Over 150 faculty, students, and staff gathered on Friday at Casa Italiana for a community discussion of engagement, diversity in the classroom, and inclusive teaching, sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning.
On the heels of the establishment of the CTL last semester as a resource for faculty and students, Executive Director Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Kathy Takayama said that Friday's event is only the beginning and educators will need to continue to work together with students to create more inclusive classrooms.
Friday's event featured a day-long series of talks and workshops aimed at bringing faculty, staff, and students together to further faculty education on best practices for inclusive teaching.
"I charge myself and everyone else with really going always one step further with our intention. It's easy to be passive and say, 'of course I'm inclusive,'" Takayama said. "Moving forward, I want all of us to create multiple opportunities to do practice institutional mindfulness and to really critically engage with each other, listen to perspectives, and always try to learn something new."
During the event, attendees broke off into small groups and discussed best teaching practices, sharing examples of successes and challenges they had each encountered in the classroom. Groups focused on working together to brainstorm inclusive practices in areas including course content and classroom dynamics.
The practices discussed on Friday will ultimately be compiled into a guide available to all faculty and students that will be published on CTL's website.
"We want to organically derive materials that we are going to then use to raise awareness and to train people. We want to derive that from the community," Mark Phillipson, the director of teaching initiatives and programs at the center, said. "This was much more of a wild mixture and it's much more unpredictable what will come out of it, and I'm struck by the seriousness and purpose and the quality that blooms when people come to the table."
After the event, Benjamin Hansberry, a Ph.D. candidate and a graduate instructor for Music Humanities, said that he left the event with an expanded idea of what constitutes inclusive teaching.
"You spend your life becoming a more inclusive teacher constantly because every class will come with a different context and different needs," Hansberry said. "So becoming an inclusive teacher isn't something you just do, but it's a skill that you foster."
More inclusive teaching is ultimately more effective educating, according to Phillipson.
"It's not just what you should be doing ethically or morally, it's about how you should be effective as a teacher," Phillipson said.
The event also featured a plenary speech by Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Kennesaw State University Michele DiPietro. DiPietro spoke about how to best foster an inclusive classroom climate.
"Students who perceive they are in a chilly classroom climate, that has an effect on their learning, their critical thinking, and preparation for a career," DiPietro said. "It's not just something nice we should be doing, but it's at the core of learning."
In an interview with Spectator, DiPietro said the most common fear faculty members articulate to him is failing to properly execute inclusive teaching techniques.
"They want to be inclusive, they want all their students to learn and graduate and finish and live fulfilling lives based on what they learned in school," DiPietro said. "But they don't know how to do it, they don't know the language, and they are afraid of actually making it worse by doing the wrong thing inadvertently," DiPietro said.
DiPietro also said that working toward more inclusive classrooms does not involve replacing one set of priorities with another.
"We can bring people in and it doesn't mean that we kick other people out. The center expands. Inclusive teaching is excellent teaching," he said. "We're not asking anyone to do anything different in terms of the content, in terms of watering their standards, or special treatment for certain groups of people. That needs to be understood."
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.