Using the “Students as Partners” Framework to Support Teaching and Learning

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A student-faculty partnership at the University of Colorado Boulder that is focused on educational technology has created mutually beneficial service learning experiences.

Using the Students as Partners Framework to Support Teaching and Learning
Credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

If there is to be a single important structural change during the coming decades, it is the changing role of students who are given more room in defining and contributing to higher education.

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Cook-Sather, Bovill and Felten define a student-faculty partnership as a "collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualization, decision making, implementation, investigation, or analysis." This kind of partnership (part of the broader "Students as Partners" movement in higher education) repositions students and faculty as teachers and learners and ultimately redefines their traditional roles in relation to one another and to the institution. Although these partnerships can take many shapes and forms, they typically fall into one of four categories:

  • Learning, teaching, and assessment
  • Curriculum design and pedagogical consultancy
  • Subject-based research and inquiry
  • The scholarship of teaching and learning

The University of Colorado Boulder's Arts & Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT) program is using the "Students as Partners" framework with undergraduate student employees who they refer to as Student Technology Consultants (STCs). By their nature, the STCs are tech savvy and well versed in teaching, using, and supporting a variety of technologies. In this unique partnership, they serve as partners with faculty for the purposes of teaching, learning, and assessment.

The Technology Integration Program pairs STCs with faculty interested in incorporating educational technology that isn't centrally supported by the university. The STC consults with the faculty member and sometimes makes software recommendations based on the goals of the class. The student consultant teaches the technology to the faculty member, presents the tool to the students, and provides technical support within and outside the classroom. By ensuring that the technology works as intended and by providing onsite technical support, STCs allow faculty to focus their energy on teaching and students to focus on learning. Examples of technology integration requests include student-authored podcasts, presenting research through WordPress, and chronicling climate conversations through Google Maps.

Through the Visualizing Instructional Practices (VIP) service, STCs observe faculty and students in the classroom and collect data in two-minute intervals. Grounded in research-based methods, the VIP service aims to provide faculty members with data that will enable them to reflect upon their teaching by painting an objective picture of what's happening in their classes. After the observations are completed, the STC works with ASSETT's full-time educational researcher to compile data and prepare graphics; upon request, the STC consults with the faculty member to discuss the observations.

Since Fall 2016, STCs have assisted 30 arts and sciences faculty members and 1,637 students across 47 courses. These faculty members come from departments such as classics, political science, and evolutionary biology. In Fall 2018 alone, they conducted 38 observations for 13 classes for the VIP service. While the STC work has impacted quite a few faculty and students, many others are not yet aware of these services. ASSETT launched a marketing campaign to bring increased visibility and awareness to these services. In the future, the STC program would like to expand its suite of services to include midsemester evaluations for faculty members. Similar to the STCs' existing services, these evaluations would be conducted upon request, and the faculty and STC would collaboratively determine how to collect the data and implement any recommendations.

Jacie Moriyama is the Student Services Portfolio Manager for the ASSETT program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Samuel Kindick is a PhD candidate in the department of classics and serves as Student Technology Consultant Manager for the ASSETT program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

© 2019 Jacie Moriyama and Samuel Kindick. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License.