Instructional Resources to Support Transgender Students

by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

The Reinert Center is committed to delivering programs, services, and instructional resources that support inclusive teaching at Saint Louis University. By inclusive teaching, we mean “the intentional use of course design and teaching methods to create equitable learning environments where all learners can be successful, regardless of differences in identity, background, and ability” (Lohe, 2016). Below are two instructional resources to help support the inclusion of transgender students in our classrooms and learning communities.

Digital Transgender Archive

Managed at the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit institution in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) “expands access to trans history for academics and independent researchers alike in order to foster education and dialogue concerning trans history” (DTA, 2018). The site is an excellent resource for curating instructional materials relating to a variety of transgender themes and topics in any course. It is also a credible site to share with students who may be interested in exploring transgender history and identity for research-based assignments. You can access the digital archive by clicking here [LINK].

Trans* in College (2017)

Z. Nicolazzo’s recent book Trans* in College focuses on transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Drawing upon ethnographic research and nine in-depth interviews with transgender students, Nicolazzo gives voice to the experiences of an underrepresented and understudied student population in higher education. The book is filled with incredibly useful terminology, definitions, and stories that will benefit any instructor who wants to learn more about transgender identity and work to create classroom spaces that support transgender students’ success. It is an invaluable resource.

If you would like to discuss these resources to support the inclusion of transgender students, you can schedule a teaching consultation with someone from the Reinert Center by clicking here [LINK]. To learn more about additional resources to support inclusive teaching and learning, visit our website by clicking here [LINK].



Digital Transgender Archive (2018, July 9). About: Overview. Retrieved from

Lohe, D. (2016, August 3). Inclusive teaching: Reflections on the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 theme [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Podcasts on Teaching

Are you interested in learning more about teaching this summer, but not necessarily interested in reading another book? Consider these educational podcasts you can listen to in the car, at the gym, or on the beach.

Leading Lines:
Vanderbilt’s podcast on educational technology has episodes ranging from digital literacy, active learning in a Big Ideas Course, and visualizations in science. Each episode features an interview with a faculty member or academic from institutions all over the United States.

You’ve Got This:
Sponsored by Stylus Publishing, Dr. Katie Linder records a weekly podcast on “juggling the day-to-day demands of teaching, research, service, administration, and leadership in higher education.” Episodes include book reviews, tips on using vacation time productively, and pitching book proposals. Dr. Linder also hosts the Research in Action podcast on research in higher education:

Teaching In Higher Ed:
Bonni  Stachowiak hosts this podcast which offers a monthly collaboration with ACUE. Episodes inquiry based learning, the flipped classroom, and supporting students who are veterans.

Teaching Online Podcast:
Hosted by Dr. Thomas Cavanagh and Dr. Kelvin Thompson from University of Central Florida,  host this podcast focuses on online and blended teaching. Episodes include empathy, engagement, and academic integrity.

New Resource Guide

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214A new resource guide on Problem Based Learning is now available [Problem Based Learning Resource Guide].

If you want to talk with someone about collaborative assignments or projects in your own classes, you may request a teaching consultation by completing this form (LINK).

If you have ideas for resource guide topics you would like to see posted, share them here (LINK).

Artisanal Pedagogy in the Era of Technology Intensification

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Vince Casaregola, Professor, English

I was recently completing a survey about using classroom technologies, and in the comments section, I felt compelled to write that classroom technologies did not begin with the development of the iPhone, the internet, or even the personal computer—books, pens, and even paper represent technologies as well.

One of the issues that arise out of the headlong rush to adapt classrooms to every new electronic technology that comes along is the general ignorance of the history of technology. Knowledge of that history is vital in order to understand the social and cultural significance of broad deployment of new technologies. Having spent a fair amount of time studying that history, I realize that, without a historical perspective, it is not possible to engage in effective technology assessment, a practice fundamental in all fields of engineering. Without proper technology assessment, one cannot rationally evaluate the effectiveness of using a particular technology in a specific setting.  Such assessment also determines if a new technology more effectively and economically fulfills the needs currently being met by an extant one, and if the newer one opens up useful opportunities not available with the existing technologies. These are the reasons for adopting any new technology. Only after a careful, comparative analysis of the concrete costs, risks, and benefits, can wise adoption decisions be made.

By insisting on more thorough technology assessment, I am not opposing the use of new classroom technologies, merely calling for a more informed approach to evaluating their utility, something essential where the new devices and systems are pushed by increasingly intensive marketing campaigns. We have often depended on the word of the marketers far more than on objective testing to determine the desirability of a new technology. We have been using electronic technologies in the classroom for some time, dating back over fifty years (I recall the televisions installed in my elementary classrooms of the early sixties, allowing us to watch coverage of the Project Mercury launches). Of course not much of the educational programming materialized in our district at the time, and we moved on.  Decades later, the advent of personal computers in the eighties led to a new level of classroom usage, often in computer-assisted writing classrooms, where each student sat at a desktop station. Of course the growing use of laptops in the nineties and after made such facilities largely obsolete. Smaller notebooks and tablets, along with smart phones, led to a whole new stage of usage.

Certainly, numerous new applications allow for a range of useful activities, not the least of which is the ease with which students both in and outside of class can access data bases and information sources with unprecedented ease. All this may be to the good, and yet, rarely have we assessed the costs of the new technologies in comparison to other possible ways to use the levels of time, effort, and funding involved.  One of the rather sad side effects has been the increased tendency for students to be distracted across the range of possible web sites while supposedly at work on the course activities (distracted learning is somewhat like distracted driving—not likely to achieve desirable ends). Additionally, the new technologies are not the only way that resources might be used–as a number of veteran teachers have told me, there are times when a more robust support of supplemental instructors, who could work in person with individual and small groups of students, might be equally or even more effective in helping students than deploying the next new layer of technology.  In the end, it is not about the technology but about the people.

Where does this all lead? To questions of how best to use the time and opportunity of a course and the classroom experiences associated with it. For me, I have found some success with a less electronic classroom, something that might be called—“the spoken word classroom.” Yes, the image of a traditional classroom, with an instructor droning on, easily reveals its own inherent limitations, but it is also an image often overused and exaggerated.  Many classrooms, particularly in humanities courses, have long been composed of small groups of students, often not more than 20. Instructors in such environments can actually engage students in a range of oral presentations and discussions that go beyond the limits of the stereotypical lecture and also model effective modes of face-to-face communication. Such courses offer unique opportunities to encourage and enhance something that many college students have had increasingly less experience with—interacting through actual face-to-face speaking.

Traditional classrooms are often pictured as places only of inefficient delivery of information, a notion deriving from the mistaken assumption that education itself is little more than information transmission. In many cases, however, classroom dialogues have been occasions of creating and shaping knowledge from the available information instead of merely communicating that information. Additionally, these classrooms can become places of building relationships among the whole group people in the room. Effective teaching and learning are ultimately about shaping a shared a new understanding of that knowledge, even for the instructor. The classroom dialogue can develop a shared understanding that is the essence of authentic learning. Whatever the technologies being used, whether the most recent new media or ones far older (such as a pen, a pad, and a book), should enhance the growth of that understanding.  The question is not so much what blend of technologies is deployed—that should be answered in the particular context—rather, the question is how best to encourage students to engage in an authentic, in-depth dialogue that can become a social environment for learning, a cultural context for shaping a shared knowledge and understanding, whatever the subject matter. In the end, the most effective teaching uses the time and place of the classroom to enhance the shared experience of the people involved, and the activity of direct face-to-face dialogue should always remain essential to that effort.

Theatre Activities to Support Student Learning

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Theatre can be a powerful tool for learning. I have used a variety of performance-based activities in my own teaching to help engage students in understanding and applying course concepts. Often, these activities take the form of impromptu scenarios where students are asked to think (and act) critically or problem-solve in role-defined teams (e.g., the thinker, the maker, the critic, the compromiser, etc.). I also have students act out case studies they have read for class, inviting them to move beyond reflection and discussion toward the practical application of course material in real time. These activities immerse students in the study of a particular topic or issue and create the conditions for learning to happen through experience. A crucial component of the experience is the post-performance discussion when students are asked to consider how they can apply the learning to their own life (Jacobson & Ruddy, 2004). My students often end up talking over one another because the performance has generated so much energy and “light-bulb” moments of realization for them. By moving from play to reason in this way, the use of theatre activities in the classroom can be a very transformative and empowering educational experience (Boal, 1979).

If you are interested in using similar theatre activities in your teaching, I recommend first asking yourself “Why?” and “How will the activity support student learning to meet course goals?”. These are important questions to consider when designing any learning activity for a course. Importantly, they will help identify the relevance of using theatre activities in a variety of disciplines outside of the performing arts such as business, healthcare, or law.

Next, identify a specific concept, theory, problem, or skill around which you can devise a context for performance and discussion. The degree of “scripting” you provide to students will vary depending on the goals of the performance and the information they will need in order to meet those goals. For example, performing a case study for discussion might require students to do some reading first so they are familiar with the situation before they enact it. In contrast, performing a course concept might be a more impromptu invitation. Consider a management course where an instructor asks students to role-play different types of workplace conflict. Students are given freedom to write their own script to perform and the classroom audience is asked to recommend strategies for managing the conflict. This type of impromptu spectator-actor interaction, popularized by theatre practitioner Augusto Boal (1979), is a powerful technique for getting everyone involved by creating and reacting to the performance in real time. Whatever form you choose, be sure to explain to students what you are asking them to do and why you are asking them to do it.

Finally, I recommend using the post-performance discussion as a way to informally assess student learning. Be intentional with the questions you ask students to consider so they reflect the goals of the activity as well as the broader course goals. Hopefully, the learning that happens for students through the experience of performing will contribute in some way to their success on more formal assessments such as reflection papers, exams, or group projects. Again, being explicit about the purpose of the activity will help students begin to make those connections.

This blog post is a very brief introduction to using theatre as a pedagogical tool. To learn more about this topic, you can explore the resources linked below. I am also including links to videos of three former Innovative Teaching Fellows discussing how they integrated performance-based activities into their courses. As always, if you would like to schedule a teaching consultation to discuss this topic, please contact the Reinert Center by completing this form.


Innovative Teaching Fellows

Cathleen Fleck, Ph.D. (2017) | Art and the Body

Amy Wright, Ph.D. (2016) | Performing “Solitude” in Community

Mark Wilson, M.F.A. (2016) | Introduction to Theatre


References and Additional Resources

Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed. New York, NY: Theatre Communications Groups, Inc.

Boal, A. (1995). The Rainbow of desire: The Boal method of theatre and therapy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Boal, A. (2002). Games for actors and non-actors (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Jacobson, M., & Ruddy, M. (2004). Open to outcome: A practical guide for facilitating and teaching experiential reflection. Bethany, OK: Wood ‘N’ Barnes.

Middlewick, Y., Kettle, T. J., & Wilson, J. (2012). Curtains up! Using forum theatre to rehearse the art of communication in healthcare education. Nurse Education in Practice, 12, 139-142.

Nissley, N. (2010). Arts-based learning at work: Economic downturns, innovation upturns, and the eminent practicality of arts in business. Journal of Business Strategy, 31, 8-20.

Wasylko, Y., & Stickley, T. (2003). Theatre and pedagogy: Using drama in mental health nurse education. Nurse Education Today, 23, 443-448.

Wilson, J. (Lecturer) (2018, March 1). Interactive theatre enters the classroom. Teaching in Higher Ed [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Remembering Mark Wilson

Mark200x200Many of us in the SLU community are remembering Mark Wilson this week, a cherished colleague and friend who died very unexpectedly one year ago. Mark was an associate professor in the theatre program and taught undergraduate courses on performance, lighting, and design. At the time of his death, there was an outpouring of stories paying tribute to his remarkable ability to use theatre to connect with students, inspire innovative collaborations across campus, and bring people together. You can read examples of these tributes by clicking here and here.

Mark had a special relationship with the Reinert Center. In addition to participating in several of our teaching institutes and workshops over the years, he was named an Innovative Teaching Fellow in 2015 and taught a theatre course in the Learning Studio in 2016. You can read more about the fellowship by clicking here and watch a video of Mark reflecting on his fellowship experience by clicking here. We feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mark in this capacity and continue to mourn the loss of someone who believed so strongly in our mission and found such value in our work.

As a tribute to Mark, next week’s blog post will focus on the use of theatre activities to support student learning across disciplines and teaching situations. Special attention will be given to Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, a text that Mark discovered during his Innovative Teaching Fellowship and found particularly useful for aligning the goals of his course with the Jesuit tradition of social justice and caring for the whole person. Developing, sharing, and using these resources is one small way that we can remember Mark and ensure that his teaching legacy lives on.

Please use the comments section below to share your memories of Mark Wilson and the impact he made on SLU’s teaching and learning community.

Book Review: Academic Ableism

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214

by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

As you settle into summer break, consider adding Jay Dolmage’s recent book on disability and higher education to your reading list. Academic Ableism (2017) offers a fresh and informed perspective on the historically complicated relationship between disability and higher education. Dolmage, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo, provides a concise overview of disability studies for anyone new to this growing interdisciplinary body of scholarship. In doing so, he develops disability as a critical framework for examining everything from curriculum design to the built environment in which teaching and learning happens. An important feature of this book is its attention to the shifting, often contradictory discourses of disability that work to push students with disabilities to the margins while also advocating for their full access and inclusion. As such, Dolmage does not shy away from critiquing institutions of higher education for failing to “pay attention to how ableism occurs, and when, and to whom, and to what effect” (p. 39). What makes his book distinct is the many strategies and resources it includes for responding to academic ableism in ways that can lead to systemic change.

Many of the resources identified in the book focus on teaching and learning at the course level, department or program level, and institution level. The entire book is open access and includes an appendix with several Universal Design teaching ideas. You can read the book online and access the appendix and supplemental materials by clicking here [LINK]. If you have limited reading time, I recommend prioritizing the introduction (pp. 1-39) and the chapter on Universal Design (pp. 115-151). Each will offer complementary views of how inclusive course design and teaching practices can help challenge structural ableism in higher education.

If you would like to discuss the ideas in the book or Universal Design for Learning, please contact the Reinert Center to schedule a consultation by clicking here [LINK]. You can also explore related resources on our website by clicking here [LINK].

What Story Are You Telling?

Reinert Center RIT_circle_2014_solid_082214by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

In a recent workshop on the importance of relationships in undergraduate education, Peter Felten and Charles Schroeder invited us to think briefly about how we perceive our work (and workplace) and to consider the ways in which our perceptions shape our behaviors. Citing the work of O’Meara et al. (2008) on faculty careers and growth, they introduced us to the idea of “narratives of constraint” and “narratives of growth.”

Narratives of constraint involve us telling the story of ourselves, our work, our working environments, with an emphasis on limitations and barriers. Narratives of growth, on the other hand, allow us to acknowledge constraints while privileging the agency and opportunities for growth that exist within any situation that may challenge us. Ultimately, the story we tell about ourselves and our work is shaped by this distinction: whether we focus on constraint or whether we allow constraint to fuel something new for ourselves. Choosing a narrative of growth doesn’t mean constraints aren’t real, or that we pretend they don’t exist. Choosing a narrative of growth means orienting ourselves to future possibilities, perhaps even ones we could not have seen without the constraint.

As another academic year winds down (and particularly one that has been challenging for our institution as it has been for so many college campuses), I invite you to reflect on what has challenged or constrained you this year, and what opportunities for growth may inhere in those experiences.

Many of you will be reflecting on how your courses went, on what did and did not work well for you and for your students. Even before you receive student ratings, you probably already know of some small tweaks you want to make in a course, or perhaps you’re looking ahead to a full course redesign. As you reflect, here are a few questions that might help you to uncover a new sense of possibility.

What kind of “story” are you telling yourself about this academic year? About yourself as a teacher? About your students? Is it a “narrative of constraint” or a “narrative of growth”?

What constraints did you face as a teacher this year? What constraints did your students face?

What opportunities for growth might you find in those constraints? How might you do more to help students make the shift from constraint narratives to growth narratives?



Felten, P. & Schroeder, C. (2018). Relationships Matter: Enhancing What Matters Most in Undergraduate Education. Workshop for faculty, staff, and graduate students at Saint Louis University. May 8, 2018. [LINK to event page.]

O’Meara, K., Terosky, A.L. & Neumann, A. (2008). Faculty careers and work lives: A professional growth perspective. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34 (3). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. [LINK to PDF]

Congratulations Spring 2018 Certificate Recipients

The Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning honored 13 Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients and 10 Foundations Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients at our spring ceremony on Friday, May 4 in Boileau Hall.

Associate professor in the Department of Biology, Dr. Elena Bray Speth, began the ceremony by sharing a reflection on teaching with the recipients, friends, and family in attendance.

This semester’s Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients are Alyah Alqahtani, Christine Ascencio, Ana Kent, Yunmei Kuang, Daphne Lew, Kelly Lovan-Gold, Abdalla Mohamed, Beth Petitjean, Nicole Ramer, Kristin Skubic, Dawn Wade, Kristin Wehmeyer, and Benjamin Winter. The recipients of the Foundations Certificate are Kaleigh Adrian, Anne Marie Anderson, Jocelyn Fowler, Victoria Fricke, Katherine Hu, Elizabeth Loesch, Kathleen Pham, Jakub Szpunar, Meghan Taylor, and Betelihem Tobo.








The requirements for the Certificate in University Teaching Skills are themselves learning experiences that help participants to make deliberate and intentional choices about teaching. This ceremony acknowledged the time and commitment these participants gave to earning one of the Certificates. We also celebrated the dedication to teaching and learning shown by those faculty members who served as teaching mentors to the certificate recipients.

For more information about our certificates visit

Using Story as a Tool for Teaching

Textbook imageby Lindsey Joyce MSN, RN, CNL, CNOR, Adjunct Instructor School of Nursing

With technology all around us, it can be difficult to grasp student’s attention during times of learning. So, what can we do to enhance learning and engage students? Story has been used as a pedagogy for many years in various subjects, for a variety of purposes. It is a fundamental way in which we share and interpret our experiences. Those experiences allow educators to connect concepts in class to students. Stories capture students’ attention and allow for more engaging conversations and learning to occur. Stories can make instructors seem less threating and more approachable, which makes connecting with students easier.

Students want to be able to link what they learn in the classroom to the real world we are preparing them for. Sharing stories can help link the classroom to actualities in the real world. Promoting problem solving skills and motivating and demonstrating vocational relevance are other ways educators might consider using stories.

So how can storytelling be successfully performed? There are several things to keep in mind when using stories. Good stories often include the following characteristics:

  • Have elements that can be taught effectively
  • Allow for facts and realities that students may face in practice
  • Possibly tap into emotional connection
  • Are complex, ambiguous and have relevance to the course and its objectives

Consider the timing for when using stories in a course might have the most impact. The following are a few ways to think about the timing of a story:

  • As an introduction or end to a program
  • To tie into future concepts
  • To tie into a learning objective
  • To draw a group’s interest back into a concept
  • To start a group’s discussion
  • To enhance a participant’s comments
  • As an energizer when groups look bored
  • When a participant asks for an example

Finally, if you have not used stories in your classroom before, there are a few additional effective practices to keep in mind:

  • DO be sincere and genuine.
  • DO keep the story brief and to the point
  • DO share the story with enthusiasm, varied tone and intensity
  • DO tie the story into the skill or concept by explaining how it relates or why you are telling it
  • DON’T use too many personal stories and remember to involve the group and ask for their experiences as well
  • DON’T tell stories about controversial topics such as politics, race, gender, age
  • DON’T tell unrelated stories as they may cause you to look unorganized or trying to kill time
  • DON’T tell a story that isn’t fresh to you and contains facts you may have forgotten


McNett, G. (2016). “Using stories to facilitate learning.” College Teaching, Vol. 64, 4, 184-193.