multicultural teaching

How can we promote academic success for all students who enter the University, particularly those students from disadvantaged backgrounds? How can we help students overcome their own anxiety about achievement and get past “stereotype threat?” How can we increase retention rates--both for particular majors and at U-M generally--by encouraging students’ to see their abilities as malleable, rather than fixed? In early February, U-M Department of Psychology faculty member Bill Gehring addressed these topics at an LSA faculty seminar on Diversity and Climate. His research-based strategies can provide direction for instructors in all fields to enhance diversity and academic success at U-M.

In his presentation, Professor Gehring described four evidence-based interventions that work to create “identity-safe” classrooms:

(1)  Seeing Students Holistically: It is important for faculty to recognize that students’ performance in class can be affected by many factors beyond intelligence. For example, Professor Gehring’s research on students in his Psychology 111 course found that students’ motivation to do well was positively related to their performance on exams, while their anxiety about testing was negatively associated. To increase motivation, faculty can help students set goals for their learning, and to decrease anxiety, more frequent, lower-stakes assessments may help.  Other “non-cognitive” factors related to performance include discipline (i.e., the ability to resist distractions and procrastination). To reduce distractors, Gehring recommends that students not bring laptops to class, as his research finds a statistically significant decrease in exam grades among students who almost always bring their laptops, compared to less frequent users.

(2)  Framing Disappointment: The first undergraduate year can be a struggle, given that many students come into U-M at the top of their classes yet underperform relative to their expectations. (Incoming student survey data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program indicate that 75% anticipate having at least a “B” average.”) Similarly, many students experience doubts about making friends and fitting in socially.  Read more »

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You may have heard about the recent trending on Twitter of #BBUM, a series of tweets featuring brief student perspectives on "being black at Michigan." Some of the statements are about numbers while others are about interactions: being the "only one" in a class, or being expected to be a spokesperson.

Knowing such experiences and dynamics are present in U-M classrooms, what can instructors do? Read more »

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Across campus yesterday, classes were suspended, but teaching and learning certainly were not. As many speakers remarked during MLK Day events, Michigan has for 27 years celebrated and reflected upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy through a campus-wide, weeks-long symposium focused on the institution's central mission: education. 

The Symposium events are scheduled nearly every day through the end of January, but the challenge to live up to King's ideals lasts throughout the year. In the words of yesterday's keynote speaker Morris Dees, "the march for justice continues." CRLT supports U-M instructors in living out the MLK Daycommitments in their classroom teaching every day. Through a range of services, including individual consultations, our seminar series, and resources on our website about multicultural teaching and learning, we support instructors in their efforts to teach in ways that celebrate diversity, pursue justice, inspire service, and foster productive dialogue across difference. 

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This term's LSA Theme Semester on "Understanding Race" provides opportunities for U-M instructors across campus to engage their students in productive exploration of questions about race. In connection with the Theme Semester, CRLT is sponsoring a panel later this month on "Pedagogies for Understanding Race."

Four U-M faculty members from a range of LSA departments will share insights they have gained from their experiences teaching courses focused on critical approaches to race. The panelists include:

  • Evelyn Alsultany of American Culture
  • Martha Jones of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), History, and Law
  • Shari Robinson-Lynk of Social Work and the Ginsberg Center for Community Service Learning
  • Stephen Ward of DAAS and the Residential College

Participants will also hear from organizers of the Theme Semester with more information about the rich array of events, exhibits, and performances taking place across campus throughout the semester. We encourage instructors to spread the news among their students so they can take full advantage of the Theme Semester as a broad learning opportunity taking place both in and out of classrooms. The full calendar of events can be found here

The "Pedagogies for Understanding Race" session will take place Tuesday, January 29, 2pm-4pm in Palmer Commons. For full details, including registration information, click here

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Situating Your Work

Teaching through community engagement is a powerful exercise for all involved. Thinking through the purpose of community collaboration, forms of engagement, and desired student learning outcomes helps faculty members clarify the many decisions they make in creating or revising a course with community connections. This page helps instructors become more aware and explicit about the framework of their course, as well as discover questions and resources that others have found useful.   

Purpose

U-M students, like the faculty, have a broad range of purposes as they explore courses on community engagement. Some are seeking basic information, some want to engage critically with the ideas like community, equity, and power, some are advocates for social justice, and others want to hone skills for activism. These different motivations overlap, and they can lead to one another over time. Being explicit about the different kinds of purposes a course can serve helps students locate their own development and can generate valuable discussion. Talking about the different kinds of skills that instructors and community members cultivate also helps students locate themselves on a trajectory toward future work.  Read more »

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