Teaching, Learning, Justice and Inclusion: A New Blog Series

Stephanie Fiore, Assistant Vice Provost, Center for the Advancement of Teaching

As faculty and students, we may be deeply affected by what is happening in our country and across the globe. To help our students navigate these troubling times, many faculty are actively seeking ways to create more just educational opportunities and experiences. At the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, we have always had at the heart of our work a goal to help faculty create more equitable, accessible, and brave spaces of learning for our students, spaces that allow students to take risks and be their authentic selves. When we talk to faculty about inclusive teaching practices, we speak in the broadest and deepest sense: practices that help students from diverse backgrounds succeed; spaces that acknowledge and honor the cultures, experiences, voices, abilities, and realities of our students; strategies that democratize education, promote equity, and reduce oppression in learning environments; and moments of reflection in which we consider how our own identities influence our teaching practices.


We will be exploring these themes in our EDvice Exchange space through a bi-weekly blog series, Teaching, Learning, Justice and Inclusion. This series will introduce pedagogical strategies that construct a classroom in which all students’ voices are heard, controversial topics are explored and managed, and students can find their path to success.


To start us off, I would like to offer some thoughts about this semester. We are encouraging faculty to think intentionally about how to make their pedagogy more agile, that is, able to adjust to changing circumstances and situations. The three Rs of Agile Pedagogy (as we’ve defined it) are Rigor, Responsiveness and Resilience. The second part - Responsiveness -  is incredibly important in creating a semester that doesn’t crumble when circumstances change, and that accounts for the stress and anxiety our students may be feeling due to racial unrest, ill effects from COVID-19, or marginalization and therefore vulnerability to bias, misunderstanding, or a missing sense of belonging in our classrooms. Sarah Cavanagh reminds us, for instance, that anxiety disrupts student performance by hijacking working memory’s capacity with worrying thoughts, leaving fewer cognitive resources to direct to the problem at hand (The Spark of Learning, p. 184). If we remember that students’ social and emotional lives influence their ability to connect and learn, we will be more responsive to their needs.


Thinking intentionally about how to address these needs can go a long way towards helping students succeed in your classroom. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Create opportunities for students to connect with you and each other at the outset of the semester. Icebreakers, introductions and getting-to-know-you activities can help. Ask them to send you information they wish for you to know, including any barriers that might affect their learning or help you understand how to support them in class.
  • Maintain open communication channels with regular reminders (how to reach you via email, office hours, or a more anonymous channel).
  • Depending on the size of your class, host monthly individual or small group check-ins with students.
  • Clearly post university resources (e.g. Student Success Center, Wellness Resource Center, Tuttleman Counseling Services) so neither you nor students have to search too long for support.
  • Flexibility matters! Plan for alternative assessments (flexible deadlines, different modalities) to make sure your students have accessible ways to demonstrate their learning. Plan also for alternative activities in case a student cannot attend class.

Remembering that we are not just teaching content - we are teaching students - goes a long way towards helping us all adopt a responsive mindset.


Next topic in the Teaching, Learning, Justice and Inclusion blog series:

September 14: Creating Brave and Inclusive Spaces for Challenging Discussions

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