In the conclusion of Pedagogical Partnerships: A How-To Guide for Faculty, Students, and Academic Developers in Higher Education, we recommend that you have structured conversations with campus stakeholders about the possibility of developing a pedagogical partnership program. In this resource we include templates and activities that you can use to explore hopes, concerns, and strategies for developing pedagogical partnership programs.


This framework of “doubting” and “believing” is borrowed from Peter Elbow (1973) Writing without Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press. It requires that participants think from more than one perspective and dig into their reasoning. The statement used as a prompt should be provocative, not admit of a single “right” or “wrong” response, and prompt critical analysis.

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Mapping Steps Toward or Further into Partnership

Alison and her colleague Peter Felten have used a version of the following set of questions at workshops designed to explore how to go about conceptualizing, developing, or extending pedagogical partnership programs. Have each stakeholder respond to the questions individually in writing first and then talk with others about their responses.

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Snowball Activity

This activity can be useful to ensure that all stakeholder perspectives are voiced and heard. Consider using prompts such as: What is the most important thing you think pedagogical partnership could accomplish on our campus? or What is your main concern regarding developing a pedagogical partnership program?


  • To get people moving and interacting (this loosens people up, “breaks the ice,” helps build connections and community when addressing complex challenges)
  • To ensure that every voice in the room is heard (both those who write and those who speak); this helps equalize participation/contribution
  • To make a space for people to share things they might not if they had to speak the things themselves; this both makes space for those things to be shared and sends a message that participants can contribute even if they are not ready to “own” what they want to contribute (for reasons of vulnerability, uncertainty, power dynamics, etc.)
  • To prompt thinking about the relationship between written and spoken word, the linking (or disconnect between) speaker and what is spoken

Basic Structure:

  • Facilitator provides a prompt and explains how what is written will be shared (in a Read Around, with no names attached, as a way to ensure that every voice is heard)
  • Everyone writes something on a piece of paper in response to the prompt but includes no name (e.g., What is your main concern regarding developing a pedagogical partnership program?)
  • Everyone crumples up their piece of paper and throws it into the middle of room
  • Everyone gets up and picks up a crumpled piece of paper
  • One at a time, moving around the room, everyone reads aloud what is written on their piece of paper with no framing, commentary, or other editorializing
  • Once all papers have been read aloud, everyone takes a few minutes to write in silence about what they heard (this post-listening writing part may be especially valuable in getting stakeholders to speak up and exchange thoughts afterward)
  • Everyone discusses what they heard; people may claim something they wrote or not

Radical Listening

This activity is adapted from Torosyan and Cook-Sather, “Revisiting ‘Active Listening’: Paradoxes and Practices that Prompt Critical Reflection,” a workshop presented at the Conference of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (San Francisco, California, November 2015). The goal is to develop and use deep listening skills while/through exploring a particular topic, such as pedagogical partnership. It is written here as a kind of loose script that the facilitator of the session can use.

Explanation and preparation

  • This activity provides some theoretical assertions, a highly structured exchange, and time for reflection, all focused on listening.
  • Take a few minutes and jot some notes to yourself about your working definitions of pedagogical partnership and/or key questions informing your thinking about this concept and practice.
  • I’ll ask you to draw on these in discussion (not hand them in).

Structure and process

  • Here is an overview of the session:
    • I read statements about listening. These are meant to provoke thought, not be irrefutable truths about listening.
    • In pairs
      • First one person then the other talks uninterrupted for a full 2 minutes, then I will signal that it’s time to switch roles.
      • Talk about your definitions and questions around pedagogical partnership.
    • You write to yourself about:
      • Process: what made you feel listened to and how did you listen
      • Content: resonances and contrasts between how your dialogue partner defines and poses questions regarding pedagogical partnership.
    • Talk together as a whole group.

Theoretical assertions (2-3 mins)

  • I will read aloud selected statements from theorists for you to listen to and let simply hang in the air to frame the activity:
    • “When you restate, you always obliterate something of the otherness you are acknowledging (or assuming to ‘know’). We should resist the tantalizing certainty of a final, ‘Ah, that’s it, that’s their point,’ and instead respect what may be ultimately irreducible about the other’s meaning” (Torosyan, 2004-05, p. 32) [Torosyan, R. 2004. “Listening: Beyond telling to ‘being’ what we want to teach.” The Journal of the Assembly of Expanded Perspectives on Learning 10 (1): 27-36.]
    • “The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ condition.” (Rogers 1959, 210-211) [Rogers, C. 1975. “Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being.” The Counseling Psychologist 5 (Summer): 2-10.]
    • “Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act” (Barthes 1985, 245). [Barthes, R. 1985. The Responsibility of Forms. Critical Essays in Music, Art, and Representation. Translated from the French by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.]
    • “The act of listening is based on interaction rather than simply reception…Listening is fundamentally about being in relationship to another and through this relationship supporting change or transformation. By listening to others, the listener is called on to respond” (Schultz 2003, 9) [Schultz, K. 2003. Listening: A framework for Teaching across Differences. New York: Teachers College Press.]
    • “Nobody else lives the world from your angle. No other organism can sense exactly ‘the more’ that you sense.” … In [Thinking at the Edge] we provide the needed interaction without any imposition, by taking turns in what we call a ‘focusing partnership.’ In half the time I respond ONLY to you. I write down what you say and read it back to you when you want it. Then in the other half of the time you do ONLY this for me.” (Gendlin, 2004). [Gendlin, E. T. 2004. “Introduction to Thinking at the Edge.” The Folio 19 (1): 1-11.]

Focusing partnership (15 mins)

  • First person talks one minute, the second listens “without any imposition” (2 mins)
  • Switch: second person talks, the first listens (2 mins)
  • Both write: a) what you did as listener and b) what about the listener’s behavior made you feel heard (2 mins)
  • Optional: Share your experiences with your partner (5 mins)

Discussion as a whole group (15-20 mins)

  • Talk as a group about what contributes to or detracts from making a diversity of people feel heard
  • Talk about extensions, applications, etc.
  • Share insights about and implications for pedagogical partnership.