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December 2019

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December 2019

We note in chapter 1 of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education that the SaLT program affords incoming faculty at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges three options for working in partnership with students:

  1. Summer syllabus development workshop (before faculty arrive on campus)
  2. One-hour semi-structured conversation as part of new faculty orientation (in the week before classes begin)
  3. Semester-long partnerships with student consultants linked to a pedagogy seminar (during their first or second semester).

Here we expand on those options.

(1) Summer Syllabus Development Workshop

In the context of three, 90-minute, summer syllabus development workshop sessions, three or four student consultants share insights about campus culture, student expectations, and the colleges’ honor codes. They also work in small groups with new faculty during breakout times to share their perspectives on course organization, assignments, pace, activities, and anything else about which new faculty members have questions. While there is no assumption or implication that they are representative of all students, these students nevertheless have a sense of institutional expectations, college norms, and student hopes. According to faculty participants, these exchanges bring them “back to the student point of view,” as one new faculty member put it, and also give faculty unusual opportunities to articulate their own views—their pedagogical commitments and their aspirations for teaching in these particular contexts. Through talking and planning with student partners at this early stage, before they arrive on campus, new faculty begin to develop a “sense of reciprocal learning and partnership,” in another new faculty member’s words, that they can carry forward into their work with their own students. In this forum, incoming faculty begin the process of academic identity development in these contexts: they begin to clarify and name, in dialogue with student partners, what their pedagogical values and commitments are; and they begin to think about how they might enact those values and commitments at these particular colleges.

(2) One-hour semi-structured conversation as part of new faculty orientation

A one-hour student panel and discussion as part of their new faculty orientation the week before classes begin provides a context for dialogue focused on how new faculty members’ pedagogical plans and approaches, which are about to be enacted in actual classrooms and relationships with students, might or might not be a good fit with what students expect and hope for in these particular contexts. At each orientation, three or four students, generally drawn from across academic divisions and other dimensions of diversity, prepare a single-page handout that lists qualities of the most engaging and educative learning experiences they have had and what kinds of learning experiences they hope for in their classes. After sharing these points, the students engage in free-flowing dialogue with faculty, touching on topics such as: creating a classroom environment that welcomes a diversity of students; designing assignments that allow students to demonstrate their strengths; balancing time devoted to students with time devoted to your other responsibilities; making good use of office hours; managing the complex intersections of faculty and student identities in classes and on campus; understanding students’ hopes for pronoun usage; balancing academics, athletics, clubs; wrestling with imposter syndrome (for students and faculty); and more. Faculty feedback indicates that they “understand the culture of the school better” and find the student comments “quite helpful and actually comforting” since they recognize some of their “own teaching strategies in their descriptions of what [the students] look for in a teacher.” As this quote suggests, partnership can be very affirming for new faculty members, since it is not just about learning new things from students but also about recognizing the skills and approaches that the faculty come in with.

(3) Semester-long partnerships with student consultants

In exchange for a reduced teaching load during their first year, the New Faculty Pedagogy Seminar is offered to new tenure-track and continuing faculty at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. This semester-long seminar includes weekly, 90-minute, loosely structured discussions that draw on a range of resources to support faculty explorations of learning theory, ways of actively engaging students in their education, ensuring that pedagogical approaches and forms of assessment are aligned, and balancing the various demands on faculty time and energy. Linked with the seminar is a semester-long, one-on-one partnership between each faculty participant and an undergraduate student through the Students as Learners and Teachers (SaLT) program (Cook-Sather 2014, 2011).
These students are not enrolled in their faculty partners’ courses, but they visit their faculty partners’ classes once per week, take detailed observation notes focused on issues identified by the faculty members, and meet weekly with their faculty partners to discuss what is happening and what could be happening in their classrooms. All new faculty and their student partners receive guidelines for their collaboration meant to support but not constrain their work together (see the [Guidelines for Student and Faculty Partners in Classroom-focused Pedagogical Partnerships]). As director of the SaLT program, Alison meets weekly with the students to support them as they develop language to talk about teaching and learning and build confidence to communicate their perspectives, questions, and recommendations.
These are the partnerships that are described throughout the main text of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, particularly in Chapters 6 and 7 (see also Cook-Sather 2016).

References

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

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2014. “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.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2011. “Layered Learning: Student Consultants Deepening Classroom and Life Lessons.” Educational Action Research 19(1): 41–57.