ten Years of Pedagogical Partnership That Strives to Foster Inclusive and Responsive Practice.” Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change 4(1).

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2018b. “Listening to Equity-Seeking Perspectives: How Students’ Experiences of Pedagogical Partnership Can Inform Wider Discussions of Student Success.” Higher Education Research and Development 37(5): 923–36.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2016. “Undergraduate Students as Partners in New Faculty Orientation and Academic Development.” International Journal of Academic Development 21(2): 151–62.

Cook-Sather, Alison, and Praise Agu. 2013. “Students of Color and Faculty Members Working Together toward Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy.” In To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, edited by James E. Groccia and Laura Cruz, 271–85. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Anker.

Cook-Sather, Alison, and Crystal Des-Ogugua. 2018. “Lessons We Still Need to Learn on Creating More Inclusive and Responsive Classrooms: Recommendations from One Student-Faculty Partnership Program.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 23(6): 594-608.

Cook-Sather, Alison, and Alia Luz. 2015. “Greater Engagement in and Responsibility for Learning: What Happens When Students Cross the Threshold of Student-Faculty Partnership.” Higher Education Research & Development 34(6): 1097–1109.

Cook-Sather, Alison, Sri Krishna Prasad, Elizabeth Marquis, and Anita Ntem. 2019. “Mobilizing a Culture Shift on Campus: Underrepresented Students as Educational Developers.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 159, 21–30.

de Bie, Alise, Elizabeth Marquis, Alison Cook-Sather, and Leslie Luqueño. 2019. “Valuing Knowledge(s) and Cultivating Confidence: Contributing to Epistemic Justice via Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnerships.” In Strategies for Fostering Inclusive Classrooms in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Equity and Inclusion, edited by Jaimie Hoffman, Patrick Blessinger, and Mandla Makhanya, 35-48. Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Volume 16. Emerald Publishing Limited.

O’Hara, Maeve. 2015. “Multiple Iterations of Partnership: My Co-Creation Journey as a Student and a Teacher.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 14.

Schlosser, Joel, and Abigail Sweeney. 2015. “One Year of Collaboration: Reflections on Student-Faculty Partnership.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 15.

Schwarzer, Ralph, and Matthais Jerusalem. 1995. “Generalized Self-efficacy Scale.” In Measures in Health Psychology: A User’s Portfolio. Causal and Control Beliefs, edited by J. Weinman, S. Wright, and M. Johnston, 35–37. Windsor, UK: NFER-NELSON.

Takayama, Kathy, Matthew Kaplan, and Alison Cook-Sather. 2017. “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion through Strategic Multi-level Leadership.” Liberal Education 103(3/4).