What is STEPP?

STEPP (Student Teacher Engaged Pedagogical Partnership) is a pedagogical partnership program at Vassar College that centers intentional dialogue about teaching practices in a semester-long faculty-student collaboration. It focuses on building student-faculty relationships and empowering student voices while offering faculty an opportunity to receive constructive feedback and work collaboratively with a student partner to address teaching goals.

Traditionally, in STEPP, a student partner attends a class weekly to observe their faculty partner’s teaching practices. During a weekly meeting with the faculty partner, the student partner shares observations and reflections from class and both partners work together to adapt classroom pedagogical practices. The student partner receives independent research credit for their work in one of their faculty partner’s academic disciplines. As the student partner is not enrolled in the faculty partner’s class, they are able to provide an open and empathetic perspective on the class. Student partners attend weekly meetings with the STEPP facilitator to share concerns and learn from one another’s experiences.

STEPP stemmed from Vassar College’s Engaged Pluralism Initiative (EPI) Inclusive Pedagogies Working Group. It was piloted during the Spring 2020 semester based on the research conducted by Alison Cook-Sather and modeled after Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges’ program SaLT.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Grand Challenges and EPI are co-sponsoring the continuation of STEPP. As Vassar experiments with hybrid and remote models of teaching and learning, faculty have found that their student partners provide invaluable inputs regarding their class format and progress and students have felt empowered developing their relationship with their faculty partner and enhancing the experience of students in their classroom. If you are interested in participating, please check out the application page!

STEPP Spring-2021 Faculty-Student Partners

What do you appreciate about STEPP?

Nia Smith ’22, Student Partner:

“I appreciate the ability to build relationships with faculty and be a bridge between the students in the classroom and the professor.”

Colin Echeverría Aitken, Faculty Partner:

“I appreciate my student partner: they prompt me to think continually about my teaching from a student perspective.”

Amanda Eng ’21, Student Partner:

“I appreciate being able to interact and meet new people outside of classes, and getting to know educators outside of my major.”

Jonathon Kahn, Faculty Partner:

“I appreciate the time I get to reflect, consider, experiment and explore with my student partner. Ideas that I had long considered but hadn’t talked about, as well as ideas that I hadn’t even considered, all emerge during our conversations. The experience has been freeing as a teacher. It’s allowed me to feel as though I’m speaking more clearly and honestly to my students.”

The STEPP Team

Nandeeta Bala, Grand Challenges Intern

Jonathon Kahn, Professor of Religion, Director of EPI

Jodi Schwarz, Associate Professor of Biology, Grand Challenges Program Director

Felicity Martin, Engaged Pluralism Initiative, Program Associate