This week:

  • I share some of the discussion at a recent Chronicle conference about inclusive teaching.
  • I highlight findings from a new report on key trends and emerging technologies in teaching and learning.
  • I point you to some stories on teaching you may have missed.

Inclusive Teaching Moves to Center Stage

Last week The Chronicle hosted a virtual conference, “Higher Ed’s Reset,” to talk about what pandemic-driven practices to keep, what to let go, and how colleges could better serve their students and communities. Much of the conversation focused on teaching and learning, with Beckie moderating a panel on inclusive teaching.

Inclusivity, in fact, was one of the buzzwords of the three-day event. That’s not surprising, perhaps, given that colleges have spent the last year learning a lot about their students’ home lives and the challenges they’ve faced during the pivot to online learning and the rise of social-justice movements. But what does being inclusive mean, and who is responsible for it? The speakers had many ideas on that subject, and I summarize some of them here.

On Beckie’s panel the guests were Kareem Edouard, an assistant professor in the department of teaching, learning, and curriculum at Drexel University; Valentina Iturbe-LaGrave, director of inclusive teaching practices at the University of Denver; and Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University.

What is inclusive teaching? Inclusive teaching refers to an approach that takes into account students’ varied backgrounds, beliefs, and identities, allowing them all to feel as if they have something to contribute, the speakers said. In short, start where students are at, not where professors are at.

McGuire offered an illustration: A faculty member in biochemistry at Trinity — where many students are lower-income and first-generation women of color — taught her undergraduates how to write lab reports by encouraging them to use “their own vocabulary and style,” through poetry and music. “By the end of the course they were able to write proper lab reports, but the faculty member started with where the students were at and brought them in,” McGuire said.

Iturbe-LaGrave noted that, to be effective, every aspect of course design, classroom management, assessment of teaching and learning, and programmatic and institutional structures needs to be considered: “It can’t be an afterthought.”

Are we at an inflection point? Beckie wondered whether inclusive teaching was about to move from a grass-roots movement to a widespread practice. The panelists agreed it could be, partly because some faculty members who held the view that they were the experts and students were there to listen — the sage-on-the-stage model — have since retired, and newer instructors open to different ways of teaching have arrived.

Iturbe-LaGrave offered a note of caution, saying that she worried about growing fatigue among professors, particularly among faculty of color, to provide the necessary support for students during the pandemic and through conversations on social justice. “How are we supposed to show up wholly and fully to heal and support our communities,” she asked, “when we might be hanging on by a thread?”

What are the obstacles to a more inclusive approach to teaching? Not surprisingly, there are many. Sometimes faculty members can feel overwhelmed because they think they need to redesign an entire course, which isn’t necessarily true, said Iturbe-LaGrave. She also worried about “pervasive call-out and cancel culture,” discouraging instructors from addressing sensitive issues in the classroom.

McGuire stressed that college leaders must set the tone if they want to shift the culture on campus and address faculty resistance: “I had a speech I gave to the faculty: It’s not that the students are unprepared; it’s we who are unprepared.”

Edouard said one challenge is that inclusivity must be pursued while recognizing that a college is a business. “We first have to come from a place of love,” he said. “From there, that healing discussion helps push the conversation forward.”

Another challenge, Edouard said, is how to scale up the conversation, not only across campus but throughout the community. “West Philadelphia, where we are at Drexel University, is pretty much on fire. We saw last summer how it became a political hotbed across the country,” he said. “Being able to figure out how to bring that into not only the classroom space, but amongst the spaces across all faculty in the community, becomes very important.”

Aren’t students supposed to figure out college on their own? As Beckie noted, a persistent critique of inclusive teaching is that students are adults, and if they can’t figure out college by themselves, maybe they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

McGuire pushed back on what she felt was a false premise since plenty of adults need help navigating obstacles in life. Also, she noted, “This is not the army. This is a learning institution, and we have to remove some of the barriers that students feel in order for them to be able to engage in the higher learning that we say is so important.”

The panelists also pointed to the changing student body, which is increasingly diverse, lower-income, and first-generation. If nobody in your family went to college, why would the process come easily to you? The idea that students should be able to navigate college on their own “completely overlooks the reality of higher education today,” said Iturbe-LaGrave.

Edouard singled out community colleges for the work they do in this area. “They are dealing with much higher volumes of students, lower budgets to engage. Yet they are still finding a way to connect to people in the community,” he said. “They are sharing and showing us the way to directly engage with folks in these communities.”

What parts of college life could be more inclusive or need to change? In addition to the academic side of the house, the panelists pointed to the need to bring more diversity to mental-health services, students’ clubs and governing bodies, and career services, internships and research opportunities. “If students aren’t being supported outside the little learning space I have, then you start getting these tensions which spiral out into something much bigger and can be destructive,” said Edouard.

Higher education also needs to present itself differently, McGuire said, and move beyond the idea of being a four-year residential education in which mom and dad pay the bills. Students may start out earning an associate degree and move on to a bachelor’s degree. They may go into and out of the system, and move across institutions. “We shouldn’t penalize them for migrating around higher education,” she said. ”It’s reality for a lot of low-income students.”

If you want to learn more about inclusive teaching strategies, check out this Advice guide produced for The Chronicle by Viji Sathy and Kelly A. Hogan, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Teaching Trends

The “2021 Educause Horizon Report, Teaching and Learning Edition,” was released this week. Every year it lays out teaching technologies and practices that are most likely to have an impact. This year’s report drew on the expertise of more than 70 panelists who hold a range of teaching and technology positions in higher education.

Among technological trends, Educause’s panelists considered the most important to be widespread adoption of hybrid learning models, increased use of learning technologies, and online faculty development. They also identified some important technologies likely to move teaching and learning forward, such as learning analytics, artificial intelligence, and quality online learning.

The panelists also weighed in on social, economic, and political trends that will affect teaching and learning, such as decreasing higher-education funding and a widening digital divide. To read their insights and analysis, you can find the report here.

ICYMI

  • Our colleague Goldie Blumenstyk shares takeaways from her sessions at The Chronicle’s “Higher Ed’s Reset” conference in her weekly newsletter, The Edge.
  • In this week’s Race on Campus newsletter, our colleague Katherine Mangan writes about how to be a more inclusive mentor.
  • My fellow reporters and I profiled a few of the more than 570,000 people who have been laid off from higher-education jobs during the pandemic. The series is called Forced Out. I wrote about Sue Ramlo, a professor at the University of Akron who was let go after 26 years.
  • Students are increasingly using Discord, a message-board platform, to communicate with classmates. Two instructional designers walk faculty members through what they need to know in this Inside Higher Ed opinion piece.

Thanks for reading Teaching. If you have suggestions or ideas, please feel free to email us, at beckie.supiano@chronicle.com or beth.mcmurtrie@chronicle.com.

—Beth

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