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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: What are useful approaches to orienting faculty and student partners who are embarking on a classroom-focused partnership? In this resource we share approaches used in the SaLT program and Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program.

The following is one plan for an orientation that Alison has used to support multiple institutions in launching pedagogical partnership programs:

Sample Orientation for New Faculty and Student Partners

Once a group of participants is established for a given semester, it is helpful to offer an orientation. Below is one approach to orienting new groups of pedagogical partnership participants: a three-part, semi-structured session that includes (1) a segment for student partners alone, (2) a segment for student and faculty partners together, and (3) a segment for faculty partners alone. Segments (1) and (3) can be switched.

Student Orientation (40 mins)

  1. Introductions (10 mins)
    • Take a few minutes and write down for yourself
      • Hopes you have for your partnership work this semester
      • Concerns you have about your partnership work this semester
    • Share your name, partner, course, and first your hopes, then your concerns
    • Discuss these
  2. What strengths do you bring to this work? (10 mins)
    • Jot down the capacities, strengths, abilities, and commitments that you think will be a benefit in this partnership
    • What makes these benefits?
    • How can you develop these if you don’t feel you are strong in these areas?
  3. Questions (10 mins)
    • What questions do you have?
      • About building partnership?
      • About taking notes?
      • About anything else?
  4. Aspirations and preliminary steps (10 mins)
    • Take a few minutes and write down your aspirations for your work in this pedagogical partnership this semester
    • What specific steps can you take toward ensuring effective partnership?
    • Share

Faculty and Students Together (30 mins)

  1. Establish Relationship/Rapport (10 mins)
    • Talk with your partner about why you are interested in this work. What interests, skills, hopes do you bring, wish to explore, and hope to (further) develop?
  2. Establish an Initial Focus for Your Partnership Work (10 mins)
    • Faculty partner explains
      • What are some specific pedagogical goals you have within the course?
      • What kind of learning experience do you want students to have and why?
      • What do you see as the student partner role in helping you to explore these pedagogical issues?
    • Student partner explains
      • What kinds of experiences have been most engaging and educative
      • Where they see drawing on their experiences and insights to address faculty partner’s goals
  3. Clarify what the student partner role will be (10 mins)
    • Visit class? Take notes? Participate? Meet with students outside of class? Conduct midterm feedback?

Faculty Orientation (40 mins)

  1. Introductions (10 mins)
    • Take a few minutes and write down for yourself
      • Hopes you have for your partnership work this semester
      • Concerns you have about your partnership work this semester
    • Share your name, partner, course and first your hopes, then your concerns
    • Discuss these
  2. What strengths do you bring to this work? (10 mins)
    • Jot down the capacities, strengths, abilities, and commitments that you think will be a benefit in this partnership
    • What makes these benefits?
    • How can you develop them if you don’t feel you are strong in these areas?
  3. Questions (10 mins)
    • What questions do you have?
      • About building partnership?
      • About your student partner’s role?
      • Anything else?
  4. Aspirations and preliminary steps (10 mins)
    • Take a few minutes and write down your aspirations for your work in this pedagogical partnership this semester
    • What specific steps can you take toward ensuring effective partnership?
    • Share

This approach creates a structure within which faculty and student participants can think about hopes, concerns, strengths, and questions, separately and together. Articulating all of these, first to themselves and then in dialogue, is both illuminating and reassuring, and it lays the foundation for continued communication about all of these dimensions of partnership work.

Variation on Orientation for New Faculty and Student Partners

If your orientation includes students and faculty all together for the entire session, consider using this variation on the above orientation. Rather than designating separate times for students and faculty, this approach invites all participants to think at once, through individual written reflection, whole group discussion, and paired dialogue.

  1. Overview of plan
    • Generate and share some visions and hopes for the partnership work
    • Think and talk through capacities for and concerns about pedagogical partnership
    • Discuss initial focus of partnership work
    • Plan for next steps
  2. Snowball (20 mins)
    • Everyone freewrite for three minutes without stopping, just for yourself (not to be collected or shared, so no need to sensor or edit): How do you envision this partnership program/work?
    • Now go back and formulate a single sentence that captures your vision and that you are willing to share with everyone in this room.
    • Write this sentence neatly/legibly on the half sheet of paper, crumple it up, and throw it into center.
    • Each person pick up a paper and then the whole group does a Read Around (no framing, commentary, or other talk; just read what is on the sheet of paper slowly and clearly).
    • Silent, individual writing: What resonated/is similar to your vision, what surprised, excited, or disconcerted you?
    • Discussion of what people heard
  3. What capacities or strengths do you bring to this work? (10 mins)
    • Jot down the capacities, strengths, abilities, and commitments that you think will be a benefit in this partnership
    • What makes these benefits?
    • How can you develop these if you don’t feel you are strong in these areas?
  4. Questions or concerns (10 mins)
    • What questions do you have?
      • About building partnership?
      • About goals for the work?
      • About anything else?
  5. Reviewing Plans/Establishing Relationship/Rapport (10 mins)
    • Faculty and student partners sit together in pairs
    • Talk together about why you are interested in this work. What interests, skills, hopes do you bring, wish to explore, and hope to (further) develop?
    • If your partner isn’t here, talk with someone else and explain these things; listener jot down what you think would benefit partner to hear
  6. Establish an Initial Focus for Your Partnership Work (15 mins)
    • Faculty and student pairs first write in response to these questions
    • Faculty partner explains
      • What is the focus you have in mind for your partnership?
      • What are some specific pedagogical goals you have within the course?
      • What kind of learning experience do you want students to have and why?
      • What do you see as the student partner role in helping you to explore these pedagogical issues?
    • Student partner explains
      • What is the focus you have in mind for your partnership?
      • What kinds of experiences have been most engaging and educative that you would want to promote or support through partnership work?
      • Where do you see drawing on your experiences and insights to address your faculty partner’s goals?
  7. Clarify what the student partner role will be (10 mins)
    • Visit class? Take notes? Participate? Meet with students outside of class? Conduct midterm feedback?
  8. Aspirations (15 mins)
    • Take a few minutes and write down your aspirations for your work in this pedagogical partnership this semester
    • Discuss
  9. Preliminary steps and commitments (15 mins)
    • Given everything you have talked about before today and during this session, what specific steps can you take toward ensuring effective partnership?
    • Write these down, and let’s share them out so everyone benefits
    • Share
  10. Takeaways (5 mins)
    • Write a word or short phrase that captures the spirit you want to take forward
    • Share in Read Around format (no framing, commentary, or other talk; just say individual words one at a time, then talk about them after)

Program directors at various institutions use forms of this orientation or variations. For instance, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Director of Faculty Development at Berea College, invites faculty partners to identify and articulate what they expect the partnership experience will be like, what the most pressing questions that they bring to this work might be, hopes they have for the experience, and fears they might bring. Below are a few excerpts from faculty partners’ responses:

Excerpts from responses faculty partners in Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program offered during one orientation session:

Opening expectations

Please write for 3-4 minutes about what you anticipate this experience will be like.

  • Enlightening—sharing idea about what works to reach the students; “close the gap”; meeting the diversity needs in the classroom, increasing my self-awareness to others assessments/confusions, developing (ways) to better connect with the students so that they feel important and make me more “approachable.”
  • I expect to get weekly feedback on my instruction from my student partner; training on how to respond (in course design) to feedback as needed; training on how to use partnership effectively (right questions to ask, etc.).
  • I’m sure this will be eye-opening, as I often feel that the student perception of what I’m doing in the classroom is different than what my perception of what I’m doing is.

Bulleted lists or short sentences:

Make a short list of your most pressing questions:

  • Will there be a deliverable required of this project?
  • How do the students learn best? Which activities increase the contextual knowledge for problem solving skills-type thinking?  How to use small things—names, activities—that work well for others to make connections with the individual student?
  • How will the partner be trained?
  • How do I best utilize resources? What can a student help me see?  How can I help to empower him to talk honestly with me?

What are 2-3 hopes you have for the experience?

  • 1) To improve my teaching so students learn more effectively while decreasing the stress of learning.  2)  To make better relationships with students.  3)  To find time efficient techniques that are impactful for the learning environment.
  • 1) Improve students’ classroom experience.  2) Increase student learning.
  • To learn more about my teaching. To figure out what it means to “teach” concepts (and writing, esp., for the course I’m using for this project).
  • This seems like a cool way to learn, in a non-confrontational way, how to strengthen my teaching practices and become more aware and intentional about my pedagogy.

Name any fears or concerns you bring to it.

  • I’m not ready for this
  • That I’ll be criticized in ways I didn’t anticipate. That this will take up too much time.
  • That advice won’t be actionable. That I won’t learn how to let go of responsibility.
  • Only that my [student partner] will hold back, in a way that’s not productive. I’m all in in terms of growth.
Provided by Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Director of Faculty Development at Berea College

Like the approach we use in the SaLT program, this approach makes space for participants to identify and articulate hopes, questions, and concerns and begin to work through those before embarking on their partnership work.

The “Gets and Gives Grid” was also developed by Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens. Leslie uses the grid to ask participants to imagine what each will “get” from and “give” to the partnership. Below is an example from one semester during which faculty and student partners completed the grid separately at the outset of their partnerships at Berea, then compared them to one another’s in their cohort meetings. Returning these completed grids to participants at the end of the semester can be a useful form of reflection and informal assessment.

Here is an example of a completed grid:

Example of filled-out gets and gives grid