A black student presenting a research poster

“One word I would use to describe this program is ‘healing.’” That’s how undergraduate student Alexis Giron describes her experience of pedagogical partnership in the foreword to Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnership. Alexis explains that she had “the opportunity to heal from all the harm that higher education and educators have caused” because she was “given a second chance” to advocate for herself and “for other students of multiple underrepresented identities who were not taught to speak up for themselves.”

In Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnership, Alise de Bie, Beth Marquis, Leslie Patricia Luqueño, and I offer a framework that students, faculty, and academic developers can use to contribute to redressing the harms many students from equity-seeking groups, like Alexis, experience. We are intentional about the language we use in this book to name inequities and injustices: we use the term “violences” and detail the resulting harms. With this active and explicit language, we aim to highlight that how institutions structure disadvantage is not a neutral policy or practice. As Alexis argues in her foreword, if we don’t name these phenomena “in maybe strong but very accurate terms, then we can’t work as actively against those things, and they will keep happening.”

The framework we offer in the book seeks to recognize three forms of violence and resulting harms that are often left unattended (and aggravated) by popular analyses and approaches to inclusion on campus, and which have not yet been explored thoroughly in the pedagogical partnership literature.

Redressing Epistemic Harm through Partnership

Drawing on the work of Fricker (2007), Kidd et al. (2017), and others, we use the term epistemic violence in our framework to refer to the ways in which some knowledge and knowers are deemed legitimate and others are disqualified. Such violence, when perpetrated on students with marginalized identities in postsecondary education institutions, can result in epistemic harms. These include equity-seeking students feeling unrecognized as knowers, experiencing their diverse epistemologies as illegitimate, and experiencing their epistemic labor as invisible and not valued, or as unfairly used.

In contrast, partnership has the potential to enable affirmation of students, especially those from equity-seeking groups, as knowers. It recognizes students’ knowledge gained from diverse backgrounds and experiences. And it supports the development and sharing of students’ knowledge, which can, in turn, facilitate broader change. One student captured how partnership helped redress epistemic harm this way:

I am more confident in what I know: I know what I experience and there is value in that … And that’s been really helpful in my relationships with other professors. I get to bring up the conversation. I get to be a part of it. I don’t have to have all the answers, but I do know more than I thought I did.

Student quoted in de Bie et al. 2019, 42

Redressing Affective Harm through Partnership

Affective violence refers to the ways in which equity-seeking students are subject to multiple forms of discrimination and oppression (e.g., psycho-emotional disablism; microaggressions and abuse)andare expected to conform to dominant norms. For example, a student partner reflected on her feelings of not fitting in as an international student whose first language is not English: “My identity, my beliefs, my worries, and my sense of uncertainty as I navigated the unfamiliar academic spaces of Haverford College all contributed to my sense of not belonging” (Colón García 2017).

Partnership has the potential to enable redress of some of the emotional effects of oppression (e.g., increasing students’ sense of confidence, empowerment, belonging, joy, and energy; creating counter-spaces that mitigate affective harms). It can provide relief from some forms of emotional labor in the academy. And it can offer new forms of affective relations between students and faculty, such as empathy and “politicized compassion” (Gibson & Cook-Sather 2020).

Redressing Ontological Harm through Partnership

Epistemic and affective violences, separately and together, constitute and are constituted by ontological forms of violence. When equity-seeking students’ knowledge and capacity as knowers are discounted, when their diverse epistemologies are not recognized, and when their epistemic labor is dismissed, they not only experience the harms of feeling unrecognized, illegitimate, and invisible but also can internalize these forms of harm. Partnership experiences, in contrast, can make them feel “like an integral part of the school and its processes” (Perez-Putnam 2016).

Partnership has the capacity to enable re-humanization through respecting the dignity and worth of students, especially those from equity-seeking groups. Partnership can also provide social conditions and relationships through which students can develop—and have affirmed—their sense of self and agency and explore possibilities for who they can be. Finally, partnership supports the development and enactment of different worldviews that counter dominant academic and neoliberal ontologies. “Respecting [student] voices” and selves is especially important, one student partner asserted, “when your identity isn’t affirmed” in the wider college context (student quoted in Cook-Sather 2020). When pedagogical partnerships seek to practice the value of respect, they affirm the innate dignity and worth of students as persons.

What the Book Offers

Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnership not only offers a framework that maps and draws on the three dimensions outlined above. It applies the framework to the pedagogical partnership literature, highlighting how partnership scholarship has offered examples of efforts to redress epistemic, affective, and ontological harms without typically using that language. It also includes case studies of the two programs in which the co-authors work (or previously worked)—at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges in the US and at McMaster University in Canada. In addition, the book explores the complexities the framework surfaces, including the conditions under which partnerships themselves may risk reproducing epistemic, affective, or ontological harms, or prevent the realization of intended and possible epistemic, affective, and ontological redress. Finally, the book offers reflections on promising directions for and possibilities of pedagogical partnership to redress harm and promote epistemic, affective, and ontological justice across diverse sites of partnership practice and invites applications, extensions, and revisions of the framework it offers.

The book will soon be available through the Stylus Publishing/CEL Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching. You can learn more about the book and access free, supplemental resources on the CEL website, and you can pre-order the book at Stylus Publishing.


Colón García, Ana. 2017. “Building a Sense of Belonging Through Pedagogical Partnership.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 22. http://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss22/2.

Cook-Sather, Alison. 2020. “Respecting Voices: How the Co-creation of Teaching and Learning Can Support Academic Staff, Underrepresented Students, and Equitable Practices.” Higher Education 79 (5), 885-901. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-019-00445-w.

de Bie, Alise, Elizabeth Marquis, Alison Cook-Sather, and Leslie Luqueño. 2019. “Valuing Knowledge(s) and Cultivating Confidence: Contributing to Epistemic Justice via Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnerships.” In International Perspectives in Higher Education: Strategies for Fostering Inclusive Classrooms, edited by Jaimie Hoffman, Patrick Blessinger, and Mandla Makhanya, 35-48. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.

Fricker, Miranda. 2007. Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press.

Gibson, Suanne, and Alison Cook-Sather. 2020. “Politicised Compassion and Pedagogical Partnership.” International Journal for Students as Partners 4 (1). https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/ijsap/article/view/3996.

Kidd, Ian James, José Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus Jr., eds. 2017. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Abingdon: Routledge.

Perez-Putnam, Miriam. 2016. “Belonging and Brave Space as Hope for Personal and Institutional Inclusion.” Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education 18. http://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss18/2.

Alison Cook-Sather is the Mary Katharine Woodworth Professor of Education at Bryn Mawr College. Beth Marquis, associate professor at McMaster University, also contributed to this blog post.

How to Cite this Post

Cook-Sather, Alison. (2021, May 20). What Students Say about Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnership [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/what-students-say-about-promoting-equity-and-justice-through-pedagogical-partnership.