Inclusive Teaching

In October 2015, CRLT hosted a U-M faculty panel that addressed challenges and strategies for teaching about difference and privilege. In this post, we spotlight some key moments when faculty described tensions or difficulties, and we suggest strategies for leveraging these for student learning.

The panel featured four LSA faculty members:

(Click on a panelist name to see a video of their talk, or see the embedded videos at the end of this post. Each video runs 8-9 minutes.)

"Several years ago, I was teaching a class on social identity and we were talking about whiteness. Actually, we weren't talking about whiteness. That was the problem." (Al Young)

What happens when discussions about race and privilege turn silent? Faced with the dynamic described above, Young asked students to turn their lens to analyzing the silence they were experiencing by writing a minute paper on the stalled conversation: "What's the problem right now with the conversation on white identity?" After writing for 3-5 minutes, he finds students are more likely to voice their thoughts out loud. For silent or superficial discussions, Helen Fox (2009) also recommends having students write on an index card, "One thing I've been reluctant to say....," which serves as a prompt for follow-up discussion.

“We’re teaching about privilege because privilege is pervasive but knowledge about it is not….Your students, they don’t come in getting it.” (Ruby Tapia) Read more »

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As we end the fall term and look forward to winter, students and faculty are confronting significant turmoil around the world, as well as protests and passionate discussions within academia. Whether it’s the horrible incidents of violence in this country or elsewhere across the globe, or incidents of racial bias that have led to protests and heightened rhetorical exchanges on a number of campuses, distressing events far from home and close to it are likely to be on students’ minds.

At this point in the term, the disturbing events of recent weeks have the potential to make an already stressful time of the year even more difficult for many students. What can instructors do?

  • Acknowledge the incidents: Research conducted in the wake of national tragedies, such as 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, indicates that students find it helpful when their instructors simply acknowledge traumatic events, recognize that students might be experiencing distress, and show extra support, such as offering to grant extensions for students who request them. (Huston & DiPietro, 2007)
     
  • Refer students to campus resources: Offices include Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS ), Depression Center, Psychological Clinic. CRLT’s blogpost on Supporting Students in Distress offers an overview of resources and advice on this topic, including this web page from the Mental Health Workgroup which offers resources for instructors who encounter students in need of mental health support.

When planning for courses next term, it is useful to keep in mind that the turmoil of recent weeks may still be on students’ minds—and therefore enter your classrooms, whether you anticipate it or not. Because these issues in so many ways relate to differences in social identity and power—and because so many of our students have personal or family connections to places experiencing crisis—events in the news may also influence ongoing conversations about the campus climate here in Ann Arbor.

Over many years, CRLT has developed guidelines for discussing difficult topics to support teachers in facilitating such conversations in classrooms across the curriculum. If you want to raise topics from the news in your classes in order to explore connections between course material and contemporary events, you can find strategies for planned discussions of high-stakes topics. Other resources offer you ways to prepare for and respond to challenging conversations that emerge when you haven’t planned for them.

Read more »

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During U-M's Veterans Week, it's a good time to reflect on the needs of our students who have served in the military. Did you know that record numbers of veterans are enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities--and many of them are here on U-M's campuses? As a result of the university's new tuition policy which took effect in January 2014, allowing students who have served in the military to qualify for in-state tuition, our number of student veterans is expected to rise. If you teach at U-M, odds are good you've had or will have student veterans in your classroom.

How might your awareness of veterans in the classroom make a difference in your teaching? The research on student veterans suggests several strategies and cautions for teaching inclusively with veterans in mind. Here are a few: Read more »

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All around campus this term, groups of faculty are meeting to exchange and develop ideas about inclusive teaching practices. In this pilot year of the Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching initiative, funds from the office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs are supporting ten different projects designed to spark faculty exchanges about how to cultivate learning environments that welcome and support students of all backgrounds and identities. This year's faculty participants represent over two dozen departments and programs, and their topics of focus range widely, from the effects of religious identity on student learning, to female underrepresentation in particular fields of study, to the dynamics of stereotype threat in science courses.

A full list with brief descriptions of this year's projects can be found on this Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching page. Read more »

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Recent months have seen heightened national conversation about the ways implicit biases can perpetuate racial and gender disparities in powerful domains from policing to hiring. This conversation invites us as teachers to examine the ways our implicit attitudes might negatively affect our perceptions of and behavior towards students in our classes. As teachers, we assume responsibility for fostering the learning of all students in our classes. Even when we have the best of intentions, subtle biases that we're unaware of can undermine our efforts at creating inclusive classrooms.

What are some practices that can help us check our own assumptions and biases about our students? And how can we safeguard against our implicit biases—i.e., attitudes we may not even be aware of—negatively affecting students’ experiences in our classes?

Some strategies for becoming aware of our potential biases (or their negative effects) in teaching include: Read more »

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