Instructor Identity: Part I. Student Implicit Bias

id-wheelby Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

As part of our year-long theme, Inclusive Teaching, we have been focusing on ways in which instructors can create equitable learning environments for all of their students. While we examine the variety of student needs and identities in our classrooms, it can be easy to forget that instructor identities, and how they are perceived by students, are also an integral part of the learning context.

When an instructor’s identity and a student’s implicit bias[1] are mismatched, an undercurrent of dissonance can occur, which can lead to small and large disruptions of the teaching and learning that occurs in a class. For instance, a friend of mine who identifies as Asian-American, discussed with me the fact that although she has lived in the U.S. since she was a very young child and speaks perfect English, she receives at least one comment in her teaching evaluations each semester that states, “Because Dr. Blank is foreign, I cannot understand what she is saying in class.” Regardless of how clear and articulate her language is, some students will register her as unclear because the way she looks matches an implicit bias those students have toward people who look like her.

Other common biases that instructors talk to me about on regular occasions are notions about how “nurturing” female instructors should be and what that looks like in a classroom setting, or about what type of hairstyle or attire is “professional” for an instructor. The list goes on and on, but what makes these biases so powerful in the classroom is that, for the most part, they are subconscious[2]; students often do not realize they have these preconceived ideas nor that these biases are getting in the way of their learning. Not only does students’ implicit bias impede their own and other students’ potential learning, but also it can be extremely damaging to instructors who are working against stereotype threat[3]. The implications for instructors in these situations can be quite stark both personally and professionally.

Assisting students in uncovering their implicit biases by taking some class time in the first week of the term to discuss expectations for teaching and learning as well as to present some common biases that instructors experience and witness can go a long way to setting up the course to be a positive experience for both students and the instructor.  Presenting a mixture of both identity bias and content bias in the conversation works as a way to triangulate those ideas that may hinder learning, as well as to make it clear why this conversation is an important and useful one to have regardless of the subject area of the course.

One way to enter into this kind of discussion is to start with students’ own identities. It is common to use one of the many different identity “inventories” to start students down the path of uncovering who they are and which values impact their identities and viewpoints. In order to add another layer of insight to the discussion, these inventories can also be modified to be inventories of the “identity” of a content area, which will uncover some of those implicit biases students have about a course as well as who and how that course “should” be taught. Some areas to examine are: Who is a (scientist, journalist, nurse, philosopher)?, What type of knowledge is learned in (insert course or subject area)?, How is knowledge in (insert subject area) used? Who benefits from knowledge in this area? Who teaches (insert subject area)? How do I learn (insert subject area)? Adding this new layer of exploration can be the essential component to moving the discussion into effects on teaching and learning that implicit bias may exert.

If you would like to discuss the effects of implicit bias on the teaching and learning happening in your classroom, contact the Reinert Center to set up a teaching consultation.


[1] To learn more about implicit bias, read Sandy Gambill’s Notebook post here. [LINK]

[2] Certainly, not all bias is implicit. Many instructors also face very real, very explicit bias on a daily basis from their students and colleagues.

[3] To learn more about stereotype threat in the classroom consult the following resource guides: “Reducing Stereotype Threat in the Classroom” [LINK] and “Understanding Stereotype Threat” [LINK], or join our conversation of Claude Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Course Design Strategies for Student Identity Development

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Student identity development is an expanding interdisciplinary field that strives to identify, describe, predict, and explain behaviors that shape identity (Evans, Forney, Guido, Renn, Patton, 2010). One of the main focus areas for the field is the study of psychosocial events that help shape student identity as college students transition from adolescence into adulthood (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).  While there are several opportunities to support identity development within higher education, below are a few resources to help instructors develop a more holistic and inclusive learning environment for identity development.

For a review on theories related to student identity development – visit our mini-literature review. [LINK]

Incorporate critical thinking into class exercises

In the book, Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success (2015), authors Major, Harris, and Zakrajsek offer several activities that can be incorporated into a course. The book is an exhaustive overview of research-proven teaching techniques and strategies designed to improve learning outcomes.  The activities offer students an opportunity to critically think about course material as well as provide students a space for personal development that may be situated in cultural and specific contexts.

Offer reflexive critical reflection

Incorporating a critical reflection exercise into a course may also support students’ identity development.  Stephen Brookfield’s “Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire” can provide a quick opportunity for students to internally process their relationship to learning.  Distributed during the last few minutes of class, the questionnaire offers the following questions:

•      At what moment were you most engaged as a learner?

•      At what moment were you most distanced as a learner?

•      What action that anyone in the room took did you find most affirming or helpful?

•      What action that anyone in the room took did you find most puzzling or confusing?

•      What surprised you most?

The instructor can collect them at the end of the period or offer a place for students to share their answers in a think/pair/share exercises.  While the questionnaire gives a teacher an opportunity to obtain good information about how students are learning, the exercise also gives students an opportunity to practice many of the behaviors described in Chickering and Reisser’s Seven Vectors of Identity Development.  Completing the questionnaire offers students an opportunity to develop content competence and to manage emotions (Brookfield, 1995; Chickering & Reisser, 1993).

Consider Inclusive Teaching strategies

In order to reflect the diverse identities of college students, instructors may want to strive to incorporate inclusive teaching strategies into their course plan.  Inclusive teaching strategies help instructors to address the needs of students from a variety of backgrounds, learning styles and abilities.  Goodman (2011) offers a few suggestions to help faculty situate learning experiences that contribute to identity development for all students.  Her strategies include: (1) affirm all identities, (2) examine how differences matter, (3) show that people receive privileges whether or not they recognize them (4) emphasize the systemic nature of oppression, (5) heighten investment in the benefits of a greater awareness of privilege, and (6) provide positive role models and options for action.

If you would like to explore further how to incorporate strategies to support student identity development into your course, please contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu to schedule a teaching consultation.

References

Brookfield, S.D (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Jossey-Bass, 1995.

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity. Jossey-Bass.

Evans, N. J., Forney, D., Guido, F., Renn, K., & Patton, L. (2010). Student Development in College: Theory, Research and Practice (2nd Ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Goodman, D. J. (2011). Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: Educating People from Privileged Groups. Routledge.

Major, C. H., Harris, M. S., & Zakrajsek, T. (2015). Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success. Routledge.

Perry, W. G. (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years: A Scheme. Jossey-Bass.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

New Resource Guide on Difficult Dialogues

inclusive teaching banner_FINALA new resource guide on Difficult Dialogues in the Classroom[LINK] has been posted to the Reinert Center website [LINK].

If you want to talk with someone about difficult dialogues 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].

Implicit Bias

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Implicit bias is not a new concept, as the 28,100,000 returns on a Google search demonstrate. However, it is a concept that is being discussed in a wide range of situations lately, including the first presidential debate [LINK] of the 2016 election cycle.

Harvard’s Project Implicit [LINK] offers perhaps the most straightforward definition of implicit bias as “thoughts and feelings that exist outside of conscious awareness or conscious control.”

Established in 1998, Project Implicit seeks to “educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a ‘virtual laboratory’ for collecting data on the Internet.” It offers a variety of online implicit association tests (IAT) available to the general public to help uncover hidden biases and preferences about race, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation. There is also sometimes a “Featured Task,” which is currently a “Presidential Candidate Association Task.”

An IAT typically begins with asking you to answer questions relating to your explicit opinions on the subject of the test. From there you are asked to categories items related to the test subject in a group as quickly as you can, using the e and i keys on your keyboard.

If you have never taken an IAT, it can be a little challenging. Sometimes, it feels more like I’m having difficulty with controlling my reflexes than making a choice. In fact, that is something the Project has studied and addresses in its FAQ [LINK], which explain more about how the testing works and what your results might mean.

So how do we reduce implicit bias in our everyday lives and in our classrooms? Verna Myers urges us to “walk boldly [LINK]towards them.” As the Reinert Center continues its examination of Inclusive Teaching practices this year, we will be posting classroom-specific ideas here in this blog and sharing tips and resources in our Inclusive Teaching Resources page [LINK]. SLU faculty interested in exploring these issues in more depth may wish to participate in our faculty book group on Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi (click here to register [LINK]).

If you have practical suggestions for identifying and reducing implicit bias in the classroom, please share them in the comments section.

Resources:

Project Implicit [LINK]

The Berkeley Blog [LINK]

Verna Myers TED Talk  [LINK]

How to Fight Your Own Implicit Biases [LINK]

 

Creating Inclusive Course Assignments

inclusive teaching banner_FINALA new resource guide on Creating Inclusive Course Assignments [LINK to PDF] has been posted to the Reinert Center website.

If you want to talk with someone about designing more inclusive assignments 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).

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Focus on Teaching & Technology Conference: Nov. 3-4

UMSLSLU faculty and graduate students are invited to attend the 2016 Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference (FTTC) on November 2-3 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  The two-day conference features presentations, workshops, and exhibits on emerging trends and effective uses of technology in higher education.

Several SLU faculty and instructors are scheduled to present including:

Simone Bregni (Languages, Literatures and Cultures),

Patrick Brooks (Prison Program)

Mary Gould (Communications)

Fr. Mike May (Mathematics and Statistics)

Dan Nickolai (Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

Nathaniel Rivers (English)

Mark Wilson (Theatre)

Derek Bruff will present the keynote address for the conference. Buff is the Director of the Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. His research interests include educational technology, visual thinking, and social pedagogies. His book, Teaching with Classroom Responses Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2009. Buff has taught at Harvard University and has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Vanderbilt University.

The conference is a great opportunity to learn new technologies and to meet other faculty who are incorporating technology for effective teaching in their courses.

Because Saint Louis University is a co-sponsor for the conference, SLU faculty will receive a 25% discount on the conference registration. Graduate students already receive a reduced student rate for registration. The early bird registration deadline is October 1, 2016.  To register for the conference, visit:  http://www.umsl.edu/services/ctl/fttc/.

Also, considering nominating a colleague for the conferences’ Teaching with Technology Award. The award is for an instructor who has used technology in innovative and effective ways for classroom and online teaching.  To submit a nomination, visit:  http://www.umsl.edu/services/ctl/fttc/#award. Nominations are due October 1, 2016.

Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces: What Do You Do?

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

It’s hard to open a newspaper this fall without coming across an article about trigger warnings or safe spaces on college campuses.

Perhaps the most well-known set of readings is from the University of Chicago, where the dean of students, students, and faculty have all weighed in. (See links below.)

This has led the staff of the Reinert Center to wonder how faculty at SLU feel about trigger warnings and what strategies they are using in the classroom. We invite SLU faculty to anonymously submit their thoughts on the form linked below. We will summarize the responses in a blog post later this semester.

To share your thoughts anonymously, go to: https://goo.gl/forms/4AsWCB3rLci2XLri2

University of Chicago links:

Dean’s letter [LINK]

Students’ letter [LINK]

Faculty Letter [LINK]

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Who Are You Excluding? Seeing the Diversity in Your Classroom

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

When developing this year’s theme of Inclusive Teaching, Reinert Center staff and advisory board members considered this question: Who are we excluding in our courses?

Even without being aware of it, our courses may create unnecessary obstacles to learning for some or many of our students.

For instance, my classroom might be a space where extroverts are implicitly rewarded for jumping into class discussions quickly, verbally.  Or my exams may be designed in ways that implicitly reward students whose language proficiency allows them to read English as quickly as I do.

The content in my course might artificially distort students’ views of who is allowed or encouraged to be scholars in my field. Or I may ask (at the start of a term, as a way to build connections with students) where students’ families used to go on summer vacations, not realizing that I am potentially alienating students in certain socio-economic classes who may not have had the means to go on summer vacations.

By not explaining that I assign student groups randomly, I may inadvertently lead minority students in my class to wonder if they’ve been placed in a group as a “representative” of their racial or gender or nationality group. Or when using my perceptions of a student’s physical appearance to determine which pronoun to use in referring to her or him, I may unwittingly reinforce a binary view of gender identity and create an exclusion for a student who experiences gender in a non-binary way.

These are just some of the ways our choices in course design and instruction may – without our intending to – reward certain kinds of learners or identities and perhaps disadvantage others. We all do this; in many ways, it’s unavoidable. Intuitively, we often design courses that would work very well for the kinds of students we ourselves were but not necessarily for diverse group of students who enroll in our courses. Therefore, it can be useful to examine our course design and instruction choices through the lens of different kinds of difference, in order to identify – and mitigate – possible sites of difficulty.

Particularly on campuses with a majority-white (or majority-female or majority-Christian) student body, it can be difficult to see the different kinds of difference within our classrooms.  Here are just some of the kinds of diversity we encounter, whether differences are immediately apparent to us or not:

wordle

The list goes on. And no student, no instructor, is just one of these things. Identity is inherently intersectional.

In the end, we cannot know all the different kinds of difference that are represented within a single group of students in a single classroom. But we can become aware of our own personal biases, assumptions, and expectations, as well as the ways in which these may create barriers for students.  And we can engage students in a range of activities and discussions that help us to better understand who they are and what they need to be successful in achieving the rigorous learning we want for all students.

To see some common strategies for uncovering the diversity within a classroom see this Resource Guide on Seeing the Diversity in Your Classroom [LINK].

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Faculty Book Group: Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi

41LWsXm9NpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

October 21, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Des Peres 214

The Reinert Center will host a conversation for faculty (full- and part-time) on the effects of stereotypes and how stereotype threat enters into our classrooms as we discuss the book, Whistling Vivaldi, by social psychologist Claude Steele.

We will be giving away a copy of the book to the first ten people to register and commit to participating in this discussion on October 21, 2016.

Click here to register to attend. [LINK]

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Intersectionality in Action

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Intersectionality, a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), “provides a critical lens to interrogate racial, ethnic, class, physical ability, age, sexuality, and gender disparities and to contest existing ways of looking at these structures of inequality” (Dill & Zambrana, 2009, p.1). A recent edited volume by Elon University Professors Brooke Barnett and Peter Felten invites readers to develop the knowledge and capacities necessary to create inclusive campus communities and learning environments mindful of these complex intersections. Of particular interest are the chapters focused on learning intersectionality, which offer different practical accounts of teaching about and for inclusion. Below is a brief excerpt from the editors’ introduction that states the goals of the volume and general organization of its chapters.

From, “Intersectionality in Action: A Guide for Faculty and Campus Leaders for Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Institutions”:

“This book explores the practices and perspectives necessary for rethinking higher education to focus on the intersections of identity. Building on the emerging literature on intersectionality and on the rich scholarship about diversity and inclusion and rooted in the context of a range of different campuses, this book includes chapters by an array of experts from different institutions and roles. Each chapter offers action-oriented analysis focusing on particular campus intersections, rather than attending to specific demographic groups. Chapter authors also build on their own local expertise of doing this work on campuses that often do not have deep pockets or rich histories of such efforts.

The book is organized into three parts:

  1. People focuses on the broad concept of diversity, considering how we recruit and engage the students, faculty, and staff in the campus community and how we work with governing boards and others to promote inclusive excellence.
  2. Environment focuses on inclusion, including residence life, the local community, the working and learning environment, and external factors, such as national and international news events or town-gown relationship.
  3. Learning focuses on perspective taking and learning about difference in the core curriculum, the disciplines, and the co-curriculum, as well as professional development for faculty and staff.

The practices and scholarship in these chapters capture some of the power of using intersectionality to think about and organize diversity and inclusion work on campus. Moving from theory to practice is rarely easy, but it is fundamental to the mission and purpose of higher education” (pp. xv-xviii).

Please stop by the Reinert Center to look at our copy of this volume. Also, contact us at cttl@slu.edu if you would like to schedule a teaching consultation to discuss intersectionality.

References

Barnett, B., & Felten, P. (2016). Intersectionality in action: A guide for faculty and campus leaders for creating inclusive classrooms and institutions. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago legal forum, feminism in the law: Theory, practice and criticism, vol. 1989 (139-167). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Legal Forum.

Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

 

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.