The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort: Issue 32

@BookFortNews #BookFort

Week 32: Partnerships

Education consultant and author L. Dee Fink once commented, “If we want to truly transform our teaching and student learning, we must create new kinds of dialogue and practice.” This week, I have chosen to review Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty, a book that was created for higher education but gives all educators something to think about, whether they are in the classroom or the front office. As the title aptly conveys, the focus is on partnerships between students and faculty. These partnerships are more than just the establishment of classroom community and safety; they are the next step in the relationships that all effective educators try to build and maintain. Arguably, these partnerships are key to moving academic achievement to new levels.

The sections that follow are dedicated to the three most important parts of productive partnerships between students and faculty: respect, reciprocity, and responsibility. Just like any partnership, particularly those we have in our personal Iives, when one of these pieces is missing or broken, the relationships break down and it is difficult to move forward. The same is true in the classroom, no matter if you teach kindergarten or college freshmen.

I hope you find the three sections thought-provoking and chew on the information for awhile. Then, take the next step by trying something out that you read here. You’ve got a few weeks in the school year left — make them count!

Cook-Sather, et al. Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty. Jossey-Bass, 2014.

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We all know that respect must be given to be received, and students love to say this when things get tense or difficult in the classroom. Since respect is an attitude, people are in complete control of it. It is difficult, however, to respect someone who does not respect himself, which unfortunately applies to many young people (well people in general, perhaps). So, the three writers in this book suggest taking a communicative approach to establishing and nurturing respect between faculty and students. Here are some points of consideration:

  • Be truly open-minded with your students by listening and learning from student perspectives.

  • Check your judgment at the door; you simply don’t know what students have been through until you’ve had time to know them.

  • Invite trust by offering it without strings attached, in the very beginning if possible.

  • Encourage regular, anonymous (if desired by students) feedback on dispositions after lessons or units are taught.

  • Engage in frequent, individual conferences with students.

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If we do not give of ourselves to our students, how can we expect them to do the same? Those who read my work know that I believe wholeheartedly in working alongside my students, whether that be reading with them, writing a new essay when they do, or even editing my writing in real-time using the document camera. For partnerships to work, both parties must put in effort. Further, respect depends upon reciprocity in many ways. Consider your relationship with your partner or spouse; if you feel that you give more than you get, it creates bitterness and distrust. The same is true for partnerships in the classroom. Here are some points of consideration:

  • Respect is an attitude, but reciprocity is an action. Give and you will get.

  • Students and faculty mustn’t necessarily give the same things to the partnership, but rather must give and receive as equitably as possible to maintain respect and balance.

  • Use the feedback you ask for on assignments and units to actually make change to the assignments and share this information with students.

  • Follow-up on conferences with students and address their concerns/queries in a reasonable amount of time.

  • Communicate your own frustrations (respectfully) and thoughts about the effectiveness of your instructional design and students results.

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Perhaps the toughest tenet of the three, particularly when it comes to young adults, responsibility is key for productive partnerships. Faculty and students alike live incredibly busy lives and wear many hats. As such, it is easy to let responsibility slide in the classroom. The bottom line is, this simply cannot happen regularly if we expect to build and maintain effective and lasting partnerships. The researchers in this book found that participating in the partnership approach actually made students and faculty more responsible, partly because they felt responsibility to each other. Think about it: if you do not respect your teacher or feel that she gives as much as she asks from you as a student, how responsible will you feel to meet her instructional demands? Not very. Here are some points of consideration:

  • Reliability is essential; students must feel that they can depend on you to do your part. They will do their more often if you are reliable.

  • “When both students and faculty take more responsibility for the educational project, teaching and learning become ‘community property’ (Shulman, 2004a), with students recognized as active members of that community and collaborative partners equally invested in the common effort to engage in, and support learning” (5).

  • Design learning experiences that prompt students to be learners and teachers.

  • Encourage student choice and voice as often as possible.

  • Let go of some of your instructional “power” and utilize a workshop approach to writing.

  • Require students to grade themselves on major assignments, providing a detailed rationale against the assignment/grading criteria.

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Website of the Week


Using digital media, Hippocampus is a place for learners to work individually through modules that help them increase skills and content knowledge. This site is geared toward middle school through lower college level students and offers support in writing, developmental English, humanities, and all the STEM subjects. There are also links to Khan Academy, The Concord Consortium, and math games, so it can be used in a variety of classes. Check it out here and follow them on Twitter @OERhippo.
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Ed Tech Tool of the Week


Always hunting for new, exciting presentation tools, Microsoft Sway intrigued me from the first time I experimented with it. Out now for about 2 years, Sway is included in your Microsoft tools if you have Office on your computer and most can get it for free if not through educational email. Sway allows users to create dynamic presentations that are not only visually appealing, but different than a static Power Point. It is kind of a combination of Power Point and Prezi. You don’t have to toggle between apps to embed content and Creative Commons images are banked within the program to cut out copyright issues. Check it out here and follow on Twitter for new ideas @sway.

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What Colleagues Are Reading

Missed Previous Issues?

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Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!