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Students as Partners in Teaching & Learning

December 20, 2021 • Mark Hofer

Faculty spend a great deal of time creating their syllabus, planning meaningful course assessments, and designing learning experiences to engage their students. These efforts are often informed by their past experience, conversations with colleagues, and possibly engagement in professional organizations. The missing ingredient: student perspective.

Over the last two years, the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation (STLI) developed a robust Student Partners Program (SPP). Initially designed around the work of Dr. Alison Cook-Sather from Bryn-Mawr, and framed around student classroom observations, the SPP has evolved into a pathway for faculty to engage students as partners in their teaching and learning.

By filling out an online form, any W&M instructor can request a student partner in one of four areas:

• Student Observation– Partner with faculty for targeted classroom observations
• Student Accessibility– Assist students and faculty with accessibility needs
• Student Feedback & Ideation– Provide feedback and brainstorming for class materials
• Student Media Production– Design and produce educational media

For example, one of our students, Maddie Helfer, conducted a series of classroom observations with a new faculty member, providing insight and feedback from a student perspective on classroom presentations, assignments, and more. In another example a student assisted a faculty member to live stream class sessions for a student who, due to health reasons, was not able to physically participate in the class sessions. Several of the students have also helped to co-design a new program called Story School in which our student partners collaborate with STLI team members and instructors to design a multimodal storytelling project for their class.

While the STLI Student Partner Program is a wonderful way for faculty to elicit student feedback and perspective, you can also do much of this work on your own. Here are four ways that you can bring the student perspective to your work:

1. Prior to the beginning of a new semester, share your syllabus, learning objectives, and assignment descriptions with a small group of students to elicit their feedback for clarity.
2. At mid-term or really any point of the semester, elicit feedback from your students. Check out this toolkit to get you started.
3. Build in margin in your class meeting schedule to fill in with topics that the students express interest in relative to your course focus.
4. Create opportunities for students to present material to their classmates, lead review sessions, or facilitate small group discussions.

As you look ahead to your Spring courses, think about how you might benefit from partnering with students. If you would like assistance from a STLI student partner over winter break, please send us your request. Whether you partner with STLI or take small steps on your own, partnering with a student can be helpful and transformative – for both you and your students.

Acknowledgements: STLI is grateful for the input and direction of STLI Graduate Fellows Denise Lewis and Kimberly Rodriguez as co-leaders on the SPP.

© 2021 Mark Hofer. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Meet the Author

Mark Hofer

STLI Director and School of Education Professor

Mark teaches courses on educational technology, curriculum and learning design, and innovation. His research work focuses on educational innovation, deeper learning, educational technologies, and designing professional learning experiences for teachers, school leaders, and university faculty.