Inclusive Teaching

"I voted" stickerTeaching and learning are never entirely void of politics, but this fall—as a new U.S. president is elected mid-semester—the tension, drama, and controversy of the political moment will no doubt be especially palpable in classrooms across the university.

Instructors in every discipline have cause to prepare thoughtfully for the impact of this election season on their students, their curriculum, their classroom climate, and themselves. Maintaining a commitment to inclusive teaching during an election that is itself fraught with hostility around questions of diversity requires a renewed insistence on the free and fair exchange of ideas. To support this commitment, we offer the following three questions instructors might ask themselves while preparing to teach.

1. What role does my discipline play in the issues raised by this election?

Our students need to be able to critically evaluate the platforms of candidates and elected leaders. Every discipline is somehow implicated in these agendas, whether the topic is immigration and the rights of refugees; fracking, genetically modified foods, or climate change; education and health care; history, race, and the Black Lives Matter movement; gender (in)equality and LGBTQ rights; or international relations and the “war on terror.”

Instructors can ask:

  • Which topics within my discipline might require special attention in light of the election?
  • How might the candidate platforms be a resource for teaching and learning these topics?
  • What are the diverse perspectives and voices that characterize my field related to these topics, and how do I maintain some balance in presenting them?

​Many U-M students will vote in this election.  By asking questions such as those above, we as instructors can help them engage with the data and skills they need to weigh the issues and make informed decisions.
 

2. How might my courses allow students to practice some of the fundamental, particular skills required by democracy?

In addition to the content of our individual disciplines and courses, there are overarching democratic skills that students can develop in courses across the University.  These include: Read more »

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As an instructor at U-M, how can you contribute to a campus climate where all students feel valued and fully supported as members of our academic community? This is the key question behind the upcoming Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan workshop series, which will be held for the first time this May. 

U-M instructors in all disciplines are invited to register for one or more of these workshops focused on concrete strategies for inclusive teaching, through classroom practices, course design, and both formal and informal interactions with students.  Held during the first three weeks of May, and led by staff and faculty from CRLT, IGR, and LSA, this series of workshops will include opportunities to: Read more »

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How do we know inclusive teaching is effective teaching?

At CRLT, we use “inclusive teaching” as an umbrella term to name a complex network of pedagogical issues and strategies. Drawing from a large body of research, much of it foundational scholarship on teaching and learning, we can feel confident that learning outcomes are improved when teachers (1) attend to student differences and (2) take deliberate steps to ensure that all students, across differences in academic and social background as well as physical and cognitive abilities, feel welcome, valued, challenged, and supported in succeeding in the field of study.

The evidence basis for inclusive teaching in this sense includes research on:

  • the relation between classroom climate and student learning (as reviewed by Ambrose et al in chapter cited below)

  • stereotype threat as a barrier to academic success (Aronson; Steele; more here)

  • social belonging as key to student learning and persistence (e.g., Walton & Cohen)

  • contributors to student persistence and retention in STEM fields (CRLT Occasional Paper #25)

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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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