Encouraging Pedagogical Partnerships

Rumors have been whispered; some which are much too loud betray that with advancements in technology, we won’t need teachers anymore! I say, however, that NO technology can replace the creative minds of teachers and students working together, the pedagogy behind the lessons and on-the-spot interactions that only teachers, students, and human beings can have with one another.

As Melinda Gates said at Duke University’s Commencement Address in 2013, “Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool…It is the end – the purpose and the result of a meaningful life.” (Fullan, 2014) Gates did not say this with teachers exclusively in mind, but it does feel specifically significant to me as an educator.

Kalantzis and Cope (2010) discuss the future of new learning: “Teachers and learners will be able to make meaningful choices about what and how they learn in order to meet new higher standards of performance.” But I ask this: can’t we engage in these practices now? Technology aside, teachers and students can join together in pedagogical partnerships, which are “equal two-way learning partnership[s] between and among students and teachers.” (Fullan, 2013)

Fullan (2014) narrates interviews with teachers, citing findings that students today are no longer complacent, accepting of didactic pedagogy, but rather skeptical of it. “Young people are now digitally connected to overwhelming amounts of information and ideas,” which makes them desire more of there education.

Now, this makes for a beautiful story, but I will be the first classroom teacher to say that this is not the whole story. Not all students are on their devices during class because they are in silent protest of the teacher’s traditional pedagogy. Some are trying to be social, some are just plain bored, and some just want to beat their high score in [Insert trendy game app that’s all the rage today].

With all this partnership talk, I’ve thought about 5 real, practical ways that I have successfully engaged my students in a pedagogical partnership with me in the past school year:

  1. Reflect on learning outcomes for the day by asking questions like: “Are these short-term goals or long-term goals? Why do you think that?” This can happen at the beginning of a lesson, the end, or both!
  2. Ask students to “Put it in your own words.” Even if it’s just directions you’ve read aloud, there is power in asking a seventh grader to put them in his or her own words for the class. Often times, lagging learners or spacey students will better key in to what and how a peer says something.
  3. Let the students teach. Every once in a while, I like to let a small group of students teach the class for an activity. The slides are ready, I let them know what the goal is, and I sit back and participate as a student. This lets me observe the class, while letting eager students take a leadership role. I get to see studets develop communication skills and utilize various classroom management strategies. Students get to see each other in a different light. For teachers and students, I deem this a win-win situation.

    See the full graphic organizer at: http://goo.gl/0MOyGs

    See the full graphic organizer at: http://goo.gl/0MOyGs

  4. Allow students time to reflect on lessons at the end of each day, individually and collectively. Individually, students complete a graphic organizer, which asks them about their confidence in their ability to [insert learning outcome] and perhaps write about the strengths they exhibited that day & something they can improve the next day. Collectively, students may have to come up with a sentence or hashtag, which sums up what we learned that day (to appear as a Class Chat update).
  5. Ask questions of your students. Listen to their answers. Keep the personal relationship aspect of teaching alive. This is perhaps the most significant strategy teachers can utilize. Whether having a one-on-one conversation with a student for 30 seconds, or asking students to reflect on a question in their journals, which you will respond to later, valuing your students’ thoughts holds so much power.

The moment that teachers bow down to technology as the omnipotent educator is the moment students may decide She won’t know the answer, or He won’t care what I think, or She’ll think I’m stupid if I ask that. Change students’ thoughts, opinion, interactions, and reactions. If you engage students in a pedagogical partnership, their inner-talk may transform: I don’t know the answer, but she can help me figure it out, or He always cares what I think, or I bet someone else is wondering this, so I’ll ask. Talk, listen, and above all: keep trying new things.


Fullan, Michael, & Langworthy, Maria. (2014). “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.” Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf.

Fullan, Michael, & Langworthy, Maria. (2013). “Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.” Collaborative Impact. Retrieved from http://redglobal.edu.uy/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/New_Pedagogies_for_Deep-Learning_Whitepaper1.pdf.

Kalantzis, Mary, & Cope, Bill. (2010). “The Teacher as Designer: pedagogy in the new media age.” E–Learning and Digital Media, Volume 7, Number 3. Retrieved from http://newlearningonline.com/_uploads/3_Kalantzis_ELEA_7_3_web.pdf.


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