Bringing It

Bringing It #120: Student & Faculty Partnership: Eastern Michigan University and Flipping the Script

April 18, 2024

Dear friends,

Welcome back to Bringing It, our platform for elevating models of holistic, equitable, and engaged higher education for all students. In this issue, we’re discussing the student voice. What does it mean for educators to truly work in partnership with students? What can we learn from students concerning the future of higher ed? We sat down with Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein of Eastern Michigan University and EMU senior Alivia Overbee to discuss their relationship as teaching and learning partners. 

Teaching and Learning Together

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is the Director of EMU’s Faculty Development Center. While the Center does offer many opportunities for faculty growth, including a variety of Learning Communities, events, and resources, there is also a focus on student-faculty partnerships through its unique initiative, Teaching and Learning Together (TaLT). TaLT is based on the idea that learning is relational; it is most impactful, not when students simply receive knowledge, but when faculty and students come together to co-create educational experiences. “Students will create the kind of school they want to see,” says Bernstein. “No one can tell me what my students are learning better than my students.” 

TaLT programming covers a wide swath of experiences. The Collaborative Course (Re) Design Learning Community pairs faculty with their former students to redesign sections of previously taught courses. Students and faculty work together in the Clinical Education Learning Community to improve belonging across clinical experiences and disciplines. Partnership Spotlights highlight student and faculty relationships in which students and faculty are equal partners in learning. But perhaps the most impactful program is the entirely student-led “Flipping the Script” conference, held this past December.

The conference featured 16 student-led presentations and two panels, ranging in topics from teaching writing to neurodivergent students, a plenary on intersecting identities, and a Q&A session on generative AI. It was entirely student-led, facilitated, and planned.  “This wasn’t ‘extra credit,’” said Alivia “Liv” Overbee. “Students wanted to come together and make an impact.”  Overbee, a first-generation college senior major in neuroscience, took on organizing the conference as part of her work at the Faculty Development Center.  “It couldn’t have happened without Liv,” said Bernstein.

Overbee said that her best educational experiences have happened in environments where faculty “know who their students are.” Faculty-student partnerships, whether it be in the classroom or in conferences and learning communities, may be the best way to foster this understanding. For changemakers looking to implement this kind of partnering in their own institutions, Bernstein and Overbee encourage allowing students to lead, and using faculty as a resource. “A lot of students don’t think they can ask for things from the university,” said Overbee, to which Bernstein responded, “feeling that someone will listen is a privilege.” It’s up to faculty to agree to be that listening ear. As Bernstein said, “we are faculty because someone in higher ed saw us, noticed us, gave a damn about us…the university education offers the opportunity to build meaningful relationships for all who are seeking them.” 

Bernstein and Overbee are just one example of enriching, innovative, student-faculty partnership. Elon University’s open publication, The Power of Partnership, illustrates the power of student and faculty/staff partnerships to transform institutions and lives. The Center for Teaching and Learning at University of Texas, Austin is offering a new Students as Partners Initiative, which includes a Grant Program offered to students and faculty working as pairs. If you know of more exemplars, please reach out!

Thanks so much to Dr.Bernstein and Ms.Overbee for their story and insights.

News and Events:

  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is hiring an Academic Program Director for their Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. This role will work with the CETL to assist faculty, teaching academic staff, and teaching assistants to improve teaching and increase student learning by crafting sound, proven, and active learning strategies. Applications will go through an initial review starting April 21st.
  • Elon University’s 20th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference is currently accepting proposals. This entirely free and virtual conference will be themed around Divergent Teaching: Empathy, Rigor, and Beyond. Proposals are due April 22nd by 11:59pm. Proposals should be in the format of one of three session types:
    • Interactive Workshop: 50-minute evidence-based workshop
    • Innovative Pedagogical Strategy: 25-minute presentations highlighting a teaching strategy and its impact
    • Speed Teaching: 10-minute presentation followed by Q&A in a group of three presenters
  • Oberlin College and Conservatory is hiring for a Campus & Community Partnerships Coordinator position within the Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Research. This role will support academic and co-curricular community engagement through programs such as the Bonner Scholars Program, the Ninde Scholars Program, the Community-Based Work-Study Program, and the America Counts and Reads programs. Application review is currently underway, and you can direct questions about the position to Bonner Center Director, Thom Dawkins ([email protected]), Associate Director, Susan Pavlus ([email protected]), or Bonner Scholars Program Director Gabby Valentine ([email protected]).

With thanks for you and all you do,

David, Gianna, Gillian, Kate, Paul, and Todd

Bringing Theory to Practice
Elon University