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In our introduction to Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education we note that we open the book with reference to what research has shown to be the benefits of pedagogical partnership in chapter 1. The outcomes of pedagogical partnership have been analyzed in a number of publications (Cook-Sather, Bovill, and Felten 2014; Healey, Flint, and Harrington 2014; Marquis et al. 2018a; Marquis et al. 2016; Mercer-Mapstone et al. 2017). Here we do not reiterate and re-analyze every outcome that has been reported in the literature. Rather, we highlight the outcomes that we have noted most consistently in SaLT and programs like it.

Not surprisingly, since we are talking about partnership, outcomes for faculty are closely related to outcomes for students, and outcomes for both faculty and students are inextricably linked with outcomes for institutions. We discuss outcomes for faculty, students, program directors, and institutions in separate sections, but the overlap and repetition serves to reinforce the multiple ways in which pedagogical partnership affects those directly involved and the ways in which it affects those beyond the immediate partnerships themselves—an effect of what Alison and one former student partner, Sasha Mathrani, call rhizomatic development (Mathrani and Cook-Sather, 2020).

In this resource we present the following overview and discussion of outcomes of pedagogical partnership work:

What are the outcomes for faculty?

Positive Outcomes

If faculty genuinely embrace the opportunity to work in pedagogical partnership with students, they experience a range of outcomes that facilitate and enrich their experience of entering a new institution or evolving over their years in the same institution. The intentional focus on pedagogical and curricular exploration rather than teaching and learning of content, the opportunity to have confidential, vulnerable-making conversations outside of the traditional student-teacher dynamics, and the opportunity to co-mentor, as it were, are all quite different ways to connect with students that lead to largely positive outcomes, although there are some negative outcomes as well. While we organize outcomes in these binary categories, some experiences may be nuanced and complex and less easy to distinguish as either entirely positive or entirely negative. One faculty member captures her experience of the unusual nature of partnership work:

“What makes this relationship so amazing is that you [the student consultant] are not responsible for the content and you are free of the grading. That’s why we can be more honest. And because we have confidentiality I can tell you what I am struggling with in ways that I would NEVER talk to a student. Because we are outside of the normal relationship.”

Faculty partner quoted in Cook-Sather & Alter, 2011, p. 43

Acclimating more quickly to campus culture and unfamiliar students

Many new faculty find acclimation to a new context much easier and quicker when they embrace their student partner as a guide (Cook-Sather 2016a). As guides, student partners can help faculty find their way, interpret the cultural practices that are particular to any institution, and develop pedagogical approaches that at once build on their strengths as faculty and are a good fit for the institution. Of course, no single student (or faculty member) can have a full understanding of the complex culture(s) of an institution, but partnerships can help faculty develop awareness, ways of asking and addressing questions, and strategies for communicating. Writing just after her first semester at Bryn Mawr College, one new faculty member describes this experience:

“Regular meetings with my student consultant under Alison’s guidance provided me an incredible opportunity to quickly come to an understanding of [Bryn Mawr and Haverford] college culture, students, and different pedagogical approaches. And Lyra [my student partner] has been a bridge between me and students, me and Alison, me and Bryn Mawr College, and the first-year novice faculty to a more experienced member of this community. I will always open the end-of-the-semester note Lyra wrote to me, with extensive suggestions for how to make better classes and things to keep in mind, whenever I revisit my courses and need some reminders of how teaching should be a mindful journey and conversation between a teacher and students.”

Oh 2014

If faculty do not have opportunities and support for coming quickly to such understandings of institutional culture, they can experience confusion, frustration, and alienation, and they can unwittingly upset people or make problematic choices. All of this is enervating and potentially detrimental for new faculty members. While working in pedagogical partnership with a student does not render new faculty members immune to such experiences, not least because student partners do not have all the answers or insights into all the complexities faculty must navigate, pedagogical partnerships can nevertheless provide “a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose,” as Reckson (2014) put it, and offer faculty support as they make their way in the typically unfamiliar culture of a new institution.

Developing a confidence and clarity about their pedagogical commitments

Because opportunities to teach are often neither required nor available in many doctoral programs and those opportunities that are available tend to come with little support, many new and experienced faculty can struggle to feel confident about their pedagogical approaches as they are trying them out for the first time in a new institution or even after many years of teaching. Regular dialogue—informed by student partners’ classroom observations, faculty partners’ descriptions of their pedagogical practices if student partners do not observe, or in response to steps in curricular revision—affords faculty a rare opportunity to identify, articulate, explore, affirm, and, where appropriate, revise their pedagogical approaches. Sometimes these processes are catalyzed by deepening shared understandings (e.g., Schlosser and Sweeney 2015; Cook-Sather et al. 2017), and sometimes they are catalyzed by pedagogical disagreements that lead to clarification of pedagogical commitments and practices (Anonymous 2014; Abbot and Cook-Sather, under review).

For instance, a faculty member in the English department at Haverford College explains that, through dialogue with her student partner, “I reconsidered my own pedagogical commitment to the orderly, thinking instead about how to introduce a kind of productive disorder: a way of modeling the resistance to inherited forms and polyvocal playfulness of modernism itself” (Reckson 2014). In contrast, a Bryn Mawr College faculty member found that a “central point of disagreement” between her and her student partner “became the most useful learning opportunity for me” (Anonymous 2014). The latter faculty member and her student partner had divergent interpretations of silence in the classroom, and this disagreement constituted, this new faculty member explained, “the first time that I had explicitly identified my pedagogical commitment to silence.” She continued: “Becoming clear on this commitment opened up several new areas for discussion with my consultant, which in turn yielded more effective strategies for incorporating silence into the classroom” (Anonymous 2014).

These outcomes are the result of faculty and student partners genuinely engaging in dialogue through which they are not afraid to share convictions, questions, and disagreements. They are the result of articulating and analyzing assumptions, wrestling with the complexities of pedagogical practice, and systematically keeping track of what works well and what needs to be reconsidered and revised, all of which student and faculty partners accomplish through the various approaches we detail in chapters 6 and 7. As one faculty member put it: “[My student consultant’s] support helped me to feel more confident in the classroom and allowed for more exploration and more diffuse boundaries between what needs to get accomplished and what can emerge” (Bressi Nath 2012).

Finding the courage to follow through on their pedagogical convictions and responsibilities

It is not uncommon for new faculty in particular—but all faculty as times change—to have at once strong pedagogical convictions and deep uncertainty about whether those are appropriate in a given context and with a certain population of students. Anxieties of various kinds can converge to render faculty hesitant or unable to act in the face of these anxieties and uncertainties. Student partners can affirm faculty convictions and encourage faculty to follow through on those in order to become the teachers they want and hope to be.

As cultural guides, advocates, and regular interlocutors, student partners can literally talk their faculty partners through some of the uncertainties with which they wrestle in relation to their pedagogical convictions. After her first semester teaching at Haverford College, a new faculty member reflected on finding just such courage:

“Stepping into the classroom is a major test of fortitude. Doing what you believe is best for the students is rarely the easiest or most popular course of action. However, I found that having Miriam [my student partner] in the room strengthened my resolve to pursue the goals we established for me and for my students.

For example, I place high priority on helping students learn to write well. The ability to communicate clearly and precisely is more important than any of the specific content I teach. I noticed very problematic tendencies in my students’ early written assignments, including vague language, incorrect grammar, and confusing syntax. I wanted to address these issues, but was surprised by how hesitant and anxious I felt about bringing them up in class. I had no training in writing instruction and had not taken an English composition class since high school! Plus, my students were upperclassmen, so maybe all of their previous professors considered their writing acceptable, and I had unrealistic expectations. I also worried that the students would take offense if I suggested that their basic grammar was incorrect and that they would be upset if I took time away from teaching about economics to teach about writing.

Miriam helped support me in the face of all of these anxieties. She affirmed my qualification and capability to teach the writing skills that are important in my field. She also reassured me that my expectations for student writing were not at all unrealistic. She reminded me that I had the authority and the responsibility to provide critical feedback to my students and suggested that they would be more likely to appreciate than to resent being corrected. Encouraged and with renewed fortitude, I developed a lesson on writing in economics, based largely on Deirdre McCloskey’s Economical Writing.”

Binder 2016

For faculty new to a particular context, everything might feel uncertain at first. Sometimes faculty who have been teaching in effective and engaging ways for a long time also encounter uncertainties. As we discussed in chapter 6 in relation to identifying and challenging the hidden or implicit curriculum, highly experienced faculty members can come to the realization, often through difficult classroom experiences and student feedback, that their classrooms may not be fully inclusive or that these faculty members lack an understanding of what their students are experiencing. Student partners can walk and sit beside their partners through both explorations of and experiments with new pedagogical and curricular approaches. As a student partner who worked with just such an experienced faculty member explained: “With trust in collaboration and my partner regaining his trust for himself, we were able take ‘risks’ that would never have been possible earlier in the semester. Together, we were able to not just create a learning environment that was engaging to all but we were also able to push the learning deeper and find new approaches in educating” (Brunson 2018).

Very strong and effective instructors with years of experience teaching can also find themselves experiencing a sense of burnout or staleness.  It can be difficult to get a fresh perspective from within the routine of practice, and a student partner may help an instructor find a way out toward new energy. When asked on a year-end survey what had been most valuable about the experience of working in a pedagogical partnership, one faculty partner at Berea College responded this way:

The radical rethinking of particular parts of my pedagogical practice.  My partner gave me the courage to reinvent my assignments and cut away all of the dead wood at the heart of my previous assignments.  Her careful honesty affirmed my suspicions about what students disliked in my old assignments and her imagination spurred me on.

Anne Bruder, English, Berea College Faculty Partner, Spring 2018, with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program

Pedagogical partnerships afford faculty the opportunity to articulate, talk through, complicate, and reaffirm—or revise—their pedagogical and curricular commitments in dialogue with students who care deeply about teaching and learning. These dialogues are brave spaces for faculty (Cook-Sather 2016b)—spaces within which they can take risks but know that they will be taken care of and supported in those courageous acts. Few other such spaces exist for faculty.

Gaining a perspective that faculty cannot achieve on their own

One of the earliest participants in the SaLT program at Bryn Mawr and Haverford articulated what countless faculty have said since: that the student consultant is able to observe what, as he put it, ‘‘I cannot from my vantage point.’’ He meant this ‘‘not only figuratively but also literally, as [the student consultant] has a line of sight into the space of the classroom which I do not have from where I stand.’’ This ‘‘line of sight’’ opens up a view that encompasses more than what faculty members previously perceived; it changes what they see. Lex Lancaster, a faculty member in art history at Berea College, said virtually the same thing ten years later, adding a comment, too, on how not only are angles of vision opened but also listening and hearing are deepened as well: “This program allows me to see my classroom from more than one perspective, and also creates a conversation in which the student and I (as faculty) both feel listened to and heard from the other side of the desk” (reproduced with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program). A faculty member at Reed College offers an extended discussion of this experience:

“There is an awful lot going on in the classroom, and having an additional set of eyes and ears there to monitor and keep track of things is really valuable. I have a background as a serious jazz musician, and teaching is a lot like playing music; it is impossible to perform to the best of your abilities while also observing yourself in a detached way. Once you become self-conscious, the whole thing falls apart. So it is amazing to have my consultant’s play-by-play record of what happened during a particular class session, because once class time is up and the students walk out the door it is hard to remember the details. Where before I would leave with little more than an intuitive feeling that class conversations went well (or not), I now have a detailed understanding of which students contributed to our conversation, how many times they contributed, who they were speaking to when they contributed, how many minutes they spoke for, how many minutes I spoke for in response, and so on. Working with Ben gave me a much better sense of what was actually happening in my classroom, and that was a real revelation.”

Luker and Morris 2016

The perspective that faculty cannot achieve on their own yields insights into students’ experiences in particular. As another faculty partner at Berea College, reflected: “Every educator has teaching/learning blind spots. Being part of the Student-Faculty Partnership Program has enabled an astute student partner to shine a light on these areas and help me (the faculty member) to think through solutions to eliminate them” (Penny Wong, Education Studies, with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program). A faculty member in the SaLT program used similar language: “‘For the first time, I was able to get the sense of how others experienced the class. Her perspective gave her access to specific insights which I remained blind to: she alerted me to students’ confusion, affirmed and/or challenged my choices of activities, and helped me identify the pedagogical practices that worked, even for the most withdrawn students” (faculty member quoted in Cook-Sather 2014a, 38).

A faculty member who participated in the SaLT program described what can come of attending to the students’ perspectives:

When to speak and when to be silent — two lessons I learned from [from my student partners] Erica Seaborne and Anna Chiles — remain with me…Creating a class with the active participation of the people who take courses — students — cemented in my mind the centrality of the notion of student voice: without it, we can sometimes be successful, but we miss out on the opportunity to learn from the experts in learning.

(Shore 2012)

Gaining a different perspective—on one’s classroom, one’s assumptions, one’s efforts—is invaluable if one is going to be a reflective and intentional practitioner. Pedagogical partnership provides a structure within which different perspectives are regularly and repeatedly brought into dialogue, yielding a wide variety of insights that continue to emerge after partnerships have ended.

Recognizing and making intentional good pedagogical practices

Most experienced faculty members have developed clear purposes and rationales for their pedagogical approaches. They have tried things out and developed a set of practices designed to support learning in particular ways. Student partners can name such practices, affirming what is effective about them, but also pointing out ways they benefit students, particularly those students who have traditionally been underrepresented in and underserved by higher education, of which faculty members might not have been aware. In the extended quote below, a faculty member with many years of teaching experience and who participated in the pilot project that launched the SaLT program captures this phenomenon.

“My student partner identified a bunch of things that I knew and did in a conscious way but wouldn’t have thought of as culturally responsive. I did them to solve a different problem: trying to make the class more interactive (that was my goal)—How can I make them think about or do something?  And [my student partner] perceived them as actually connected to the students’ personal experiences. So what I was already doing for another reason had that unintended consequence. [My student partner] said a lot about my responses to students’ questions that I didn’t see in a culturally responsive way. I was thinking about it narrowly in terms of the benefit to the student who was asking the question, how to make her feel comfortable with the fact that she asked the question. [My student partner] said, ‘By saying that you made everyone feel comfortable.’ I had one purpose and she saw other purposes.”

Faculty partner, quoted in Cook-Sather and Des-Ogugua 2018

There is a range of ways in which having one’s pedagogical practices identified and named by a student partner can illuminate them. It may be, as the faculty member above explains, that the approaches had one pedagogical goal but actually could be used to accomplish others. It could be that the pedagogical goal is tacit, and by the student noting it, inquiring about it, and opening it up for discussion, the faculty partner can find ways of naming the practice that can, in turn, be shared with students in the class (as in the case when the faculty and student partner disagreed about the role of silence in the classroom). These are useful to faculty over time as well as during an initial pedagogical partnership. As one faculty partner from Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program explained: “This is my third semester participating in the Student Partners program and I keep coming back because of the thoughtful feedback, which helps me immediately make important adjustments to my classroom management and pedagogy. In short: this works!” (Beth Feagan, GSTR, with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program).

Sharing power—and responsibility—with students

One of the thresholds to pedagogical partnership that we discussed in chapter 1 is also one of the most consistent and powerful outcomes once that threshold is crossed: sharing power—and responsibility—with students. Again, this is not about faculty giving up power or abnegating responsibility. It is, in keeping with the other partnership principles we have identified—respect and reciprocity—about finding ways to distribute responsibility based on the range of expertise that any faculty member and student or group of students brings to a pedagogical or curricular encounter. Acknowledging that students have valuable knowledge, recognizing that students see things faculty cannot, learning from what students say about how they learn, recognizing that access is extended differently depending on identity, previous experience, and much more—these are all ways that faculty can begin to share power while also using their own power to intentionally shape meaningful learning and life opportunities for students.

Through experiencing these phenomena in pedagogical partnership, faculty become “more willing to trust student partners by sharing power with them, not exerting it over them” (Delpish et al. 2010, 98). One very experienced teacher in Berea College’s partnership program identified her new and greater openness to “co-create” with students as the primary benefit of participating in the program: “The most significant benefit for me was a shift in my attitude about co-creating teaching and learning. I mean, I wanted to believe that I was on board with that before, but I admit I was still skeptical. This semester more than the previous semesters [I have participated in the program] I experienced a shift. Not rhetorical. Not abstract. It had to happen experientially, and it was so awesome when it did.” (Beth Feagan, General Education, Berea College Faculty Partner, Spring 2018, with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program).

Sharing power and responsibility with students in pedagogical partnership leads many faculty to see how they can work with all students as partners. In the quote below, two faculty partners describe how they experienced this shift:

“I work with students more as colleagues, more as people engaged in similar struggles to learn and grow. I have become even more convinced that students are experts in learning and essential partners in the task of creating and developing new courses and refining existing ones.”

Faculty partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2014b, 39


“One unexpected side effect of working with the Student Consultant was a subtle change in attitude that I experienced. I have always strived to adjust course content and process to match student interests and needs, but I had always seen that as a process of me adjusting things for them. Mid-way through the semester of working with my Student Consultant, I realized that I was thinking about my class in a more collaborative way than I had before: I was thinking about building the course with the students, as partners.”

Faculty partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2014b, 39

Turning pedagogical learnings into publishing opportunities

All faculty can recount times when they encountered a pedagogical challenge for which they were unprepared. Embracing pedagogical partnership can turn such challenges into opportunities to develop learning resources for students and scholarship for the faculty member and, perhaps, others involved. For instance, when a faculty member at Haverford College learned that a blind student had enrolled in her linguistics class, she worked with the coordinator of accommodations in the office of disability services, two linguistics majors and class assistants, a student partner through the SaLT program, who had a severe vision impairment, and the student himself to develop a tactile International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) magnet-board system. All but the SaLT student partner (who offered feedback on drafts) co-authored an article on the approach they developed. We include below an extended excerpt from that article:

“We, the authors, are not experts in teaching blind or visually impaired students. In fact, for most of us, it was the first time thinking about this particular pedagogical situation. Much as described in Wells-Jensen 2005, we sought advice by reading the LINGUIST List archives, emailing linguists who are blind with specific questions, and generally crowdsourcing ideas among our colleagues—we started from a place of ignorance and ‘an honest lack of relevant information and experience’ (Wells-Jensen 2005: 221). However, with 11 percent of undergraduate students reporting having a disability (US Department of Education 2013), it is important for faculty and staff on college campuses to consider these issues proactively. In an ideal situation the instructor may be educated, experienced, and well supported in teaching phonetics and phonology to a wide range of students, including those who are blind and visually impaired. Likewise, a visually impaired student may be experienced at learning in a university environment and have access to and knowledge of appropriate learning techniques and technology. However, the amount of training available to instructors may vary greatly, and at some point, every instructor will be inexperienced. The visually impaired student’s experience with university-level learning may also vary. Far from the ideal, some classroom situations may involve a relatively inexperienced instructor, with little to no pedagogical training in regard to visually impaired students, and a visually impaired student just entering college, still becoming accustomed to university-level work and to the resources available at that particular campus. We encourage instructors and students alike to be as educated and trained in the relevant pedagogical and technological approaches as possible. The tool we describe [in our article], however, is intended to be usable by anyone, even instructors previously inexperienced with teaching blind or visually impaired students. It is low cost and has a shallow learning curve. We offer it here in case others may benefit from it or improve upon it.”

Lillehaugen et al. 2014

In addition to producing publications born of newly encountered pedagogical situations, faculty partners also write reflective essays and research papers about the range of experiences they have in pedagogical partnership. They write on their own and in collaboration with students about co-creating assessment approaches (Deeley and Brown 2014; Doyle 2015; Monsen, Cook, and Hannant 2017), about the perennial challenge of facilitating discussion (Wagner-McCoy and Schwartz 2016), and about co-creating learning experiences (Ramsey et al. 2015). Faculty partners’ insights are sprinkled throughout this book and featured in journals such as Teaching and Learning Together in Higher EducationInternational Journal for Students as PartnersInternational Journal for Academic Development, and others, contributing to an ever-expanding dialogue about the potential of pedagogical partnership.

Negative outcomes for faculty

All of the outcomes for faculty we have discussed so far are positive. While they may not be easy to achieve, they are achievable if student and faculty partners build trust in one another and engage seriously in the intellectually, practically, and emotionally demanding work of pedagogical partnership. The positive outcomes we report here are not achieved, and not possible, if faculty and student partners do not build trust or genuinely engage with one another. The majority of the several hundred faculty partners who have participated in the SaLT program have reported the positive outcomes listed here. We believe that is because they have felt able and willing to take up the challenges and possibilities pedagogical partnership offers. A very small number of faculty partners have not seemed willing or able to embrace pedagogical partnership and not experienced positive outcomes. There appear to be several reasons for these negative outcomes. The following are both negative outcomes in and of themselves, and also reasons for negative outcomes.

Feeling unproductively vulnerable

Pedagogical partnership is, for all faculty—and for those in other roles who take on this work—a vulnerable-making experience, and virtually all faculty feel some trepidation at the outset (Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018). In the quote below, a librarian articulates clearly what many faculty feel:

“Emotionally, the vulnerability required of the program was a challenge for me. Insecurity regarding my ability to teach effectively, as well as a desire to move towards a more student-led classroom, are what propelled me to join the [Student-Faculty Partnership Program at Berea College]. Even though I had actively sought out participation in the program, I found myself nervous as it began. I am already sensitive to the fact that not everyone in the academy considers librarians to be their academic equals. I worried about admitting to the ‘real’ teaching faculty, who were my cohorts in the program, that I am not yet the teacher that I want to be.”

Amanda Peach, Librarian, Berea College Faculty Partner, in Ferrell and Peach 2018

The vast majority of faculty partners quickly come to experience their student partners as allies, supports, critical friends, and the mirrors-only-better that one faculty member deemed student consultants. But on occasion some faculty members do not move past the initial stage of feeling unproductively vulnerable.

One faculty member “had a very active group of students with strong opinions,” and he was teaching a course that, in his words, “covered a lot of volatile topics.” This faculty member noted that, “Even though it was not meant to be evaluative, the presence of the student consultant observing every class gave the students license to be very critical of me and how I run the class.” Furthermore, this faculty member continued, “My student consultant often sided with the students in her feedback. I felt very vulnerable, disempowered, and ‘under observation’ (in an unproductive manner)” (faculty member quoted in Cook-Sather 2014a, 189). Although this faculty member’s student partner felt that she worked hard to support him, he still felt unsupported and in fact disempowered. This set of variables conspired to create an unproductive sense of vulnerability for this faculty member.

In a subsequent semester, this same faculty member described a shift from a sense of students being adversaries to students being partners in analyzing and navigating his course. About this change in his interactions with students, he said in an interview: “I feel less that I am transmitting and that it’s more of a transaction” (Cook-Sather 2014a, 192). It is impossible to know whether it was the particular dynamic of the first class this faculty member described, some miscommunication between him and his student consultant, a shift in his attitude, or some combination, but had he not shifted to a different place, he might have sustained the sense of being subject to student perspectives rather than engaged in more of a transaction with students. This example illustrates, too, that partnership may not have only positive impacts in the course of a semester. Especially when contextual variables conspire to present a variety of challenges, faculty may need more time to work through both volatile content and pedagogical approaches.

Experiencing initial resistance and dismissal

Some faculty who at first seem unable and unwilling to engage in pedagogical partnership shift their stances subsequently. One faculty member, for instance, who had seemed stuck at the threshold concept that students have valuable knowledge and important perspectives on teaching and learning, wrote: “It is a rare occasion that a student [consultant at one of our meetings] says something that I have not already heard a student say before, or that I could not have anticipated a student would say. I must admit that I have been both surprised and disappointed by this fact” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2014a, 190).

After conducting midterm feedback, this faculty member shifted her thinking entirely, talking in an animated way about the power of the conversation she had with her students and the ways she had revised her course, based on the midterm feedback from those students that her student consultant had gathered for and analyzed with her. In her final reflections on this experience, she asserted that this partnership approach made her a better scholar as well as teacher as it allowed her to integrate the various dimensions of her identity—indeed, to co-construct them with students (Cook-Sather 2014a).

Had this faculty member not crossed this threshold, she might have sustained the attitude that students have no new insights or understandings from which she can benefit, and she might well have carried that into her teaching. What threatened to be a negative outcome actually turned into a positive one in this case, but some faculty do not cross the threshold that this faculty member crossed.

Rejection of this particular partnership approach

A very few faculty members have rejected some of the partnership activities, such as classroom observations, and student partners have developed creative ways of trying to support their faculty partners while respecting their choice not to participate in those activities. Others have participated, but in a distanced, disengaged way. They appear to have gone through the motions but not believed in nor especially benefited from the experience.

From our perspective—and we do not claim to speak for these faculty—this is because they did not feel able or willing to take up the challenges and possibilities pedagogical partnership offers. Their sense of distrust, vulnerability, or dismissal of the approach was too strong. For some this may have been one of many legitimate survival strategies they felt they need to exist in the academy. Others appear to have perceived the partnership work as linked to surveillance and evaluation, despite our efforts to distinguish those.

The negative outcomes here, then, include not only the loss of the potential of pedagogical partnership that SaLT and programs like it support. They also reinforce or even deepen the distrust some faculty feel for students and for directors of pedagogical partnership programs. They also have the potential to reinforce non-partnership ways of thinking and engaging in teaching and learning. In response, we in the SaLT program have developed more options for participation that strive to afford the benefits of partnership without making faculty feel unproductively vulnerable or inclined to reject the approach.

What are the outcomes for student partners, particularly those traditionally underrepresented in and underserved by higher education?

As with outcomes for faculty, there has been a range of outcomes for students reported in the literature on pedagogical partnership. Again, we do reproduce all of those but rather focus on the key outcomes we have found in the SaLT program and programs like it.

Positive Outcomes

Gaining confidence in and capacity to articulate one’s perspectives

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback student partners offer is that working in pedagogical partnerships supports them in developing confidence in themselves as knowers, perceivers, and interlocutors. Like faculty partners, students benefit both from points of agreement with their faculty partners, which affirm and reassure, and points of disagreement, which require further reflection, dialogue, and clarification but can contribute equally to the development of confidence and clarity.  In the quote below, a former student partner, Benjamin Morris, who graduated from Reed College, describes this benefit in the context of a partnership with a professor of music:

“The program’s success rests on the partnership between student consultant and professor. It is a partnership that is truly collaborative. I was initially unsure about how to help as a student consultant, especially having never studied music. After the first lecture, I was simultaneously wary of seeming judgmental and of having little to contribute. I knew that insight into Morgan’s teaching would come with time and familiarity. I was anxious to ensure that Morgan saw I was a resource, not an evaluator. Thankfully, these concerns were quickly alleviated because we were able to forge our own dynamic. Working together, we organically developed key areas to focus on both over the entire course and on a week-to-week basis. Thus, we were both able to direct and shape the process. Having Morgan’s guidance, I could observe the class as an informed and allied partner, not as a detached third party. These observations could be both honed and complicated through our discussions, creating new pedagogical topics to focus on and new experiments to try in the classroom. The discursive element of this process should not be overlooked. Actually sitting down with Morgan gave us the chance to share and respond to one another’s perspectives. Often our views were in harmony and we were immediately able to expand on what was brought up. Perhaps equally as often, we had seen things differently or one of us had noticed something the other may have missed. These are the key opportunities that this kind of collaboration allows for, where talking with someone opens your eyes to something new. The partnership is so powerful because student and teacher are able to work together to adapt the program and make it work for them.”

Luker & Morris, 2016

The process Benjamin describes here enacts partnership principles—the respect he brought to his work with professor of music Morgan Luker, the reciprocity they experienced in exchanging perspectives, the responsibility they shared for analyzing what was happening in Morgan’s classroom. It also demonstrates the way in which student partners develop confidence through participating in partnership.

Many student partners from Berea College’s program identify an enhanced ability to interact with authority figures as a significant outcome of the experience. This is a particular form of confidence that can shape students’ interactions with other members of academic communities and those outside of academia. One Berea student explained: “Communication has been the most challenging and beneficial aspects of the partnership.  From what I have learned, my ability to communicate with other professors and people holding positions of authority will forever be influenced by this experience. It is important to relate to others across boundaries and strive to see the humanity in people regardless of their position” (Deshontanae Davis, Berea College Student Partner, Spring 2018, with permission and courtesy of Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, director of Berea College’s pedagogical partnership program).

This experience of gaining confidence in and capacity to express one’s perspective is important for all students, but it is particularly so for students who are underrepresented in and underserved by higher education. Students who identify in this way also highlight the development of confidence that Benjamin describes and the capacity to connect that Deshontanae names. One student explained that, after participating in SaLT, she felt “more confident speaking to professors and with professors about my concerns about classes.” Contrasting her pre-partnership self with her post-partnership self, she explained further: “If something wasn’t going well or I wasn’t understanding the way the professor was presenting the information, before I wouldn’t have said anything. Before I would have just been this is how everyone teaches. But now I feel like I understand both how to approach a teacher about that and feel like I have something to say that’s worth hearing” (Cook-Sather 2018b, 927). Likewise, a student partner in the SaLT program who identifies as a member of an underrepresented group describes how her participation increased her confidence and sense of self worth:  “I feel like being a Student Consultant literally gave me a voice. I started being more vocal in and outside of class…[Participating in the SaLT program] made me feel like who I am is more than enough—that my identity, my thoughts, my ideas are significant and valuable” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2015).

“Being a student consultant has allowed me to understand the rationale behind an activity or behind an assignment a lot better. So now when I am a student and receiving information, I can not only receive the content, but I can also see why it is being delivered in this way. Why I am being asked to engage with this particular text in this particular way. So seeing the content as it is as a student but also going to the next level to see the pedagogical reasoning behind it has totally deepened my learning”

Student partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 927


“My involvement [as a student consultant] has allowed me to view the experience of learning when I am not engaged in that role [of learner] myself. If I don’t understand something that the professor is explaining, I try to figure out why I don’t understand it, as opposed to struggling with how to write the course content in my notebook. This feeling provides a clear space for me to think about how a professor teaches and I learn, as opposed to what is being taught and learned.”

Student partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2014b, 37


“I think I learned better. Talking with faculty let me see some of the hidden rules on how assignments were constructed or lectures were conceived or discussions and helped me recognize the deeper learning goals faculty had. Having that info helped me translate assignments or syllabi I was given. It helped me to ask better questions in class and of assignments as well.”

Former student partner in SaLT program

Developing deeper understanding of learning and oneself as a learner

Being in regular dialogue with faculty about teaching and learning affords students an unusual opportunity to gain distance and perspective on themselves as learners. One student consultant in the SaLT program captured what student partners say every semester: “You really don’t understand the way you learn and how others learn until you can step back from it and are not in the class with the main aim to learn the material of the class but more to understand what is going on in the class and what is going through people’s minds as they relate with that material” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2014b, 37). Such understanding can inform student partners’ thinking about all their classes. They not only better understand learning, they link the kind of thinking that can inform their own learning with the thinking that informs teaching, thereby further deepening their capacities. In the quote below, three student partners describe this experience:

These deeper understandings of learning inform all student partners’ classroom experiences. They not only increase the likelihood of student success in traditional terms, as individuals successfully navigating the structures and demands of higher education that are not designed for a diversity of students, they help expand the definition of success to be more relational—the shared responsibility of all involved for all involved (Cook-Sather 2018b). Such an expansion with implications for all of higher education as such a notion of success is more congruent with a greater diversity of students.

Developing deeper understanding of teaching

Through their classroom observations or curricular analyses and concomitant dialogue with their faculty partners, student partners have a rare opportunity to focus on how learning of content happens rather than having to engage in learning the content themselves. This experience gives them a deeper understanding of and capacity in learning and insight into and appreciation of the work of faculty. As one student partner explained, they get to “‘see the mechanisms that are going on behind the scenes in putting together a class,’ which gives them ‘much deeper understanding of the content of the class’” (student partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2011b, 46). A student partner who worked with a librarian at Berea College offers a similar perspective:

“I am able to think critically through my observations. Instead of just pointing out the things that I would do differently [as I did in observations for my education placements], I now consider issues like whether this change is possible and how students are relating to the material. I have been able to put myself in the position of the professor. Because of this program, I have changed how I observe. No longer do I have a sole focus on the content, but I now also focus on how it is received. I have gained the skills to remove myself from just observing and engage in all aspects of teaching.”

Ashley Ferrell, Technology Help Desk Student Supervisor, Class of 2019

A student partner who worked in a semester-long course redesign partnership with two other students and a faculty member, described this outcome for her in an essay on which she was a co-author:

One of the reasons I was intrigued by the peer-led course revision position was because it was a great opportunity to combine my love for chemistry and interest in education. It also gave me a unique opportunity to think from different points of view: as a student and, during course revision, as a teacher. Through the process of transcribing and reorganizing lecture notes based on key concepts, I was able to re-engage with the course material in a new way: I constantly thought about the flow of the lecture and if the chronological order of introducing the material made sense. Through this experience, I also gained a newfound appreciation for professors and the amount of work they put into teaching their courses. I noticed little details like how effort was put in putting discoveries in context and giving background information to keep lectures interesting and students engaged.

Saadia Nawal in Charkoudian et al. 2015

This deeper understanding of teaching is not only a benefit to students who plan to be teachers themselves. It helps all students in all their classes. Cook-Sather, Bovill, and Felten (2014) featured a student partner’s explanation of this benefit in Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, which we reproduce below:

“When I was writing the last paper I had [in a particular class], I found myself looking at the prompt and thinking more. The professor wasn’t necessarily explicit about making connections, but I found myself being able to look at what the assignment was and being more able to decipher what the professor was emphasizing and what they were looking for. I think I ended up writing a better paper as a result. And it was sort of interesting to realize that I don’t think I would have thought of this last semester; I would have just answered the question. Whereas this was more like, what is the intent behind the questions, and why are these questions set up as they are?”

Student partner quoted in Cook-Sather, Bovill, and Felten 2014, 12

Developing greater empathy for faculty

Student partners consistently describe gaining insight into the time, energy, and care faculty members put into their work as teachers—effort that remains largely invisible to students when they are “just” students as opposed to student partners. Student partners gain insights into the complexity and challenge of teaching. As one student partner from Berea College wrote: “This experience has truly shown me that teaching can be a difficult profession. There is simply no one formula for how to teach. There are so many different ways that material can be taught and teachers have to be aware of that because not all students learn the same way” (Student Participant, Spring 2017). Another student partner from Berea College elaborated on this insight:

I would say that, overall, the most important insight I gained from being in the program was an appreciation for teaching, and an understanding of how difficult it can be. There is an extremely delicate balancing act, I have found, when it comes to teaching, especially at the college level: this might involve things like challenging students and not making class too easy, but not so hard that the expectations are too high, or perhaps putting enough onus on the students to help themselves learn the material outside of class, so that you as the teacher do not do all the work for them, but also recognizing that, at a certain point, students will read less outside of class and count on learning inside of class to be sufficient.”

Student Participant, Berea College pedagogical partnership program, Spring 2017

Students partners respond to these glimpses “behind the curtain” with deep empathy and become, as one student partner put it, “faculty advocates”: when fellow students complain or criticize faculty, student partners challenge them to consider what they as students are doing to take up the learning opportunities faculty offer and to communicate with faculty about their struggles or concerns. One student partner in the SaLT program captures what many student partners experience:

“[Participating in pedagogical partnership] made me a lot more compassionate towards my professors, more empathetic, because I saw how hard my faculty partners were working, it made me a lot less likely to disparage my own teachers and less willing to tolerate that from other people.”

quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 926

The empathy students develop through pedagogical partnership is congruent with the empowerment they experience. This combination holds promise for students, faculty, and higher education more generally. Alison and a student partner, Yeidaly Mejia, wrote about this, and an excerpt from their blog post is reproduced below:

“To our minds, the combination of feeling a greater sense of confidence and capacity and feeling more caring toward others holds promise for more engaged and empowering educational experiences for everyone. It holds particular promise in these times of heightened tension between faculty and students on campuses, when what we need is more dialogue across differences, not less.”

Cook-Sather and Mejia 2018

Sharing power—and responsibility—with faculty

Just as sharing power for faculty is not about their giving up power or abnegating responsibility, sharing power for students is not about wresting it away from and wielding it over faculty. It is, in keeping with the other partnership principles we have identified—respect and reciprocity—about finding ways for students to be acknowledged and have the opportunity to draw on their experiences and expertise in the service of improving teaching and learning. Having opportunities to contribute knowledge, perspectives, questions, and suggestions that inform the development or refinement of meaningful learning opportunities for both faculty and students is the goal and benefit of sharing power. As one student explained:

“I felt like I could create change or make an impact because I was working as a partner alongside those that are typically viewed as having the power (faculty).”

quoted in Cook-Sather 2015

Most often, student partners’ reflections on this outcome focus on a sense of agency and empowerment they feel coupled with the sense of responsibility they develop, which they see as complementary to what faculty bring. A former student partner in SaLT captured this reciprocal sense of responsibility:

“Both professors and students need to realize that they come into the classroom with a certain responsibility, if it is going to be a culturally responsive classroom — to be open to each other, to allow one another to sit in uncomfortable positions and sort of deal with that instead of backing away from it. And I think when I first learned about culturally responsive teaching in an education class, I thought of it as culturally sensitive. But being a Student Consultant has made me take responsibility for my own education, and that’s how I think came to think of culturally responsive teaching as more being about responsibility.”

Seaborne 2010

Matthews (2017, 3) suggests that “through ongoing dialogue about expertise and contributions,    and continuous reflection, power is not diminished, but instead shared as all partners come to appreciate the resources…they have to offer.”

Experiencing more agency and taking more leadership

Participating in pedagogical partnership contributes to student partners’ sense of themselves as active agents beyond their partnerships, in their classes, and in other areas of their life during and after college. As one student asserted: “It made me feel a sense of ownership of my experience both inside the classroom and outside the classroom” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928). One form of agency student partners describe is striving to be “a better citizen in the classroom” and “create more of a sense of community and shared endeavor in the classroom rather than just score points with the professors” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928). With a greater sense of ownership and agency comes the realization that many of the challenges students face are a result of educational systems not being “set up well for students” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928). With their newfound understanding and agency, rather than accept that inequity, student partners can “help professors become more wakeful to the needs of that structural disadvantage” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928).

After participating in pedagogical partnership, student partners experience what this student partner describes: “I began to feel I had a lot more agency and could be an agent of change within my classroom spaces” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928). Others describe how they take “more leadership roles as a result [of participating] in the [SaLT] program” (quoted in Cook-Sather 2018b, 928). The sense of agency and capacity to lead extends beyond graduation and into student partners’ work lives. In the quote below, one former SaLT student partner explains how this worked for her:

It’s really tough for women, for women of color, for LGBTQ folks…‘consultant,’ ‘fellow,’ these are words not typically afforded access to people like me. So, having the experience, being able to say I do know these things, I can prove them, set me up to be more willing to go out for things that I wouldn’t have gone out for before. It improved my confidence, my job seeking confidence. And it’s true, I haven’t had trouble getting jobs. My mom talks to me about that all the time. She says, ‘Of all my kids, you’re the one I don’t worry about when it comes to finding a job.’ And the reason for that is programs like [SaLT]…I would not be in the same position if it wasn’t for that same training and understanding.”

Former student partner in SaLT

Feeling stronger connections to the department and institution

The majority of attention in pedagogical partnership is focused on the work at hand—the pedagogy and curriculum under consideration. Another outcome of partnership, however, can be a stronger sense of connection to the department in which the student partner participates and to the institution overall. A student partner who worked with a faculty member to redesign her course reflected:

Going into the process, I hoped that [our faculty partner] would find our feedback and perspectives a useful tool to assist in shaping the course. As a group, I think we were successful in that regard. I had also expected to deepen my understanding of the material, both through increased exposure and by considering how topics relate and how to let the syllabus and course structure allow students to see connections and parallels. I did not foresee, however, the extent to which participating in this process made me feel more connected to the course and the Chemistry Department as a whole. I think that student participation in course design could be a powerful pedagogical tool that urges students to invest in their education and take responsibility for their learning.

Anna C. Bitners, student partner, Charkoudian et al. 2015

 Pedagogical partnership work can make student partners feel like “a more legitimate member of the community” because, as one student partner in the SaLT program put it, she “contributed something to the schools” as well as did her “best to help future teachers and learners on the campus” (student partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2015). This sense of connection and belonging can apply to the overall institution and becomes a way of being for student partners that is, to their minds, inextricably connected with their sense of themselves in the institution. One student partner in SaLT captures this phenomenon: “I can’t imagine being a student in the college community and not being a student consultant. It is such empowering work. I attribute much of who I am as a student, as a critical thinker, and even as a human to my work as a student consultant.”

Getting to “take” as well as observe a course they otherwise might never experience

Since the majority of student consultants in the classroom-focused partnerships through the SaLT program come from disciplines other than those of the focal course, working in pedagogical partnership focused on such courses gives them the opportunity to sit in on a course that they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to encounter. Since they do not do the assignments or attend every class session, they get more of an exposure than an immersion experience, but they nevertheless encounter new concepts, methodologies, particular texts or processes, and much more. This is a benefit many student partners have noted, citing it as an unusual way to broaden their undergraduate education.

They also get to focus their attention on what students taking the class are experiencing as learners of particular content. From the perspective of a student not enrolled in the course and an observer of learning, they can certainly note the frustration or alienation some students might feel, as Daviduke (2018) noted when she reflected that she “had sat in the same seats as the students in my partner’s course” and that she had “wondered how basic STEM concepts were relevant” to her own learning and goals. She also reflected on the frustration of “mak[ing] a social science connection and hav[ing] it brushed aside.” While there are many such empathetic responses student partners can have, which afford them insight into their own and others’ educational experiences, they also can witness the joy of learning in a course in which they are not enrolled, as this student reflects:

“I have two friends in the class [for which I am working as a student partner], and it’s been such a joy watching them learn in the class. It’s been an experience I have never had, honestly. I get to watch my friends learn this new material that they are so excited about, and it’s like really informing what they are doing. And I also get to be on the other end, talking to [my faculty partner], and she is so…committed about being accessible.”

Student partner in the SaLT program

The kind of opening up of space—for curricular experiences student partners might not otherwise have, for having the opportunity to perceive frustration as well as deep engagement—is an unanticipated and beneficial outcome for student partners for the ways it expands not only their experiences but also their thinking and appreciation.

Turning pedagogical learning into publishing opportunities

Like faculty partners, student partners also turn their pedagogical learnings into publications. Having the opportunity to analyze and present their work and insights to a wider audience is an important professional experience for students. From the first issue of Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, student partners have published their reflections and analyses alongside those of faculty partners. Important about these publications is both that they provide a legitimate space for reflection (Cook-Sather, Abbot, and Felten 2019; Sword 2009, 2017) and that they provide a space for theorizing—a rare opportunity for students to provide conceptual frames for analyzing partnership work (Cook-Sather 2018).

In terms of reflecting on pedagogical partnership, student partners have written about a range of experiences, including their role in supporting the launch of new college initiatives (Brown, 2012) and the experience of participating simultaneously in a partnership with a high school student in the Teaching and Learning Together (TLT) project and a faculty member through the Students as Learners and Teachers (SaLT) program (Bahn 2015). Just two examples of students focusing on developing theory include: Jenness (2013) argues for being comfortable with uncertainty as a threshold concept; and, in the quote below, Powers (2011) describes her process of analysis and the findings of her inquiry:

“Through consultation with other participants and coordinators in the [Teaching and Learning Institute (TLI) at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges] and through on-going self-reflection, I have concluded that there are seven core principles that are needed to make the TLI, and other initiatives like it, successful. These seven principles are:

  1. Meet people where they are
  2. Engage in constant communication and active listening
  3. Set goals
  4. Utilize affirmations
  5. Have a collaborative and reciprocal partnership framework
  6. Embed continual learning and research, and
  7. Self-define and respect time.”
Powers 2011

When student partners have the opportunity to publish their work, they join wider conversations about teaching and learning, adding their voices and insights to conversations that are richer for their contributions and also further empowering to the student partners. One student partner, an education major from Berea College, was encouraged to turn a class reflection into a manuscript for an article, and together with her faculty partner, eventually did so, and their piece was accepted for publication. In her year-end evaluation survey, she identified the encouragement to make her ideas public as one of the most important parts of the experience for her, as she explains:

“An affirmation that I got from this program, is that my reflective essay writing is pretty good.  I was really shocked and happy when I got asked to write my reflection focused on one part in order to be sent in for publication.  This gave me the confidence to go forward with my plan with my partner to work on our article for publishing.  Being published is something that I have wanted to do, but I didn’t not know how to until this class has given me two opportunities to do it.  I will now be more confident in going after something that I want. ”

Ashley Ferrell, Student Partner, Berea College, in Ferrell and Peach 2018

These contributions can influence how teaching and learning are conceptualized and practiced in higher education, and they can be cited by other scholars, as Jenness (2013) was (see Doyle, 2015), as their voices shape policy as well as practice.

Student partners’ insights are sprinkled throughout this book and featured in journals such as Teaching and Learning Together in Higher EducationInternational Journal for Students as PartnersInternational Journal for Academic Development, and more. Like faculty partners who publish about their experiences of pedagogical partnership, student partners who publish contribute to an ever-expanding dialogue about the potential of pedagogical partnership to transform teaching, learning, and higher education more broadly.

Negative outcomes for students

The negative outcomes for students take some of the same forms as and some different forms from negative outcomes for faculty. As for faculty, one form is feeling vulnerable to their faculty partners in an unproductive way. For far more student partners, who almost uniformly cross all the threshold concepts we discussed in chapter 1, the biggest challenges and negative outcomes have to do with the fact that, once you cross those thresholds, you cannot go back, and yet not all contexts and people operate according to partnership principles.

Feeling vulnerable to your faculty partner or traumatized by a partnership

For all that pedagogical partnership strives to enact principles of respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility, the power dynamics that inform student-faculty relationships are always present, either just below the surface or in full view. Many student partners feel that, at some point or many points in their partnership, they have to be careful of upsetting or pushing their faculty partners too far. This care can feel like a vulnerability because it is a reminder of the underlying power dynamics and it takes a tremendous amount of emotional energy to manage. It can lead to student partners temporarily letting go of and pulling back from their engagement with their faculty partners. As one student partner explained: “I have learned to let things go (for my own sanity) and also the beauty of readjustment” (quoted in Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018).

A more extreme version of this need to step away is when faculty partners resist or dismiss or otherwise disallow student partners from engaging. Relatively rare, this phenomenon is nevertheless very powerful when it happens. When faculty members respond this way, it can cause student partners to doubt themselves and to struggle with the weight of trying to work in partnership with those faculty members. It was this feeling, in herself and in others, during an unusually tense semester of partnerships, that informed Anita’s exploration of resistance and resilience in pedagogical partnership (Ntem 2017; Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018). As Anita wrote in a reflection on this experience: “What am I doing wrong? What is going on here? Like, is it me? Do I not have the capabilities of being a student consultant?” (Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018).

This is a particular challenge for students of color and other underrepresented and underserved students, who invest so much emotional energy and time in trying to get their faculty partners to recognize the many ways in which institutions and individuals reinforce oppressive and abusive structures and practices. When faculty partners resist or reject the dialogue offered through pedagogical partnership, it can be profoundly draining and even traumatizing for student partners. As one student partner, who identifies as a person of color, explains:

“We continue to, day by day, pick ourselves up and move. To resist is tiring work. We must find the inner strength to keep moving. Our weekly meetings and commitments to continue moving forward are resilience.”

Student partner quoted in Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018

Feeling frustrated with non-partnership frames and practices

In weekly reflective meetings and on end-of-semester feedback, many student partners describe the frustration of not being able to go back to being “just a student” and of encountering faculty and others who do not welcome their insights or conceptualize them as partners. A student who worked in pedagogical partnership with several faculty partners when she was an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr described her frustration in an article she co-authored with Alison:

“It can be difficult to have a realm (SaLT) where you feel incredibly empowered and your voice is valued, and others where it is not. It can create frustrations when you feel as though in certain arenas your voice is valued and invited, and in others you may just have to sit back and grit your teeth some because your feedback is not invited or may be clearly unwelcome.”

Cook-Sather and Alter 2011, 48

Another student, who participated in an interview on the experiences of pedagogical partnership for students who identify as belonging to equity-seeking groups, described this same kind of “negative” outcome. In response to a question about how participating in pedagogical partnership had affected her relationships with faculty, this former student partner explained her experience after graduating, which we quote at length below:

“Honestly, that is possibly, I hesitate to call it this, but a negative consequence. It made me gain confidence as being, not necessarily an equal colleague with faculty members, but being someone who could speak with them and be respected in a meaningful way. So all of this sounds positive so far, right? I gained confidence, I gained a higher sense of authority and ownership over my capacity to engage and think critically about myself and others as learners. Then when I got to [name of university] all of this predisposed me to accidently walking into faux pas that I didn’t realize were faux pas. Like, for example, referring to a professor by their first name and then immediately being corrected, like, ‘It’s Professor…whoever.’ This was my first day of graduate school, and I just remembered being stunned because it was like this rush of cold water. So I learned to become more discreet, so I backtracked and became less open with professors because you are not supposed to be, you’re not supposed to try to engage intellectually, it’s the sage on the stage, it’s the opposite of pedagogy of the oppressed. You’re meant to just download knowledge; that’s what your job is.”

Former student partner in the SaLT program

These negative experiences are a mix of empowerment and frustration, of gaining capacity and sense of connection only to have to control and contain those. Such negative experiences remind us that we have a long way to go to shift the culture of higher education toward a more egalitarian one.

Feeling hyper-responsibility as a result of increased awareness and capacity

Another frustration student partners express that is related to their inability to return to “just being a student” is that they feel a kind of hyper-responsibility to name, address, support, and challenge pedagogical and curricular practices that are either particularly effective or particularly ineffective. For marginalized students particularly, tokenization can also be a negative outcome. In other words, the insights, sense of responsibility, and voice that students develop through pedagogical partnership become a kind of conscience that prompts action rather than bystander behavior but can also reinforce the dynamic by which marginalized students feel compelled to challenge discrimination and inequity. Whereas before they worked in pedagogical partnership they might have had a vague sense as students that there were problems in a particular situation, they might not have had the language or the confidence to name them and might have remained frozen, as a bystander, because they did not know what to do. In contrast, after becoming student partners, they know they have the capacity and also feel a responsibility to do something. These might be understood as the burdens of partnership.

Feeling disenchanted with non-engaged work

While on the one hand taking on the role of student partner adds weight and responsibility, it also opens up a world and way of being that, once experienced, can ruin student partners for non-engaged work. Student partners’ tolerance for and interest in work that might before have been bearable, even if not engaging, drastically diminishes. Many student partners talk about how they want to create the same kind of structures and practices wherever they go once they graduate, both for themselves and for others.

What are outcomes for program directors?

While we are not aware of any research focused on the outcomes of pedagogical partnership for directors of pedagogical partnership programs, perhaps because the partnership phenomenon is still relatively new, Alison and other directors can offer their perspectives on this question. Consistent outcomes include expanding and deepening one’s own pedagogical explorations, shifting focus from one’s own pedagogical explorations to those of others, putting one in direct contact with students one might not otherwise experience, affording an opportunity one might not otherwise have to address larger issues on campus, clarifying for oneself what counts as meaningful work, and making local efforts have a more far-reaching effect. There are also potential negative outcomes, including the experiences of burnout and vilification.

Positive Outcomes

Expanding and deepening one’s own pedagogical explorations

Supporting the pedagogical explorations of student and faculty partners affords program directors the opportunity to see through the frames those partners bring to their work. The pedagogical issues that both faculty and student partners identify, the challenges they experience, and innovations they develop all offer new ideas for program directors who are faculty to bring back to their own pedagogical practice and research activities.

For instance, some of the particular pedagogical issues upon which faculty have focused have prompted Alison to rethink these issues in her own practice. Examples include faculty explorations of the role of silence (Anonymous 2014), threshold concepts in undergraduate academic writing (Todd 2013), and navigating risk in participating in and facilitating pedagogical partnership (Bryson and Furlonger 2018; Marquis 2018).

As we noted in chapter 9 in relation to assessment, student partners can introduce perspectives or conceptual frames that program directors have not previously considered. Brave space (Cook-Sather 2016b), resistance as a form of resilience (Ntem and Cook-Sather 2018), and epistemic justice as a way of conceptualizing partnership’s affirmation of students as knowers (de Bie et al. 2019) are all examples of students introducing conceptual frames that were new to Alison and that afforded her new ways to consider her practice. Beth Marquis, Associate Director (Research) of the MacPherson Institute at McMaster University offered a similar perspective:

“Students have introduced me to new scholarly perspectives, challenged and expanded my thinking in productive ways, and raised important questions that shaped and expanded our shared research activities. As many of these projects have themselves focused on partnership, this has meant that their insights have also contributed to refining the Student Partners Program itself.”

And as described in chapter 3 in relation to developing a program together with a post-bac fellow, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens had the opportunity to experience both program development and teaching in partnership with a recent graduate who brought a powerful and informed near-peer perspective to the work. Alison had a similar experience when she co-designed and co-taught Advocating Diversity in Higher Education with Crystal Des-Ogugua and then both presented and published on this work with Crystal (Cook-Sather and Des-Ogugua 2017; Cook-Sather and Des-Ogugua 2018) and also with Crystal and Melanie (Cook-Sather, Des-Ogugua, and Bahti 2018).

Shifting focus from one’s own to others’ pedagogical explorations

A beneficial outcome to directors of pedagogical partnership programs is the opportunity to shift focus from the daily work of teaching and curriculum development to supporting that work in innovative and collaborative ways. Shifting focus in this way allows program directors to draw on their years of experience designing, teaching, and redesigning courses but to mobilize that experience toward shaping more than just individual courses and classrooms. This is a benefit both to others in the community and to the program directors themselves. Their expertise can be spread, and it can also be enhanced by the experiences and other forms of expertise that faculty and student colleagues bring to the partnership work. This sense of broader impact can be deeply invigorating and re-engaging for program directors, especially those who may be questioning their ability to make a real difference.

A related benefit is the opportunity to rethink one’s own practice through facilitating and being part of larger conversations about supporting inclusive teaching and learning. While program directors might have a great deal of experience and insight to share, they also have a great deal to learn from those with whom they work through pedagogical partnership. As Alison describes in chapter 7 regarding the course she designed with Crystal, having an experience like that positions her to understand and support other faculty members who undertake such partnership, as Anita did with Kathy Rho (also discussed in Chapter 7), and inspires her to keep learning from both student and faculty partners.

But beyond the sharing of expertise is the sharing of the human work of teaching and learning—the connections made across differently positioned people who are all striving to make teaching and learning as engaging and meaningful as possible. Having glimpses into other faculty members’ classrooms, learning from their thinking and feeling about their work, and sitting and walking alongside them as they assess those efforts are all deeply humanizing, inspiring, and mobilizing experiences, as Floyd Cheung, Director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning at Smith College, articulates:

“Leading the Smith College Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program has been a highlight of my time directing the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning. I love working with our brave, caring, and committed student- and faculty-partners, who have decided to dedicate an entire semester to reflecting on their teaching and learning. In the 2017 keynote speech at POD, Randy Bass talked about the special position of teaching and learning centers—namely, that we can ‘lead from the middle.’ We do not operate on the model of the top-down mandate. Instead, work like facilitating partnership enacts what feels like genuine change from the middle. As director, I get to be the facilitator in the midst of teaching and learning as it happens in the real-time of a semester, supporting and encouraging colleagues and students at once.”

Floyd Cheung, Director, Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, Smith College

Connecting with students

For staff members who assume leadership of pedagogical partnership programs, the opportunity to connect with students is rare and valuable. For instance, in McMaster University’s Student Partners Program, several projects have involved partnerships between students and teaching and learning institute staff. Those staff members have had an opportunity to experience directly the benefits and challenges of partnership, and to work with students to think about how they might do the work of educational development and teaching and learning scholarship in different ways.

Similarly, program directors who are mainly administrators rather than teachers find that pedagogical partnership programs can be a great way to connect with students. A program director who gets bogged down in paperwork, organizing events, scheduling, conducting interviews, and coordinating meetings may find the pedagogical partnership program keeps them connected to the student experience in a way that they could not otherwise be. Administrators so easily lose sight of the on-the-ground, day-to-day realities of teaching and of what it’s like to be a student. It’s so much easier, in many ways, to administrate: You fill out a form, and someone gets reimbursed; you organize a speaker’s visit, and the speaker comes and visits. But teaching at its best and most essential is about human connection, and it just doesn’t work like administration: there’s no line or process that works for everyone, all the time, as much as we try. Diane Skorina, staff co-director of student-faculty pedagogical partnership program at Ursinus College, captures this benefit in the quote below:

“I think having a Student Consultant Program makes me a better administrator because I am more connected to the student experience through them; and ultimately I think that all administrators in education would be better with more direct connection to student experience that consultants could be able to provide because of their unique position on campus.”

Diane Skorina, staff co-director, student-faculty pedagogical partnership program, Ursinus College

Addressing larger campus issues

Another beneficial outcome for program directors is the opportunity pedagogical partnership work affords to address certain issues on campus. In Alison’s experience, faculty and student partners have proposed a wide variety of foci for pedagogical partnerships that serve to address larger issues on campus.

For instance, as at many institutions in recent years, discussions in higher education have proliferated regarding not only how to recruit a greater diversity of students but also how to support their success (Devlin 2013; Gale and Parker 2014; Gibson et al. 2017; Hockings 2010; US Department of Education 2016). It appears that higher education is failing “as the great equalizer” (Lederman 2013; Carnevale and Strohl 2013), and “noninclusive pedagogies and ineffective college and university cultural programs” ensure that students from underrepresented backgrounds “continue to experience racism, insensitivity, and a lack of intercultural understanding and social support (Baber 2012; Harmon 2012; Lee 1999; Tobolowsky, Outcalt, and McDonough 2005; Wilson 2000), sometimes resulting in a distrust of nonminority students and university officials” (Simmons et al. 2013, 2; see also Cook-Sather 2018b, 2015).

Since its inception, the SaLT program has focused on how to support the development of inclusive and responsive classrooms (Cook-Sather 2018a, 2018b, 2019; Cook-Sather and Agu 2013; Cook-Sather and Des-Ogugua 2018; Takayama, Kaplan, and Cook-Sather 2017). Sometimes the focus has been implicit and sometimes it has been explicit, but the program has worked systematically toward that goal. As one student partner has argued, “If we all engaged in partnerships through which we reflect and discuss how teaching and learning experiences can include and value everyone, our campuses would become places of belonging” (Colón Garcia 2017). It is that goal toward which SaLT perpetually strives.  As Beth Marquis, Associate Director (Research) in the MacPherson Institute at McMaster University explains, the same is true for her: “Given the critical, egalitarian goals underpinning partnership work, participating in our program has afforded me an exciting opportunity to explore (with others on campus and off) a new and meaningful way to contribute to efforts to enhance equity and justice on university campuses.”

Clarifying what counts as meaningful work (or, you do not need to worry about numbers of participants)

One of the greatest pressures on all of us in higher education is how we might “scale up” projects and programs. Often, campus-wide initiatives aim to reach as many people as possible. Sometimes this is a useful way to think about access, inclusion, and engagement, but other times small-scale, focused programs have a greater impact, just in a different way. Some programs, like those at McMaster University and University of Queensland, have numerous faculty and staff members involved, and so can include relatively large numbers of student partners across a range of partnership options. Other programs start small and intentionally stay that way. Steve Volk, founding director of Oberlin College’s pedagogical partnership program, reflects on this choice:

“Program directors sometimes wrestle with numbers: how many attended that workshop; how many read that article, etc? My point to them is that small numbers can create powerful outcomes. When I stop believing that myself, I look at our Faculty-Student Partnership, which can enroll a maximum of 4 partnership pairs each semester. Very small portion of the faculty, even smaller percentage of the students. Yet the impact that each has is quite important, particularly if the faculty member in question is in her or his beginning years: How many students per semester, per year, per career are going to be impacted by what that instructor took away from the program? I would say the same thing about students, many of whom go on to careers in teaching (K-12 or higher ed). So, my point for program directors is that the program is a sure way of convincing yourself that limited resources, carefully deployed, can have a huge impact on your campus.” – Steve Volk, founding director of Oberlin College’s pedagogical partnership program

Making local efforts have a more far-reaching effect

Finally, this work positions program directors in larger conversations across institutions of higher education regarding the purpose of higher education and how to shape our colleges and universities. Because pedagogical partnership programs are still a relatively new—although quickly expanding—phenomenon, program directors have the opportunity to connect with colleagues at other institutions as those institutions seek to develop their own pedagogical partnership programs. In particular, program directors can shape the story about the role of students in teaching and learning. As Kelly Matthews, writing from the University of Queensland in Australia, reflects: “Directors are in an important position to advocate and influence in ways that draw attention to voices that might not usually be considered.”

Negative outcomes

There are few negative outcomes that Alison or other directors have experienced but two are worth mentioning: burnout and vilification.


Many pedagogical partnership programs are conceptualized and led by individuals who are invested in the concept and the practice. These individuals believe passionately in the ethos and approaches of pedagogical partnership, and they spend significant time and energy imagining, designing, supporting, advocating, and otherwise endeavoring to establish and grow a phenomenon that is, by and large, countercultural. Sustaining the level of energy necessary to do this work can be exhausting, and even pedagogical partnership programs that are taken up and institutionalized are susceptible to budget cuts and changes in personnel. It is possible as a program director to work tirelessly for your program only to see its budget reduced or, when you move on, to see no one to take up where you have left off.


A second negative outcome is the kind of vilification that can accompany such countercultural work. Alison has been accused and attacked, both in person and in writing, by faculty who do not believe in the premises of the program or feel threatened by it. This is also exhausting and difficult to combat, since the people who engage in such vilification would never read the research documenting the benefits of pedagogical partnership and would not deem it legitimate if they did. To help manage this kind of disparagement, it is essential to be in dialogue both with faculty and student colleagues and with institutional leaders who affirm and support the work. They can help program directors keep perspective and offer support when needed. 

What are the outcomes for institutions?

The outcomes for the particular student and faculty partners who participate in pedagogical partnership also have larger implications for other students and for faculty and for institutions. We revisit some of the outcomes we noted above within this frame and also note additional outcomes for institutions, such as effect on retention, culture change, and reputation.

Nurturing faculty who are more settled, satisfied, and engaged

New faculty members who are able to acclimate more quickly to campus culture, develop confidence and clarity about their pedagogical commitments, and find the courage to follow through on their pedagogical convictions and responsibilities are far more likely to be happy and productive. Successfully navigating their early years in a new job is critical to new faculty members’ “success in and satisfaction with an academic career” (Sorcinelli 1994, 474), and pedagogical partnership helps the vast majority of faculty who participate in them feel such success and satisfaction within their first semester. Successful and satisfied faculty are more likely to contribute to a “well-functioning teaching-intensive, research-driven university” (Allen et al. 2013, 3; see also Ponjuan, Conley, and Trower 2011; Austin 2003).

Working in pedagogical partnership with students offers all faculty, not just those new to the campus community, a perspective that they cannot achieve on their own, supports them in recognizing and making intentional good pedagogical practices, helps them learn to share power—and responsibility—with students, and turns challenging pedagogical situations into learning and publishing opportunities. These benefits, experienced first in pedagogical partnership, inform the mindsets and approaches faculty take to all their work—beyond as well as within pedagogical partnership. In other words, developing these insights and capacities within the structure of pedagogical partnership prepares faculty to enact them outside of the “as-if” spaces of partnership (Cook-Sather and Felten 2017a), in the spaces of everyday life, thereby extending the benefits of partnership into other arenas and relationships.

If participating in pedagogical partnership is an opportunity offered to all incoming faculty, as it is at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, the institutional effect over time can be profound. Depending on the extent to which institutions take up and integrate a partnership ethic and ethos, they can move toward becoming more egalitarian learning communities (Matthews, Cook-Sather, and Healey 2018).

Nurturing students who are more confident, engaged, and connected to their departments and institutions

The very consistent outcomes for students not only across all the years of SaLT’s existence but also across pedagogical partnership programs at different colleges and universities have powerful implications for institutions. Through pedagogical partnership students gain confidence in and ability to articulate their perspectives, and they gain deeper understandings of learning, themselves as learners, and teaching. These outcomes make them better able to make the most of all their courses and other work on campus, better able to recognize the value of that work, and better able to support and be interested in supporting others’ work (Cook-Sather 2018b).

Through pedagogical partnership students gain greater empathy for faculty, learn to share power—and responsibility—with faculty, and feel stronger connections to their department and to the institution overall. Because of these outcomes, they make the spaces within which they work—classes, departments, institutions—livelier, happier, and more productive spaces for everyone. Of particular importance in relation to this is the consistent outcome that when students feel empowered by their partnership work, they do not, contrary to what some might fear, move toward greater confrontation or protest or other conflictual strategies of resistance. Rather, they mobilize both the empowerment and the empathy they develop to appreciate, support, and more deeply engage with faculty and other students (see Cook-Sather and Mejia 2018).

These outcomes both affirm and expand established understandings of what contributes to student success presented in the literature on belonging (Cohen and Garcia 2008; Strayhorn 2008; Asher and Weeks 2014), engagement (Bryson 2014; Kuh et al. 2010), and persistence (Tinto 1994; Strayhorn 2008), and in particular define success as relational as well as individual. This deeper affective and academic engagement and accompanying gains in sense of agency and responsibility have implications for how we understand success not only for students traditionally underrepresented in and underserved by institutions of higher education but for all students. They have profound implications for institutions of higher education and how we conceptualize success as a holistic phenomenon that encompasses intellectual, emotional, social, ethical, physical and spiritual development (Cuseo 2007).

Fostering belonging and retention of students and faculty

All of the outcomes noted above contribute to a sense of belonging for both faculty and students. Cook-Sather and Felten (2017b) argue that student-faculty pedagogical partnerships, “situated at the intersection of student engagement and academic development, are uniquely positioned to foster belonging for students and academic staff, particularly for those who have traditionally been marginalized in higher education.”

If belonging is a feeling of comfort and security based on “the perception that one is an integral part of a community, place, organization, or institution” (Asher and Weeks 2014, 287), then pedagogical partnership can catalyze that feeling for students. A student who self-identifies as a Chinese national explained how the space of her partnership program helped her “find a place on campus” and “identify more with Bryn Mawr College and get more involved.” The experience of partnership, she continued, “built my confidence and enthusiasm about the Bryn Mawr experience” (excerpts from student partner quoted in Cook-Sather 2015). Likewise, as Perez-Putnam (2016) explained, participating in SaLT made her “feel like an integral part of the school and its processes.” Because Perez-Putnam and other students from “at-risk and nondominant groups often feel a profound sense of both social and academic non-belonging when they arrive on campus” (Barnett and Felten 2016, 9-10), it is essential to provide contexts and opportunities to counter the sense of belonging uncertainty—“doubt as to whether one will be accepted or rejected by key figures in the social environment” (Cohen and Garcia 2008, 365). As another student partner from an underrepresented group argued, given the feeling of “‘instantaneous disconnection’ that students from equity-seeking groups feel when they arrive on campus, ‘it is especially important that institutions provide opportunities for students from equity-seeking groups to develop the sense of agency that inspires them to make the effort to seek and make connections, places, and meaning for themselves’” (Cook-Sather 2018b, 930).

Faculty experience their own sense of belonging uncertainty, particularly if they, like students, belong to equity-seeking groups. As faculty roles and responsibilities have shifted and as the contexts of higher education have changed both locally and globally (Austin and Sorcinelli 2013; Gibbs 2013; McAlpine and Akerlind 2010; Paris 2013), faculty have had to undertake a complicated and ongoing process of ‘“self-authoring’ a professional identity as an educator” (Gunersel, Barnett, and Etienne 2013, 35)—a process that involves faculty finding a sense of belonging within a discipline and an institution. As underrepresented faculty in particular strive to “establish ‘home’” on a campus that may not historically have been a welcoming place (Mayo and Chhuon 2014, 227), they need to “‘be there’ and ‘be in it’ to do it” (O’Meara, Terosky, and Neumann 2008, 179).

As the costs of higher education for students continue to rise and the frame of consumerism is increasingly used to describe students’ participation in higher education, it is more important than ever to make clear what is of value about higher education and to reframe the work of teaching and learning in partnership terms rather than let it devolve into the language of supply and demand (Matthews 2018). Likewise, as teaching in higher education becomes more complicated and fraught, institutions need to find ways to retain the faculty they recruit.

Reflections by faculty and student partners alike suggest the link between participating in pedagogical partnership and increased confidence and satisfaction, which can contribute to retention. Revisiting faculty perspectives we quoted in chapter 1, we highlight faculty emphases on the ways in which their student consultants assist them in “navigating [their] first semester” and also “have lasting impact on [their] pedagogical commitments and academic identity as a teacher” (Oh 2014). These faculty argue that their work with student partners constitutes an important step in their “developing [their] own teaching style and translating [their] aspirations into a more tangible action plan” (Kurimay 2014). Likewise, the student partner we quoted in chapter 1, and other student partners as well, state this link more explicitly: “I often tell people that I would have left Haverford were it not for the SaLT program” (Perez-Putnam 2016).

Supporting distribution/rhizomatic spread of understanding of teaching and learning

The outcomes for institutions on which we have focused thus far are directly linked to the students and faculty who participate in pedagogical partnership. There are also outcomes that affect those who do not participate directly in partnership.

One of the most consistent outcomes of pedagogical partnership is a raised awareness, sense of agency, and concomitant sense of responsibility that student partners gain. These certainly inform their own learning experiences, as we have discussed, but they also have an impact on others. For instance, reflecting on her experience as a student partner, Melanie argued that the experience helped her to be a better citizen in the classroom and got her started thinking about how students can be better advocates in those spaces and include one another and create more of a sense of community and shared endeavor in the classroom rather than just score points with the professors. When student partners come to see themselves as advocates for other students, it does not mean that they see faculty as adversaries or enemies. On the contrary, when students come to recognize structural disadvantage and what can be done about it, they want to support faculty.

As another student partner explained, coming from an “underserved educational background,” she “learned very quickly at Bryn Mawr that I didn’t necessarily have resources that I absolutely needed to be able to thrive automatically.” This realization prompted her to begin to think about ways that she “could help professors become more wakeful to the needs of that structural disadvantage” (Cook-Sather 2018b, 928).  Another student partner described the work she did, as “the only black person there” in a partnership with a white male professor and all white students in the class, to support her faculty partner to change “the way he was positioned to listen to students like me and other people. I remember feeling really empowered that I was an expert in this” (Cook-Sather 2018b, 929). As another student partner put it: “It’s really empowering to have someone that …has been in the field for forty years…take your ideas seriously…and really listen to what you have to say, [and] work actively to try and incorporate your opinions and ideas” (quoted in Marquis et al. 2018, 68).

These examples of student partner reflections illustrate once again that the sense of empowerment student partners gain through participating in pedagogical partnership is coupled with empathy and commitment to improve the teaching and learning environment—a constructive, compassionate rather than a combative response to the inequities they experience and perceive in individuals and in institutions. If we all followed their example, our institutions—and the wider world—would be very different places. Student partners draw on their newfound sense of empowerment and agency “to encourage other people to have a similar power that I had. ‘Oh, something is going wrong, you should tell the professor,’” to “[transform] a class into something we wanted to see, [which also] transformed what I thought was possible as student, what change I thought I could enact,” and to take “more leadership roles as a result [of participating] in the program” (Cook-Sather 2018b, 929).

Through this kind of work, student partners change the institutional environment for other students, modeling both engaged and empowered participation. Faculty also describe ways in which they take the experiences and insights they have gained through participating in pedagogical partnership back to their departments and other arenas in which they work, thereby spreading the partnership ethos beyond the immediate partnerships. They also tell colleagues on other campuses about the work, and those colleagues often, in turn, seek to develop similar approaches or programs on their own campuses. In these ways they continue to work together as learners and teachers, enacting the principles of partnership—respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility.

These are examples of what Mathrani and Cook-Sather (2020) call rhizomatic development. The term “rhizome” is derived from Ancient Greek (rhízōma or “mass of roots”), and in biology it is used to describe a horizontal underground stem which can send out both shoots and roots. Deleuze and Guatarri (1987) use the term “rhizomatic” to describe theory, research, and culture that allow for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points, resist any kind of organization, move toward and fill available spaces but do not leave clear, traceable paths, yet can constitute powerful and enduring growth. Mathrani and Cook-Sather argue that multiple connections can grow from pedagogical partnership experiences in non-hierarchical patterns of development that they see as forms of flourishing.

Seeing how individual empowerment leads to new projects/initiatives that enhance the whole institution

When student partners experience the empowerment that comes from developing their own capacities and supporting the development of others’ capacities, they often design projects that contribute to the empowerment of other students and enhance the entire institution. We share two examples from the SaLT program, one focused inwardly on the campus and one whose focus encompassed both the campus and the wider higher education community.

An international student from China, who was working as a student consultant in SaLT in 2012, had experienced herself and noticed in other students’ experiences the challenge of navigating some of the norms of Bryn Mawr’s campus and classrooms. In collaboration with three other international students, two faculty members, including Alison, and one staff member in the president’s office, she designed a research project to learn from international students about their experiences and perspectives of campus living and classroom learning. The project had a dual purpose: On the one hand, it aimed to recognize that international students face adjustment issues (Andrade 2006) that need to be addressed—the college needed to do a better job of supporting students with transition and acclimation. On the other, students’ arrival presents the college with an opportunity to learn from the students about how we might change our campuses, our classrooms, and ourselves. Thus, the goal of the research team’s effort was to help facilitate what Cortazzi and Jin call “cultural synergy” (1997; in Zhou et al. 2008, 72)—mutual efforts from both teachers and students to understand one another’s culture rather than expect students simply to assimilate.

The students generated questions that invited other students to think about who they are (How do you describe your “root” identity, e.g., ethnic background/nationality/race?), with whom they associate (What kinds of people do you interact with during your day-to-day life on campus? Does this vary according to the activity [e.g., in the classroom, in residential spaces, in affinity groups, in on campus employment, in athletics, in clubs and non-affinity student groups]?), and what kinds of challenges they faced (What kinds of challenges—academic and/or in everyday life—have you encountered at Bryn Mawr as an international student/student of color?). They also generated questions that would help students think about developing agency (What do you do when you have a problem/challenge in academic settings or social life at Bryn Mawr? Where do you go to seek help?) and how they experienced their efforts to engage with others on campus (Are you comfortable having serious conversations with people of different ethnic/national/racial backgrounds? [By ‘serious,’ we mean conversations that are honest, important, maybe emotional, in which you feel comfortable sharing and questioning.] What role do you think your native language, or the way of speaking you’re most comfortable with, plays in situations when you feel like you want or need to have those serious conversations?). They wanted to offer students an opportunity to analyze their experiences (Describe a time when you felt your that your “root” identity got in the way of a communication or interaction on campus. Describe a time when you felt your root identity and cultural capital were appreciated and valued on campus.) And finally, they wanted to generate recommendations for the college (How can the college better support interactions among diverse people on campus—both within and outside the classroom setting?) (Cook-Sather et al. 2013).

This research project grew into StoryCORE (which stands for “Connecting Over Reflections and Experiences”), an ongoing initiative funded by the office of the president at Bryn Mawr College, which supports students coming together to talk about their experiences, share their stories, and promote and participate in an open dialogue around issues of diversity. This initiative was important to the students who started it and has made a significant difference to students on campus who feel a greater sense of belonging and value.

A second example is the work done with support from an Arthur Vining Davis Foundations grant through the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts. This grant supported pedagogical partnerships and research focused on inclusive and responsive practices, including: a traditional classroom-focused partnerships through SaLT; two undergraduate student researchers working on an IRB-approved project to learn from faculty and students about existing and possible inclusive approaches; and the development of a student-led workshop on inclusive and responsive practices to which faculty were invited.

The individual empowerment that the student partners experienced benefitted not only them but the particular faculty partners they worked with and the wider community through the workshop, which was very well received. Several new ideas for carrying pedagogical partnership work forward emerged from the workshop. For instance, in addition to semester-long pedagogical partnership that will remain the mainstay of the SaLT program, a faculty member proposed impromptu, pop-up-like forums through which a faculty member proposes a topic (e.g., how to meaningfully integrate assigned readings into a course) and the program director invites any students and faculty who are interested in this issue to meet for an hour to have a semi-structured discussion about it. This kind of forum can respond to immediate pedagogical questions, bring faculty and students into meaningful, focused dialogue, and thereby both address particular pedagogical challenges and contribute to re-bridging the widening divide between faculty and students in these turbulent times.

In addition, the student researchers plan to co-author articles with Alison on what they gathered from their research, thereby contributing to larger conversations about equity and inclusion on college campuses. One of these articles focuses on the healing process that occurs when students with marginalized identities take courses where their voices are seen as valuable sources of knowledge (Luqueño & Cook-Sather, in preparation). The other focuses on how students who participate in pedagogical partnerships become both more confident and more caring and how student-faculty pedagogical partnership offers a counter narrative to the divisiveness that is intensifying on some college and university campuses (Cook-Sather and Mejia 2018). We feel this work holds promise for developing a different kind of dynamic among the participants in higher education.

Distinguishing the institution to prospective students and the wider world of higher education

A final institutional outcome of pedagogical partnerships is the way in which it can distinguish an institution from others in at least two ways. The first is that it can set an institution apart in the eyes of prospective students who are selecting where to spend their undergraduate years. Alison has been contacted by prospective students who are excited about the opportunity to work in the still relatively rare form of pedagogical partnership that the SaLT program offers. They recognize it not only as a rare educational experience but also as an unusual opportunity for leadership development. Their excitement echoes that of students who apply to be student consultants once they are on campus, who write on their applications things like: “I have been in a classroom pretty much all my life; however, being able to sit in a classroom and really think more about the way the professor is teaching rather than what they are teaching will also be a great learning experience for me” and “Problems like how to keep people engaged during class and what to teach students from different academic backgrounds are common to all disciplines… I want to continue learning about how to teach from a passionate professor, and the SaLT program would allow me to do that next year.”

An additional way in which partnership programs can distinguish institutions and raise their visibility worldwide is through the work of the program director, student partners, and, sometimes, faculty partners who visit other institutions and share their work. Alison has been invited to deliver talks to and serve as a consultant for over 60 institutions across the United States and around the world, including in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Canada, England, Grenada, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Scotland, and Sweden. In all of these contexts, the name of the colleges at which the partnership program is situated becomes known or better known to those with whom Alison speaks. As other institutions develop their own pedagogical partnership programs, they acknowledge, on their websites and elsewhere, that these programs were modeled on the pedagogical partnership program developed at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. In addition to these in-person and electronically-mediated forms of communication, publications by Alison, student partners, and faculty partners who write about SaLT reach a wide audience, further contributing to what an administrator at Bryn Mawr College referred to as “putting Bryn Mawr on the map.”

References and Further Resources

Abbot, Sophia, and Alison Cook-Sather. Under review. “The Generative Power of Pedagogical Disagreements in Classroom-Focused Student-Faculty Partnerships.”

Allen, Terre H., Holly Harbinger, and Donald J. Para. 2013. “Navigating the New Normal: Evidence-based Changes in Faculty and Organizational Development.” In J. E. Gorccia & L. Cruz (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Support (vol. 32, pp. 3–19). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Anonymous. 2014. “Silence in the Classroom.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 11. vol1/iss11/10.

Andrade, Maureen Snow. 2006. “International Students in English-Speaking Universities.” Journal of Research in International Education 5(2): 131–54.

Asher, Steven R., and Molly Stroud Weeks. 2014. “Loneliness and Belongingness in the College Years.” In The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone, edited by Robert J. Coplan and Julie C. Bowker, 283–301. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Austin, Anne E. 2003. “Creating a Bridge to the Future: Preparing New Faculty to Face Changing Expectations in a Shifting Context. The Review of Higher Education 26(2): 119–144.

Austin, Ann E., and Mary Deane Sorcinelli. 2013. “The Future of Faculty Development: Where Are We Going?” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 133: 85-97.

Baber, Lorenzo DuBois. 2012. “A Qualitative Inquiry on the Multidimensional Racial Development Among First-Year African American College Students Attending a Predominantly White Institution.” Journal of Negro Education 81(1): 67–81.

Bahn, Hannah. 2015. “Finding Common Ground and Building Relationship in Two Partnership Programs.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 14.

Binder, Carola. 2016. “Practicing Virtue in Teaching and Learning.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 18.

Bressi Nath, Sarah. 2012. “Finding Voices in Reflection: How My Work Through the TLI Changed My Classroom Dynamics.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 6.

Brown, Sarah. 2012. “A Student Consultant’s Perspective on How the 360 Prompts a Rethinking of Teaching and Learning Together.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 7.

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.

Bryson, Colin (Ed.). 2014. Understanding and Developing Student Engagement. Oxon: Routledge.

Bryson, Colin, and Ruth Furlonger. 2018. “A Shared Reflection on Risk in Trying to Work with Students in Partnership.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 24.

Bryson, Colin, Ruth Furlonger, and Fae Rinaldo-Langridge. 2016. “A Critical Consideration of, and Research Agenda for, the Approach of ‘Students as Partners.’” In Proceedings of 40th International Conference on Improving University Teaching, Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 15-17 July 2015. Retrieved from:

Carnevale, Anthony P., and Jeff Strohl. 2013. “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege.” Washington, DC: Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

Charkoudian, Lou, Anna C. Bitners, Noah B. Bloch, and Saadia Nawal. 2015. “Dynamic Discussions and Informed Improvements: Student-Led Revision of First-Semester Organic Chemistry.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 15.

Cohen, Geoffrey L., and Julio Garcia. 2008. “Identity, Belonging, and Achievement: A Model, Interventions, Implications.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 17(6): 365–369.

Colón García, Ana. 2017. “Building a Sense of Belonging Through Pedagogical Partnership.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 22.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2019. “Respecting Voices: How the Co-creation of Teaching and Learning Can Support Academic Staff, Underrepresented Students, and Equitable Practices.” Higher Education

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. 2018c. “Perpetual Translation: Conveying the Languages and Practices of Student Voice and Pedagogical Partnership Across Differences of Identity, Culture, Position, and Power.” Transformative Dialogues 11(3).

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

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2016b.  “Creating Brave Spaces Within and Through Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnerships.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 18.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2015. “Dialogue Across Differences of Position, Perspective, and Identity: Reflective Practice in/on a Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program.” Teachers College Record 117(2).

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2014a. “Student-Faculty Partnership in Explorations of Pedagogical Practice: A Threshold Concept in Academic Development.” International Journal for Academic Development 19(3): 186–98.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2014b. “Multiplying Perspectives and Improving Practice: What Can Happen When Undergraduate Students Collaborate with College Faculty to Explore Teaching and Learning.” Instructional Science 42: 31–46.

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