Blogs on Inclusive Teaching

Returning to the Classroom after the Election
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:00pm
At CRLT, we have been hearing from many instructors seeking guidance on how to talk with their students in the days following the election. Depending on many factors, you may or may not choose to engage students in conversation about the election results. In either case, we hope the following thoughts will be helpful. 

If you do choose to engage students on this topic, it will be important to acknowledge the range of perspectives and intense emotions that are likely present in your classroom. These guidelines on discussing difficult topics may be helpful for framing a conversation where students with diverse experiences and points of view can engage productively with one another. 

If you do not choose to address the topic of the election substantively but still want to acknowledge it, you can do the following:
  • You can begin by recognizing that it was a long night, everyone is likely very tired, different people have strong emotions from a variety of perspectives, and it may be hard to focus.  
  • You can give your students a brief chance to write for a minute or two -- to process their thoughts and feelings and/or identify people they want to reach out to later today, for whatever sorts of connection and processing would be beneficial to them. And then move on to your plan for the day. 
  • You could note the difficulty of focusing and of controlling strong emotions and let students know they can feel free to step out of class if they need a minute to refocus.

If a student raises the election as a topic when you hadn't planned to discuss it, these resources may be helpful if you want to engage everyone in conversation. If you do not feel prepared to do so, you can recognize why the student might want to have the conversation, but explain that you want to think further about whether and how to engage it as a class because it is important to do so carefully given the intense emotions and divergent perspectives around this election. 

Responding to Incidents of Hate Speech
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:02pm

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.
Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan: Registration Open for May Workshop Series
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:04pm

composite photo of people walking in front of the Shapiro Undergraduate LibraryAs 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:

Teaching in Unsettling Times
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:07pm

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.

photo of the Michigan Diag

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 blog post 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.

Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:12pm

photo of three people talking

All around campus this term, groups of faculty are meeting to exchange and develop ideas about inclusive teaching practices. In this pilot year of the Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching initiative, funds from the office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs are supporting ten different projects designed to spark faculty exchanges about how to cultivate learning environments that welcome and support students of all backgrounds and identities. This year's faculty participants represent over two dozen departments and programs, and their topics of focus range widely, from the effects of religious identity on student learning, to female underrepresentation in particular fields of study, to the dynamics of stereotype threat in science courses.

A full list with brief descriptions of this year's projects can be found on this Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching page.

Resources for the First Days of Teaching
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:15pm

What are effective ways to get to know my students and create a positive learning environment from the very beginning of the term? How can I pique students' curiosity about the course material? How can I set student expectations for active engagement in class?

Students in a classroomThese are common questions as teachers prepare for the first days of class, an important time for setting the tone for what is to come in the term. CRLT links to many resources that can help faculty and GSIs think carefully about getting the most out of the first days. These include research on why classroom rapport is useful for student learning, and specific strategies for building relationships and communities in the early days and weeks of a course. Other resources provide suggestions for introducing course material and communicating expectations. Find more first days resources on this list, or click on the tags below for pages that include links to materials we use in our new teacher orientation programs. 

Other CRLT resources about inclusive teaching provide specific strategies for ensuring that you foster learning environments that include and enable all of your students from the very beginning of the term. Inclusive teaching can begin before you ever walk into a classroom, as emphasized by these pages on course design and syllabus design.

As always, CRLT consultants are also available to work one-on-one with instructors. We're here to help you get your classes off to a great start.