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Blog 222

Blog 222

Bridging The Gap?: “Students as Partners” at York

Student and instructor separated by a river with a partnership path crossing the divide

Who we are?

Teddy: Humanities Major, Year 1 Primary-Junior Teacher Candidate, Animal Mother of 4. 

Zainab: Majored in Sociology and is in her first year of Teachers College, loves hockey and soccer, mama bear to a kitten named Nala 🙂

Corina: Currently completing BA in Educational Studies, loves working with kids, passionate about pursuing teaching in the future, loves to travel, dog lover and a Virgo.

Lauren: French Studies Major, currently a Year 1 Primary-Junior Teacher Candidate, lover of reading and early modern history.

Teddy, Zainab, Corina, Lauren

What does “Students as Partners” mean? 

Students as Partners provides an opportunity for students to coexist or co-construct a partnership when working with faculty. The goal is to eliminate the gap that has been built over the years between students and faculty in terms of working together or establishing a partnership. Students as Partners allows students to have a voice and share their perspectives on things that can help benefit everyone on campus including both students and faculty. It is important to recognize that when working in partnership, contributions from both students and faculty are equally valued. Therefore, the different ideas and projects that are constructed by Students as Partners need to include both students' and faculty's perspectives and lived experiences in order to have a successful partnership!

A note on equity, diversity, and inclusion:

Students as Partners aims to engage faculty and students together as one, to build meaningful relationships amongst both parties. To do so, we must ensure that our practices as a students as partners organization continues to evolve with the changing diverse identities we see in the community.  At York, we aim to highlight the importance of student and faculty collaborations and vocalize the idea that within our society various power structures exist that perpetuate inequitable practices. As a united front, we must work together to break down these societal barriers and create meaningful and inclusive practices within our pedagogical work. 

6 Ways to Incorporate Students as Partners Ideas into Teaching Practice:

1. Resisting “Client” Models of Education 

In order to foster a culture of partnership between students and faculty we must move away from models which treat students as consumers and education as a product. These models enforce passivity and leave students feeling powerless regarding what they learn and how they learn. 

2. Pedagogical Transparency

Demystifying the teaching process goes a long way to developing student-partnership relations. No one wants to do something just because they are told to, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Transparency can be as small as sharing the reasoning behind certain pedagogical choices or even workshopping new approaches with students. 

3. Valuing and Centering Student Expertise

It is important to remember that professors are just one of many experts in a classroom. Every student has their own abilities and knowledge to contribute to the learning experience. While they may not have the same responsibilities as faculty, students should be given equal opportunities as instructors to contribute to their own learning.

4. Active Feedback

Active feedback goes beyond the course evaluations authorized by the university at the semester’s end. This practice establishes a dialogue between students and professors that aims to create a more accessible course for its current participants. Students can be incentivized to provide active feedback through the provision of participation marks and/or an anonymous, online submission portal (i.e., Google Forms).

5. Collaboration in Assessment

Full partnership in establishing the methods of assessment is not always possible, particularly when the syllabus must be submitted prior to the first class. However, this does not mean that there is no room for partnership between students and faculty in this regard. In some circumstances, students can be consulted on what testing format (i.e., multiple-choice or long-answer questions) they prefer. In others, a list of essay topics could be co-constructed as a class rather than created solely by the professor.

6. Self-Reflection

Although the use of the term “self” may seem counterintuitive within the context of student partnership, self-reflection is an important tool to encourage faculty to help “bridge the gap.” Turning inwards to reflect on one’s own pedagogy is key to creating the metaphorical space required for the above-mentioned practices. Incorporating the student perspective is difficult without some self-analysis or critique.

Looking to the Future: Developing A Student’s as Partners Initiative 

We, as a team, are working towards the development of a program that continues to bridge the gap between students and faculty. Based on our foundation of understanding students as partners, our team will work to develop a lasting initiative for the York University community that will continue to deconstruct harmful hierarchies in education. 

About the Authors

Teddy is a Humanities Major, a Year 1 Primary-Junior Teacher Candidate, and an Animal Mother of 4. 

Zainab majored in Sociology and is in her first year of Teachers College. She loves hockey and soccer and is a mama bear to a kitten named Nala 🙂

Corina is currently completing BA in Educational Studies. She loves working with kids is passionate about pursuing teaching in the future. She loves to travel, is a dog lover and a Virgo.

Lauren is a French Studies Major, currently a Year 1 Primary-Junior Teacher Candidate, lover of reading and early modern history.