The Teaching Excellence newsletter traditionally focuses on making the instructional efforts of Lafayette faculty members more visible. In this edition we recognize a remarkable group of students who worked in partnership with CITLS to support a more inclusive Lafayette, our fall 2022 student partners, Amiira Aden (‘25), Rhea Bandyopadhyay (‘25), Pelin Cetin (‘24), Alex Evans (‘24), and Tanushree Sow Mondal (‘24).
Student pedagogical partnerships are well-established in supporting effective teaching. Student partners pair with faculty members to provide feedback on teaching through classroom observation, course design, and other activities. Pedagogical partnerships have distinct advantages over traditional methods of acquiring student feedback. For example, the course evaluation process occurs at the end of a term, can be impacted by bias, can only address some aspects of instruction, and does not facilitate a two-way dialogue between instructors and students on teaching. Student pedagogical partnerships instead allow for real-time feedback, while giving students voice in the process, and enabling instructors to reflect on and improve their practices in a collaborative manner. The feedback given by student partners is impacted less by the power differential in the classroom because student partners are not enrolled in the courses they observe and do not receive grades from the professor. Student partners are also equipped to use a variety of research-supported tools to enhance instruction.
The fall 2022 student partners worked primarily in the Inclusive Instructors Academy. As a semester-culminating experience, they were asked to respond to the following question:
Based on your experiences as a learner and an observer of inclusive teaching practices, what do truly inclusive and equitable learning environments look like at Lafayette College?
Their responses fell into six main categories. In an inclusive Lafayette…
More specifically, student partners envisioned an inclusive campus as having diverse professors as well as individuals from different backgrounds in student leadership positions such as Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders and Teaching Assistants (TAs). Simultaneously, individuals from all backgrounds are not forced spokespersons of their identity groups. An example one student partner gave was an international student not being asked in class to speak on behalf of all international students.
In inclusive classrooms, professors use media, images, and examples that reflect the diversity of the world. Professors are also aware of the diversity of the students in their courses and pay genuine attention to “the pronunciation of foreign names, pronouns, disabilities in a non-alienating (respectful) manner.” Knowing not all students learn the same, they use a variety of strategies in the classroom beyond graded assignments. Professors also acknowledge the challenges that diverse students can face and are aware of group dynamics and intentionally design classroom activities, such as group work, for inclusion. An example provided was that, when feasible, instructors would not place female-identifying students in a group with solely male-identifying students. The professor’s intentionality extends to office hours and one-on-one interactions with students during which they are “flexible and show understanding of the different circumstances, abilities, [and] background of students” with whom they interact.
Within inclusive Lafayette classrooms, instructors use practices such as active learning (e.g. group work). Professors invite feedback from their students in a formative way to ensure students are learning the material. They do not make assumptions about their students. Professors create environments “where everyone has an equal opportunity of expressing themselves and their knowledge.” These expressions do not rely solely on spoken participation, but also written engagement, and interactions during office hours. Such involves an intentionality to engage all students in a course and not solely specific individuals. The professor effectively designs learning experiences where all students are encouraged to share or contribute to dialogue.
Student partners also described how in such classrooms learners feel empowered to engage and are affirmed for their contributions. Professors are aware of potential threats to inclusion (e.g. “microaggressions, biases, hidden curriculum, cultural differences”) and actively promote an inclusive environment and directly address any behaviors that have the potential to exclude learners.
CITLS thanks the student partners for their reflections and their dedication to a more inclusive Lafayette.