One of the best decisions I made this year was volunteering to participate in the Inclusive Instructors Academy. This academy creates opportunities to engage in stimulating conversations with colleagues who value inclusive teaching. With the help of our dedicated student partners, we conducted mid-semester student surveys that helped us understand the unique needs of our students during this challenging semester. The feedback received and the subsequent discussions among the academy members played an irreplaceable role in shaping my virtual classrooms.
– Professor Mark Mancuso
During the Fall 2020 semester several Lafayette faculty members took a deeper dive into inclusive teaching as inaugural participants of the Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning & Scholarship’s Inclusive Instructors Academy. Inclusive teaching focuses on understanding who our learners are, being aware of any assumptions held about teaching diverse learners, and designing classroom experiences where students of all social identities and backgrounds have the potential to succeed and belong. Inclusive teaching is excellent teaching, and is particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as the evidence of inequities faced by learners continues to mount. Inclusive teaching is an essential aspect of teaching within all disciplines.
Prior to the start of the academic year, faculty participants in the Inclusive Instructors Academy developed plans for making their courses more inclusive. Examples included infusing social justice into the curriculum, using collaborative learning, applying universal design for learning, navigating the effective use of breakout rooms for small group work, and implementing other strategies. They each worked closely with a student partner who observed their classrooms and provided helpful feedback on their efforts. Some student partners also assisted the faculty members in the design and administration of their mid-course feedback form, brainstormed possible inclusive teaching approaches with their faculty partner, and helped foster connection and belonging as an upperclassman.
Faculty members met monthly in a small cohort to discuss their progress on their inclusive teaching approaches and brainstorm with colleagues. During these sessions they also engaged in conversation on current inclusive teaching literature to enhance their knowledge and teaching practices. Student partners met weekly with CITLS staff to learn strategies for providing feedback and working with their faculty partners, train on a classroom observation tool, and create resources to support the teaching efforts of the professors. Two sample resources students contributed to this fall were Student Perspectives on Using Breakout Rooms Effectively and Preparing for the Upcoming Election: Student Perspectives on Respectful Classroom Dialogue.
Both student and faculty partners will soon receive a certificate to recognize their completion of the program and commitment to inclusive instruction. Below and above a few faculty partners share their reflections on the program:
It is always a good time to consider how one can become a more inclusive instructor. Diving into this topic during the fall term was particularly timely, since one effect of the pandemic has been to make two components of inclusive teaching, open communication and effective interaction, more difficult. As a participant in the Inclusive Instructors Academy, I had the opportunity to talk through these and other issues with my colleagues as well as a student partner who visited my classes. I picked up ideas and techniques which improved the effectiveness of my teaching during the fall, and which I will continue to use in upcoming semesters too. -Professor Ethan Berkove
I’ve really enjoyed participating in the Inclusive Instructors Academy. Especially with the unusual nature of remote teaching this semester, the academy was an invaluable resource in terms of ideas and discussions regarding crafting courses that made our students feel connected to us as professors and to the college as a whole. Emphasizing inclusive pedagogical practices enabled me to really take a step back and critically view how I think about – or don’t think enough about, as the case may be – accessing my students and engaging them in my courses. The suggestions, conversations, and articles that were part of the academy have given me more perspective into the varied nature of our students and have helped me to be aware of the implications of actions in the classroom, enabling me to identify new and creative ways to particularly include women, under-represented minorities, and first-generation students in my STEM courses. Many of these approaches had the additional payoff of causing all students to be more engaged and active in the classroom, something I was really questioning the feasibility of doing over the course of a full semester on Zoom. -Professor Annemarie Exarhos
I appreciated the opportunity to work with a student partner who could help me assess the efforts I was making to ensure my class structure and interaction was inclusive. The training and tools this student partner brought were invaluable, providing constructive feedback and confidence in my efforts. -Professor Jenn Rossmann
Student partners also enjoyed participating in the program and received many benefits and rewards:
The Inclusive Instructor’s Academy taught me that not only does my experience matter, but that it has the potential to enact positive change in our learning environments. I’ve been able to think critically about what it means to foster an inclusive classroom environment, and the opportunity to work with professors and fellow students has helped me recognize that there is always more we can be doing to create the best possible space for learning, creativity, and inclusivity. -Sharon Engel ‘22
By being a student fellow through CITLS, I have learned to value the pedagogy that strives to serve the needs of all students, regardless of their identities and background. The goal is to support student engagement with the subject material, but there are countless ways to do so, and it differs for each course. It’s a mutual relationship where students and professors need to work together to ensure that students are getting the most out of the course and that professors are doing what they can to help in that process. I think it’s very important for Lafayette to be inclusive in its teaching because as a liberal arts college that aims to strengthen students and professor relationships, it helps when everyone in the classroom is able to feel comfortable and can develop a sense of belonging, making it feel more like a community. -Hamna Younas ‘21
I think the biggest thing I got out of this experience was learning that my perspective is truly valuable. In a world that is so reliant on academic credentials, I forget that my perspective, simply as a student, is valuable and I am qualified to share my own experience with others. My role as a student partner cemented my faith in my own knowledge, and it was also extremely validating to see that my advice was making a visible difference in the way professors are teaching their classes. It felt like I was really being the change that I wanted to see at Lafayette. – Anna Devault ‘21
CITLS invites faculty members to apply to be a part of the Spring 2021 Inclusive Instructors Academy. The application form is brief, and will be open through Monday, December 14th. Faculty members of all disciplines and appointment types are encouraged to apply.