Thanks for attending the DTAR “Diversity” workshop, 2/14/13

Fall Winter 2012_2013 058 Fall Winter 2012_2013 060

What might diversity mean for our classroom? How do we approach learning situations affected by diversity? How might we be most effectively sensitive to the needs of our diverse classrooms?
On 14 February, DTAR hosted the first TA workshop of the semester, exploring the topic of diversity at U of H. The DTAR workshop accorded participants, which included both TAs and TA supervisors, a chance to begin a discussion on teaching in diverse environments.  This was a discussion aimed at beginning a career-long conversation with other faculty, university services, and published research.


Based on the Diversity instructional module, the workshop was designed to emphasize self-reflection and teaching strategies that meet the needs of the variety of students found in our classrooms.
The workshop began with small group reflections led by Andrew Pegoda (History). He presented the groups with a list of statements reflecting stereotypes and then asked each table to discuss the list in relation to five considerations:

  • What the stereotype means
  • Why the stereotype is not true
  • Possible origins for the stereotype
  • Alternatives to the stereotype
  • Why it is dangerous and what damage it does

Small groups discussed their ideas before then Pegoda transitioned into a whole-group discussion specifically geared toward addressing the last consideration – why stereotypes are dangerous and what damage they do in our classrooms. Collectively, the group acknowledged that stereotypes can lead to bias, which can affect teacher grading. There was also consensus that stereotypes can and often do affect student learning in the classrooms.

 

To  better address teaching practices in diverse environments, the workshop included a conference-panel style presentation from UH TAs Geneva Canino (English); and Amir Bar (Human Resources Development). Together, they presented a mixture of theory and practical advice, asking the audience to consider how they might adapt and use the information and further, to consider how their classrooms might need additional information.

  • Canino began a presentation entitled “Inviting Disability In: Metaphors for Disability at the University and Options for Inclusion.” Pulling from research by Jay Dolmage, Margaret Price, and Nancy Johnson and Nina Doyle, Canino introduced three metaphors for inclusion: steep steps, which coincides with the belief that college is hard and some people don’t belong; retrofit, which explores accessibility as an afterthought to existing spaces; and universal access, which promotes designing environments to be used by all people. She then presented Dolmage’s extension of universal design (an architecture term) into the academy as a way of creating a learning environment that is accessible to all learning styles and is constantly reflected upon. She advised that teachers could offer a clear, well-organized syllabus outlining the work of the semester; draw attention to the accommodations statement beyond just noting our disAbility Center exists; be aware of language in the classroom; present material at a moderate pace; and post lecture notes and outline materials before class.
  • Immediately following her presentation, Bar focused his presentation on “Tips for College Success by Nigel the Fox,” an e-book he created as an intern with the National Center on Universal Design. The e-book offers students 12 tips to help succeed in college classrooms. Several of the practical approaches to studying (i.e. using text-to-audio software and typed flashcards) were designed to emphasize learning strategies that might help a student in a text- and lecture-heavy course.

To conclude the workshop, presenters and audience members returned to small-group discussion, focusing their conversations on two questions:

  • What are you concerned about with this new information?
  • What faces you in the classroom, related to diversity?

The goal here was to have TAs across disciplines discuss their classroom practices and offer support and help to each other.

 
At the close of the workshop, participants were provided with a slide including information about the various on-campus resources that are available to assist faculty and students. Phone numbers for Learning Support Services, the Center for Students with disAbilities, the Women’s Resource Center, the Writing Center, an the LGBT Resource Center were given.
Participation in DTAR workshops is one requirement for the CTE Certificate of University Training for graduate teachers. For more information on the certificate, contact dtar@uh.edu

Sarah Fish

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