Intentional Teaching

Students as Partners with Aimee Fleming and Maren Rice

March 12, 2024 Episode 32
Students as Partners with Aimee Fleming and Maren Rice
Intentional Teaching
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Intentional Teaching
Students as Partners with Aimee Fleming and Maren Rice
Mar 12, 2024 Episode 32

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Students as Partners programs have been on my radar for years now. These are programs that pair faculty with thoughtful students who provide input and feedback into the faculty member’s teaching and course design. The programs seem to have incredible benefits to the student partners, to the faculty partners, and to the faculty partner’s students, but I never figured out a way to get one started while I was at Vanderbilt.

Thanks to a fireworks show during the 2023 POD Network conference, I learned that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a recently started a very popular Students as Partners Program. On the podcast, I talk with two people who know the program there well: Aimee Fleming, associate director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, or CTLE, at Embry-Riddle, and Maren Rice, student partner for the CTLE. We had a great conversation about the Students as Partners program, how it started, how it works, and what benefits it brings to all involved.

Episode Resources

·       Students as Partners, Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University, 

·       Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 

Podcast Links:

Intentional Teaching is sponsored by UPCEA, the online and professional education association.

Subscribe to the Intentional Teaching newsletter:

Support Intentional Teaching on Patreon:

Find me on LinkedIn and Bluesky.

See my website for my "Agile Learning" blog and information about having me speak at your campus or conference.

Show Notes Transcript

Questions or comments about this episode? Send us a text massage.

Students as Partners programs have been on my radar for years now. These are programs that pair faculty with thoughtful students who provide input and feedback into the faculty member’s teaching and course design. The programs seem to have incredible benefits to the student partners, to the faculty partners, and to the faculty partner’s students, but I never figured out a way to get one started while I was at Vanderbilt.

Thanks to a fireworks show during the 2023 POD Network conference, I learned that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a recently started a very popular Students as Partners Program. On the podcast, I talk with two people who know the program there well: Aimee Fleming, associate director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, or CTLE, at Embry-Riddle, and Maren Rice, student partner for the CTLE. We had a great conversation about the Students as Partners program, how it started, how it works, and what benefits it brings to all involved.

Episode Resources

·       Students as Partners, Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University, 

·       Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 

Podcast Links:

Intentional Teaching is sponsored by UPCEA, the online and professional education association.

Subscribe to the Intentional Teaching newsletter:

Support Intentional Teaching on Patreon:

Find me on LinkedIn and Bluesky.

See my website for my "Agile Learning" blog and information about having me speak at your campus or conference.

Derek Bruff 0:06
Welcome to the Intentional Teaching, a podcast aimed at educators to help them develop foundational teaching skills and explore new ideas in teaching. I’m your host, Derek Bruff. I hope this podcast helps you be more intentional in how you teach and in how you develop as a teacher over time.

I’ve mentioned here on the podcast that I attended the 2023 annual conference of the Professional and Organizational Development Network, or POD Network, which was held in Pittsburgh. One surprise of the conference was that it overlapped with Pittsburgh’s annual Highmark Light Up night, which involved a lot of holiday lights and a most impressive firework show. I hadn’t planned on catching the fireworks, but I happened to be returning to the conference hotel lobby at the same time a group of folks from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University were heading out to see the fireworks, so I tagged along. On the way back, I learned from Josh Caulkins, the director of the teaching center at Embry-Riddle, that their new Students as Partners program had grown from four student-faculty teams in its first semester to 18 teams in its third semester, with lots of financial investment from multiple deans!

I was impressed. Students as Partners programs have been on my radar for years now. These are programs that pair faculty with thoughtful students who provide input and feedback into the faculty member’s teaching and course design. The programs seem to have incredible benefits to the student partners, to the faculty partners, and to the faculty partner’s students, but I never figured out a way to get one started while I was at Vanderbilt. And here’s Embry-Riddle launching one that’s growing a such a fast clip! I had to learn more. Josh connected me with two people who know the program there well: Aimee Fleming, associate director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, or CTLE, at Embry-Riddle, and Maren Rice, student partner for the CTLE. I talked with Aimee and Maren in January 2024, and we had a great conversation about the Students as Partners program, how it started, how it works, and what benefits it brings to all involved.

Aimee and Maren, thank you so much for coming on the podcast to talk about the students as partners program at your institution. I'm excited to talk with you here today. Thanks. Thanks for being here. 

Aimee Fleming 2:14
Yeah, thanks for having us. 

Derek Bruff 2:17
And I'll start... I want to... So usually on the podcast I start with an opening question, and the question is tell us about a time when you realized you wanted to be an educator. And so, Maren, since you're a student, I might I might rephrase that a little bit. So. So, Aimee, I'll ask you. Tell us about a time when you wanted when you realized you wanted to be an educator. And and Maren I'll ask you kind of how you got to be involved in this in this in this program, which I think is kind of your route into a form of teaching. So we'll start with you, Amimee. Tell us about a time that you realized you wanted to be an educator. 

Aimee Fleming 2:55
So forever. I actually graduated kindergarten back when we had like the full kindergarten graduation. And you walked over like, the little thing, got your diploma, and everyone said what they wanted to be. And I said I wanted to be a teacher. And I never deviated from that point. So once five years old, I went to college and I have two master's and my bachelor's, all in different areas of teaching. And I've been in education almost 18 years now. 

Derek Bruff 3:21
Wow. Wow. Yeah. And you were... did I read that you were a school principal before your current position? 

Aimee Fleming 3:28
Yeah. I spent 17 years in public education, K-12, and the school principal for seven the last seven years before I came to Embry-Riddle. 

Derek Bruff 3:38
Wow. Okay. Yeah. Educator from way back. Okay. Now, what about you, Maren? How did you get to be involved with the teaching center program? 

Maren Rice 3:48
Well, I think so, to answer your initial question, because I think I would be interested in teaching and being a part of higher education in my future. And I think kind of how I got interested in that is a little bit different from how I became involved in CTLE at Embry-Riddle. So to answer the first question, our university, we have like a university 101 course and students teach the course at university. And they were just great mentors and like just taught me so much and yeah, I just really looked up to them and I wanted to be in that position. So before I was a student partner, I was we call them campus academic mentors, and I taught that university 101 class. And I just really enjoyed sharing my knowledge with younger students and that mentorship that goes along with it. So I would say that's kind of what sparked my interest in higher education and is part of the reason why I enjoy working with CTLE so much now. 

Derek Bruff 4:52
That's great. We had a program at my former institution. It was a kind of university 101 thing, and it was led by faculty student teams. So there would be a more experienced student and then a faculty member. So I got to I got to partner with folks like you for a few years.

Maren Rice
Oh, cool.

Derek Bruff 
It was really great. Yeah. Yeah.

Maren Rice

Derek Bruff 5:13
Well, let's talk about the students as Partners program and Maren maybe we'll get to your kind of entry into that here in a minute. But what are the goals of the program and what does it look like on the ground right now? What are the components? 

Aimee Fleming 5:28
Lots of moving components right now. So we're in our third semester of going with us. So there's there's lots of goals that have changed in the last semester due to some of the additions. So our main goal is our students. It's to empower our students to be better consumers of education and to have them request, demand almost, a student centered learning experience. So our job is to grow and mentor our students, both as learners and as professionals. That's what we're doing on our back end. So our main goal, which is a little bit different than a lot of Students as Partners programs is we focus on our students first as growth. And then through that we're really trying to help bridge the gap between faculty and students.

Our faculty are experts at what they do. They're many of them come from industry, so they do sometimes have that what we call is an expert blindspot that you forget what it was like when you were first learning this or that novice experience, or many of them haven't been a student for tens of years, right? So they there's what being a student looks like now is not what being a student looks like even ten years ago. So helping kind of bridge that gap is a big goal for us. And then our faculty goal really focuses on helping our faculty members in their professional growth to advance their teaching practices and all through the student lens and what they want to grow at the same time. So really growing our students and our faculty is a double headed monster we're going in to try to tackle with this program. 

Derek Bruff 7:05
Yeah, yeah, that's great. 

Aimee Fleming 7:08
So what it looks like right now is we have 18 faculty and student partnerships and we are running with three student partner leads for this semester. So Maren, who was last semester our only student lead that is there to help support our students, this semester we have now added on two more. So that is some exciting growth for us. 

Maren Rice 7:32
I have some friends now in the leads. 

Aimee Fleming 7:35
She's not running solo. We're kind of restructuring what that looks like. But so essentially 18 faculty and about 21 students. 

Derek Bruff 7:44
Gotcha. Maren, can you say more about kind of what what that work is? What how the students serve as partners with faculty? 

Maren Rice 7:53
Yeah. So I guess I'll speak to my experience as a student partner when I partnered with a faculty member two semesters ago. I would say a big piece of it is sitting in on the classroom and getting to know the students in the class and really building those relationships, being able to read them, because a really big piece of it is bridging that understanding which Aimee touched on. So the better that you understand the students and are able to gauge their receptiveness to that material, then you're able to go and report back to the professor and say, Hey, they were really struggling with when you were covering this concept or like, you know, they were doing really well. And I felt like all the students were on the same page when you were covering this. And then you can make changes to the course as you go based on, you know, how the students are responding to that material. And then with that, with the professor, for me, I was meeting towards the end of the semester, almost every day with my faculty partner, just because we were making changes all the time. It was it was awesome. We got to make changes to like what we covered in class, assignments, exams. It was really cool to be able to give that daily feedback and see the changes made for like the next class or the next assignment. So yeah, I really enjoyed that, that process. 

Aimee Fleming 9:15
So to be fair there, most don't meet daily. Maren is exceptional. 

Maren Rice 9:20
You get kinda invested!

Aimee Fleming 9:24
So so ideally they observe class weekly and they meet weekly is kind of like that bare minimum. Many of them go past that especially like Maren said once, once that ball starts rolling, it's hard to be like, So I'll see you next week. They're like, when can we meet again? And so that they start that conversation and they start to get going.

We also have where we meet with the faculty monthly and the students monthly, and we do them separate. We've kind of gone back and forth on that, but there's a lot of vulnerability that we ask of them in those meetings and sometimes talking about what's going well or what's what's really been a struggle is hard to do for a student when the faculty member's there, or vice versa. If the faculty members are really struggling with how the students are interacting with the other students that they don't want to hurt their feelings in front of them. So that vulnerability piece is big of why we've kind of kept that connection meeting monthly separate. But yeah, so Maren is the anomaly there and so was her faculty member. But but that's what you want, right? You want that passion to where the partnership is going so well that they just they keep rolling and meeting and changes and positive things are happening.  

Derek Bruff 10:35
Yeah. Now I'm going to ask about some things that this program is not just to kind of clarify. So, Maren, you were not serving as a teaching assistant of any kind, right? You wouldn't characterize the work that way. 

Maren Rice 10:49
No, not at all. And this kind of goes into another question, but with how I got involved in the program, I asked my professor, like, Hey, do you need a T.A.? Because I really enjoyed his class and I just wanted to work with him. And I soon found out that it is it's nothing like a T.A. I would say It is like you're grading assignments and you're kind of just helping with faculty workload and you're someone who's taken the class and you're kind of, you know, the material. So you're able to help the students learn the material. You're like an extra resource. But that really was not my experience at all. I would say it's much more relationship based and just being that bridge between them so that you can help create a better learning experience for the students. Like you're not helping them learn by like tutoring them. You're helping them learn by making, like advocating for their education and making changes to help tailor the course to them. For me, for my instance, it was every day. But I guess, you know, it's different frequency for different partnerships, for sure. 

Derek Bruff 11:54
Yeah. And I guess I've heard of some students as partners programs where most of the partnership happens before the course runs, that it's it's kind of a way to help a faculty member design or redesign a course where they would work with a student over a period of time before the course launches. But your program is aimed at helping faculty make kind of on the fly changes to a course as they're teaching it. Is that right? 

Aimee Fleming 12:19
Well, it's both. Ideally, if they can meet with faculty, the student prior to the semester looking over the syllabus, kind of talking about some of that course design, that's ideal, right? So then we hit the ground running that semester, those discussions have already started. Sometimes that's possible, and sometimes that's not due to scheduling and hiring students and all the things that are out of our control. But yeah, the continuation of it going through the entire semester, that's really where I think the power comes in, because I can plan something on paper with my faculty member and it looks great on that syllabus. And then you roll it out in the classroom and you're like, That's not what we intended at all. Or the students just respond in a way that you didn't expect. And so then what do we do with that? Or even the faculty member thinks it goes really well and the students in the classroom is like, actually they're compliant, but they're not engaged with you. They're simply just being compliant in the classroom. So then those discussion starts happening of how to make things better and how to improve and really how to grow both the student and the faculty throughout that semester. Some of our faculty continue with the same student past one semester, but it is ideally... they have to reapply and go through that process. So it is guaranteed one semester. But we have quite a few partnerships that once that that relationship is built, there are two or three semesters in now. 

Derek Bruff 13:47
Now, Maren, can you say a little bit about how you establish your role in the class with the students? How do you frame that up and kind of create it so that they kind of see you in the role that you want to be playing there? 

Maren Rice 14:01
Mm hmm. Well, it's it's an interesting experience for me because I've had an experience being a student partner in a class. And I did it one way. And I've been in this lead role for one semester, but now I'm sort of going back and I'm going to be a student partner again with a different faculty member. So I am able to reflect on how I did things the first way and kind of try to make changes in this coming semester. So at first, when I did the student partnership originally, I feel like we didn't signpost it very much that I was like their advocating for them. I feel like there was a little bit of confusion at first, like is she a TA? What is she doing? And I felt like I my role came across more as I built those relationships with the students. And, you know, I was oftentimes they're just asking questions like, what are you doing? Like, why are you here? And I have to say, like basically my role in telling them just kind of what I do and what my basically what my work with that professor looks like. And I felt like in building those relationships, the students understood it more. But coming into this semester, working with a new faculty member, I think I'm going to on the first day of class really signpost that I'm not a TA and really discuss my role upfront so that everybody knows that I'm on the, you know, we're on the same page that I'm not a TA, what my role is, and that I'm there to basically help them get a better, more bang for their buck out of their education in a learning experience that's tailored for them. 

Derek Bruff 15:35
So we've talked a little bit about your experiences, Maren. Can, can, can you two share maybe some more stories from the program, some of the some of the partnerships that have happened and maybe what's come as a result of that? 

Aimee Fleming 15:45
Sure, I can share one. Maren, you can feel free to jump in. I know you have some too. So we have a couple of different experiences. So one, we actually have that we... it was kind of an anomaly for us. We had a faculty member we had been working with at CTLE for a few semesters, a faculty member that's I would say, pretty traditional in teaching methods and we have offered lots of supports, ideas, observations, consultations, and it was never welcomed. It was welcomed, but nothing was ever acted on, we'll say. So we were kind of at a loss. We did get this faculty member partnered up with a student partner. Now she's fantastic. She's a senior right now, she is a go getter and she went in there and met with him and that class has flipped completely upside down. And it has been amazing to watch her helping elicit feedback. And then when they're sitting and meeting, we've sat in some of their meetings and heard discussions and such. And she's like, absolutely, that that feedback tells us we need to do this and this is how we're going to do it. And that faculty member is like, Yeah, yeah, I think I can do that.

But she has pushed him to a level that we as trained professionals, cannot push him to. And so it is just great because they have a level of respect and rapport for each other that they just kind of pin off of each other. And her willingness and ability to support him with making those changes don't seem so daunting to him. And I think he has a high level of trust for what she recommends and her ability of what she can bring to that partnership, because ideally they're both bringing a very specific skill set and it's not the same and it's not supposed to be the same. And so we have seen probably one of the biggest transformations in that partnership then when we we thought was possible in one semester. So they are partnered up again for the spring. She graduates in the spring. And so we're excited to see what is going to happen this next semester and what changes and what vulnerabilities are both willing to put on the table and kind of hit the ground running for the spring. I know they've been talking all of break, so kind of like a Maren situation, right? They're just still talking and going and we would definitely chalk that up as a big win for us. 

Derek Bruff 18:16
What do you have a sense of kind of what what she brought to that partnership that enabled the professor to to make those changes? 

Aimee Fleming 18:24
So I think one thing that our program does that many don't and can be controversial is we allow our faculty to pick their partner. And so this is a hot topic for many people. And we are a small university. We so a lot of our students know the faculty, even if they're not in the same college. You know, we've got four different colleges because it is small, so they are familiar with others. And so if the student has taken the class before, that's generally we... It's not required, but it's ideal because they're familiar with the content, they're familiar with the faculty member and then the faculty member picks them.

So the faculty member did pick her, and I think there was a level of trust that they developed and a very high level of respect. So when I met with that faculty member and I'm like, Tell me about the student that you picked. Let's talk through it. And you could just see he held her in a very high regard, that she had created that bond with him and that level of respect that when she pitched something or she was willing to try something, there was trust. Like it's like that trust fall, right? He was willing to fall and trust back. And we were we were ready to catch him, but he wasn't ready to fall for us. But you know, I think it all plays on relationships and that's why for us it's been highly successful to allow our faculty to pick their student because they're already saying they're investing in that student. I'm willing to help mentor that student and I'm willing to have that student be vulnerable and mentor me. 

Derek Bruff 20:02
Maren, do you have a story you'd like to share? 

Maren Rice 20:04
Yeah, as a as a lead this past semester, it's been really fun sitting in on our monthly meetings where we share a lot of success stories of things that have worked well in other students' classes. So I've been able to kind of get some really great ideas from other students. Things have worked well and most of them are centered around like engagement and active learning in the classes. So we had a couple of students try out Nearpod and some other like fun ways to engage students in class or I've had one girl, she did like a survey for students. Just another way to poll students' receptiveness. One of our partnerships. He put together like seven reasons why students will ask her a question or speak up in class and presented that because no one was speaking up in class and he was like, okay, I need to do something about this. So he presented that and like showed that vulnerability and really connected to the students. Another student put together like an email assignment and found new ways to connect with students outside of the class and build those relationships. So there's been a lot of really cool things that I've got to hear about happening with other partnerships and our monthly meetings, which has been really cool. 

Aimee Fleming 21:21
I think students have really focused on bringing a sense of engagement and creativity to the classroom, and that's what's made it fun. And even at the end of the semester, we do survey our faculty and our students and do some data collection. And that's one of the things that faculty have shared that they feel they can be more creative in the classroom than they've been able to. And I think part of that is the students know some of the creative things to throw in there and they're willing to help them get that started. It goes I think goes back to vulnerability. If faculty don't know how to use Kahoot or Nearpod or whatever, it just sounds like, oh gosh, that's more work. And what if it doesn't go well? And so if a student is familiar with that and they're like, Let me take the lead, let me help you with it. And then all of a sudden things seem a little more doable. 

Derek Bruff 22:05
Yeah. One of the things, actually, it was at a session at the POD conference last fall where I met you two. There was a session where it was made really clear that on a lot of campuses, faculty do not observe each other, teach. They don't visit each other's classrooms. It's very much a kind of solo activity. And I imagine, you know, you're a student, you're taking four or five or six courses every semester. You get to see lots of different teaching methods, lots of different technologies, lots of different approaches to classroom engagement. And so I can imagine students might actually have a lot to bring to faculty to help them think through kind of new options, new creative options. 

Aimee Fleming 22:43
No, I think that is kind of it, right, is students are experts at being students and so that's what they're bringing, the things that they're seeing that are working or not working. And they're like, Hey, I've seen that in five classes. Not going well, or, I've seen it in five classes and it's going great, you know, So they're experts at that and they're able to kind of bring that experience in there and help with helping the faculty see things that maybe they they didn't.

And Maren kind of spoke to our monthly meetings. I think that's another way to is we have them often share what's going well what's something that they're trying you know what what's not going well, What's the struggle that they have? And when we have those conversations, they glean ideas from each other and the faculty do the same. We we have the faculty share out. You know, what what have you tried with your student partner? And then all of a sudden our math teacher is talking to our physics teacher that's talking to our business teacher. And they're sharing ideas that they I don't know, in another capacity that all of those faculty members would be sitting in the same room and collaborating on teaching practices. 

Derek Bruff 23:50
What kind of training or preparation do you provide for the students or for the faculty to get them ready for this partnership? 

Aimee Fleming 23:58
So we're we're kind of revamping that this semester with our student leads. And so what we normally do is we start with a kickoff meeting at the beginning of the semester. So we just had ours this week and go over kind of the overviews of the program, the expectations, responsibilities. How do we how do faculty mentor students? What does that mean? What are the expectations for everyone? Same with students. So we generally start with that right at the beginning, and that's what we use our monthly meetings for, is it is a connection place and a time to have conversations, but it's also a time to provide some additional training. So one thing we notice is our students often are asked to take notes in class when they're observing, but they don't know what to take notes on or even how to do so, right? I can take notes of what you're teaching me a copy of that down. But students are not trained classroom observers, so they don't really know how to do that. So that's one of the things-- 

Derek Bruff 25:02
Faculty are not trained classroom observers in most cases. 

Aimee Fleming 25:05
Accurate, accurate. So so to expect the student to just know how to do that is and then articulate that effectively to their faculty member is is not it's not just not an expectation we can have so we those are some of the strategies that we talk with the students about. We give them different methods to take notes, different possibilities on things they could take notes on, how to communicate that with their faculty. So we're trying to give them some of the tools in their toolbox to really help them be effective communicators and what they're seeing. 

Maren Rice 25:40
Yeah, and I think that you asked how we train, and I feel like the mentorship aspect is so important because we don't have like as of now, we don't have a list of just like, here's how to be a student partner. It's so much based on just sharing experiences and best practices, what works well, what doesn't, and really making sure that we're building that community of new student partners and pairing them and getting them opportunities to ask questions with more experienced ones. And so far, I think that that has worked really well, just sharing experiences and we're trying to build that community more this semester. 

Derek Bruff 26:18
So, Maren, I have to ask a couple of questions. Okay. What is your major and what are you planning to do after you graduate? I think it's the time of year where it's almost safe to ask that question of you. 

Maren Rice 26:30
Yes, it is safe and except I don't really know what I'm doing after. So I'm studying global security and intelligence at Embry-Riddle, and I am hoping to do something in the intelligence community after I graduate. But we are still, you know, on application grind, still figuring that out. So. 

Derek Bruff 26:50
Yeah, Yeah. Okay. Well, good luck with that. Thank you. If I don't hear from you for a few years, I might be able to assume you were quite successful. 

Maren Rice 27:00
Yeah, I. We'll go with that. We'll go with that. 

Derek Bruff 27:02
I have a relative who drops off the grid every now and then for a few years, and I'm like, I think he works for some agency somewhere, but he's never he's never been able to say that. 

Back to this program, though. Maren, I have to imagine that you now kind of take into your other classes a different set of lenses as a student, can you speak to a little bit to kind of what you've gained from your participation in this program and how it's how it's helped you rethink who you are as a student? 

Maren Rice 27:34
Yeah, I would say my perspective has totally shifted as a student in that sense. It's kind of like almost ruined the way that I sit in classes because I can't just sit there as a passive student anymore. It's like I'm always analyzing the class because I've seen it from this other perspective, the faculty side of things. And, you know, I'm able to look at my classmates and read them and be like, Oh my gosh, Like they're totally not responding to this material well, the way that it's presented, you know, it's just, you know, death by PowerPoint or just lecture and seeing professors that teach like that. And, you know, it's hard for me to not want to come up with a bunch of ideas to make it more engaging and more active. So it's definitely changed the way that I view my education. And I definitely you know, there's a new bar that's been set and how I would like to learn, and I'm really grateful for that because I think, you know, in conversations that I have with other students in class, you know, it's not the normal to want to ask for more from your professors. But I think if we can sort of engineer that, that expectation and that norm, that we can have a lot more collaborative education that benefits students. So definitely my lens has shifted. And in doing more work on this program, I'm hoping that we can have that same effect on other students at our university. 

Aimee Fleming 29:02
Goal achieved. 

Derek Bruff 29:05
Right? Well, I'm even imagining, like if you were in a class with someone you hadn't worked with as a partner, but you knew that professor had been in the Students as Partners program, I can imagine you might feel actually pretty comfortable going up and saying, Hey, I was thinking about the thing we did today and and next week we might do it this way, right? 

Maren Rice 29:27
Yeah, I think that would be great. It's like they get it, you know, they understand that the student perspective can be really helpful for growing their practice and for helping the students in their class. So yeah, I think the more the merrier. The more people who understand the Student Partners program and what we're trying to do, I think we can definitely change the culture of education at our school. 

Derek Bruff 29:49
Yeah, absolutely. Where did this come from? Because I've been hearing about students as partners programs across higher ed for a few years now, and it sounds like yours is has some kind of different flavor into it. But where how did this get started on your campus? 

Aimee Fleming 30:03
Absolutely. So student partner work has been going on for quite some time. Josh Caulkins is our CTLE director and he started this program as a pilot in fall of 22. We had four faculty and four students. I was not here until the following semester, so I came right at the end, actually a fall 22. And so spring 23, I took over the program and we went up to eight, but we used a lot of work from Alison Cook-Sather, who's done a lot of student partner work, or she calls pedagogical partnerships. So we use that as a framework to kind of get ourselves going. And we have just about doubled participation every semester from that point. So that was kind of our groundwork, is that we used that model and those resources and she's fantastic. She's always willing to help. You can just send her an email and it's uncanny how quickly that woman can come up with resources. She stands up for that. But you know, you spoke of POD, and so that's actually where I believe Josh got the idea is through pod and there is a student partner SIG, or a special interest group there. 

Derek Bruff 31:16
And oh wow, I did not know that. 

Aimee Fleming 31:18
Yes. So you might want to join! But so he was in there and had me jump into that SIG with him and I took over that spring. But again, there's some amazing people in in POD and so it's been a great place for me to ping ideas off of and share resource ideas. We presented at the POD conference and made more connections with people. So we've kind of taken all of that input and really made it what works for Embry-Riddle and listen to what our faculty and students are telling us they need and want. And so that's kind of how we've put a little bit of a twist on it. 

Derek Bruff 31:56
Maren, either in your own experience as a partner or as a lead, what are some challenges that the student partners face in this in this kind of work? Because, you know, we've we've kind of talked about some potential challenges and and strange power dynamics. But I'm wondering what what is hard about this. 

Maren Rice 32:16
So I'll start with my experience. First, I would say something that was difficult for me was really forming relationships with the students in the class, especially if there's like a like 40 students, which is one of the classes that I partnered with. I felt like it was pretty difficult to make sure that you're, you know, talking with every student and remembering names and following up on conversations that you had. But it's so important to being able to, like, read their understanding. But I definitely had to do a lot of reflection on like, am I approachable enough and am I, you know, remembering things about students or am I making a welcoming environment? Are they trusting me? Like there's definitely a lot of aspects to forming those relationships that I definitely found pretty challenging at first. And it took me a while to get the hang of that, and that's something that I'm going to continue working on this coming semester because it's so important.

I know some other things that are difficult are time management for a student partner just because like, like I said, I got pretty involved in it. It's really easy to get sucked in once you're invested in the course, which is awesome. But it's it takes up a lot of time if especially if you're involved in grading or if you're attending every class, if students are going to meet with you outside of class for office hours because they want the extra help, there can just be a lot that goes into it. And you only got too many hours in the day and like for me, I'm a student athelete, I have other stuff going on. It can definitely be difficult to find the time to really get as involved in it as I would like to. And I know some other students have had some some difficulty scheduling there too, but there's definitely lessons in time management. So that's just like another professional development thing that students get out of this. But yeah, I would say those are probably the two biggest ones that I've noticed. 

Derek Bruff 34:08
If so, you guys have been fortunate to launch this program and get financial support from deans to make it happen. If you had some advice for instructors at other institutions that maybe don't have the the apparatus of a program behind them, but wanting to tap into some of the value of the students as partners program. What advice would you have for individual faculty who might want to move in this direction? 

Maren Rice 34:36
So I would say like to try to capture the fundamental things of what a student partner does. And I would say if you can find ways to build relationships with your students, I know that can be hard to do if you have a much bigger classroom. But like learn names, like come to class early, stay late, try to start having conversations with students to better understand them. And I would also say try to find any opportunity to get feedback from your students. And from my experience, if you get feedback, try to implement at least some of it. And then if you do do implement it, I would say have those reflective conversations with your students in class. I think in-person reflection works so much better and maybe talk about like, did this help you guys? What worked well, what didn't, and then try to have some of that feedback with the class instead of the student partner? Because I think while student partner makes things so much easier and adds a ton of value, you can still pick up on some of those sentiments and try to bridge that connection yourself. If you want to pick up on some of the benefits of a student partner without having that program. 

Aimee Fleming 35:43
Yeah, that's I totally agree. Right. Like you don't need a student partner to hear from your students, like Maren said. Does it make it easier? Is it definitely going help you implement change and get honest feedback? 1,000%, yes. But eliciting your students' feedback consistently and acting on it or explaining why you can't. And that's important too, because as much as students give you feedback, you you can't act on everything. And so being totally transparent about that, like I heard you say this, I absolutely will start doing X, Y, Z. I can't do this. But here's why. And they they feel heard. They feel validated. So when you're asking for feedback again now they're willing to really give it to you because you can keep asking for it. But if they don't see anything being done with it, they're going to stop giving it to you or stop giving you honest feedback and just tell you everything's fine because they don't think you're going to do anything with it, right. 

It's really that transparency with the feedback, like Maren just shared and debriefing with them about it. And I think students are they're wanting to be heard. They just don't always have the outlet to do it. And so this is just really trying to get them like we talked about, making them feel empowered enough that they have a say in their education, too. 

Derek Bruff 36:59
And I mean one word you've both mentioned is trust and the value of trust in either the student faculty partnership relationship or the kind of more traditional student teacher relationships. It's not... I had on the podcast recently Isis Artze-Vega, who did the closing plenary session at POD, and she talked about how students come in a classroom and they they don't necessarily trust the instructor to have their best interest at heart because they have a whole variety of educational experiences they're bringing to that to that environment. And so it really is incumbent on the instructor to proactively work to develop that trust relationship. And and Maren, you were describing even as a student partner coming into that classroom, you've got to cultivate that trust with the other students so that they see you as someone who is an ally and an advocate for them.

Thank you both you for coming on the podcast and sharing. This has been really great. Thanks. Thanks for being here. 

Maren Rice 37:59
Thanks for having us. 

Derek Bruff 38:02
That was Aimee Fleming, associator director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Maren Rice, a global security and intelligence major at Embry-Riddle and a lead student-partner for the CTLE. Thanks to Aimee and Maren for coming on the podcast to share their experiences! 
For anyone interested in learning more about Students as Partners initiatives, I recommend starting with the resource on Students as Partners provided by the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University. See the show notes for link. It’s one way to find that robust community of Students as Partners programs that Aimee mentioned in the interview.

Intentional Teaching is sponsored by UPCEA, the online and professional education association. In the show notes, you’ll find a link to the UPCEA website, where you can find out about their research, networking opportunities, and professional development offerings.

This episode of Intentional Teaching was produced and edited by me, Derek Bruff. See the show notes for links to my website, the Intentional Teaching newsletter, and my Patreon, where you can help support the show for just a few bucks a month. If you’ve found this or any episode of Intentional Teaching useful, would you consider sharing it with a colleague? That would mean a lot.
As always, thanks for listening.

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