CRLT Blog

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)

Photo banner of the IPE Leadership Fellows

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on education that crosses disciplinary boundaries and teaches students to work on teams. In the health sciences, this is due to an increased awareness that collaborative care is a reality for students after they graduate from any numer of health science programs. Interprofessional education (IPE)as defined by the World Health Organization and adopted by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative,

"occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes."

In January 2016, the University of Michigan’s Center for Interprofessional Education launched a new Interprofessional Leadership Fellows program. This program was developed so that health science professionals with a strong interest in interprofessional education and practice might become change agents for IPE efforts on campus and beyond.  The sixteen IPE fellows making up the inaugural cohort represent the following U-M health science schools:

CRLT is accepting applications through Monday, February 22, for the May Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Seminar. Interested graduate students can learn more about the program here. In this guest post, past participant Katy Peplin (Ph.D. candidate in Screen Arts and Cultures) shares reflections from 2015 seminar participants:  

After participating in the Preparing Future Faculty Seminar in May 2014, I was lucky to be able to work with the team that facilitated the seminar in 2015. I loved the chance to contribute to a program that was so deeply useful for me, and I loved seeing how valuable the program was for others even more. You’re welcome to read my own thoughts on why I found the PFF experience so valuable, but here are reflections from some of the May 2015 Seminar participants:  

“PFF gave me exposure to what faculty life really looks like (in terms of family, work/life balance, tenure expectations, teaching loads) - at U of M but also at different types of institutions. I had the opportunity to ask questions of U of M faculty that I might not be comfortable asking my advisors, and it was immensely valuable to see what faculty life looked like at other types of institutions.”

“The PFF seminar was an invaluable experience!  It demystified much about professional academic life including the workings of the tenure process, dimensions of faculty work-life balance, and differences between institution settings. And it helped me enormously to clarify and crystallize my own pedagogical values and approach.  I would highly recommend it to others.”

“PFF broadened my horizons, showing the real challenges of the job market but also equipping us to confront them.”

“As a STEM person with little-to-no teaching experience, just having an awareness of much of the teaching related methods and pedagogies was very helpful. It was a true experience of an inclusive teaching environment and I really appreciated that experience.” 

“Wonderful! I found the panels, roundtable discussions and campus visits very helpful, and teaching demonstrations and information on inclusive practices to be helpful as well. I really feel like I have a better understanding of potential careers, job searches and being a more inclusive teacher!” 

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.