Teaching 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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CRLT is available to support U-M teachers throughout the summer. If you're teaching a course, you can request a Midterm Student Feedback session led by one of our consultants. CRLT staff are also available to discuss the student ratings from past courses or to consult on course design and planning as you look ahead to the fall. We're happy to hear from you at any time of year!

For our full range of consultation services, see this page. Read more »

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“Engaged learning” is a common term at the University of Michigan and a growing movement nationally. What does it mean? U-M’s working definition conceives of engaged learning as providing students with opportunities for practice in unscripted, authentic settings, where stakeholders (including the students themselves) are invested in the outcome. This pairs nicely with Grant Wiggins’s concept of “authentic assessment,” whereby students closely practice and demonstrate the type of work they will be doing after graduation: it is public, involves collaboration, and engages students in representative challenges of a field or subject, which are often ill-structured -- rather than having “right or wrong” answers. A more thorough exploration of engaged learning at Michigan can be found in a forthcoming series of Occasional Papers (more on these below). 

Here are a few of the many ways that students already experience engaged learning at U-M: 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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As we approach the end of the term, students will be asked to provide feedback to instructors using U-M's course evaluation system. At CRLT, we often hear from faculty and GSIs who are discouraged about a number of issues related to student ratings, including the tone of some written comments, relatively low response rates, and uncertainty about how best to use the results productively. This post provides some resources for each of these concerns.

1) Minimizing Unhelpful Comments: Student ratings comments can be unhelpful when vague or irrelevant, whether positive ("Great course!") or negative (e.g., criticism of instructor attributes not linked to the learning environment). To encourage students to avoid rude or personally hurtful comments, CRLT worked closely with ADVANCE at U-M on a handout that instructors can give to students before they fill out their evaluations. The handout, Course Evaluations: Providing Helpful Feedback to Your Instructors, asks students to keep three key issues in mind when completing their ratings:
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