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There has been a push in education theory lately, and amongst administrators familiar with the area, to make sure that educators act intentionally to be more “culturally responsive” in the way they design their courses, lessons, classrooms, and even pedagogical interactions. In this post, I’ll talk about a couple of things I’ve done via course design make my teaching more culturally responsive, i.e. to meet students where they’re at, to minimize evaluation based on irrelevant skill sets, and to remove barriers to learning that are often part of introductory college courses. While the discussion will use a philosophy intro class as a concrete case for illustrative purposes, the principles and strategies can be readily be applied to similar courses in the humanities, and, I hope, beyond.

Using alternative literacies and removing educational barriers

One way to remove educational barriers is simply to place most or all course materials online. Today’s student tends to be extremely adept at using complex technology and social media tools to navigate the world and their relationships, even — and perhaps especially — students from lower-income homes, who often have internet access, even if they live in school districts with limited or no access to libraries, print materials, etc. According to an article in Wired by Emily Dreyfuss, “The vast majority of Americans use the internet every day—88 percent according to the Pew Research Center. In 2016, three quarters of all Americans owned a smartphone, with lower-income people and people over the age of 50 accounting for much of the most recent growth.” In culturally responsive teaching terms, then, familiarity with and competence using the internet and its various social tools constitutes an “alternative literacy” which educators ought to seek to use in their pedagogy, rather than a form of illiteracy they ought to discourage. Placing course materials online both maximizes this use of alternative literacy and increases access for students with financial barriers.

In one class I recently taught, I replaced the paper syllabus with a class homepage which serves as an interactive syllabus. On the site, the course is broken down into pages corresponding with each day of class. Every assigned text, and every assignment is included on the website as a distinct link, so students can confidently navigate every aspect of the course on their own terms, whenever they’d like, and with full confidence that they’re not missing any readings or assignments.

Generating and using experience-affirming content

Another valuable way to reach all of your students while removing barriers to learning is to give students leadership in discussion settings in a way that draws out and emphasizes the value of their experiences. If you’re teaching a course that would traditionally have instructor-led discussion sections, which risk introducing or reinforcing unhelpful pedagogical stereotypes and mimicking unhelpful power dynamics, you might think about replacing these with more student-led discussions, and could even implement a formal program like “Sustained Dialogue.” Sustained Dialogue is a program that was developed to help groups of students engage in meaningful conversations about hot-button issues on college campuses. One of the things I like best about the Sustained Dialogue model, which is explicitly designed to last for one semester, is that it grounds conversations about big questions in the experiences and backgrounds of those in the group, and it proceeds on the assumption that deep dialogue needs to be rooted in mutual understanding and personal relationships. In this way, then, the students’ own experiences and background become relevant content for the course. This allows me as the instructor to reflect and emphasize the value of those experiences in course materials and assignments, and in a way that doesn’t depend on my own potentially biased or misinformed assumptions about where my students are coming from or what will or should be most important to them.

By drawing on alternative (and sometimes non-dominant and non-standard) literacies, and focusing on content that reflects and affirms the value of their backgrounds and personal experiences, these design elements aim to not only enhance the philosophy classroom experience, but also empower students to use philosophical tools, like informal reasoning and argumentation, to conceptualize and collectively respond to social problems in their communities.

Often, especially at the beginning of the semester, it may seem difficult to get students to participate in classroom discussions. Below are some strategies that may help get conversations started:

  1. Wait at least 10 seconds before you clarify a question or add a new one. A lot of the time, students do have thoughtful answers to the questions that instructors ask, they just need some extra time to formulate them.If no one has offered an answer after around 10 seconds, you may need to reframe your question, ask a more direct question, or move on to the strategies below.
  2. Have students write down their answer to a specific question or set of questions. This approach both offers students the thinking time they need while also leveling the playing field for students who may fear speaking off the cuff or in front of a group of people. Once everyone has had time to compose an answer, they may be more willing to share with their classmates.  
  3. Engage students in a think/pair/share. This activity splits students’ responses into three parts: first they answer the questions on their own (as described in #2), then they discuss them in pairs, and finally they share their responses with the entire class. Students are more likely to feel safe sharing their thoughts if they have had time to not only formulate their answers, but also test and build upon those thoughts in a lower-pressure situation before having to share in front of the entire classroom.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Bloom’s taxonomy as a tool for building course goals. It can also help you build better questions. If you have tried all of the above methods and students are still struggling, you may want to revisit the types of questions that you are asking. Perhaps you are asking questions that rely solely on declarative memory and thus won’t generate much productive discussion. Conversely, it might be that the questions you are asking students are all higher-level questions and thus overwhelming for students. Make sure that whenever you are asking questions, you are making sure that students first have knowledge of lower level concepts pertaining to the subject so that they are able to build off these lower level concepts to achieve higher level understanding. The following chart pairs Bloom’s taxonomy with a list of verbs and is helpful for building level specific questions:

 

LEVEL VERBS USED EXAMPLE
    Remembering: can the student recall or remember the information? define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce, state What percentage of Americans voted in 2012?
     Understanding: can the student explain ideas or concepts? classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase Describe two costs and two benefits of voting.
    Applying: can the student use the information in a new way? choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write Propose one way the United States could reduce the costs of voting.
    Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts? compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test Compare the Michigan and Rochester models of voting behavior.
    Evaluating: can the student justify a stand or decision? appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, value, evaluate Defend the merits of the Michigan model of voting behavior.
     Creating: can the student create a new product or point of view? assemble, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, write Design a replacement for the electoral college system.

 

As always, the Kaneb Center is happy to hold a private consultation with you if you feel you are still having difficulty with classroom discussions.

 

Further Reading:

Jon Saphier, Mary Ann Haley-Speca, Robert Gower. The Skillful Teacher

Therese Huston. Teaching What You Don’t Know

In my experience, there are three kinds of teachers in college: (1) super-committed educators who prepare for courses meticulously and seem baffled that anyone else can go into a classroom without having done 20+ hours of prep, (2) educational minimalists who seemingly start thinking about the day’s material 10 – 15 minutes before class begins, and (3) the spookily productive who seem both deeply committed but utterly stress free when it comes to teaching, and who — as far as I can tell — seem to spend just a little more time preparing than their minimalist counterparts. Since you’re reading this blog, I think it’s safe to assume that you aspire to be in category (3). In the remainder of this post, I’m going to reveal and unpack a pedagogical tip that will move you one step closer to that goal.

I first started thinking about drawing on existing educational resources when my wife, who is a second grade teacher, introduced me to “Teachers Pay Teachers,” a platform where primary and secondary school educators sell and share resources they’ve created for their own classrooms. My first thought was, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was such a platform for college educators?!” Well, it turns out, there is something like it — platforms that collect and curate “Open Educational Resources,” materials that have been created for college coursework with the idea that anyone anywhere can access and use them for free. (Thus, these resources don’t include things like trademarked images, and use Creative Commons or public domain materials.) Merlot II is one such platform. Other, similar sites, include OERCommons, OEConsortium, Open Textbook Library, and OpenStax.

A second type of online resource that can help you cut down prep time is what I’m calling “educational reviewers.” There are a number of people who spend vast amounts of time and effort sifting through all the technological educational resources that are being released on an almost daily basis, and their reviews can introduce you to effective new tools and help you avoid wasting time on ineffective or glitchy tools. One of my favorite educational reviewers is EduFlip, which also has a YouTube channel devoted to helping educators use technological resources to create “flipped classrooms” (a concept they also introduce on their website if you are unfamiliar with it). Similarly, ProfHacker is a blog that regularly hosts discussions of up-to-date pedagogical tools, techniques, and theories.

The teaching tip above is a example of the generally good idea to “work smarter, not harder.” There are only so many hours in the day, and you’re just one person with certain pedagogical strengths and weaknesses. It helps to remember that you can leverage your strengths and help neutralize your weaknesses by finding and utilizing resources in the broader community of higher-ed.

 


Thanks to Chris Clark for pointing me toward several of these resources, and to Chris and Kristi Rudenga for suggestions on a draft of this post.

At the start of the semester, we give our students a lot of information to help them succeed in our courses.  We distribute and explain syllabi, we introduce ourselves and our academic backgrounds, we share helpful outside resources with our students, and many of us distribute tips for success in the course.  But communication at the start of the semester should go in both directions.  What can you do to learn about your students academically and personally?

 

  1. Collect surveys

Collect surveys to learn information about your students.  One question you should always include is “Is there anything else you’d like me to know about you?” This space allows students to share their particular experiences, circumstances, or struggles with you, if they so wish.  In addition, you might ask about students’

  • Personal background
  • Past experience in the discipline
  • Expectations for the course
  • Interest in the subject or discipline
  • Concerns about the course
  • Career or personal goals
  • Outside interests or hobbies

Tailor your survey to target the information you find useful.  You can find an example student survey on p. 11 of this handout.

I read through my surveys on a few different occasions, with my Online Photo sheet out in front of me.  (Find Online Photo on InsideND or ask the primary instructor of your course if you do not have access).  This strategy of matching students’ names and faces with some personal details is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn student names.  See more of our suggestions on learning student names here.

 

  1. Ask what students expect from you

I make talking about expectations a two-way conversation when I introduce my syllabus. I begin by asking what students expect from me.  (Hint: The most common thing I hear is the desire for clarity in my expectations and communication.)  We then talk about what I can do to meet those expectations.  Often, I can explain how I then explain how my policies address their concerns.  Occasionally, it requires us together thinking about how we can address a problem. Be transparent with your students about what you can and cannot change.  Be willing to experiment or make small changes.

Even if you have already talked about your syllabus, you can still ask students about their expectations.  You might plan to address or re-address student concerns at timely moments in the upcoming weeks, such as before the first exam or the first time you have a difficult discussion planned.

 

  1. Collect written work

Collect a short piece of low-stakes or no-stakes work, such as a pretest, short paper or written reflection, from students in the first week or two of the semester. Choose an assignment that incorporates the kinds of skills students will be using and building on throughout the semester. Seeing what the students produce will help you diagnose common strengths or weaknesses, allowing you to target later lessons to your students’ needs.  In the event any of your students have major problems, such as missing requisite skills for the course, you can get them connected to the necessary resources immediately.  For more on the benefits of assigning work early in the semester, check out this previous post on the topic.

 

Learning about your students not only provides you with information you need for a successful semester, but it also helps your students feel welcomed and valued in your classroom.

Once the semester has ended and you have had time to rest and recover, go back to any notes you have made throughout the semester, as well as student comments on the course. Make sure to make any necessary changes to assignments or other documents as soon as possible so you don’t forget to do so later.

When you being to plan the next semester’s course, use the feedback you have collected to think more consciously about your course goals. Make sure that your course goals are clear and realistic, and that they are varied in terms of skill level. Bloom’s taxonomy (featured below) is a helpful tool for creating a diverse set of course goals.

 

 

 

Of course, your goals will vary widely depending on the type of class you’re teaching.  A general rule of thumb is to articulate  one or two course goals corresponding to the lower tiers (remember, understand, apply) of Bloom’s taxonomy and one or two course goals at the higher levels (analyze, evaluate, create).  Below are some examples of course goals from two different disciplines:

 

  • Intro to Chemistry: Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  1. Identify components of chemical formulae
  2. predict simple chemical formulas and geometries.
  3. understand the reasoning for the periodic table’s structure as well as be able to predict trends involving ionization energies, electron affinities, and other chemical properties.
  4. be able to describe and solve problems involving the ideal gas law and simple thermodynamic relationships.

 

  • Writing and Rhetoric: Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  1. Identify rhetorical strategies and understand the way they are used in our everyday lives.
  2. Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of textual and visual arguments.
  3. Create your own visual and textual arguments that demonstrate an awareness of your audience and effectively construct a truth about yourself and/or the world using rhetorical techniques.

 

The idea is to make sure that students are being challenged to tackle difficult problems and questions but that they also have basic knowledge provided by the lower level learning goals in order to accomplish these higher level tasks. After you have created your course goals, you can begin planning lesson plans and assignments around them.

This blog post is a preview of what will be covered in The Foundations of Teaching workshop series next semester. If you are not already on our mailing list, please email kaneb@nd.edu in order to sign up so that you are notified when workshops are open for enrollment.

 

Further Reading on Backward Course Design

Jo Handelsman, Sarah Miller, and Christine Pfund, Scientific Teaching

Therese Huston, Teaching What You Don’t Know

Adapted from the Kaneb Center workshop titled “Building Better Bookends: Making the Most of the First and Last Days of Your Class”. This workshop was offered by Kristi Rudenga, Assistant Director of the Kaneb Center on November 15, 2017.
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“For many, the last day of class comes and goes without ceremony, yet it provides an opportunity to bring the student-teacher experience to a close in a way that students appreciate and enjoy” (Lucas and Bernstein, 2005).The last day of class is the favorable time for students to reflect on what they have learned so far. So it’s important to have a good closure for courses so that students can synthesize and retain the knowledge they have gained thus far.

Below are a variety of useful techniques that can make sure that the last class day is a finale and not a fizzle.

[1] Reinforce long-term learning

  • Revisit course goals
  • Suggest strategies for effective studying for final
  • Activity:
    • Working in pairs, have students answer: “You’ve got an interview for your dream job. The interviewer, who may become your boss, is looking at your transcript and says, ‘Oh, I see you took “insert course name”. Tell me what you learned in that course.’”
    • Refine your answer together and share as a lead-in to a class discussion and review of important concepts

[2] Reflect on content and process

  • Ask for some reflection as preparation for last class
    • Activity: ask students to share a “Performative Reflection” (Hull), in any format other than an essay, with the rest of the class.
  • Have students write letters to future students
  • Collect feedback for yourself: Discuss aspects of the course that were most and least conducive to learning.

[3] Make large-scale connections among course topics

  • Spend time explicitly building connections
  • Activity: Minute thesis:
    • Develop brief theses connecting different aspect of course content
  • Activity: Connections Web
    • As a class, determine 3-4 main themes that ran through the whole class.
    • Distribute a circle of course topics; Have student pairs draw and label as many connections as possible on paper circle
    • Take turns sharing connections on a blackboard with brief explanations
    • Have each student write a way they saw themes play out on a color-coded sticky note
    • Stick notes on the topic they refer to.

[4] Make large-scale connections with other classes, life, and careers

  • Ask students to situate skills and content from your course within their larger curriculum and goals
  • Point them to resources that may serve them well in the future
  • Activity:
    • Have students create concept maps of what they know in their major so far, highlighting contributions of the current class

[5] Bid Students Farewell

  • Thank them for their engagement
  • Acknowledge what you’ve learned from them
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion if you’re so inclined
  • Time of celebration and ritual

Citation
Lucas, S. and Bernstein, D. (2005). Teaching Psychology: a step by step guide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Further Reading
[1] Love, B. (2013). Finishing Strong: End-of-Class Review to Improve Relationships, Measurement, and Learning Outcomes. College Teaching 61: 151-152.
[2] Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching 53(4): 165-166.
[3] Maier, Mark H. and Ted Panitz. “End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses.” College Teaching 44.4 (1996): 145-148.

The following post is by Michael O’Hare, and it was posted on April 6, 2016 on the Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning website http://teaching.berkeley.edu<http://teaching.berkeley.edu/> . This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License 2013 (may be reproduced with credit for non-commercial purposes.<http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/deed.en_US> Michael O’Hare’s blog: http://www.samefacts.com/

Adapted from “Tomorrow’s-professor” Digest, Vol 113, Issue 2

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This note describes a method for critiquing student work that greatly increases the efficiency of the process compared to written comments.  I discovered it by accident, when I graded a bunch of papers on a portable dictating machine while traveling, back in the day when professors didn’t have laptops but did have assistants. I gave the tape to my assistant to transcribe. I asked the next day whether she had finished, and she said “Are you kidding? Do you know how long this is?” The updated system described here has the advantage of using a technology familiar to students (mp3 audio).  An intermediate stage involved cassette tapes that were tedious to keep track of and exchange.

Process:

(1) Obtain a headset such as you would use for Skype (earphones and a mic).  Also get this software http://stepvoice.com/index.shtml   (windows only) or this  http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ <http://audacity.sourceforge.net/%20%0D (mac or  windows).  The voice recorder that comes with Windows is pretty rudimentary and makes only .wma files, which are less widely used than mp3?s. Here is a page of options for Mac audio recording – http://techchannel.radioshack.com/make-voice-recording-mac-1621.html

(2) Invite submissions in MSWord (or on paper); pdfs are quite tedious to annotate and almost impossible to edit (unless you use PDF Annotator<http://www.pdfannotator.com/> or an equivalent, with a tablet screen you can write on).

(3) Start a memo of general comments, with numbered entries.  It should begin with “Comments on your paper are on the attached mp3 files and keyed to letters on your original.  Listen to file 1 first. GN refers to something in this memo, RN to the Rhetoric Note distributed earlier.”

(4) Open student Smith’s paper and turn on Track Changes.  Under Track changes/Change tracking options, switch the colors for inserts and deletes to blue or green, anything but red (grownups do not write on other grownups’ work with a red pen,; it’s affectively very bad).  (Option: if you like to work from a paper draft, you may of course just write on it, edit with proofreader’s marks, etc.)

(5) Set the recording software to mono and a low bit rate, for smaller files.  Start a new file, which will be called  smith2.mp3 . Say  “Hi, Georgia. These are thoughts on your paper draft that came to me as I read it”, then pause the recorder.  Annotate the student paper with edits to the text as you see fit, to illustrate rhetorical issues and the like. But when you want to make a substantive comment, just put a key letter in the student paper (A, B, C, etc.) and dictate “At letter A: this is an interesting insight. Can you apply it also to your second alternative policy?”, “At letter B: shouldn’t the predominance of poltergeist manifestations  have been mentioned earlier?” etc.

(6) After a few papers, you will have found that some comments apply to many; put these in the general comment memo, and then you just have to highlight or circle text and write “GN3”

(7) When you finish a pass through the paper, you have three options; the important thing is to be sure the student hears your general comments, which must begin with something positive, first.  Your passim observations will mostly be critical or questioning. Of course if you can catch students doing specific things right and (i) say so  (ii) say what it is, not just “good” in the margin, It’s valuable; I don’t do enough of this and am trying to  teach myself to do more.

  1. Type or write a few lines of overview evaluation at the beginning of the draft.
  2. If using Stepvoice, which doesn’t allow you to insert, start a new file, called smith1.mp3 and dictate overview comments.  End it with “now listen to the other mp3 file for specific comments keyed to letters in your draft.”
  3. If using Audacity, you can insert the general comments at the beginning of the mp3 file.  You can also open the first-pass mp3 file from Stepvoice in Audacity to do this, but then you have to resave it as an mp3.      

(8) Return the annotated Word file (or the scribbled paper copy) and the mp3 file[s] to the student, the mp3s as email attachments.  Students are quite accustomed to dealing with mp3 files.

Technical notes:  Stepvoice has VAS, which starts recording when you speak and stops when you are silent. This saves a lot of mouse clicks recording and pausing, and avoids long silences when you forget to pause;

Compared to comments on a final paper at the end of the course, I’d say it’s about twenty times as valuable per minute invested, especially effectively, because negative comments on a finished paper are just lost chances for the student to regret, but on a draft they are opportunities to seize.

With this semester quickly nearing its end, the Thanksgiving weekend offers a moment to reflect:  How have your classes been going lately?  Whatever your answer, you still have time to make some changes to end the semester on a high note.

  1. Flip back through your teaching notes. What were your learning goals, and have you stuck to them? Have you consistently focused on your course themes? Did you get back around to topics you promised your students you would cover? (If you haven’t been writing exam questions throughout the semester, this exercise can also be a chance to get a start on writing that final.)

    While you are looking back through papers that you gathered this semester, review notes and handouts you have kept from Kaneb Center workshops you attended (or check out any of our previous workshop materials). Are there any teaching techniques you wanted to try out before the end of the semester?  Trying something new can be less intimidating in November or December when you already have a rapport with your students.

  2. Think about whether there are current events you could incorporate into your teaching. Tackling real-world issues at the end of the semester can help students to synthesize material from previous weeks in the course and reengage their enthusiasm in the subject material. As you spend time this weekend with family and friends, notice what issues relating to your discipline interest non-experts.
  3. Remember why you do what you do. The holidays can be a time for reminiscence; use those recollections to get in touch with your younger self. Which teachers–of all kinds, from college professors to little league coaches–meant the most to you? What did your best teachers do that made such an impact on you? Why did you become interested in your subject area?

    You might also take this time of thankfulness to write a thank you note or email to a mentor or former teacher. Use the opportunity to reflect on how their teaching affected you and identify any techniques or aspects of their teaching that seem authentic for you to incorporate into your own classroom.

Giving Directed Feedback

The biggest grading mistake I made as a first time TA was to give the kind and amount of feedback that I, as a graduate student, wished I would have been receiving from my professors. I spent hours grading student work, sometimes handwriting twenty thorough comments on a single short essay, only to watch in horror as nearly half my students recycled their graded drafts immediately after receiving them back.

Students need to learn the value of comments and feedback, and, as grad students or professors, it can sometimes be easy to forget that. It can also be easy to forget how disheartening and overwhelming it can be to receive massive amounts of feedback, or feedback that is more appropriate for a professional journal article than a lower level college course.

Here are two rules I now adhere to in all of my grading and feedback:

1. Students should know what their grade means without my having to explain it.

For me, this means that I use a clear and detailed rubric to show them where, exactly, they lost points on the assignment, and what they can do on future drafts to make up for those shortcomings. This allows me to give more directed feedback (a specific example here or there detailing how a sentence could be improved, or what sort of argument they ought to be making), and it allows the students to make decisions about how best to spend their time in revisions.

2. I never give more than two big-picture critical comments, and four or five smaller comments.

While this might not seem like enough to a grad student who is used to getting multiple pages of feedback, I find that it is plenty for an undergrad who is still very much in the process of learning how to receive and incorporate feedback. I always encourage students to come see me for more detail regarding the comments I’ve given them, and to ask me for more feedback if they’d like, and I actually find that giving less initial feedback makes students more likely to take me up on this.

This post suggests that the classroom should be considered as a model that students can use to achieve social justice in the world. This is a particularly urgent topic for those teaching at Notre Dame, since socially infused pedagogy is an integral part of its mission statement, which defines social justice in its promise “to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” The University’s Center for Social Concerns even has a specific research area focused on Social Justice.

In Teaching to Transgress, one of the seminal texts on social justice in the field of pedagogy, bell hooks offers a strategy to obtain the above mentioned goals of “human solidarity and concern for the good” that harnesses learning as “service to justice.” In particular, hooks challenges teachers to be vulnerable in the classroom and not to ask students to do anything that they would not be willing or comfortable doing themselves:

Empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks. Professors who expect students to share confessional narratives but who are themselves unwilling to share are exercising power in a manner that could be coercive. In my classrooms, I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share (21).

Though in this specific example, hooks’ is talking about personal narratives, the idea of professors empowering students to take risks by doing so themselves is translatable to multiple contexts and disciplines. This quotation both confronts how neutrality might function as a barrier in the classroom and challenges professors to question how they might make themselves vulnerable and join difficult conversations, thereby demonstrating to students that they are also willing to take risks, without recreating hierarchical power structures in which students perceive the teacher to be the main voice that matters. This question is particularly important given that a professor’s race and gender expression or identity play a major role in how much respect they are given by students and that this strategy of vulnerability may be even harder for professors who do not fit most students’ narrow views of what a professor should “look like.”

Some strategies include:

  • To co-construct a participation rubric with your students at the beginning of the semester, in which the class talks about what a classroom aimed at social justice might look like. This group conversation should emphasize your role as a professor while also drafting a list or statement of ways to create a safe space in which everyone’s views may be challenged, broadened, and learned from.
  • To frame the class with a reading such as hooks’ and engage with their ideas as a group so that a social justice framework is built right from the beginning.
  • To consistently remind students that there is not one specific answer to every problem and that students are welcome to bring their own viewpoints into the conversation, even if they are in opposition to yours, as long as they are respectful when doing so and have an argument that will support their view. (This likely, though not exclusively depending on the topic, applies more to the humanities and social sciences than those in STEM)

Reflection

When attempting to model social justice in the classroom, it is important to constantly reflect upon our practices. This blog post itself is a reflective response to feedback from a recent Kaneb Center workshop titled “Teaching Social Justice,” which suggested that a clear working definition of social justice should have been identified before the topic was opened for discussion. I have therefore been more intentional in my framing in this blog post by using the University’s mission statement as a guide.

We as educators should consistently evaluate our teaching practices, pay particular attention to the feedback we receive from students and other participants, and implement that feedback in order to make our classrooms and pedagogy more inclusive, and just.

Further Reading

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge, 1994.

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