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Principle 5:

Reflect on one’s beliefs about teaching to maximize self-awareness and commitment to inclusion.

This page provides a concise version of Principle 5 from the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia. Explore the highlighted strategies below to reflect on beliefs about teaching, and maximize self-awareness and commitment to inclusion.

On this page:

COMMON TEACHING CHALLENGES:

“How can I ensure my interactions with students are inclusive and fair?”
“How can I address personal biases I may bring to the classroom?”
“I’m worried that I identify and connect with some students more than others.”

Introduction

The following text is abridged from the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia.

How do instructors’ own identities affect their beliefs about teaching and their actions in the classroom? How can instructors better work to include students through personal reflection?

  • In the rush of day-to-day teaching, instructors often fall back on teaching strategies, instincts, and/or habits that are commonplace in their disciplines, or that mirror their own learning preferences.1
  • Taking time to reflect on the attitudes they hold, the assumptions they make, and the affect and habits they demonstrate in class can help instructors keep their students engaged with the subject matter, each other, and themselves.2
  • By performing this work of reflection and uncovering, instructors can actively seek opportunities for greater self-awareness, and pursue new and different strategies that will better include students in their classrooms. Instructors can then commit to teaching as an iterative process, and one that models deep, critical thought for students.3

 

Teaching Strategies

In order to reflect on one’s teaching, instructors should ask themselves the following questions:

What are my identities, and how do others/my students perceive me? 4 5 6 7 8

  • Consider your positionality, or the way your social location or position is assigned and negotiated as the result of combining various social factors or identities (e.g., race, sex, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation). The body you inhabit, your self-presentation, and the information you choose to share about yourself can all have an effect on student perception and comfortability in a class. Take inventory of the way your affiliations and identities–the readily evident ones as well as ones that are less visible–may shape your perceptions and connections with others, or their perceptions and connections with you. For example, do you believe that all students can succeed in your class? Do you find yourself siding with students who are more similar to you? Do students equally afford you authority in the classroom? Do some make assumptions about you based on your positionality that may be inaccurate or stereotypical? If you find you want to change any of the dynamics occurring in class based on positionality, work to address it through discussion and concrete actions in class.
  • Often our courses necessitate intercultural competency (e.g., students encountering perspectives and people from different cultures in class or on campus). If establishing and encouraging intercultural competence is a course goal, articulate which behaviors and attitudes contribute to this goal and which do not. Work with students to set objectives and scaffolds to meet this goal using models of intercultural literacy.

What are my implicit (or explicit) biases? Do I propagate, neutralize, or challenge stereotypes in my class?9 10 11 12 13

  • Take honest inventory of the ways you might unconsciously or consciously be affected by or perpetuate bias. Proactively adjust your behavior, and encourage others to modify theirs to avoid creating a marginalizing class environment or work to neutralize a hostile one. Harvard University’s Project Implicit is a particularly helpful tool for self-inventory, providing a wide range of implicit bias tests for people to become aware of their own automatic preferences for certain identities (race, gender, sexuality, etc.).
  • Familiarize yourself with the concept of stereotype threat (defined by Stroessner and Good as “being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s social group”), and work to neutralize or complicate instances where stereotypes arise. Challenge stereotypes when they arise in content, or in the spoken or written comments of students. If you catch yourself (or your students catch you) perpetuating stereotypes, address the situation openly in class and work to reduce your unconsciously held stereotypes in the future.

How do I handle challenges in the classroom?14 15 16 17

  • Cultivate reflective distance by asking yourself, in the moment or preemptively: what student behaviors trigger strong emotions in me, cause me to lose equilibrium, or otherwise distract my attention? How do I react to recurring frustrations such as tardiness, lack of preparation, inappropriate use of technology, or indifference or hostility during discussion? Students are quick to pick up on signals in such circumstances, which can introduce into class emotions or affiliations that could prove alienating. Greater self-awareness of the ways you handle difficult moments in class can help to model constructive behavior for students. (See Principle 2.)

How might the ways I set up classroom spaces and activities foster inclusion or disinclusion?18

  • Be attentive to the way you are defining and using space in the classroom. Considering how you position yourself and your students in a room can help identify signals sent to students about authority and equitable engagement via fundamental components of classroom life such as seating, movement, presentation, and group formation. Similarly, consider the way you use and move through space in teaching; these actions can have implications for your students about hierarchy and inclusion. Consider: do you stand in front of the class looking down at your students? Do you sit at a seminar table with them to have a discussion? Where is your attention directed when interacting with students? While there is no perfect or neutral use of space, being mindful of the way you define and use space can help make sure that your actions do not contravene your intentions.
  • Reflect on the activities you choose for class. Do you tend to repeat the same format every week, or do you vary your class activities? Do you provide multiple class participation opportunities, such as large group, paired, group, and individual work? If you find that you repeat the same activities with no defined intentions, or that you continually rely on the same modes of expression for student participation, try expanding your repertoire to broaden student engagement. (see Principle 4.)

Bibliography

  • Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
  • Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Anthony G. Greenwald. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Bantam, 2016.
  • Bennett, Janet M., and Milton J. Bennett. “Developing Intercultural Pedagogy: An Integrative Approach to Global and Domestic Diversity.” In Handbook of Intercultural Training, edited by Dan Landis, Janet Bennett, and Milton Bennett. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications (2003): 147-65.
  • Brookfield, Stephen D. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
  • Ginsberg, Margery B., and Raymond J. Wlodkowski. Diversity and Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  • Goodman, Diane J. Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: Educating People from Privileged Groups. New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Harvard University, Project Implicit page, accessed July 12, 2017, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.
  • Hearn, Mark Chung. “Positionality, Intersectionality, and Power: Socially Locating the Higher Education Teacher in Multicultural Education.” Multicultural Education Review 4, no. 2 (2012): 38-59.
  • Johnson-Bailey, Juanita, and Ming-Yeh Lee. “Women of Color in the Academy: Where’s Our Authority in the Classroom?” Feminist Teacher 15, no. 2 (2005): 111-122.
  • Landis, Dan, Janet Bennett, and Milton Bennett. Handbook of Intercultural Training. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004.
  • Lee, Amy, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon Williams. Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence. ASHE Higher Education Report 38, no. 2. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  • Stroessner, Steve and Catherine Good. “Stereotype Threat: An Overview.” 2011. From “Reducing Stereotype Threat,” accessed July 19, 2017, http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/.
  • Steele, Claude M. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.
  • Sue, Derald Wing, Annie I. Lin, Gina C. Torino, Christina M. Capodilupo, and David P. Rivera. “Racial Microaggressions and Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 15, no. 2 (2009): 183.
  • Tarr, Kathleen, “‘A Little More Every Day’: How You Can Eliminate Bias in Your Own Classroom,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 23, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Little-More-Every-Day-/233303.
  • Weinstein, Gerald, and Kathy Obear. “Bias issues in the classroom: Encounters with the teaching self.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 52 (1992): 39-50.

University Resources

Derald Wing Sue: “Open Letter to Brothers and Sisters of Color”

http://www.tc.columbia.edu/diversity/about-our-office/open-letter-to-brothers-and-sisters-of-color/

Adapted from Derald Wing Sue’s book Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence, this open letter validates people of color’s experience of racism, oppression, and injustice, encouraging people of color to take pride in their strengths, assets, and bicultural flexibility born out of struggle.

Footnotes

  1. Ginsberg, Margery B., and Raymond J. Wlodkowski. Diversity and Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 25
  2. Tarr, Kathleen, “‘A Little More Every Day’: How You Can Eliminate Bias in Your Own Classroom,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 23, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Little-More-Every-Day-/233303.
  3. Brookfield, Stephen D. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2017, 2-3
  4. Bennett, Janet M., and Milton J. Bennett. “Developing Intercultural Pedagogy: An Integrative Approach to Global and Domestic Diversity.” In Handbook of Intercultural Training, edited by Dan Landis, Janet Bennett, and Milton Bennett. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications (2003): 147-65.
  5. Goodman, Diane J. Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: Educating People from Privileged Groups. New York: Routledge, 2011.
  6. Hearn, Mark Chung. “Positionality, Intersectionality, and Power: Socially Locating the Higher Education Teacher in Multicultural Education.” Multicultural Education Review 4, no. 2 (2012): 38-59.
  7. Johnson-Bailey, Juanita, and Ming-Yeh Lee. “Women of Color in the Academy: Where’s Our Authority in the Classroom?.” Feminist Teacher 15, no. 2 (2005): 111-122.
  8. Lee, Amy, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon Williams. Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence. ASHE Higher Education Report 38, no. 2. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  9. Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
  10. Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Anthony G. Greenwald. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Bantam, 2016.
  11. Project Implicit page, accessed July 12, 2017, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.
  12. Steele, Claude M. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.
  13. Sue, Derald Wing, Annie I. Lin, Gina C. Torino, Christina M. Capodilupo, and David P. Rivera. “Racial Microaggressions and Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 15, no. 2 (2009): 183.
  14. Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
  15. Landis, Dan, Janet Bennett, and Milton Bennett. Handbook of Intercultural Training. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004.
  16. Lee, Amy, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon Williams. Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence. ASHE Higher Education Report 38, no. 2. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  17. Weinstein, Gerald, and Kathy Obear. “Bias issues in the classroom: Encounters with the teaching self.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 52 (1992): 39-50.
  18. Lee, Amy, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon Williams. Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence. ASHE Higher Education Report 38, no. 2. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.