Instructional Science, 42 (1), Springer, 2014.
Traditional structures in higher education support a separation between faculty members’ and students’ perspectives on classroom practice. This is in part because student-faculty interactions are typically defined by a focus on content coverage and by a clear delineation between faculty and student roles in engaging that content. This paper focuses on key findings from an ongoing action research study that aims to address these basic questions: (1) What happens when faculty and students engage in structured dialogue with one another about teaching and learning outside of the regular spaces within which they interact? and (2) How can such dialogic engagement become a part of both students’ and teachers’ practice? The study takes place within the context of a program that supports undergraduate students and college faculty members in semester-long partnerships through which they explore teaching and learning. The goal of these explorations is to examine, affirm, and, where appropriate, revise pedagogical practice. Constant comparison/grounded theory was used to analyze discussions among and feedback from participants. It was found that partnership facilitates both faculty and students multiplying their perspectives in ways that have the potential to improve teaching and learning. Participants consistently describe gaining new insights produced at and by the intersections of their experiences and angles of vision. Furthermore, they discuss how these insights deepen their own self-awareness and their understanding of others’ experiences and perspectives. Finally, they indicate that, as a result of gaining these insights and deepening their awareness, they are inclined to embrace more engaged and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning.