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December 2019

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In chapter 3 of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we refer to the various ways that different pedagogical partnership programs have gotten started and offer a brief list of steps to take. Here we offer an expanded discussion of those steps:

  1. Get a sense of what is happening elsewhere within and beyond your campus walls
  2. Create forums for dialogue and exploration among campus stakeholders
  3. Select faculty and students for a pilot cohort of partners
  4. Bring in people with experience to help guide the launch and to share experiences and advice
  5. Develop structures to support faculty and student participants

We expand upon each of these below, drawing on examples of programs that were launched at institutions:

  • similar to Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges but that took different approaches in an effort to ensure buy-in and sustainability (Reed College and Smith College);
  • where a particular set of institutional commitments and structures can shape how a pedagogical partnership program can be situated and developed (Berea College);
  • with identities different from Bryn Mawr and Haverford (Florida Gulf Coast University).

1. Get a sense of what is happening elsewhere within and beyond your campus walls

As we discuss in chapter 1 (Why might you develop a pedagogical partnership program and what might get in the way?) and chapter 2 (How do you know what kind of partnership program is right for your context, and why might faculty and students want to participate?), context, purpose, and expectations all affect the kind of partnership program you develop. We therefore recommend as a first step getting a sense of what is happening elsewhere within and beyond your campus walls. To do that, consider the following:

  • Conduct campus visits. In 2012, as Reed College in Oregon was considering how to structure its soon-to-be created teaching and learning center, they sent a group of faculty and administrators to visit programs around the country. One of those was Bryn Mawr College, where they met with Alison, student partners, and college administrators to learn about SaLT.
  • Make preliminary inquiries. Alison has received requests from over 60 colleges and universities around the world to offer guidance on launching pedagogical partnership programs. An increase in the number of such invitations was the impetus for writing this book. We recommend that you reach out to directors of partnership programs featured in this book or in other publications.
  • Consider the particular opportunities and constraints of your context: For instance, Berea College is one of the seven federally funded work colleges in the United States. Students pay no tuition, and all come from places of economic need. Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and director of faculty development at Berea, and a faculty colleague, Anne Bruder, developed a pedagogical partnership program based on the SaLT model but also responsive to the particular structures of Berea. The “Labor Program” at Berea both staffs many parts of the college and provides students with concrete work experiences. Each student spends 10-15 hours a week in a job that helps the college do its work and helps the students develop work skills and experience under close mentoring by supervisors. Positions include everything from providing tech support for the student laptop program to working on the farm; from serving as trained consultants in the writing center to giving historical tours of campus to visitors; from working in accounting or the president’s office or admissions to working in the recycling program, for one of Berea’s seven centers, or at the restaurant at the college’s hotel, the Historic Boone Tavern. While it would seem to make sense to have student partners work as consultants through such a labor position at Berea College, access to new open slots is very limited, and, when Leslie and Anne went to establish this program, none were available to them. Additionally, because of the special financial situation and restrictions in place that allow both the College’s tuition promise and the Labor Program to operate with federal funding, students may not be paid for hours in extra jobs in the way work-study students are paid elsewhere. And possibly the biggest problem of all: time.  Students are so over-scheduled and over-programmed, that finding a shared time to meet was essentially impossible. As a result, Leslie and Anne chose to work with faculty who had TAs already lined up (that is, students whose labor positions were TA positions), and to use one hour weekly of the TAs’ work hours as a joint meeting time with the co-facilitators. Faculty agreed that their TAs could spend half to all of their work hours serving as partners.
  • Try to get a sense of who might already be engaged in partnership work on your campus. When Smith College was considering offering as part of their partnership program the opportunity for student consultants to conduct midsemester feedback for their faculty partners, they needed to consider how such an opportunity would intersect with the approach used by another office on campus: staff members conducting midsemester feedback. Having two different options—one student led and one staff led—could be seen as a benefit, or it could be perceived as infringing on another program’s territory.

2. Create forums for dialogue and exploration among campus stakeholders

Since pedagogical partnership is still countercultural in most colleges and universities and requires shifts in both mindset and practice, it can be helpful to provide campus stakeholders with opportunities to explore the concepts and practices associated with pedagogical partnership before attempting to put those into practice.

  • Create a teaching circle. The Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning at Smith College in Massachusetts sponsored a teaching circle for faculty and staff interested in reading and discussing Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty (Cook-Sather, Bovill, and Felten 2014). The teaching circle met for three Friday lunch meetings during the fall 2016 semester.
  • Sponsor a book talk: Floyd Cheung, director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning at Smith, invited Alison to give a book talk for all academic and support staff in February 2015. Alison facilitated an interactive public session in which she discussed the main premises of pedagogical partnership as outlined in the book, shared examples, and invited Smith faculty and staff to think about what such partnership could look like at Smith.

3. Select faculty and students for a pilot cohort of partners

We recommend starting small, inviting a hand-selected groups of students and faculty who are established, confident, receptive, collaborative, and willing to experiment to apply to be a part of the first cohort; they will increase the likelihood of success and model engagement for student and faculty colleagues. You may want to link the launch of a partnership program to a larger launch of a teaching and learning center, and you also may want to be intentional about including a range of faculty and student perspectives and identities.

  • Pilot pedagogical partnership as part of a larger teaching and learning center launch. During the 2013-2014 academic year, a team of faculty, staff, and students at Reed College piloted a pedagogical partnership program that incorporated a number of the features of the SaLT program. Kathy Oleson (2016) explains: “Based on their enthusiasm about the benefits of these faculty-student partnerships for teaching and learning, as the first Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, I established the Student-Consultants for Teaching and Learning Program as a defining part of the Center’s programming. We formally launched the program in fall 2014.” As the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Reed College both when it was founded and when the pedagogical partnership program was launched, Kathy describes her thinking about and strategies for developing the Student-Consultant for Teaching and Learning Program in “Collaborating to Develop and Improve Classroom Teaching: Student-Consultant for Teaching and Learning Program at Reed College.” This is the introduction to a collection of essays published in Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education written by faculty and student participants in the program, all of which offer detailed reflections on the experiences of student and faculty partners at Reed.
  • Send out campus-wide invitations. In March-April 2016, Floyd Cheung, director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning at Smith College, invited faculty members to submit applications to participate in the pilot phase of the partnership program. Of those that applied, ten faculty members were selected to participate.
  • Issue both campus-wide and individual invitations. In the spring of 2017, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and director of faculty development at Berea, in collaboration with Anne Bruder, who had experienced a pedagogical partnership through the SaLT program when she was a post-doc at Bryn Mawr College (see Bruder 2020), aimed to bring together a small group of faculty and students to pilot a pedagogical partnership program. In addition to sending out a campus-wide invitation for faculty participation, they contacted individual faculty members they believed would bring a range of perspectives and identities (e.g., new as well as senior faculty members; faculty from different disciplinary divisions; faculty from historically underrepresented groups, etc.) and who were well known and respected, as launching a new initiative can benefit strongly by the advocacy of those who are early participants.

4. Bring in people with experience to help guide the launch, share experiences and advice, and conduct assessment

While we include in this guide outlines for facilitating orientations for new faculty and student participants (see the “Plans to Orient for New Faculty and Student Partners” resource), it can be helpful to have such orientations facilitated by experienced program directors. In addition, some new program directors invite experienced program directors to conduct formative and summative assessment.

  • Sponsor workshops and meetings with leaders of partnership programs. In order to introduce the idea of pedagogical partnership and offer students and faculty an opportunity to start to explore the concept, Reed College, a liberal arts college in Oregon, sponsored a two-day series of workshops and meetings. They invited Alison to the campus during the 2013-2014 academic year, and she facilitated a workshop for anyone who was interested in participating. She also had smaller meetings with student and faculty who had chosen to participate in the pilot phase to support their thinking through the practical aspects of launching partnership and address the questions that they had. Similarly, Bill Reynolds, director of the Lucas Center for Faculty Development at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), a public university in Fort Myers, Florida, and the second youngest member of the twelve-member State University System of Florida, invited Alison to serve as a consultant for the launch of the pilot of a pedagogical partnership program at FGCU. Alison visited FGCU in August 2018 to offer an orientation to faculty and student participants who were selected to launch the pilot.
  • Structure workshops and meetings that include experienced student partners. Long familiar with the SaLT program, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and director of faculty development at Berea College, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, and a faculty colleague, Anne Bruder, met Alison and her student partner, Crystal Des-Ogugua, at the Summer Institute for Students as Partners held at McMaster University in Canada. They invited Alison and Crystal, then an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College and a student partner in SaLT, to facilitate a workshop for faculty and staff at Berea in the summer of 2016. The goal was both to share ideas and experiences of pedagogical partnership and to afford faculty and staff the opportunity to think together about what kind of pedagogical partnership program might work in their context.
  • Organize formative assessment interviews: In October 2018, Alison went to Florida Gulf Coast University to conduct interviews with participants in the pilot who were available to meet. She wrote a preliminary report based on these exchanges as well as on five transcripts of meetings Bill Reynolds and his colleague Jackie Green convened with student and faculty participants in August and September of 2018 and on informal conversations Alison had with Bill via email, over the phone, and in person.

5. Develop structures to support faculty and student participants

  • Establish a program identity: Smith College identified at the outset a commitment to designing a support structure through which their faculty members and student consultants could engage in pedagogical partnerships around bias interrupters and inclusive curricular development.
  • Create a post-bac fellow position: As Sophia Abbot explains in the “Creating Post-Bac Fellow Positions to Support the Development of Pedagogical Partnership Programs” resource, creating a post-bac fellow position can be a way of making space for introducing new practices. Sophia was the first person to hold such a position at Trinity University in Texas. Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens at Berea College, as part of a larger, multifaceted grant submitted to the Mellon Foundation, proposed grant support for the further development of the pedagogical partnership program, including funding for a post-bac fellow position. See the “Creating Post-Bac Fellow Positions to Support the Development of Pedagogical Partnership Programs” resource for Sophia’s and Leslie’s stories, and see the “Three Stages of Backward Design for Creating Post-Baccalaureate Pathways to Educational Development” resource for a template that Sophia and Melanie developed.
  • Design a credit-bearing course for student partners. Floyd Cheung at Smith College developed and got approved a for-credit course for student partners (March-April 2016). The course formalized the weekly meeting structure that Alison had created for the SaLT program, with accompanying prompts for reflection, and added readings about pedagogical partnership practices (see the “Sample Student Partners Course Syllabus” resource for an updated version of that syllabus). At Berea College, some of the co-facilitators’ qualms about doubling up the TA and consultant roles deepened as colleagues’ responded to a presentation Leslie and Anne gave at the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts Pedagogical Partnership Conference in May 2017, and a lively discussion ensued about the choice and challenges of the dual TA/Student Consultant model. As a result, Leslie and Anne decided to turn to an alternate option of creating a .25 credit course (equivalent to a 1 credit course elsewhere) that would combine learning about student-faculty partnerships, about teaching and learning, and about conducting observations and providing feedback. In addition to moving the program away from sole reliance on TAs as partners, the change opened the program to a much wider pool of both faculty and students. This one-hour weekly course has provided a workable and sustainable format for Berea, appealing to students who appreciate having the credit on their transcripts, helping all find a dedicated time to meet, and allowing for rich dialogue about students’ experiential learning.
  • Develop a two-day summer institute: Floyd Cheung at Smith College hosted a two-day intensive summer institute facilitated by Alison in May 2016 to prepare staff to launch the pilot in September 2016. This same institute was facilitated by Floyd the following summer. (See the “Summer Institute for Faculty Participants in Pedagogical Partnership” resource).
  • Retain a consultant: Alison has visited Smith College, Berea College, Florida Gulf Coast University, and many other institutions numerous times to facilitate workshops and meet with faculty and student partners, and she is also available for regular, email, or phone consultation.

References

Bruder, Anne. 2020. “Sitting on Rocks, Human Knots, and Some Other Lessons I Have Learned in Partnership.” In The Power of Partnership: Revolutionizing Higher Education, edited by Sophia Abbot and Lucy Mercer-Mapstone. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/book/power-of-partnership.

Cook-Sather, Alison, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten. 2014. Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Oleson, Kathryn. 2016. “Introduction–Collaborating to Develop and Improve Classroom Teaching: Student-Consultant for Teaching and Learning Program at Reed College.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 17. https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss17/1.