Recent student activism and statements on diversity from academic leaders have led many U-M instructors to focus new attention on inclusive teaching, seeking ways to ensure all students feel welcome and able to succeed in their classes, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. CRLT provides many resources to help you develop inclusive teaching strategies for your particular teaching context. To browse those, click on the 'inclusive teaching' tag below, or the 'Diversity and Inclusion' link at the bottom of any one of our web pages. 

In this blog, we focus on one strategy for creating an inclusive learning environment: encouraging productive student interactions in your classrooms, particularly when using small groups.

Some of the best in-class learning takes place in small group activities, which can be very effective for prompting all students to engage actively with the course material. Some instructors nonetheless have found that efforts to encourage active learning through peer interaction can sometimes exacerbate students' experiences of identity-based exclusion. This can be a real danger where groupwork is used spontaneously with little guidance or follow-through. If, for instance, an instructor casually instructs students to 'get into groups' and then turns her or his own attention elsewhere, many students who already feel marginalized in the class may find it easier to sit alone than to seek out peers to share with.

It's therefore important to deliberately form and carefully guide student groups, even when you're just using a brief informal peer conversation to get students engaged in thinking about a topic. What are some specific strategies for doing so? The following practices can help ensure that student groups are primed to include all students: Read more »

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Registration is now open for CRLT's winter seminar series on teaching and learning. The programs offer U-M instructors opportunities to gain new perspectives on teaching at Michigan, share ideas across disciplines, and improve teaching skills. 

This semester, we are pleased to welcome peer instruction guru and Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur to campus, presenting both a talk and a follow-up workshop about facilitating student-to-student learning in your classes. Our other offerings include workshops for both faculty and graduate students on key skills like leading discussions and leveraging student diversity in the classroom. The series also features sessions on making good pedagogical use of U-M's wealth of resources: these include a panel on "Teaching In, With, and About Museums," with presentations from several U-M faculty members who regularly use museum collections in their courses, and a workshop on using the library's many digital collections in humanities teaching. Full details about these programs and more can be found on our Upcoming Events list.

Many of these seminars help fulfill a requirement for the U-M Graduate Teacher Certificate, a program developed by CRLT and Rackham to help U-M graduate students and postdocs document their professional development as college-level instructors. Almost 300 Rackham students have completed the Graduate Teacher Certificate program to date. They report that the program has helped them become more confident teachers and prepared them well for a competitive academic job search. You can find full details about requirements here.

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As winter term gets underway, many U-M instructors are teaching in new GSI-faculty teams. How can you build productive collaborations from the start? 

The CRLT Occasional Paper on "Teaching Effectively with GSI-Faculty Teams" highlights many benefits--for professor, GSIs, and students--of effective relationships among professors and grad students who teach together. As the literature on GSI-faculty relationships makes clear, though, such teamwork can sometimes pose significant challenges. U-M faculty have reported, among other issues, grappling with how to coordinate the work of all members of a teaching team, handle student complaints, and respond to various challenges to instructor authority.

It's probably obvious but bears repeating: Establishing clear team guidelines and routine communication patterns early in the term can help prevent such problems--as well as provide structures for addressing them productively if they do arise later in the semester. Read more »

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Polishing up your winter term course plans over the break? Hoping your students' final papers and exams will be even better than the ones you just finished grading? Much research on learning and teaching suggests that you can get your students on the right track now by designing your course around specific learning goals--whether you're teaching something new or tweaking a course you've offered before. If you determine early in the planning process what you ultimately want students to take away from the course, you can choose readings, create exams and paper assignments, and structure in-class activities in ways that all align tightly with those central goals. 

Here are a couple of online resources about applying such principles of "Backward Design" to the planning of college courses:

  • Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching provides this overview of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe's influential book Understanding by Design and provides links to resources that assist instructors in applying the book's principles in their course planning.  (The full book is available electronically through the U-M library system to authenticated users.)
  • In this ProfHacker blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education, literature professor Mark Sample offers a short, simple introduction to Backward Design, discussing his shift from asking the conventional question, "What should my students read this term?" to considering instead, "What do I want them to learn?"
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Are you aware of a colleague who has recently developed an innovative teaching tool or method? Perhaps you've admired a faculty member's creative use of technology in the classroom, original approach to facilitating student collaboration, or new strategies for replicating the advantages of a small course in a large lecture hall. Or maybe you're proud of a teaching innovation you've developed yourself. If any of these is the case, consider submitting a nomination for the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP). 

Up to five prizes of $5000 will be awarded for projects representing remarkable teaching innovations. This will be the sixth year the Provost has sponsored the TIP, which differs from other teaching awards in that it honors specific innovations to improve student learning, rather than an instructor’s overall teaching excellence. The awards also facilitate the dissemination of these innovations so they can be more broadly shared with faculty colleagues. Read more »

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