The Power of Partnership, Section 3: Growing Partnership

written by admin on May 26, 2020 in Doing EL and Engaged Learning and Open Access Books and Student Voices and Student-Faculty Partnership with no comments

by Sophia Abbot

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and I started The Power of Partnership to explicitly explore some of the unexamined challenges and bumps-in-the-road of partnership. So, why do we include a whole section titled, “Growing Partnership” (Section 3)? Many critical pedagogues write about both challenging power (and the difficulties therein) and embracing the possibilities of critical pedagogy. Kevin Gannon — historian, educational developer, and author of Radical Hope describes such teaching and learning as “life affirming (as opposed to soul-killing) education” (2020, p. 11) and cites bell hooks’ call for education to be a “practice of freedom,” Paolo Freire’s idea of critical consciousness, and Henry Giroux’s “language of possibility” as examples of this idea. Gannon writes:

“[Education is] easy to critique, but harder to build. Yet we owe it to ourselves and our students not only to point out the vast array of problematic areas of higher education, but also offer tangible and meaningful alternatives. Neither the language of critique nor the language of possibility is powerful enough on its own; only working in tandem can they help us create a pedagogy grounded in radical hope.” (Gannon 2020, p. 12)

Lucy and I celebrated this kind of radical hope together when we talked one-on-one about our partnership practices, and so it was essential for us to make intentional space for that discussion of possibility, potential, and growth in our book. As Abbi Flint (Chapter 11, p. 175) writes, “We are both green shoots / and gardeners.” Jenny Marie’s opening introduction to Section 3 discusses the promise of partnership in the chapters that follow and asks readers to consider, “is all good teaching a partnership?” (p. 157). Sasha Mathrani and Alison Cook-Sather (Chapter 10) use the metaphor of rhizomes to shed light to the upward shoots, nodal relationships, and branching that happen in partnerships. In particular, they embrace the fact that rhizomes have no beginning or end– similar to the way that partnership “recognizes the ‘radical unfinishedness of the human condition’” (Freire 1998, in Mathrani and Cook-Sather, Ch. 10, p. 167). All of this potential is a picture of radical hope for higher education.

Growing in these chapters is vulnerable-making. Growing means change, which can be painful or scary. Anita Ntem (Chapter 13), Anne Bruder (Chapter 15), and Desika Narayanan and I (Chapter 12) all discuss the difficulty of confronting our anxieties about being good enough in a field, about having something meaningful to contribute, and about being in a position of authority for one of the first times. In each of these cases, partnership meant that confronting those anxieties and subsequently growing did not happen in isolation. As Anna Dolidze shares (Chapter 14), “when you do the partnership you realize it’s just another human being and we all make mistakes, we all get super excited about something, or super sad, and we all have burning questions” (p. 214).

This recognition of shared humanity is at the heart of critical pedagogy and at the heart of partnership. At a time when hope and connection might feel further away than ever, I encourage you to consider how a partnered approach to pedagogy can help you weather the uncertainties of higher education. Partnership can help our teaching and learning be more humane.


Sophia Abbot is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Graduate Apprentice and a student in the Masters of Higher Education program at Elon University.

How to cite this post:
Abbot, Sophia. 2020, May 26. The Power of Partnership, Section Three: Growing Partnership. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from