Student Consultancy Program Going Overseas to China

A team from Ursinus College will show Chinese students how to be more involved in the classroom teaching process when they travel next week to Lingnan University in Hong Kong. Two students and a professor will guide their international counterparts as they pilot a student-faculty partnership, The Teaching and Learning Initiative, in which students observe and then consult with professors about classroom teaching.

The Teaching and Learning Initiative trains students and professors to work collaboratively on creating optimal learning environments in the classroom, and is practiced at Ursinus, Bryn Mawr, Haverford and other colleges around the country. This is the first time the program will be administered in China. Dr. Meredith Goldsmith, director of the TLI program at Ursinus and a member of the English faculty, and Ursinus students Codey Young, a senior sociology and philosophy double major from Pottstown, Pa., and Christine Saraco, a junior English major from Elkins Park, Pa., will use their spring break for this project, during the first week in March.

The program trains student consultants to observe classes in which they are not enrolled, and after observing the classes, provide constructive feedback to professors in order to make the classroom a more productive environment for both.   

Saraco called her experience as a student consultant at Ursinus “invaluable,” because she was able to work with professors from other disciplines and learn from them and their teaching techniques.

“I’m excited to get to bring this sense of true collaboration that we have here at Ursinus to Lingnan University because I think that all students and faculty can benefit from being part of a program like this,” she said. “It’s made me a more active participant in my own classes, helped me learn to empathize with professors, and has given me the confidence to take charge of my own educational experience.  These are valuable benefits for anyone and I’m excited to help the first set of student consultants in Hong Kong see just how transformative this program can be.”

Young said his experience working as a student consultant has transformed the way he understands teaching and learning in a college environment. “An essential component of the Teaching and Learning Initiative at Ursinus, I believe, is its emphasis on partnership and dialogue between faculty and students,” he noted. He hopes that the Ursinus team can assist in creating a similar atmosphere at Lingnan. He is eager to generate a “reconceptualization of traditional models of pedagogy within the classroom.”

Another member of the English faculty, Elizabeth Ho, who is teaching at Lingnan this semester, saw an opportunity to bring the student consulting program to Lingnan, because she believed it was “transformative,” explained Goldsmith.

Goldsmith piloted the program at Ursinus when the college received an Andrew W. Mellon grant to develop a teaching and learning program in 2009. A requirement of attending a seminar was that she partner with a TLI consultant at an area college. “My student partner came to Ursinus every week to visit my American literature class,” Goldsmith said.  “Seeing my classes through a student’s eyes was so powerful; it helped me become aware of what I was doing well, but also of things I wanted to fundamentally rethink about my teaching.” To date, she has coordinated over 50 faculty-student partnerships.