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December 2019

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In chapter 5 of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we pose the question: How do you invite or respond to prospective faculty partners? In this resource, we offer examples of approaches taken by different programs.

At Trinity University, Sophia Abbot, former student partner in SaLT and subsequently Fellow for Collaborative Programs in the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching at Trinity, sent the following message to prospective faculty partners as she was launching the Tigers as Partners program at Trinity:

Email — Invitation to Participate (Faculty)

Hi XXXXXX,

I’m launching a new program around teaching, learning and partnership here at Trinity for Spring 2017, and I’m writing because I think your openness and enthusiasm around teaching would make you an ideal candidate for participating in this pilot.

What is it?

The program is called Tigers as Partners (TaP) and involves a semester-long partnership between a professor and an undergraduate student here at Trinity centered on teaching and learning. The student will attend one of your classes each week, take observation notes, and make reflections, all of which will be shared back with you weekly so you can hear a student perspective on your class. You and the student will meet once per week to discuss those notes (for as long as you need and are able to give). You might also use that time to get a student’s perspective on a particular project or assignment, or to learn more about the student culture at Trinity. Outside of that, the student will meet weekly with me and fellow student partners to practice sharing feedback and gain additional perspectives on questions you and your partner may decide to tackle together. Ultimately, the program’s aim is affirmative — to highlight what you do well and support you in expanding your positive teaching practices.

Why partnership?

While your partner will not have your content expertise, they will be an expert in being a Trinity student. Working with a student in partnership offers you a new lens through which to view your classroom, understand student dynamics, and be affirmed in your work. The student partner gains a level of empathy and understanding for the professor and becomes a better student in the process. Often they take on the role of translator between the instructor and students in the class.

Meanwhile, you gain a partner in the often solitary process of teaching, getting to hear from an affirmative voice regularly, and deepening your understanding of students on this campus. Additionally, your student partner may be able to write a letter for you reflecting on your teaching and growth over the semester, which can contribute to the teaching narratives you prepare for P&T. Faculty at other institutions with programs like this have described participating as career-changing, and utterly transformative.

How will it work?

Your time commitment to this endeavor outside of your usual schedule is simply the weekly meeting you have with your student partner, and the time required to set up those regular meetings, along with email communications in between as needed.

If you are interested in participating, please let me know as soon as possible — preferably by ____. The Collaborative will offer you a stipend for participating, and hire and train a student partner for you, as well as supervise their work.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to write or call me. I hope you’ll be able to take part.

Sincerely,

Sophia

Here is a message sent by the pedagogical partnership program at Ursinus College (provided by Diane Skorina, staff co-director of the program, and Susanna Throop, former director of the program):

Sign up to work with a TLI Student Consultant in Spring 2018

Open to all faculty. Sign-up deadline: Friday, December 8, 2017

TLI Student Consultants are an elite group of trained student observers, hired through a rigorous selection process from across the disciplines. If you choose to enter a partnership, your consultant will be an extra pair of eyes and ears in the back of your class PLUS a willing and supportive dialogue and reflection partner. Faculty at all ranks and in all disciplines have found the experience incredibly helpful and constructive. Consultants respect faculty confidentiality, and the work they do with you is completely separate from the promotion and tenure process.

Why have a Student Consultant Partnership?

  • It’s an incredibly helpful and positive experience for faculty.
    • Faculty demand is always high (sometimes outstripping supply) and feedback is uniformly positive. Last year we collected post-partnership feedback from 17 faculty participants; all 17 said they would recommend the program to a colleague.
    • Some of your colleagues have said:

“This was a fantastic resource for me, both as a means to improve my teaching and to become more familiar with student culture at Ursinus.”

“As much as I hate self-reflection, it really helped me understand what my activities at the front of the classroom mean to the class itself.”

So what might a TLI Student Consultant do for YOU?

  • Help you brainstorm and be a constructive sounding board for your ideas;
  • Offer a supportive student perspective on your class;
  • Help you observe your own habits as a teacher (including everything from body language to the way you call on students);
  • Help you to think through issues related to equity and inclusion in the classroom;
  • Help you track in-class discussions and small group activities and discuss strategies for improving participation;
  • Help you monitor blow-by-blow responses to your lectures and discuss strategies for improving engagement and attentiveness;
  • Collect midterm student feedback for you and use it to prepare an analytical report for you;
  • And more!

By signing up, you agree to meet with your student consultant once a week for 30-60 minutes, at a time that is convenient for you both. Please do make sure you can commit this amount of time on a weekly basis.

If you have any questions, please email TLIDirectors@ursinus.edu.

The first two directors of Reed College’s Student Consultants for Teaching and Learning program, Kathy Oleson and Libby Drumm, have developed a similar invitation:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to invite you to participate in the Student Consultants for Teaching and Learning program, facilitated by the Center for Teaching and Learning, during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Faculty members participating in the Student Consultant program work with a student who observes one of their courses throughout the semester. Student Consultants provide an opportunity for faculty to reflect on their pedagogy, receive feedback from a student not in their course, and work collaboratively to meet teaching goals. Together, the faculty member and Student Consultant develop areas to focus on throughout the semester. The Student Consultant attends class, takes detailed observation notes, and meets weekly with their faculty partner to communicate their candid and confidential observations.

Faculty who have participated in the Student Consultant program have found the experience to be extremely positive as a way to reflect on their teaching practice and to gain consistent feedback from the perspective of a student. Faculty members can work either with a student they identify (please speak with me before inviting the student to apply) or with a student who has applied during the CTL’s open application period.

If you are interested in working with a student consultant during the 2018-2019 academic year, please complete this form by Wednesday, April 18.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions.