In chapter 3 of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we note that there are different approaches to working toward sustainability of a pedagogical partnership program. In this resource, we share the approaches that several different programs have taken to working toward sustainability.

While the SaLT program moved toward sustainability in an organic and responsive way, other approaches aim to establish the pedagogical partnership program as an institutional commitment from the outset. At Smith College, for instance, the creation of a for-credit course for student consultants, the dedication of a portion of the teaching and learning center director’s responsibilities to overseeing the partnership program, and a strong linking of the program with the institutional commitment to excellent teaching that can always be further refined all served to lay the foundation for sustainability. However, it wasn’t a simple or automatic process. A Mellon grant also funded the first three years of their program, and it was, at first, challenging to find someone to take leadership of the program. The director of their teaching and learning center had a full plate with other programmatic demands, and three faculty colleagues who were asked to lead the partnership program declined. Eventually, the center director stepped up to lead the partnership program since the grant was there and otherwise, the program would not have moved forward. Two structural features made it work: (1) the director could count teaching the course for student partners twice as one of his courses (2×2 credits); and (2) he could count on the assistance of the center’s program coordinator with logistics like hiring students. As their grant funding ended, their provost also decided to fund student partners via base budget and faculty partners via internal course development funds.

The programming theme for Smith’s Sherrerd Center from 2016-18 was “creating inclusive learning environments.” The advisory board decided to promote this theme to be their new third motto: “Good teaching is necessarily inclusive.” Their programming theme for 2018-19 was “partnership,” as founding director of the program, Floyd Cheung, explains below:

The Renewed Focus for the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning at Smith College

While solitude has its purposes and charms, many activities like teaching and learning benefit from partnership. Just as we at the Sherrerd Center believe that there are many different ways to teach well and that all teaching is improvable, we understand that there are a variety of different kinds of partnership (student-faculty, peer instructor, institutional, community, etc.) and all partnerships are improvable. During the 2018-19 academic year, we plan to use partnership as a lens through which to make decisions regarding roughly half of our Teaching Arts Luncheon programming.

Such programs might privilege pursuing such questions as:

  • What conditions make for the most fruitful partnerships?
  • What have we learned from the student-faculty pedagogical partnership program?
  • What other kinds of student-faculty partnership ought the College support, develop, and sustain?
  • Can all students be partners in teaching and learning?
  • How can we enable collaborative learning in and out of the classroom?
  • In what ways can partnerships between the curricular and co-curricular be enhanced?
  • What barriers exist and how might we lower them for colleagues to engage in collaborative teaching?
  • How can we better support staff partnerships with students and faculty?
  • What would greater collaboration between different units of the campus enable?

In Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, Alison Cook-Sather et al. argue that good partnerships require respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility. We resolve to work together to ensure that all partnerships at Smith College follow these principles.

McMaster University, a much larger institution than Bryn Mawr, Haverford, or Smith Colleges, took another approach to planning for sustainability. The Student Partners Program at McMaster was collaboratively developed by the MacPherson Institute and the interdisciplinary Arts & Science program. The program was piloted with a small group of Arts & Science students, who worked largely in partnership with MacPherson Institute staff. In the program’s first year, participants in the program also began conducting research intended to help them assess its efficacy and refine it going forward. This approach is consistent with a university that places high value on research, and it is also consistent with one of the strands of pedagogical partnership that the program developed. In the quote below, Beth Marquis, Associate Director (Research) of the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching in which the Student Partners Program is based, explains this approach and its results:

“Given the evidence coming out of the research in that first year, a decision was made to continue and expand the program, and it was opened up to faculty and students from across campus. With the support of the Vice Provost, Teaching and Learning, and Director of the Institute, a specific budget was created to fund the program, and we began to increase the program size incrementally year after year. Throughout this time, we also worked to continue to build the evidence base connected to the program, and to develop and refine additional program streams connected to major strategic priorities and key institute activities. This approach has allowed us to begin to weave the program into much of the institute’s core business—a goal which has also been fortified by explicitly naming partnership amongst the institute’s priorities and goals—and to connect with an increasingly broad faculty and student group.” – Beth Marquis, Associate Director (Research) at the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching

At the University of Virginia (UVA), also a large university, sustainability has been woven into the development of the program. As mentioned in chapter 2, Co-create UVA started as a grassroots effort between the student group ReinventED Lab and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). Initial initiatives included student-faculty luncheons, a design thinking workshop, and undergraduate student consultations on draft syllabi during the CTE weeklong Course Design Institute. With a two-year grant from UVA’s alumni association, Co-create UVA expanded training and reach of undergraduate consultants to include mid-semester focus groups and classroom observations as well as a grant program for student-faculty course design partnerships. After the end of the two-year grant, the CTE now provides a budget and staff support for training and wages of six undergraduate student consultants. In addition, the student-faculty luncheon has become a stable feature of UVA’s new faculty orientation. During the orientation 15-30 students and 60-80 faculty learn to see each other as resources (rather than “enemies across the desk”) and faculty appreciate students’ observations about inspiring learning experiences and inclusive classrooms. Finally, a newly created, centrally funded teaching grants program provides funding for course enhancement projects including field trips, community engagement, and partnership projects. Combined, these resources constitute a significant institutional investment. As Dorothe Bach, faculty co-creator of Co-Create UVA, explains, responsiveness is a key component of sustainability:

“The sharing of best practices [between teachers and students] after critical campus events became especially important during the 2017 orientation, which occurred only two days after a Neo-Nazi rally.” – Dorothe Bach, faculty co-creator, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Virginia

At Trinity University, a small predominantly undergraduate liberal arts college, sustainability for partnership was established from the outset by funding small participation grants for faculty and hourly pay for student participation through the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching’s general operating budget. Now that funds have been dedicated explicitly to Tigers as Partners (TaP), Trinity’s semester-long pedagogical partnership program, the program can support up to ten partnerships per semester. In addition, the post-bac fellow position through which Sophia Abbot, a former SaLT student partner, launched TaP will remain a permanent role within the Collaborative and will be filled on a one-year rotation by recent Trinity and TaP graduates. Sophia started at the same time as a new president and shortly before a new vice president of the university who both strongly support the university’s teaching focus, so the campus culture more broadly has helped facilitate this strong institutional commitment to the program. As TaP continues to grow and develop with more explicit focus on supporting classroom equity and inclusion, the next step of sustainability will be to create and formalize co-research opportunities for student-faculty pairs in conjunction with an already well-established summer undergraduate research program.

At Berea College, the founding Mellon grant, for its duration, funded faculty stipends, books, and other programmatic needs, and the course provides a place and an incentive for students, but Berea will need to consider how to provide the administrative and day-to-day work the post-bac fellows have provided (Will that be absorbed by the Center for Teaching and Learning director as at Smith College? Might there be the possibility for a new position for a labor student to lead the work—a very appealing option?). A second post-bac fellow, Mia Rybeck, a Haverford graduate who participated in the SaLT program with Alison, joined Berea’s Center for Teaching and Learning in August 2018, and one of the questions she and the director considered throughout the final year of the post-bac fellowship opportunity is how to ensure that the work can continue. In addition, the director worked with a development officer to see if endowing the program might be of interest to a potential donor, and funding has now been secured.