In this blog I continue to reflect on my experience with student-faculty partnership during the spring of 2018 and the lessons learnt not only in regards to partnerships, but also teaching and learning in general. Here I focus specifically on the extent to which the success of the collaborative or partnership-based pedagogy depends on students’ ability and willingness to take active role in the process of learning, which requires them to take responsibility for it and understand it not as a passive, receptive process, but rather one that depends on their level of engagement. There is nothing new in what I am stating, of course. It is a common knowledge by now that we value active learning and student engagement. These are proven pedagogical tools that deliver better learning outcomes. But, what I am trying to underscore is whether such engagement has to be a given before one starts to implement partnership-based approach in one’s classroom and with students.

I was deliberately trying to, so to say, level out the playing field with a group of students in a course I taught this past semester. From the start, I envisioned it as a workshop; most of the activities in the classroom were collaborative and performed in very small groups. My role was to intervene when asked and to provide guidance for students in finding answers instead of giving the answers to them whenever possible. Students were offered the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of assignments, as well as projects and tests (yes, they had a choice of not having a test if they were to decide so). As a result, I clearly saw how, in this class, when I created an atmosphere in which students were considered as collaborators, those groups of students who understood well their role and assumed the responsibility of playing it to the best of their abilities, succeeded tremendously, while those who resisted to take up this role and were expecting to continue being passive receptors of knowledge, struggled and, at many times, felt lost and even frustrated.

One important detail: I deliberately wrote groups of students, since I clearly observed that students within their small groups were influencing each-other’s behavior and it was noticeable that if a group worked well, all of its members worked well, while if a group did not succeed, all of its members were suffering. At many points during the semester I was tempted to stop the class and ask one group that was particularly successful because of their very active and engaged attitude towards learning, what was it that made them work so well. Where, when, and how did they develop such an active attitude towards the process of learning and what would they suggest that I do to help other students get to this point? I have to note here that the students of this group were not necessarily “A” students, nor was their level of linguistic proficiency (this was a language course) any better that that of others.

This brings me to various issues/questions to consider when implementing partnership-based pedagogy in the classroom: How does one communicate the importance of active, engaged and responsible attitude towards learning to students? And, more importantly, how does one ensure that such attitude is adopted by, if not all, the majority of the class? How does one approach those students who refuse to understand education as a dialogic process, one that, to succeed, demands their motivation and active work? I feel that while my pedagogy was extremely useful for those particular groups that bought into it, it was quite ineffective for those who did not or who were not convinced by its value.

These are the issues that in order to be addressed require some fundamental shifts in the philosophy of our education system, such as the development of students’ awareness of themselves as learners and what that entails, the nature of the relationship between faculty and students, as well as the role of the university in their lives. For this reason, in my next blog post I consider the importance of implementing student-faculty partnerships as an institutional practice instead of one standing outside or on the margins of the norm.

Ketevan Kupatadze, Senior Lecturer in Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, is the 2017-2019 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Kupatadze’s CEL Scholar project focuses on student-faculty partnerships.

How to cite this post:

Kupatadze, Ketevan. 2018, August 22. Partnership-based pedagogy and its discontents. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from