Inclusive Teaching

Screen capture image of Wolverine Access interface for designating pronouns As most U-M instructors have probably heard, the university now allows students to designate personal pronouns in Wolverine Access that will automatically populate class rosters. What can instructors do to help make this initiative a success, benefit from it in their teaching, and more generally create learning environments where students of all gender identities feel welcome and valued? 

Now that this tool is operational in Wolverine Access, you can: 

  • Remind students to update their pronoun designations. Consider making a brief announcement in class, and/or sending an email to your students, reminding them that the option to designate their pronouns now exists. Teachers can post or include the instructions for making these designations via Wolverine Access, and take the opportunity to mention that students should always feel welcome to communicate with and correct you if you misidentify them. Inviting students to make use of this policy--and showing you value it as a way to make sure your learning environment is respectful and inclusive--might also discourage students from using the new functionality in disrespectful ways that can undermine its usefulness. 
     
  • Check your course rosters starting in late October for updated pronoun designations, and carefully review your rosters at the start of each upcoming semester. Do your best to honor students requests in all settings, including when speaking of the student outside of their presence.
     
  • Practice pronoun usage that may be unfamiliar.  It can be difficult to adjust to grammatical forms or pronoun usage that feel new or are unfamiliar. The best thing to do is to practice these ways of speaking to become fluent. Draw on available resources such as this page from U-M's Spectrum Center or this guide from the Pensby Center at Bryn Mawr to learn about the pronouns and to practice their use. When you make a mistake, you can simply acknowledge and apologize, and avoid making excuses or expressing frustration about your own need to adjust your language. Similarly, if someone else mis-genders or misidentifies a student—in their presence or not—you can gently remind and correct.
  • On future syllabi, note the opportunity to designate pronouns. On future course syllabi, consider including a gender inclusive statement along these lines:  "All people have the right to be addressed and referred to in accordance with their personal identity. In this class, we will have the chance to indicate the name that we prefer to be called and, if we choose, to identify pronouns with which we would like to be addressed. Remember that all students can and should indicate their personal pronouns via Wolverine access, using the Gender Identity tab under Student Business. I will do my best to address and refer to all students accordingly and support classmates in doing so as well." 

Beyond the policy, here are some more general practices that can help you foster gender-inclusive classroom communities:  Read more »

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Ann Arbor Campus

The recent incident of hate speech that occurred at U-M is part of a disturbing national trend. A recent article in Inside Higher Education referred to “an epidemic of racist incidents at campuses across the country.” These upsetting events in combination with the heightened rhetoric of the election campaign have the potential to increase the stress levels experienced by members of the campus community, especially those from groups targeted by hate speech. It is useful to keep in mind that such incidents may still be on students’ minds when they enter your classroom, and that such incidents take a toll on faculty and GSIs as well.  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 (Huston & DiPietro, 2007).
  • Prepare to engage with the incident proactively or in response to student concerns: CRLT has developed a web page with guidelines for discussing incidents of hate, bias, and discrimination that can help you prepare. The site offers strategies for planned discussions, as well as suggestions for responding to challenging conversations when they arise spontaneously. For example, we provide sample discussion guidelines instructors have found helpful in both planned and spontaneous discussions of difficult issues.
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"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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composite photo of people walking in front of the Shapiro Undergraduate LibraryAs 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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