The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

The Students-As-Partners in SoTL Movement: Wonderments from ISSoTL

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Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University

notes-for-blogDespite being a devotee of technology, I am a pen and paper note taker (and probably always will be). At conferences, in particular, I take copious notes in a my “SoTL journal” of the moment, capturing whatever is of interest to me at a particular time. ISSoTL this year was no different, my handy SoTL journal was filled with pages of scrawled notes, doodles, arrows, and connections as I processed all I heard.

My notes from the session presented by Angela Kehler, Roselynn Verwoord, and Heather Smith titled Power and Voice: A Critical Analysis of the Students-As-Partners Literature were particularly interesting. Looking them over, I noticed that I only recorded questions, evidently channeling my dissertation advisor who regularly challenged his students to view curiosities as “wonderments” for future reflection and study.

Kehler, Verwoord, and Smith posed the following questions as part of their presentation:

  • How can we infuse more systematic critique into the students-as-partners literature to avoid being overly laudatory/celebratory in our reporting of outcomes?
  • How do we underestimate power in the students-as-partners movement?
  • Who is the safe space for in the students-as-partners movement? What hierarchies are being supported and/or perpetuated in the work we engage in?
  • What is the aftermath of students-as-partners work? Can students who have experienced increased autonomy/responsibility due to changing power structures be happy when they return to the “norm” after their experience is over?

Thinking about these questions led me to scrawl a variety of additional wonderments in my notes that I find myself still pondering, three weeks after the end of the conference:

  • Can value-shifts in the students-as-partners movement be likened to code-shifts used by successful communicators? Might code-shifting represent the first behavioral change in successful student/faculty partnerships?
  • When and how do important transitions in faculty/student partnerships happen?
  • Is flexibility in interpretations of traditional role structures important? How are these behaviors modeled in successful student/faculty partnerships?
  • What makes partnership “real” in terms of buy-in and experience for all stakeholders?
  • What is the intersection of collegiality and friendship in faculty/student partnerships? Is there a need for such a divide?
  • My best collaborations have emerged from long-term relationships with trusted and well-known colleagues. Is it possible to develop similar, deep collaborations in shorter-term relationships lasting one term/year?

Kehler, Verwoord, and Smith offered that the students-as-partners movement is multi-faceted and complex with many moving parts and warned of the dangers of being “uncurious” about the things happening around us. It would seem that based on the discussion at this and other sessions at ISSoTL, we are far from uncurious about student/faculty partnerships, which, I think is a very good thing.

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