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Pedagogical Partnership

Professor Benita Jackson with student Chelsea Pimentel

Smith College professors believe that there are many ways to teach well and that all teaching is improvable. As one pathway towards improvement, the Smith College Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program engages students as partners to observe and give feedback to professors who have chosen to analyze their teaching over an entire semester. Students themselves are validated as expert learners who have much to contribute through affirming what is working well in faculty members’ courses and supporting faculty in developing a more inclusive learning environment at Smith.

How Does It Work?

To develop the capacity to be effective faculty partners, professors wishing to participate in the program first take a two-day summer institute on engaging students as partners in teaching and learning. Faculty partners then choose the course that they would like to work on with a student partner. During the semester, student partners attend one class per week and take observation notes. Faculty partners may or may not ask their student partners to focus on particular aspects of their teaching. Student and faculty pairs meet once a week to affirm what is going well and discuss what might be adjusted or improved. To develop their theories of and vocabularies for teaching and learning, students meet weekly with one another and Professor Al Rudnitksy in a two-credit course titled IDP210: The Pedagogy of Student-Faculty Partnership.

Students are paid an hourly wage for their work, and faculty members receive a stipend for participating in the summer institute. The program is funded from 2016–19 by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Who Pairs with Whom?

Student partners may or may not be in the same field as their faculty partners. The choice depends on the partners available and their goals. In most cases, field match doesn’t matter since the focus is on teaching practice—not course content. The Sherrerd Center manages the application and pairing process.

How Is It Going?

This combination of long-term learning and exchange, based on principles of respect, reciprocity and shared responsibility (Cook-Sather et al., 2014), have yielded early signs of success since the program’s inception in 2016. Student partners report feeling more engaged in their own learning and more empowered as participants in the process of teaching and learning at Smith. Faculty partners testify that their partners have given them entirely new perspectives on their teaching. Together, student-faculty pairs collaborate to make sure that all students are included and engaged.

    What Is the Wider Context?

    Student-faculty pedagogical partnerships are increasingly a focus of attention in both scholarship and practice. For instance, in a widely cited report, Healey, Flint, and Harrington (2014) wrote that engaging students and faculty effectively as partners in learning and teaching “is arguably one of the most important issues facing higher education in the 21st century” (p. 7), and they provide a wide range of examples of the proliferation of such partnerships. Likewise, a recent issue of the International Journal for Academic Development, titled “Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: Implications for academic development," offers both arguments for and examples of student-faculty partnership projects in Australia, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The McMaster Institute for Innovation and Enhancement in Teaching and Learning organized the first International Summer Institute on Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, which took place in early May 2016, and is planning another institute for May 2017. A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation includes funds to support Smith College in joining Lafayette, Lewis & Clark, Oberlin, Reed, and Ursinus Colleges in developing a student-faculty partnership program based on the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Students as Learners and Teachers (SaLT) program.

    How Do I Learn More?

    To learn more about pedagogical partnership in general, read Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty by Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill and Peter Felten. To learn more about Smith’s program, contact the director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, Floyd Cheung.

    Read an article by a Smith Faculty Pedagogical Partner:

    Current Partners

    Spring 2019

    Faculty Partner Student Partner Course
    Lily Gurton-Wachter Meaghan Haff English 237: Environmental Poetry and Ecological Thought
    Dawn Fulton Shukang Liu FRN 230: Women Writers of Africa and the Caribbean
    Yanlong Guo Gwen Jones ARH 200: China in Expansion
    Susan Sayre Diana Umana ECO 150: Introductory Microeconomics
    Tina Wildhagen Dionna Jenkins SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology


    Fall 2018

    Faculty Partner Student Partner Course
    Laura Jensen Shukang Liu FRN 101: Accelerated Beginning French I
    Simon Halliday Gwen Jones ECO250: Intermediate Microeconomics
    Michelle Joffroy Endi Mato LAS 150: Introduction to Latin American Studies
    Bosiljka Glumac Diana Umana GEO 232: Sedimentary Geology
    Adrián Gras-Velázquez Maeve Porter Holliday SPN200: Intermediate Spanish
    Sujane Wu Yasmine Vera EAL 231: The Culture of the Lyric in Traditional China

    Past Partners

    Faculty Partner Student Partner Course
    Ginetta Candelario Kennedy Guest-Pritchett SOC 213: Race and National Identity in the United States
    Erica Tibbetts Rose Silverman ESS 200: Sport: In Search of the American Dream
    Nathan Derr Emily Bellanca BIO 132: Cells, Physiology and Development
    Simon Halliday Emily Olmos-Govea ECO 220: Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics
    Gary Felder Zoe Hildenbrand PHY 210: Mathematical Methods of Physical Sciences and Engineering

    Faculty Partner

      Student Partner Course
    Susan Sayre   Jeny Kwon ENV 311: Interpreting and Communicating
    Environmental Information
    Gary Felder   Taré Suriel PHY 117: Introductory Physics I
    Kelly Anderson   Caty Seger FYS 179: Rebellious Women
    Shannon Audley   Jocelyn Yax EDC 235: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
    Elizabeth Klarich   Rose Silverman ANT 135: Introduction to Archaeology
    Jamie Worms   Emily Bellanca LAS 201: Colloquium in Latin American and Latino/a Studies: Landscapes of Work, Wealth and Power: The Economic Geography of Latin America
    Rick Millington   Nybria Acklin FYS 192: America in 1925
    Benita Jackson   Beverly Lipsey PSY 240: Colloquium: Health Promotion

    Faculty Partner

      Student Partner Course
    Joyce Palmer-Fortune   Erin Garofolo

    PHY 117: Introductory Physics

    Barbara Kellum   Kasch Meier

    ARH 285: Great Cities: Pompeii

    Jennifer Guglielmo   Cecelia Lim & Maria Perez HST 383: Research in United States Women's History
    Leslie King  

    Tare Suriel

    SOC 232: World Populations
    Rick Millington   Michaella Mentu ENG 199: Methods in Literary Study

    Faculty Partner

      Student Partner Course
    Joshua Birk   Allison Wu HST 225: Making of the Medieval World
    John Brady   Naomi Jahan GEO 221: Mineralogy
    Benita Jackson   Chelsea Pimentel PSY 240: Health Promotion
    Tina Wildhagen   Angelica Vargas SOC 317: Inequality in Higher Education

    What Do Faculty Partners Say?

    "I am seeing the dramatic impact that this program is having on students as well. . . To be turned to as pedagogical experts has greatly enhanced their sense of their own academic and intellectual capacities."

    "As faculty members discover how rewarding it is to have a pedagogical partner, soon every faculty member will want to have one."

    "Working with a pedagogical partner has pushed me to reflect deeply on my teaching in real time throughout the semester—not just once my course evaluations have been submitted at the end of the semester."

    What Do Student Partners Say?

    "From discussing growth mindset to figuring out ways to get students more engaged, I’ve ended this semester feeling way more accomplished than I originally expected."

    "My ability as a student has grown and will continue to grow thanks to this partnership."

    "As the program spreads at Smith, it will benefit both the individuals involved in the partnership and the community as a whole."