LEAP Facilitator David Ebenbach Shares his Answer to “Why inclusive pedagogy?”

LEAP community gathering from the Fall 2023 semester. LEAP facilitators (including David!) and faculty from participating academic units gathered in Car Barn 315 to meet with one another, and share how LEAP work is going for them.

LEAP community gathering from the Fall 2023 semester. LEAP facilitators (including David!) and faculty from participating academic units gathered in Car Barn 315 to meet with one another, and share how LEAP work is going for them.

[Pictured: LEAP community gathering from the Fall 2023 semester. LEAP facilitators (including David!) and faculty from participating academic units gathered in Car Barn 315 to meet with one another, and share how LEAP work is going for them.]

As the Learning, Equity, Access, and Pedagogy (LEAP) Initiative at CNDLS grows, we’ll be spotlighting a few of our CNDLS facilitators as a way to share more about how the LEAP process feels—because these are the folks helping to make it happen. LEAP facilitators at CNDLS work with academic units to strengthen the climate, content, and pedagogy of their department’s teaching and learning environments toward the goal of building and sustaining inclusive learning experiences for students. Developing anti-racist structures and teaching practices is challenging, important work that reflective and thoughtful facilitators are here to support you with and guide you through. Let’s meet them! 

First up, we’re highlighting one of our most experienced LEAP facilitators, David Ebenbach

What do you enjoy most about being a LEAP facilitator?

Honestly, the whole thing is inspiring. I love the moments of discovery that happen as we work with faculty, discussing challenges and testing ideas and sharing experiences until plans of action emerge. And I like the range of things going on. Each department we’re working with is taking a unique approach to the task of creating equitable learning environments, no two quite alike, but the thing they have in common is how much they care about students. Helping busy, busy faculty as they go out of their way to make Georgetown better, in all the creative ways that they’re doing it—curricular changes, events for students, research, learning circles for faculty, pedagogical workshops, etc.—is a joy. 

What are you reading for fun?  

I’m rereading Nicole Krauss’ wonderfully moving and inventive novel, The History of Love, as well as Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit (not his best, but still a pretty good read), and a non-fiction book called The Invention of Tomorrow, which is about the development of foresight in Homo sapiens (Thomas Suddendorf, Jonathan Redshaw, and Adam Bulley).

Why does inclusive pedagogy matter to you? 

Is this a trick question? How can it not matter? As we know from Georgetown’s cultural climate survey and from our own firsthand experience, our students do not all feel like they belong here, and they don’t all feel that they get the support that they need. They don’t all feel seen and valued. Students from groups that have been historically shoved to the margins of the educational experience (e.g., African-American students, first-generation college students, etc.) continue in many ways to be held to those margins by traditional pedagogies and university structures. The situation hurts our students, our wonderful students, and so we’ve got to change it. 

What do you wish faculty knew more about? 

The one thing I think all faculty need to know about is who their particular students are—what interests them, what helps them to learn, what barriers to learning they may be facing. And of course that means the learning never stops, because there are always new students. That’s one of the things that keeps teaching not only equitable, but fresh.

Name one thing that’s shaped your understanding of inclusive pedagogy:

The single biggest influence on me has been working with my excellent colleagues at CNDLS. And I’m not just saying that because those colleagues will probably read this and I want to stay on their good side. I’m saying it because having these colleagues has changed everything for me. I used to be purely faculty, trying to make good things happen on my own, without much outside support. That’s hard. From my time working at CNDLS I’ve learned that you need support to make big changes for your students. You need folks who know things that you don’t, who will have your back when you’re lost or exhausted. I am grateful to have those folks on our Inclusive Pedagogy team.

What are some resources, books, or scholarly works that you recommend to educators interested in deepening their understanding of inclusive pedagogy?

First of all, I’m partial to CNDLS’ own Inclusive Pedagogy Toolkit, which is a compendium of research-informed inclusive pedagogical practices that explains both why the practices are important and how you might carry them out. For folks who like fiction, I’d recommend Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet’s fantastic novel about a young woman’s experience navigating higher education as a first-generation college student. For graduate students getting ready to teach—I work with graduate students a lot—there’s the excellent Teaching Matters by Aeron Haynie and Stephanie Spong and Teaching Gradually by Kacie L. Armstrong, Lauren A. Genova, John Wyatt Greenlee, and Derina S. Samuel. I love Edward Clapp’s Participatory Creativity for fostering creativity in the classroom equitably. Creative writing teachers need to read Matthew Salesses’ Craft in the Real World. And, for anyone whose inclusion/social justice focus doesn’t yet extend to Jewish students, David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count is a must-read. And…well, I’d better stop there before this list takes over the whole newsletter!

Could you share some of your favorite fall/winter family traditions? 

I love Thanksgiving, which is when my little immediate family goes to visit my larger family, and where we all eat everything in the world and yell at each other about politics—but we yell in agreement with each other, because we tend to be very politically aligned. So we yell happily! We are a loud group, even (especially?) when we agree. And then there’s Hanukkah, which has countless traditions that I adore, but one of my favorites is the one that we stole from an Icelandic Christmas tradition called Jolabokaflod (Christmas book flood); as in the original tradition, in Hanukkahbokaflod (Hanukkah book flood), my little family sits around together reading for hours and eating sweet treats.

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David is the Assistant Director for Graduate Student and Faculty Programming at CNDLS and teaches creative writing at the Center for Jewish Civilization and creativity in the Learning, Design, and Technology program. He works on a variety of inclusive pedagogy projects at CNDLS, including LEAP, and he directs the Apprenticeship in Teaching program.

He is also the author of nine books of short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, including the novel How to Mars (Tachyon Publications, 2021) and the poetry collection What’s Left to Us by Evening (Orison Books, 2022). You can find out more about his writing on his website at davidebenbach.com