When what was to become Bryn Mawr’s Teaching and Learning Institute (TLI) was created in 2006, it was conceived as part of a larger initiative to build community and enrich education on campus through fostering dialogue and collaboration among faculty, staff, and students.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused campus to empty out and a shift to remote learning occurred, student partners from across nine different institutions with pedagogical partnership programs, including students in the TLI’s Students as Teachers and Learners (SaLT), joined together for discussions about how to navigate—and support their faculty partners in navigating—this unprecedented shift.
These student partners—from Bryn Mawr College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Haverford College, Reed College, Smith College, Tufts University, University of Denver, Ursinus College, and Vassar College—generated a set of recommendations that was shared widely and posted on the websites of teaching and learning centers on other college campuses. Several student partners from these institutions also authored or co-authored with faculty essays on their experiences of the unprecedented shift to remote and hybrid teaching and learning under pandemic conditions.
And while this month likely marks the end of the majority of remote learning for Bryn Mawr’s students and faculty as plans are in place for a return to the classroom in fall 2021, those involved in this work hope that many of the practices found to be most effective in a remote environment will continue in traditional classrooms.
“Whether instruction is happening over Zoom or face to face, research has shown that it is the students who feel respected and heard in the classroom who develop the personal agency and sense of belonging that are essential for success in college,” says TLI founder and Professor of Education Alison Cook-Sather.
Rihana Oumer ’21 is a chemistry major at Bryn Mawr who took part in SaLT during the fall 2020 semester and worked with Assistant Professor of Dance Lela Aisha Jones, who was teaching the hybrid course Diasporic Bodies, Citizenship, and Dance as part of the 360°: Centering Critical Blackness.
“I appreciated the value that was placed in every student’s voice and what they brought to class,” says Rihana. “For example, students were voting on what readings they would like to discuss. After each person shared which of the readings they were eager to talk about, they would be put into breakout groups based on their interest.”
After each group had their individual discussions the class would come back together to start a larger group discussion based on what was talked about in the smaller groups.
“This gave the students agency, a chance at collaboration, and flexibility, and is the sort of thing that could be carried over to a traditional in-person class,” says Rihana.
As a relatively new faculty member, Jones says working with students through the SaLT program has helped her grow tremendously.
“I know that I would have made it through without TLI, but I have a better understanding of the student community and can be a better resource for them thanks to the program,” says Jones. “Rihana helped me see and understand things from different perspectives so that I could better include everyone in course activities and learning.”
The students who worked with faculty through TLI during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters have generated an expanded list of recommendations that will be shared in various forums. These include the Summer Syllabus Design Workshops facilitated by Chanelle Wilson and Kelly Zuckerman, the New Faculty Pedagogy Seminar, in one-on-one student-faculty SaLT partnerships, and in the Pedagogy Circles for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion during the academic year. The recommendations will also be posted on the TLI website later in the summer.