People in conversation

Impact Snapshot: Shawna Shapiro, Middlebury College

In October 2019, Essential Partners practitioners Meg Griffiths and Jennifer West led a two-day faculty training for Middlebury College’s Engaged Listening Fellows. The goal of the training was to help the fellows deploy EP’s Dialogic Classroom approach to foster more open, inclusive, and respectful classroom conversations about difficult topics.
After every project, Essential Partners’ Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) program follows up with surveys and interviews to measure the impact of EP’s approach, both in the lives of the people we train and in their communities.
Shawna Shapiro, Director of Writing and Rhetoric Program and Associate Professor of Writing & Linguistics at Middlebury College, spoke to us recently about how EP’s approach is creating a new kind of learning space in her classroom.
“Inclusivity is served by the structure of the EP model, in terms of the communication agreements and the equal opportunity for everyone to share. Asking good questions opens students to new ways of thinking. We were talking about narratives and the news media when I asked, What is something you follow in the news and what does this say about you?

“A few of the students shared that they were following some unusual news sources. I asked the students why this matters to them. Each student had a turn to speak and that conversation was better than if I had just put the question out into the room and asked who wants to share.

“After this classroom dialogue several of the students said they appreciate that everyone’s voice counts in this class. Because of EP’s dialogic classroom approach, I’m excited about community-building—it’s crucial to the learning process.”
EP’s evaluation program tracks outcomes for as long as two years after a community, campus, or organizational partnership. Hundreds of program participants have been interviewed. Their insights help to hone EP’s approach and adapt it to meet the needs of diverse contexts.

If you’re interested in finding out how Essential Partners can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.


Kim Lishansky is the Program Coordinator at Essential Partners.