Inclusive Teaching

Faculty and GSIs from across campus are invited to register for the second annual Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series. Instructors can register for any or all of over 15 workshops, panels, and presentations focused on a range of inclusive teaching topics. Sessions are free and open to U-M instructors in any field. image of campus with many different students walking

Events will kick off with a session featuring the CRLT Players theatre program, focused on building resiliently inclusive classroom climates. Throughout the series, CRLT facilitators will be joined by collaborators including The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR), the Center for Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL), the Ginsberg Center, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), and the Lecturers' Employment Organization's (LEO's) Anti-Racism Task Force to offer sessions that help instructors develop awareness and skills in areas including: 

  • Understanding the ways student and instructor social identities, both visible and not, shape learning environments and experiences at U-M
  • Developing deliberately inclusive and equitable approaches to syllabus design, writing assignments, grading, and discussion
  • Managing tense interactions or classroom challenges in ways that further all students’ learning.

Some sessions are designed particularly for instructors who are relatively new to conversations about inclusive teaching. Most are designed for a broad range of instructors, including those who are seeking to develop their established inclusive teaching practices. 

See the full schedule of events here.  Anyone who participates in an Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan workshop is invited to join us at a catered closing lunch where we will reflect together upon the series and ways to continue developing the conversation about inclusive teaching among U-M colleagues. ​

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A crowded group of protesters with signs reading "Hate has no home here," "This is a nation of immigrants," NO BAN NO WALL," and "Remember US Airports were built for peace."In a recent blog post, we addressed challenges and opportunities in returning to the classroom in the days immediately following an extremely divisive election. Here, we want to provide resources for teaching in the post-election climate over the longer term. No matter their political perspective, instructors are likely to notice that their students' learning or their classroom dynamics have been affected by the big emotions swirling around the new administration.

We have assembled some guidance in response to relevant questions and concerns we have been hearing from instructors in recent days. The following topics are looming large for many. Each topic can be expanded by clicking the small arrow at the left.

Establishing the boundaries of civil discourse in your classroom

Many CRLT resources emphasize the usefulness of establishing and reviewing discussion guidelines in order to foster a learning environment where multiple, often conflicting, perspectives can productively be shared and discussed. We recently met with Jack Bernard of the U-M General Counsel’s office, who endorsed this practice and offered a legal clarification we found useful. As Bernard explained, the classroom is a particular kind of campus space where norms of discourse are established by the instructor for the purposes of learning:  "While some University spaces, such as the Diag, are limited public forums, where the institution does not control or constrain much speech, classrooms are nonpublic forums, where the University and its instructors control the context for speech, including the speech of students. For instance, instructors can determine who 'has the floor' and may be speaking [or] when it is and is not appropriate to move from one topic to another. Instructors establish the norms for engagement in the course and can respond to conduct or speech that is disruptive, such as disrespectful, insensitive, or mean-spirited remarks." Many instructors have also found this FAQ sheet from the American Association of University Professors helpful in providing information and frameworks for making decisions about what ideas to share in the classroom and how.  

Supporting students in distress

Students across many different identity positions are feeling threatened in this time--regarding their personal safety, the integrity of their families, or their freedom from harassment. While many find it possible and even helpful to focus on their schoolwork in such a climate, many don’t. Some students are having trouble attending class or completing assignments or group projects for their courses. This blog on supporting students in distress provides ideas about responding compassionately while maintaining the boundaries of your instructor role. Ideas include pointing students to mental health resources as well as activating their campus support network, which might include students’ academic advisors as well as the Dean of Students office. If you have students who are experiencing distress based on concerns about their immigration or visa status in the wake of the recent Executive Order, you can make sure they are aware of U-M’s International Center as a resource; the Center has published this update with recommendations. It’s useful, too, to be familiar with U-M President Mark Schlissel’s statements about the University’s strong support for international and immigrant students and scholars.

Supporting students in responding to violence or threats

Unfortunately, given ongoing patterns of identity-based violence in the wake of the election, it’s probably wise to be ready to support students in responding to threats or incidents of violence based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, or other identities. As a teacher, you may be a key contact and point of connection to the institution for your students. You have an opportunity to make sure they are aware of steps they can take if they experience or witness threats, violence, or other identity-based crimes against their property or person. These include knowing that in any emergency they can call 9-1-1 to reach U-M police. Students can also reach out for support and advocacy to various student life offices, including Multiethnic Student Affairs (MESA) and the Spectrum Center. Guidance about what and how to report can be found on the University bias reporting website.  It’s important to keep in mind that, for various reasons, students will have different levels of comfort accessing any given resource, so it’s useful to be ready to share information about a range of options. Moreover, your own compassion, advocacy, and flexibility can also be critical resources for students affected by violence toward or around them.  

Responding to tensions in the classroom

Tensions that students experience outside the classroom are also likely to affect the ways they interact with their classmates. In particularly, many instructors are worried about new potential for conflict and even hostility to arise in their classrooms. Preparing for the unexpected, as this resource on ‘making the most of hot moments’ helps instructors to do, can be especially important for increasing both your skills and confidence if tensions do erupt. Even though the semester is well underway, instructors can intentionally foster rapport and community among students, through ice-breakers, small group work, and other interactive opportunities. It’s important to be sensitive when developing such community-building strategies to students’ need for emotional safety and allow some choice in how, and to what degree, they engage with their peers, especially in paired or small group activities.

Tending to your own self-care needs

Different members of our teaching community are doing different kinds of emotional labor in this time, depending on our own positionalities and the number of students and colleagues who perceive and depend upon us as allies. The following links are written primarily for instructors of color, but they can be useful for all instructors, either because they provide generalizable self-care strategies or because they can increase everyone’s appreciation for the disproportionate strain on some colleagues of supporting students in this challenging time.

  • This blog by Kerry Ann Rockquemore offers concrete ideas, strategies, and language for maintaining boundaries with both colleagues and students that allow instructors to strike a healthy balance of meeting professional commitments and personal needs.

  • This post by Emily Dreyfuss offers simple suggestions for your personal wellbeing, but also suggests the need to listen carefully and responsively to the needs of others.

  • For those feeling guilty about taking care of themselves in these times, this post by Shanesha Brooks-Tatum provides a reminder that self-care can be a political and a subversive act rather than a selfish or individual need.

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CRLT is accepting applications through Friday, February 24, for the May 2017 Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Seminar. Interested graduate students can learn more about the program here. In this guest post, past participant Leigh Korey (Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature) shares her reflections about the program:

Past Preparing Future Faculty Seminar participant Leigh Korey (Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature) I realized in my second year of grad school that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. It was in the middle of winter term, and I had solicited feedback from students in my first-year writing class. We had spent the first few weeks discussing in detail the idea of “context,” both in a literary sense and in terms of their own writing. In their feedback to me, they communicated that the pop quizzes I administered in class to hold students accountable for their reading assignments were not working. They didn’t object to the idea of pop quizzes as an assessment tool, rather, the problem was that the questions on the quizzes felt, in their words, “decontextualized.” I knew at that moment that they had finally understood the importance of context. Moreover, I learned that the feeling of working with a group of students until they truly comprehend something is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable parts of teaching.
 
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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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