Cross Cultural Development in the Classroom: A Discussion with Dr. Laker
On Friday, Sept. 20th, The Academy for Teaching and Learning sponsored a breakfast and discussion session titled, “Engaging Students for Cross-cultural Development in the Classroom.” The ATL partnered with Baylor’s Campus Diversity Committee and Baylor’s Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement to bring in a guest speaker for the session. Dr. Jason Laker, Chair of the Department of Counselor Education at San Jose’ State University, led us in considering how Baylor might expand its efforts to become a place that models multi-cultural appreciation for our students.
After breakfast and casual conversation, Dr. Laker addressed issues such as how the language we use shapes cultural perception (ex: What do we mean when we use the term ‘diversity’?), how efforts to change harmful social behaviors can actually “rigidify” or reinforce those behaviors (he calls this “bad dogging” groups or individuals), how professors can create more open class environments (we should make ourselves vulnerable as teachers so that students may also become vulnerable), and how the Baylor community can increase diversity across campus (Baylor should identify and analyze what currently contributes to cross-cultural development on campus and multiply those efforts).
Twenty-one guests representing a variety of departments and programs from across campus participated in the two-hour session. Program directors, associate professors, assistant professors, lecturers, and graduate students represented ten departments, including Modern Foreign Language, Curriculum and Instruction, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Journalism, English, Educational Psychology, Religion, Physics, Classics, and Philosophy; four programs, including the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement, the Academy for Teaching and Learning, and the Semester Study Abroad Program; and four schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Social Work, the Honors College, and the School of Education. We hope that this broad range of attendees will allow the ideas of the seminar to reach an even larger campus population.
The Academy for Teaching and Learning plans to further research and compile lists of activities that will increase cross-cultural development in the classroom, and to provide participants with a link to these teaching materials. We will additionally extend Friday’s conversation by offering a Seminar for Excellence in Teaching (SET) this November titled, “Discussing Difficult Social Issues in the Classroom.” To register for that seminar, click here.
We are committed to cross-cultural development and appreciate the support that the Campus Diversity Committee so graciously provided us in the form of a Diversity Enhancement Grant. The grant contributed to Dr. Laker’s honorarium.
(A series of tip sheets written and compiled by faculty at the University of Colorado covering topics such as “Fostering Diversity in the Classroom: Teaching by Discussion,” “Developing and Teaching an Inclusive Curriculum,” “Fostering Diversity in a Medium-Sized Classroom,” “The Influence of Attitudes, Feelings, and Behavior Toward Diversity,” “The Nature and Problem of Stereotypes,” “Dialogue on Diversity in the Classroom,” “Head Trip: A Teaching and Learning Discussion,” “Encouraging Participation in the Multicultural Classroom,” “Diversity and Education,” “Diversity and Language: ESL Students in the University Classroom,” “Enriching Science through Diversity,” and “Diversity, Individual Differences, and Students with Disabilities: Optimizing the Learning Environment.”)
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching: “Inclusive Teaching”
(A compendium of web resources on issues of diversity from university teaching centers like Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and The University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching among others. Organized by topics including “Inclusive Teaching Strategies,” “Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Diversity,” “Gender Issues,” “Sexual Orientation,” and “Disabilities.”)
University of Wisconsin Whitewater LEARN Center: ”An Approach for Teaching Diversity”
(Twelve suggestions for enhancing diversity discussion in the classroom grounded in scholarship on the subject.)
University of California at Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning: ”Creating an Inclusive Classroom”
(Covers a number of topics. For more on fostering diversity in the classroom, see in particular the web compendium ‘Creating Inclusive College Classrooms.’)
Graduate Seminar , Balancing you life
The Graduate School offered a seminar focusing on how to balance your personal life with your professional life. Unfortunately for many of us, there seems to be a lack of balance, where school begins to creep into all facets of life. So, how can we strive to be more balanced people and maintain family life and personal time outside of the demanding world of academia?
This seminar was an informal discussion with free pizza! Graduate students from various departments came out to chat with seasoned students willing to share personal stories and advice. Some of the issues brought to the table were: the pressure to be perfect, the idea that balance is in fact impossible, and the idea of losing oneself throughout the process of graduate school. How might we deal with these issues and hopefully strike a balance between work and personal time?
Some advice put forward was to stop pretending that you are perfect. We can’t always juggle everything and sometimes some of the balls in the air are going to hit the ground. That might be in your family relationships, your friendships or at work. We can do small things to maintain balance and try to at least keep order in our lives. One suggestion was to truly observe Sabbath. Sabbath to one graduate student was a way to remind herself that she is not God, she can’t control everything, and she needs at least this day to herself and to her family. Because she observes Sabbath, she then finds herself working harder in the days leading up to it in order to maintain a clear schedule that Sunday. Another suggestion in relation to personal relationships is to have a date night each week. Make sure you clear your calendar and set aside one day per week to spend with your significant other. This can go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships during a very chaotic time.
Another strategy that we might seek out is blending personal and professional lives, as there is no strict formula to balance. Why not see something like going to the gym as professional? Working out maintains health, clears your head, helps alleviate stress and overall can aid us in having a more productive workday. In other words, stop thinking about a division between personal and professional and attempt to blend them. Find the activities that nourish you such as church, exercise and food and incorporate these into your professional life.
Technology is something that has taken over our lives. Simply maintaining technology free hours of the night can help maintain a personal life. Turn off that cell phone and stop answering emails at a certain time. Take the opportunity to spend quality time with yourself and with the people you care about.
Although balance is difficult, if even possible, there are strategies to maintain a happy and healthy graduate student life. This seminar was supportive and encouraging from the perspective of seasoned grads giving important advice to novice students, as well as the great amount of support given by the Graduate School. To paraphrase one student: it’s affirming that the Graduate School wants us to have a personal life! So, remember to take time to breathe and appreciate yourself and the people around you!
Seminar in Effective Teaching, Dr. Todd Buras – Formative Practice
In case you missed it, Dr. Todd Buras led a SET for the Academy of Teaching and Learning on Thursday, April 11 focusing on discussion as a formative practice in the classroom. Dr. Buras engaged graduate students and faculty members in a discussion of our own, a discussion on discussion if you will! According to Dr. Buras, we have two obligations as beginning and current faculty: an obligation to the discipline and an obligation to our students. Discussion is a mode of bringing these two obligations together, through deeply engaging learning.
Although discussion has deep roots in the Philosophy field, it can also be utilized to engage students and bring learning to a higher level in any discipline. The importance lies in helping students see different angles of a project, lab or problem, and helping them verbalize what they know. Discussion can also be a great tool for teachers in the form of assessment.
We often find ourselves expecting a certain level of regurgitation, as we must abide by a curriculum and fit a certain amount of information into the semester. The real question becomes, how do we get students to integrate that information, not just merely regurgitate it? Teachers must structure discussion in a way that allows knowledge integration, in other words, putting together all the bits and pieces. We can achieve knowledge integration by pushing students out of their comfort zone, and bringing the tough “value” questions to the table during discussion. We can start by asking the RIGHT questions, whether those lead to a correct answer (convergent) or can have multiple answers (divergent). We can also structure the discussion to begin with a low bar, in order to build confidence. Tell students they will be called upon, ask them to re-read passages and summarize main points. Start here and work towards knowledge integration. In other words, start with the “why” questions and lead into the “do you think” questions.
In Dr. Buras’ classroom he encourages students to take a stance, take a viewpoint on an important value, even if uncomfortable. He also offers his own opinions in the hopes of demonstrating that although there are many viewpoints, you must have conviction of your own. This is an important facet to discussion as it encourages preparation and knowledge base, courage and ultimately knowledge integration. Overall, this was a great seminar and further illustrated the importance of discussion in any classroom.