During the pandemic, faculty developed new partnerships with their students, course assistants, teaching assistants, colleagues, and other collaborators (committees, support units, initiatives, etc.). They also sought partnerships beyond campus, for instance bringing in guest speakers and colleagues from around the world in order to enrich classroom learning and bring course material to life. Faculty recognized that everyone was in this together and that partnering on teaching and learning across modalities would benefit students and their learning. 

Faculty checked in regularly with their students and partnered with them to build classroom community, encourage peer collaboration, and integrate student feedback into their teaching practices and course design. They partnered with their teaching team to share administrative and teaching responsibilities for their classes, particularly when leveraging instructional technologies for synchronous and asynchronous engagement, as well as hybrid teaching. Faculty partnered with colleagues within their department and beyond, as well as support units to share ideas, build teaching tools, implement new teaching methods in their courses, and provide support and resources to students. Such partnerships prove that teaching is not a solitary endeavor but very much a collaborative act done in community.


What You Can Do 

The diverse array of faculty narratives provides inspirations and insights into how partnerships can be formed and offer enriching learning opportunities for you and your students. What can you do now? See below for tips to consider as you move forward with the lessons learned from the pandemic teaching experiences.

1. Give students a voice.

Build community to promote student engagement and support peer learning. Plan for meaningful and engaging classroom discussions for students. Solicit feedback from your students on how the class is going for them and engage in a dialogue about their learning. If you teach undergraduate students, connect with one of the CTL undergraduate student consultants to hear their student perspectives on various teaching and learning topics. 

2. Share roles in your course.

Invite students to play an active role in the course and in their learning by taking on responsibilities. These might include monitoring questions that come into a backchannel and inviting them to share examples or give mini-presentations. If you teach a large course with course assistants, teaching assistants, or co-instructors, distribute administrative and teaching responsibilities, share the workload for managing large courses effectively and efficiently, and be transparent with students about what they can expect from each person on the teaching team.

3. Connect with colleagues across campus and beyond.

Teaching need not be a solitary act. Reach out to colleagues within your department as well as across campus, including other departments, schools, and support units, to gather ideas and get the support you need. Engage with the CTL offerings to meet and connect with colleagues at Columbia. Seek Provost-funded teaching and learning grant opportunities to integrate new educational methods and technologies into your classrooms or design an interdisciplinary course in partnership with students and/or co-instructors. You might also consider tapping into a network of other external collaborators and colleagues beyond campus to share resources and further crowdsource teaching tips and ideas.

“I hired a cohort of what I call problem-solving coaches—undergraduate students who’ve taken the class before and are excited about organic chemistry. During the parts of the class where the students are working in small groups, the problem-solving coaches and I would circulate around and see how people are doing.”

Read Dr. Rojas’ narrative

Dr. Christian Rojas

Professor of Chemistry, Barnard College

“We are fortunate to have brilliant, creative students here at Columbia, and they welcome partnering with us to improve the education of their fellow students.”

Read Dr. Cutler’s narrative

Dr. Janis Cutler

Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, CUIMC

“I began inviting guest speakers from companies like Apple and Google to share their insights about business analytics. These are not technical talks, but rather overviews of how these companies approach business analytics—how they view analytics problems, what data challenges they are working on, or how they foresee the future. Logistically, to get 200 people into a room in Columbia is really hard, but Zoom made it easier to invite guests and organize these talks.”

Read Dr. Johar’s narrative

Dr. Hardeep Johar

Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, SEAS

Browse through the faculty narratives for more inspiration and to learn about how Columbia faculty have forged partnerships with their students, course and teaching assistants, colleagues, and other collaborators.