Submitted by Hilary Eppley / DePauw University on Mon, 01/18/2016 - 15:45

In honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday (and since most of you are likely teaching on this holiday), I’d like to highlight two very relevant sessions that Adam Johnson and I attended at the POD Network Annual Conference for faculty developers back in November. One important and very timely topic of that conference was making our classroom more inclusive. Some faculty in the sciences are skeptical of how talk of racism and inclusiveness has anything to do with writing an equation for an acid-base reaction or identifying the derivative of a mathematical equation. We don’t want to be racist in our classrooms, but we think that if we aren’t actively doing racist things that we have checked that box and can move on with planning our scientific content. Two of the sessions that we attended made us rethink our own strategies, and we thought it would be helpful to share some of the tips with the VIPEr community.   

One session was a ‘sample’ workshop for STEM faculty led by Angela Linse from Penn State University (who runs workshops like these for faculty around the country). The workshop offered strategies for anti-racist pedagogy for science faculty. We started the session with a handout from Linse that listed about 50 anti-racist teaching techniques. We were instructed to work our way through two sides of the list, checking off things that we already did, marking things we would like to try, and crossing off things that we either didn’t feel comfortable with or didn’t feel were appropriate for our course. The list was somewhat surprising because I was able to identify things I already do (ask about students’ experiences with and concerns about the subject matter, use a variety of teaching methods; provide brief intervals during class for students to think about what they have heard, seen, and learned), the things that I sort of do but could do more explicitly (let your students know that you believe they each have the ability to succeed, give students the grading rubric), and the things I think would be easy to try (adding diverse examples to visuals in the class, making any student getting below a “B” come to my office privately in order to avoid the stigma of being seen as “needing help” at public office hours). We can also work to help our students see that having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset will help them persist and succeed in a challenging course (a great book on this is Mindset by Carol Dweck or see her introduce the idea in this TED talk).  

The second session that we attended was a “keynote interview” of Dr. Beverly Tatum, the former President of Spelman College and the author of "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity.” She addressed studies that show that stereotype threat (the idea that a person might confirm a negative stereotype about their social group) has a real negative impact on students. One way to counteract stereotype threat is with what she called “Wise Criticism” as opposed to the more standard “criticism sandwich.” Basically that means saying something like “I have high standards. I have every belief that you can meet them if you fix the problems. Here are the problems…”

I’ve assembled below some good resources to make your own classroom more inclusive, including a few VIPEr LOs! I welcome additional comments and suggestions!   

DePauw’s Library guide on Diversity in the Classroom:

Good summary article with information on sterotype threat, mindset and criticism approaches

12 Slides About African American Contributions to the Chemical Sciences

Developing Effective Student Groups:

Voices of Inorganic Chemistry (contains some resources for diverse inorganic chemists at the end of the slide show)

Diversity in chemistry (a problem set; you must be logged in to view)

Letter to SCOTUS from physicists

Resources for Teaching Mindset