Inclusive Pedagogy Series Brings Faculty Together in Learner-Centered Conversation

This fall, CNDLS is excited to launch the Inclusive Pedagogy Series, a set of workshops and discussions focused on bringing inclusive pedagogy to the forefront of teaching and learning at Georgetown.

Drawing on the work of Doyle and Engelhard, these workshops invite faculty to discuss issues of teaching and learning through the lens of inclusive pedagogy. As a “learner-centered” approach, inclusive pedagogy frames our classrooms as spaces where all students should be equally valued, invited, included, and honored—an effort made possible through the work and intention of both faculty and students. The workshops and discussions planned for this fall cover a range of topics and are meant to engage faculty in conversation on these issues as they share experiences, tips, and perspectives.

The series kicked off with “Trigger Warnings: Beyond the Buzz” on October 6. Co-facilitated by Ohnona (CNDLS, Women’s & Gender Studies) and David Ebenbach (CNDLS, Center for Jewish Civilization), the conversation focused on the role of faculty in supporting student learning and well-being. Across the country, there is a growing awareness that learning experiences can sometimes directly interact with past life trauma and we as educators want to find ways to support students through the learning process. At Georgetown, this conversation was foregrounded by the recent results of the Sexual Assault Climate Survey, which indicates that sexual assault is an issue of critical concern on our campus.

During the workshop, participants noted two things: that many students may not have yet arrived at a place where they can articulate feelings they are carrying and that when students don’t feel safe or when they experience clinically-significant levels of distress, learning stops. Given this, discussion centered on finding ways—as both faculty and staff—to signal to students an openness to navigate difficult content in a way that empowers them and improves their learning experience.

From some participants’ perspectives, this entailed working with students to identify when they’re being triggered (how that feels) and how to cope (including options for self-care, emotional regulation, and peer support.) For others, there was consensus for adopting a sense of professional humility through the acknowledgment that we can’t know how our words will impact every single individual on any given day. Because of this, the task of faculty becomes communicating to students the importance of self-care and permission to identify and address any difficulties that arise in the course of a semester. For many in the space, even while a request has never—or might never—come in, such an offer signals to students that their lived experiences are valued and keeps the door open for further discussion.

On October 11, several faculty met in our second workshop to discuss strategies for “Teaching in Times of Tension.” On campuses across the country, this topic might invite faculty to consider their own experiences at the helm of a classroom in the midst of an active Black Lives Matter movement and a contentious election season; at Georgetown, faculty might consider, too, conversations specific to the Hilltop, including the work of Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation and the results of the sexual assault climate survey conducted last spring. With these and other contexts in mind, participants discussed strategies for helping students find the space and the voice to not only “see themselves as part of the same conversation,” but also to role play as devil’s advocate to gain perspective on views other than their own.

Acknowledging that conflict can be a deeply moving educational experience, one of the key points of conversation became finding ways to empower students as active participants—and monitors—of class conversations, from setting expectations that all students contribute at least once per class to setting up the ability for any student to excuse themselves from the classroom when needed, no questions asked. Additionally, while tough topics or comments are bound to arise, faculty can leverage their discipline’s framework(s) to guide students to apply discipline-specific analysis skills to the issues, shifting from a potential polemic to a learning experience rooted in the learning goals of the course.

We look forward to gathering still more faculty across disciplines to gather in community and conversation around additional teaching and learning topics central to our classrooms. There are seven more opportunities for discussion, beginning with the following:

Who Are Georgetown Students?
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 — 10 AM – 11:15 AM
Mortara Center
RSVP

Self-Awareness & Implicit Bias
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 — 1 PM – 2:50 PM
HFSC Social Room
RSVP

Syllabus Design for Inclusivity
Tuesday, November 1, 2016 — 11 AM – 12:15 PM
HFSC Herman Room
RSVP

Please check out our full list of workshops and descriptions here—where you can also RSVP! If you have any questions or accommodation needs related to one of these events, please contact Laura Dunn at laura.dunn@georgetown.edu.