I wanted to be a better one-on-one writing mentor particularly for Lafayette students who have a desire or a need to write a long piece of research-based writing. How do you get them from start to finish? I wanted to use the fellowship to pursue this goal more intentionally.
-Brett Hendrickson, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
As a graduate student I was always interested in professional development that focused on inclusive teaching. When I came to Lafayette, I found that CITLS events around inclusive teaching were a highlight and an important part of being a faculty member. On top of this, I am a prejudice researcher. I have transferred what I have learned from all of these experiences to my own class and so I felt that the fellowship was a good fit for continuing to pursue my efforts in inclusive teaching.
-Angela Bell, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Last year the Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning & Scholarship announced two Distinguished Teaching Fellowships for the 2019 – 2020 academic year. The fellowship program is an integral part of the strategic goals of CITLS to support teaching excellence at Lafayette. Professor Brett Hendrickson and Professor Angela Bell were chosen by the CITLS Faculty Advisory Board and have worked diligently with the center to provide programming and develop resources to further teaching and mentorship at Lafayette, as well as advance their own pedagogical goals. The topics Brett and Angela pursued this past year, mentoring research students and inclusive teaching, are both at the heart of a Lafayette education. What follows is an overview of their year in the program and all of their accomplishments.
As described in their quotes above, both fellows were inspired to apply to the fellowship program because of their personal and professional journeys in teaching. Each led three sessions over the academic year. Brett facilitated two sessions focused on mentoring research students in the fall and authored two teaching online resources for faculty that are posted on the CITLS website: Helping Students Choose a Research Topic and Helping Students Pace Research and Writing. These resources will remain available for all faculty and can prove useful for remote teaching experiences. Brett also contributed to Lafayette’s Assignment Repository with some strategies on how to guide students through topic selection for research. He indicates:
In terms of programming, for the Fall I focused on the big, interrelated topics that I had faced before – creating a question and pacing the research. Choosing topics that work for a semester-long or year-long research project is key and even some of our best students have trouble articulating what their interests are. Everything is slower than you think it is going to go on these projects. If you are not getting to your topic within the first four weeks, especially for semester-long projects you are eating away at a finite amount of time. This relates to pacing the research and staying consistent and structured. There are some common sense ways to pace work. For example, you have to work in small chunks, you have to stay organized, set time aside, say no to other commitments. However, in the fall session I hosted, getting faculty together to say those things out loud was an important way to reinforce those things. We have to scaffold things in our courses, set meetings and benchmarks.
Brett closed off his fellowship sessions on mentoring research students with a faculty panel entitled “Strategies for Serving as an External Reviewer on a Thesis Project.” During this session Brett was able to start a cross-disciplinary conversation with faculty at Lafayette who have served as external reviewers. This discussion led to the creation of an online resource based on recommendations from the panel.
Angela led three workshops during the academic year – two in the fall and one in the spring. She also authored a resource on Creating Collaborative Classroom Guidelines and contributed content to the Inclusive Teaching @LafCol Guidebook.
The first workshop, “Establishing an Inclusive Classroom,” was where I featured a getting-to-know-you activity called Insider/Outsider that I do with students in the first week of class. This was something that I commonly used later in the semester but repurposed it in order to create classroom guidelines. Students are invited to share how they feel when they are ostracized and included and this leads to them discussing how they wish to be treated in the class and what they can promise other students as well. The activity helps faculty to establish guidelines that are prevalent in their syllabi and demonstrate their values to students early on.
For my second workshop, “When Classes Go Off Course,” I had faculty send me difficult situations that happened in their classrooms. In small groups we were able to read through scenarios and talk through how we would react when surprising challenges come up. The scenarios we discussed were about a range of issues from what happens when someone says something problematic and racist to what happens when a group project falls apart. Some solutions we discussed were about how faculty can be flexible and willing to change their syllabi or expectations so that the classroom goes more smoothly or to stop class altogether and take a break.
The last session focused on creating engaging and inclusive assignments. Cultural values in academia are typically individually-focused and rewards individual accomplishment as opposed to incentivizing things like community engagement. These values are often reflected in assignments and assessments. This can be a cultural mismatch for underrepresented students who are more likely to apply what they’ve learned to their community and their family back home. Thus, by mixing the individual and the communal, assignments have a better chance of reflecting a cultural match with all students.
Each of the fellows attended professional development to support their work. The institute that Brett attended allowed him to directly apply what he learned to working with his own research students.
For my professional development, I chose to go to James Madison University’s Critical Mentoring: Engaging Diverse Student Participation in Research Institute. The institute focused on how you can engage students from diverse backgrounds in research and value their background in the research as well. This goes for all disciplines. The conference presenter explained that even in STEM, where the questions may seem cut and dry, a student’s background may shed new light on how to approach the research. I was actually able to apply this to my own work with a research student who decided to explore a particular part of her ancestral history through her own research. Her research questions led her both to the library and to the “archive” of family stories. Helping her examine what she found and integrate these sources has been one of my most rewarding mentoring experiences to date.
Angela presented her research on inclusive teaching at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology where she was also able to collaborate with colleagues across the nation on inclusive teaching in her field,
At the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology I presented the poster “Using the Insider-Outsider Approach to Establish Inclusive Classroom Guidelines” which detailed how I used the getting-to-know-you activity in my classroom and pre-post survey data from students regarding their identification with the psychology major and the extent to which they are fused with the goal of practicing inclusivity in the classroom. At the conference I was able to talk with other Psychology instructors who do similar work in their classrooms and we shared our ideas on how to do the Insider/Outsider activity differently. It was at this conference that I got the idea for my final workshop on assignment design as well.
In the middle of March 2020, when Lafayette College made the decision to go remote for the rest of the semester, Angela and Brett rose to the occasion and supported the “Sharing Our Remote Teaching Efforts” virtual session where they facilitated groups of faculty and helped to start the conversation around how to move classes online midway through the semester.
Angela and Brett have contributed immensely to teaching and mentoring excellence at Lafayette College over the course of the year. We thank them for all of their efforts, and know that their impact will live on in Lafayette teaching practices for years to come.