McMaster University has had a transformative impact on post-secondary teaching and learning over the last five decades. Our Faculty of Health Sciences pioneered problem-based learning while inquiry was a defining part of the groundbreaking Arts & Science Program. These signature pedagogies now extend across McMaster and have been adopted worldwide. Students in every program engage in some form of experiential learning and benefit from the work of McMaster’s Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation & Excellence in Teaching – the research and teaching development institute that is home to one of the world’s largest Students as Partners programs.
The work of educational development is mostly visible through Teaching and Learning Centers that typically offer a range of services to strengthen staff development, enhance programs, integrate technology and more recently, support and conduct the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. However, to fully inform the potential of the Institute and educational development more broadly, colleagues at the MacPherson Institute have developed a range of student-staff partnership projects and initiatives in the last five years. These include delivering high-impact Student Partner Programs (Marquis, et al., 2016; 2017), hosting the International Institute for Students as Partners (Marquis, Black, & Healey, 2017; Marquis et al., 2018), and publishing the International Journal for Students as Partners (Cliffe et al., 2017).
Students are a fundamental part of this transformation, working in partnership with staff to develop these initiatives and collaborating with faculty across campus on course and curriculum redesign and SoTL projects, with the support of the institute. Unlike traditional, often hierarchical, discussions about teaching and learning, partnerships require faculty, staff, and students to work together to negotiate goals and share ownership of the risks and successes of their endeavors. They are underpinned by values of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility (Cook-Sather et al, 2014), recognizing that partners bring different expertise and experiences to the table. Working in this way is not a ‘quick fix’ for student engagement; partnerships provide opportunities for deep collaboration between faculty/staff and students, but they also require time to develop and require attention to issues of power and agency. It is perhaps unsurprising that these types of partnerships are considered one of several radical developments in higher education at the moment (Ryan and Tilbury, 2013).
At McMaster, our Student Partners Program started with just 13 students in 2013 and has since expanded to include approximately 200 participants across the university per year, working together to (re)design courses, input to quality enhancement processes, conduct SoTL, contribute to faculty development activities, and co-author and co-present their work to local and global audiences. In collaboration with local and international colleagues, we also conduct research that contributes to knowledge and understanding of pedagogical partnerships, and draw on the results to inform and revise our partnership initiatives. Since 2016 we have also hosted the annual International Students as Partners Institute, attracting 150 participants, half of which are students, from 10 different countries to date. In collaboration with colleagues in Australia, US, Canada and the UK, the MacPherson Institute and McMaster University Library Press publish the new International Journal for Students as Partners, a space where students explore, co-lead, and advance the scholarship and practice of partnership. Finally, our latest work involves collaborating with colleagues at T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) in Grenada to support its transformation as the top tertiary learning institution in the Caribbean, driven by pedagogical partnerships. Engaging students fully in the creation, design and running of the teaching and learning centre at TAMCC will be an internationally recognizable accomplishment for the College and most fundamentally, a strategy for developing a strong and impactful Educational Development Unit.
Education is supposed to be the great equalizer – a powerful and accessible pathway for personal growth and advancement. Sadly, a growing body of research is suggesting otherwise (Carnevale & Strohl, 2013; Devlin, 2013; Gibson et al., 2017; US Department of Education, 2016). Making post-secondary education a more effective ‘equalizer’ should be one of our highest priorities institutionally and societally. With that goal in mind, pedagogical partnerships have emerged as a potent learning tool that has proven to enhance student success and retention in higher education while garnering a number of other positive outcomes (Healey, Flint, & Harrington, 2014; Mercer-Mapstone et al., 2017). Partnership approaches can focus on classroom practices, curriculum development, research/scholarship and even, on a larger scale, institutional transformation. At each of these levels, they have the potential to contribute to more democratic learning communities (Cook-Sather & Luz, 2015), and to enhance equity and inclusion in our institutions—particularly when they engage students from traditionally marginalized groups (Cook-Sather & Agu, 2013). While not without its challenges or limitations (Bovill et al., 2016; Kandiko Howson & Weller, 2016), partnership thus represents an exciting possibility for enhancing learning and teaching, and we look forward to continuing to participate in the international community working to support, enhance, and study this practice.
Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: Overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student-staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71, 195-208.
Carnevale, A., & Strohl, J. (2013). Separate and unequal: How higher education reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege (Report from Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce). Retrieved from http://cew.georgetown.edu/separateandunequal/
Cliffe, A., Cook-Sather, A., Healey, M., Healey, R., Marquis, E., Matthews, K.E., Mercer-Mapstone, L., Ntem, A., Puri, V., & Woolmer, C. (2017). Launching a journal about and through students as partners. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/ijsap/article/view/3194
Cook-Sather, A. & Agu, P. (2013). Student consultants of color and faculty members working together toward culturally sustaining pedagogy. To Improve the Academy, 32(1), 271-285.
Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning & teaching: A guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cook-Sather, A. & Luz, A. (2015). Greater engagement in and responsibility for learning: What happens when students cross the threshold of student-faculty partnership. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(6), 1097-1109.
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Gibson, S., Baskerville, D., Berry, A., Black, A., Norris, K., & Symeonidou, S. (2017). Including students as co-enquirers: Matters of identity, agency, language and labelling in an International participatory research study. International Journal of Educational Research 81, 108–118.
Healey, M., Flint, A., and Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education, York: Higher Education Academy https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher-education
Kandiko Howson, C. & Weller, S. (2016). Defining pedagogic expertise: Students and new lecturers as co-developers in learning and teaching. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(2). tlijournal.com/tli/index.php/TLI/issue/view/15/
Marquis, E., Black, C., & Healey, M. (2017). Responding to the challenges of student-staff partnership: Reflections of participants at an international summer institute. Teaching in Higher Education, 22(6), 720-735.
Marquis, E., Guitman, R., Black, C., Healey, M., Matthews, K.E., & Dvorakova, S. (2018). Growing partnership communities: What experiences of an international institute suggest about developing student-staff partnership in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YAbqv236m3wmNTbwqJbI/full
Marquis, E., Haqqee, Z., Kirby, S., Liu, A., Puri, V., Cockcroft, R., Goff, L., & Knorr, K. (2017). Connecting students and staff for teaching and learning inquiry: The McMaster student partners program. In B. Carnell and D. Fung (Eds.), Disciplinary Approaches to Connecting the Higher Education Curriculum (pp. 203-216). London: UCL Press.
Marquis, E., Puri, V., Wan, S., Ahmad, A., Goff, L., Knorr, K., . . . & Woo, J. (2016). Navigating the threshold of student–staff partnerships: A case study from an Ontario teaching and learning institute. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(1), 4-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1113538
Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S.L., Matthews, K.E., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Knorr, K., Marquis, E., Shammas, R., & Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic literature review of students as partners in higher education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/ijsap/article/view/3119/2751
Ryan, A. and Tilbury, D. (2013) Flexible pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas. Higher Education Academy.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and Office of the Under Secretary. (2016). Advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Washington, D.C. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf.