From the Director - May 2017

May 30, 2017 / By: Dr. Ann Johnson, Director of Faculty Development & Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement

We have lots to celebrate right now. First – we’re thrilled to welcome Dr. Kris Wammer to Faculty Development as the new Director! See the official Newsroom announcement. Kris is eminently qualified for the role and I’m excited for the innovative spirit and new ideas she will bring to Faculty Development. She’ll start this summer.

AND – we have at least five faculty members completing our first year of the Inclusive Classroom Institute. What this means is that they each completed at least 6 workshops in the year-long series while also completing a variety of related assignments

Did participation in the Inclusive Classroom Institute make a difference? Here is what faculty have to say.

I’d also like to express heartfelt gratitude to the faculty and staff members who worked with us to develop and deliver workshops for the Institute: Stephen Brookfield, Kanishka Chowdhury, Bryana French, Amy Finnegan, Lori Friedman, Tanya Gladney, Xiaowen Guan, Mike Klein, Todd Lawrence, Lucia Pawlowski, Roxanne Prichard, Starr Sage, Damon Sholholm, and Jon Stoltz.

The Institute will be offered again during 2017-18 – consider joining in the Fall and transforming your classes to be inclusive and welcoming to ALL students.

Reflections of Inclusive Classroom Institute Participants

Heather ShireyHeather Shirey (Associate Professor, Department of Art History)

The Inclusive Classroom workshops I've attended this year have been transformative. The workshop on transparency served as a reminder that faculty members often operate with the expectation that students understand an unwritten and unspoken set of rules. An understanding of these rules is often required for success in our classes. For that reason, it is essential to meet our students where they are as we work to articulate our expectations.

The weeks before and after this fall's election required a commitment to Brave Space more than ever. The Brave Space workshop helped me understand the limitations of thinking of the classroom as a "safe space" given that my goal is to create a space for challenging and uncomfortable conversations, accepting these moments as an essential part of growth and learning.  After the Brave Space workshop, I constructed a Brave Space statement for my syllabus, which in turn provided the framework for  working with students to create a set of ground rules for discussion.

Meliha Ceric (Adjunct Faculty, Department of History)

One problem that I struggled with in my history courses was how to organize class discussions that involve questions based on politically charged material. These workshops and application activities helped me revise my discussion assignments. I went from having two to three students being willing to address these questions in class to running out of time and having to continue our conversation during the next class meeting.

Peter Gregg (Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism)

The Inclusive Classroom Institute has been eye-opening. I've taken my experience in the ICI to heart, adjusting lesson plans, assignments, and discussion techniques to be more inclusive and supportive of the diversity of experiences and voices in the classroom. I believe it's paid dividends in all my classes this semester, from introductory-level communication and journalism courses to advanced film studies courses dealing with world cinema. I feel that students this semester have been more productively engaged and willing to challenge each other, and I feel that they see the connections between the classroom and the world outside it in a more transparent way.

Tyler Schipper (Assistant Professor, Department of Economics)

The Inclusive Classroom Institute helped me see my courses through the eyes of my students. It highlighted challenges, inequities, and student fears that I would have had a very difficult time identifying on my own. Each session gave me something concrete that I could use to make an incremental improvement to my courses. In particular, my syllabi now do a much better job of signaling how each course is conducted.

Jessica SiegelJessica Siegel (Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology)

I enjoyed all of the workshops that I attended and gained a lot of great information from each of them. Specific outcomes that stand out from the institute include the following:

  • From the global classroom workshop I learned information about international students that I had never considered before. In fact this was a group of students I was largely unaware of before this workshop, and the presenters opened my eyes to the unique issues and concerns for this group of students.
  • From the transparent syllabus workshop I learned some great skills and techniques for making my assignments more transparent and creating clear rubrics. I implemented these rubrics in my classes this semester and have found them to be so useful for me and the students!

This is my last column – it’s been an honor to serve in this role and work with our fantastically talented and committed St. Thomas faculty for the past six years. Wishing you a great summer, whether you’re in the lab, taking a seminar here on campus, teaching online, at the lake, or traveling afar. See you in the Fall!