Professor Cynde Gregory (Gwinnett Technical College) shares this icebreaker she uses to create a classroom culture of acceptance. I'm thinking I may use it in the next class on Managing Diversity that I teach.
Professor Cynde Gregory (Gwinnett Technical College) shares this icebreaker she uses to create a classroom culture of acceptance. I'm thinking I may use it in the next class on Managing Diversity that I teach.
Universities have a much more diverse student population today than in the past. They come in with a wide range of backgrounds, abilities, skills, and motivations. Managing such a diverse student population is challenging even to professors who have been teaching for many years. Here are eight tips to help you make connect with every student.
1. Watch for assumptions you might make such as thinking that all students come from traditional families or that all students have parents who went to college.
2. Use both the terms “he” and “she” in your lectures and correct your students when they make assumptions. Not all managers or engineers are male and not all secretaries or nurses are female.
3. Call on your students equally without favoring any one gender, age group, race, or nationality.
4. Use examples in class that draw from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures.
5. Address inappropriate comments made by students in class that stereotype others. Take the time to make this a “teaching moment” to sensitize your students to the harm that their words and actions can do.
6. Get to know the name of each student and invite them to get to know you by coming to see you during office hours.
7. Encourage students with disabilities to see you so you can make accommodations that will allow them to fully participate in the class.
8. Ask your non-traditional students to share their work and life experiences with the other students in the classroom.
Some good tips for teaching diverse students at the community college level are found here.
Lisa M. Lane compares students' learning styles to either Cat Learners or Dog Learners. As she notes:
Leave Cat Learners alone with a book in a sunny window, keep it quiet, and they learn just fine. Cat Learners are independent, and are thus either self-motivated or not interested in having anyone motivate them. They shun social learning and avoid group work. Their judgement of the value of their work is internal.
Dog learners are social, learn best in a group, and need active learning exercises. They require external verification and enforcement (”good doggy! have a biscuit”), and tend to fit into Gardner’s social and body movement styles. Dogs run with the pack, and aren’t comfortable doing anything by themselves.
While she admits this is a massive oversimplification, I have to say I have seen these distinct behaviors in my own classroom.
More from Pat Lakey (University of South Florida-Sarasota):
• Engage the attention of the student with a hearing impairment before communicating with the class.
• Always face the student when speaking.
• Do not talk while writing on chalkboard.
• If possible, face the light source and keep your hands away from your face when speaking.
• Repeat the questions other students in the class asked so that students with hearing impairments know what you are refering to.
• Speak clearly and naturally and at your normal pace, unless you are asked to slow down.
• The use of visual aids is most helpful since vision is the student's primary means of receiving information.
• Provide all important information (assignments, due dates, exam dates, changes in the class schedule, special event dates, etc.) in written form (handout or write on board).
• Reduce excessive noise as much as possible to facilitate communication (classmates chattering, outside noise in hallway).
Pat Lakey, Coordinator of the Students with Disabilities Services Office at University of South Florida-Sarasota shares these tips for teaching students that are blind or visually impaired.
• Speak to the class upon entering and leaving the room or site.
• Call the student with a vision impairment by name if you want his/her attention.
• Seat the student away from glaring lights (e.g. by the window) and preferably in front of the class.
• Use descriptive words such as straight, forward, left, etc. in relation to the student's body orientation. Be specific in directions and avoid the use of vague terms with unusable information, such as "over there", "here", "this", etc.
• Describe, in detail, pertinent visual occurrences of the learning activities.
• Give verbal notice of room changes, special meetings, or assignments.
• Offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment, when appropriate.
• Identify yourself by name, don't assume that the student who is visually impaired will recognize you by your voice even though you have met before.
• If you are asked to guide a student with a visual impairment, identify yourself, offer your services and, if accepted, offer your arm to the student's hand. Tell them if they have to step up or step down, let them know if the door is to their left or right, and warn them of possible hazards.
• Orally, let the student know if you need to move or leave or need to end a conversation.
• When communicating with a student who has a vision impairment, always identify yourself and others who are present.
• Do not pet or touch a guide dog. Guide dogs are working animals. It can be hazardous for the visually impaired person if the dog is distracted.
• It is not necessary to speak loudly to people with visual impairments.
As I recently finished teaching a class on Managing Diversity, I found this article from the Center for Teaching and Learning at The University of North Carolina interesting. Highlights for me included:
"When we speak of diversity in the classroom, we usually focus on the diversity of the students in the room. We often forget that the teacher also brings a range of diversity issues to the classroom. Every teacher brings his or her physical appearance and culture into the room at the same time as the students do. How you look, how you speak, how you act upon your opinions of the role of academics (and particularly of the class you teach), and the extent to which these differ from the physical, cultural and intellectual backgrounds of your students will have a profound effect on the interactions in your classroom. Thus you need to be aware of possible reactions among the students to your race, gender, age, ethnicity, physical attributes and abilities. Preparing for such reactions will involve not only knowing as much as you can about your students, but also turning the mirror to yourself, and finding out more about your own diversity issues."
The article ends with some great advice:
"Also remember that no matter your age, your experience in the field will be far greater than that of your students. Through your studies, you have internalized complex ideas about your subject that now sound "natural." Your students may never have heard of these ideas, and will need some time to absorb them. Anyone who has studied a subject for a long time, or is already used to teaching it, often forgets what it is like to learn something entirely new. Teaching from the standpoint of knowledge makes acquiring the facts of your field look easy. In order to stay in touch with how students experience your class, try learning something completely new yourself; or, try changing your class materials so that you explore a new topic along with your students. This keeps you on your toes as you teach, and also may lead to new insights to your subject that you and your students can discover together."
I asked the students in my Managing Diversity class at the University of South Florida-St Petersburg to share three "Aha" moments from the semester on our class blog. Here's one student's comment:
"I actually remember this moment. I was giving my opinion about a race issue, I think it might have been the video we watched from Primetime Live on racism. But as I was commenting I heard what I was really saying. And it sounded like my father. I love my dad dearly but I am not always happy with the things that I have learned from him...I feel as if some of his prejudice has rubbed off on me.
I feel like this class has given me the chance to re-evaluate my subconscious thoughts. I said last week that this class has meant alot to me because tolerance is kind of different from intelligence. My "lightbulb" moment came when I realized that my intelligence would not make me do well in this class but that I would have to start rethinking how I felt about other people. That day I went to lunch with a friend and I remember how I could not stop talking about our class, I just got "it".
These moments are why I have loved teaching for the past 26 years...
Dr. Spencer Overton (George Washington University Law School) is currently researching generational differences and poses the question, Are Baby Boomer Profs Better than Gen X Profs?
He quotes NAS Recruitment Communications as reporting:
“Generation Y is expected to get along better with the Baby Boomers than those belonging to Generation X. . . . Generation X thinks that the Yers do not want to perform menial tasks and entry-level positions. The feeling of ‘I had to work to get there, why don't they?’ is one of the major obstacles between members of Generation X and Y.”
As he notes, "Conventional wisdom has it that students (Gen Y) relate more easily to younger professors (Gen X)—but the statement above seems to suggest that older Baby Boomer professors may have an edge."
What is your opinion on this? Do Baby Boomer profs relate better to this current crop of Gen Y students? Should we adapt our teaching styles to the generations that we find in our classrooms?
Lee Warren (Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University) gives tips on "Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom" which advocate turning these into teaching moments that help the students learn when topics of religion, race, class, gender or politics come up in class. As Professor Warren notes, "it is the teacher's responsibility both to help students learn something from the moment and to care for and protect all the participants, perhaps particularly the student(s) who has generated the hot moment. This does not mean that discomfort can be avoided: sometimes learning about hot topics is difficult and uncomfortable. But no one should be scapegoated. Everyone should be protected so that learning can happen."
When a student says something that is inappropriate (sometimes without realizing it), it is important that we address the issue. Professor Warren's suggestions:
"Hold Steady. If you can hold steady and not be visibly rattled by the hot moment, the students will be better able to steady themselves as well and even learn something from the moment. Your behavior provides a holding environment for the students. They can feel safe when you appear to be in control; this enables them to explore the issues. Your behavior also provides a model for the students.
Breathe deeply. Take a moment. Collect yourself. Take time if you need it. Silence is useful -- if you can show that you are comfortable with it. A pause will also permit students to reflect on the issues raised. Deep breathing is an ancient and highly effective technique for calming adrenaline rushes and restoring one's capacity to think.
Don't personalize remarks. Don't take remarks personally, even when they come as personal attacks. Such attacks are most likely made against you in your role as teacher or authority figure. Remembering to separate self from role can enable you to see what a student is saying more clearly and to actually discuss the issue. It's not about you. It's about the student and his or her feelings and thoughts, though often articulated clumsily and from an as yet unthought through position.
Don't take remarks personally when they are about issues that you feel strongly about, or even about groups of which you are a part. Again, remember that both you and the group will be better served if you can keep some distance from the comments and find ways to use them to enhance people's understanding.
Don't let yourself get caught up in a personal reaction to the individual who has made some unpleasant remark. It's easy to want to tear into a student who is personally offensive to you. To do so is to fail to see what that student and his or her ideas represent in the classroom and in the larger world. If you take the remarks personally, chances are you will not be able to find what there is to learn from them.
Know yourself. Know your biases, know what will push your buttons and what will cause your mind to stop. Every one of us has areas in which we are vulnerable to strong feelings. Knowing what those areas are in advance can diminish the element of surprise. This self-knowledge can enable you to devise in advance strategies for managing yourself and the class when such a moment arises. You will have thought about what you need to do in order to enable your mind to work again."
Check out this Harvard site for good advice in teaching racially diverse students in your classroom. There are suggestions on how to make sure everyone is included in discussions and how to handle sensitive issues.
Thought I would share this recent story about some students at Drake University that are organizing a boycott in order to protest racial competition on the reality TV show, "Survivor."
A boycott of CBS's "Survivor" advertisers is being organized by Drake University's chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) in response to the network's recent announcement of this season's teams. Asian, Black, Hispanic and White teams will each vie to be the "best," creating racial competition on primetime television.
"As soon-to-be professionals in the field of public relations, we feel it is our responsibility to inform and encourage fellow Americans to take a stand against the racial issue "Survivor" has initiated," said Tiffany Shaheen, president of Drake University PRSSA.
Drake PRSSA has requested a list of the show's advertisers from the local CBS affiliate. If a list is released, the organization will urge others not to purchase the advertisers' products until "Survivor" teams are revamped. "The job of the media is to give people something to think about," said MacKenzie Roebuck Walsh, PRSSA member and senior journalism student at Drake University. "In 2006, should we really be telling people to consider why their race is superior to another's? It only fuels the bigotry this country is already battling."
Tiffany is a former human resource management student of mine. Can I say I'm proud of her and the other students!
Today is the last class of the graduate course on Managing Diversity in the Workplace that I am teaching at Drake University. Mike Sansone helped me set up a class blog to allow the students to share their thoughts and reactions to the various speakers, videos, activities, and discussions held over the last six weeks. In response to my latest blogpost asking the students what they would say were their top three "Aha" moments, several responded to the use of the class blog itself:
Finally, my third a-ha moment was not of a particular presentation but of watching our class evolve and seeing the power of awareness through sharing our thoughts and stories on the blog. As we have become more aware of issues related to diversity, we have had class-wide a-ha moments. Now that we are aware of prejudices and difficulties associated with diverse people, we are better able to stop ourselves, adjust, and make better decisions than if we did not have this class. After one more class I will be finished here at Drake and I can say that the overall theme to business is not products or strategy but human relationships. How businesses interact with other businesses, customers, suppliers, and employees defines the success of the business. Our class has had an advantage through our exchange... Keri
I agree with Keri that another “aha” moment would include interacting with the class and reading comments of the group. I had taken some courses about four years ago with a makeup of students mostly of the age group of this class. When diversity or discrimination was discussed in the classroom it appeared that the class felt that discrimination no longer existed in this country and especially not in Iowa. I was stunned that more people did not recognize that we needed to improve. I had come away from that course concerned that the younger generation had lost a sense of what discrimination is about. I am glad to say that this course has helped me see that the younger generation does realize that things still need to be improved. Mike C.
Another overall and cumulative “aha” moment is seeing the benefits that can occur when people feel safe to talk about diversity. Before this class, I often felt that somehow it was inappropriate to talk about certain diversity issues. I don’t know if I didn’t want to offend someone or if I just didn’t know how to broach the subject. I think our society falls into this trap all too often. We all want to be safe under the umbrella of being “politically correct.” I think a lot of change has happened this semester for the students in this course. How can our society change if we can’t communicate the issues effectively? Carole
The class blog was an ah-ha moment for me. Not only did I enjoy reading everyone’s posts but I believe I learned from other classmates' experiences and thoughts. The blog postings got much more in-depth than I originally assumed they would. It seemed to be a safe environment for us to share our feelings and stories and that aided in our learning. Keely
I am now trying to figure out how to use class blogs in my other courses as well as how to recommend this technology to others...
As teachers, you probabaly use email often to respond to questions and concerns from your students. An interesting article titled, “It's All About Me: Why E-Mails Are So Easily Misunderstood” discusses some of the problems with using this form of communication.
Email does not give us cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
The ability to instantly reply to email leads people to think and write quickly without thinking through what they're saying and how it might be perceived (hence, the large number of spelling and grammatical errors by our students).
Email does not convey emotion or a personal rapport and thus can convey a message different from what you intended.
"According to one study, e-mail users have only a 50-50 chance of correctly interpreting the intended tone of an e-mail."
How to avoid problems with email? "Read it aloud in the opposite way you intend, whether serious or sarcastic. If it makes sense either way, revise." And if you are discussing sensitive issues or having a conflict with your student, communicate in person or by phone.
I mentioned in an earlier blogpost that I was experimenting with using a class blog for a graduate class at Drake University on Managing Diversity in the Workplace. I have been very pleased with the quality and quantity of the blog comments made by the students. One thing that I think helped was to allow them to comment on their fears re this new technology in one of my first blogposts.
My blogpost question to them was: As we discussed tonight, we will be using a class blog for MGMT 298 (Managing Diversity in the Workplace) to help us create a learning community and share resources and information on diversity. What questions or concerns do you have about using this technology for this class? What issues or comments do you have about the class itself?
Some of the student comments:
I’m a little nervous with the posting format, finding the questions and submitting comments in the correct location; being the first to add a comment not knowing if you are really the first or just unable to see other comments. I guess I don’t want to stand out or do or say anything stupid. Technology can be intimidating and humbling. As for the class, the challenge for me will be managing the disruption of my comfort zone. I’m willing to let people into my safety box but not so anxious to venture out and look for diverse situations. This will be very difficult for me and I want to gain more than simply checking off an assignment. I would like my intentions to be perceived as honest, sincere and respectful. Jean
I think this is a great supplement to class. It allows class participation for those who are more comfortable writing than speaking, and also provides a medium where thoughts are allowed to materialize before being shared. Once everyone becomes comfortable with the technology, it will certainly add value to this class. Holly
This experiment will certainly show us how diverse we are in the terms of understanding and using technology. I think the concept is great, I just hope I can get a lot more comfortable using it, in the short amount of time we have in this class. Mike C.
I like to feel comfortable. Normally, I will not leave my comfort zone on my own and that is why I’m excited to participate in this class. I will be forced to think outside of the box and hopefully I will be able to carry this type of thinking with me when the class has been completed. Michael N.
I think this will be an interesting and insightful supplement to the class as well. I agree with Holly's statement that this will allow everyone the ability to participate and share ideas, since some people are more reluctant to speak up during class. Hopefully, the sharing of ideas will allow everyone the ability to learn from others and give each one of us another side to consider. I think a huge part of embracing diversity involves keeping an open mind and being receptive to others' ideas, viewpoints and experiences. Hopefully, blogging will serve as a tool to do just that. Allison
Blogging will be a new experience for me. When the first news of blogging was discussed I was a little hesitant about it, then I thought about the older generation who thought that the internet was worthless and they would never need to learn. That opened my eyes to accept blogging for what it is and can be. Diversity is all about accepting something that is different or new, Blogging is definitely new to me. Josh
Well, now it's my turn to try posting a comment. Lets hope I do this correct. One of my previous co-workers had an auto-signature on her e-mails that read, "You must ride the wave of change." I think of that often and utilizing this form of communication certainly falls into that category for me. I am completely unfamiliar with this and unfamiliar things are typically uncomfortable at first. However, the benefits of adapting quickly always pay off. For example, now maybe I will be able to participate knowledgeably in my co-workers discussions on blogging. As we discussed on Monday, blogging is big in the Marketing field right now. I must admit I was/am ignorant about the whole thing. I hope that will change. Carole
Allowing the students to share their concerns and fears with each other created a culture that showed that it was OK to have these concerns, that we were all learning together. The class blog is currently password protected but I will link to it after the summer term is over and share what I think worked well and what I would do differently next time.
I was sharing my experience that I wrote about in a recent blogpost (Perceptions of Discrimination) with one of my new favorite persons/blog coach, Mike Sansone. His response was excellent: Taking a Leadership role in Diversity should include engaging in a conversation first - leading with the first "hello" - no matter age, race, or social status. Just think if we all did this...if we all got out of our comfort zones and spoke first to those around us, especially the ones we perceive as "different from ourselves"....
Jim Cobb (University of Georgia) recently wrote about a student in his US History course who went into a semi-hissy fit (his words) when he spent four class periods on the Civil Rights movement. Her issue? That she apparently thought he was making stuff up. "I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained, "we never discussed any of this in high school." According to Cobb, she went on to say, “I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"
As I put together my syllabus for a class on Managing Diversity in the Workplace that I am teaching this summer, I feel very afraid…Are there really students who don't believe that discrimination exists? Or that don't want to hear about it? But as Dr. Morris Massey says, we can't change the future unless we are willing to examine what has happened in the past...
Today I attended a booksigning of a new book by Timothy Johnson on project management (check it out at Carpe Factum). While there I witnessed a sad but interesting encounter. An African American male in his 40s came into the store during the booksigning and stood looking at a display of books while listening to his iPod. Several customers, including me, continued talking with the bookstore employee and Timothy. The man never approached the employee or cash register and did not ask for help. I assumed he was browsing and didn't give it much thought as there were several other customers doing the same. After ten minutes he looked up, declared that he had come in the store to buy a book but that we apparently did not want his business. He then stomped out to the puzzled looks of those of us in the store. His perception was that he did not receive service because he was Black. My take was that it was not apparent that he had a question or needed help.
Who is right? What part does our past experiences have on our perceptions of a current event? I personally would not have made the assumption that I was not wanted in the store and would have asked for help. He obviously had experienced discrimination in the past and saw the experience through that filter. I will be teaching a class on Managing Diversity at Drake University beginning mid-May and am curious to see what my students think. How do we get away from making assumptions when these have been reinforced by past events?