This week on Higher Ed in the News, how teachers in all subjects can create a more inclusive learning experience and how to build exposure to other worldviews into the online college experience.
Why all teachers need to know about inclusion
Racial equality has moved to the forefront of American discourse in a way it hasn’t before, and higher education, because of the qualifications and career trajectories it confers, is one of the country’s institutions under the microscope. Chandani Patel, the director of global diversity education and training at NYU, and Aurora Kamimura, lecturer in education and fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, discussed what inclusive teaching means and why it’s important on the EdSurge Live podcast.
Kamimura said an inclusive learning space allows “each person, including yourself, to be seen, to be heard and to be validated for the experiences that they bring to the table.” This doesn’t mean that faculty members need to have answers for everything, but they at least need to acknowledge prominent issues, such as police brutality, and their role in the everyday lives of students.
The two experts on the podcast also said inclusive learning shouldn’t just be limited to subjects and disciplines that involve discussions about race and diversity like history or sociology. “‘Does diversity not walk into your classroom every day?’” Kamimura explained.
To facilitate inclusive learning, the two suggested that instructors spend ten minutes at the beginning of class discussing a recent incident in the world and allowing students to reflect on it. It isn’t a matter of trying to fix the problems, they said, but creating a space in which those problems can be discussed and acknowledged.
Discussing worldviews, and voicing disagreement, while teaching online
Introducing growing minds to new cultures and ways of thinking is a key part of the college experience. While these important conversations can certainly happen in the classroom, students typically have them in dorms, dining halls, and interfaith meeting places where discussions feel more casual. For that reason, with higher education being a mostly online experience for the immediate future, at least at Georgetown, these opportunities for personal growth are likely to diminish if not proactively created.
A recent Ed Surge piece explores this dilemma and outlines various ways students, schools, and campus organizations can take action to ensure this experience continues in the age of online higher education.
The authors use data from the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) that illustrates how and where on campus college students are expanding their worldviews in order to devise methods of recreating these interactions online. This survey across over 120 schools revealed two strategies that colleges and universities can implement to achieve this goal. First, “incorporating conversations connected to worldview diversity explicitly into the formal curriculum.” This may include adding discussions on religion to diversity courses or requiring freshmen students to attend a seminar on topics like religious literacy and interfaith dialogue.
The second recommendation involves colleges and universities encouraging collaboration between different student organizations or clubs. This could involve students sharing “virtual meals” or storytelling sessions. On a larger scale, it could include school-run virtual events where guest speakers lead discussions, or clubs invite fellow students to observe the celebration of religious holidays.
Administration, faculty, and staff must be aware of this key form of interaction students are missing and what it may mean for their development, or lack thereof. An intentional effort to develop familiarity and common bonds is critical to a harmonious campus culture, whether learning and activity is online or offline.