The Academy of Teaching’s annual Conference on Excellence in Teaching & Learning was held May 3, 2018 and featured keynote speaker Therese Huston. About 240 members of the Ohio State community came together to share innovative and interesting, evidence-based ideas for the improvement of teaching effectiveness and student learning.

The theme of the conference was “Creating Inclusive Connections.” There are many ways that we cross geographic, interpersonal, disciplinary, technological, instructional, societal, and many other boundaries to connect our students with ourselves, one another, and our subject matter. Some examples of ways you might create inclusive connections through your teaching include: creating safe and welcoming classroom environment; helping students engage with matters of inclusivity, diversity, and social justice; using Universal Design for Learning to accommodate all student; teaching across and between disciplines; or teaching in different types of classrooms, such as education abroad or distance education.

We have compiled some of the major themes that emerged in each participant’s “aha moments” submitted toward the end of the conference. These themes include the following: reflecting on teaching practices, making mistakes, addressing stereotype, and developing inclusive teaching strategies.

Reflecting on Teaching Practices

  • I really started to think more about how I can best support all students going through different transitions at OSU, not just freshmen transitioning from high school! I’m interested in incorporating more avenues of support for students beyond e-mail and office hours.
  • Look for inspiration for teaching in non-teaching contexts. I want to take a more holistic approach to teaching more authentically.
  • How do we incorporate authentic assessments into our courses, and what type of feedback do we give to students after the assessment?
  • Thought: There is a need to loosen the definition of both teaching and student success to allow for more student engagement, belonging and empowerment. Action: Assignment flexibility, to allow for student choice/relevance. Active feedback & student correction to encourage and improve mastery.
  • Get away from doing it all on your own terms – what do students need?
  • Mindfulness – using it in my classroom; connecting with other professors/instructors
  • I really appreciated the idea of including an extra statement on my syllabi: Statements that dehumanize any group or contribute to stigma, discrimination, or violence against any group are not welcome. This is useful for preventing situations where students claim a right to say bigoted things under the mantle of “discussions that welcome diverse views.”

Making Mistakes

  • I got some really good ideas in the section on learning from mistakes. I’m a TA (grad student) so I don’t have the power to enact some of the things we talked about today. But I really liked the idea of a failure analysis/reflection and can see myself doing an informal version of that in my recitations and labs to make students think about mistakes on lab reports, homework, in-class assignments, etc.
  • Failure is the mistake that makes you quit. Teaching students that failure and mistakes are very different things. Mistakes help you learn.
  • Helping students learn from mistakes. Failure is an option and a great learning opportunity.
  • Mistakes are not necessarily failures.
  • “Learning doesn’t stop at the classroom.” I really liked the thought of allowing students to re-do some assignments. That gives some marginalized students to learn from their mistakes.

Addressing stereotype threat

  • One of the big aha moments for me came in the keynote – Dr. Huston mentioned that stereotype threat can impact help-seeking, something that I had never come across. This made so much sense to me, as I have often had to work especially hard to get students from underrepresented groups into my office hours.
  • I think I realized how much more threatening stereotyping is to everyone.
  • I realized how much stereotype threat I experience as a woman – I had not realized that before, and I hope my awareness will help me change the level of threat I feel (and others by extension).
  • Having a term for what “stereotype threat” means, and thinking about all its applications. Increase efforts to engage.
  • The impact of stereotype threat. The emotional work of stereotype threat. The notion of “calling people in vs. calling people out.”
  • Targeting/singling out students of underrepresented groups – even with the intention of encouraging them—can actually backfire and create awareness resulting in stereotype threat. Will not single out specific groups, but will make general statements about everyone belonging & having the potential to succeed.
  • 1) Addressing not only stereotype threat, but also stereotype lift and how to incorporate that into a discussion of disparities so that students feel neither tokenized nor silenced. 2) Speed bumps & other strategies for when you think “did someone really just say that?!
  • “Perception of belonging is powerful”!! Mindfulness of others are listening and understanding, nonjudgement, is to encourage effort without fear.

Developing Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • Lots of people are thinking about inclusive teaching (including President Drake). Lots of work to do, but there are people who got this. Focus on addressing lived experience of students.
  • This was a reminder that even though I work hard to make my teaching inclusive and engaging, there is always more to learn and new strategies to try – I don’t have to stick to what’s already working well enough… I can do even better!
  • I attended the breakout on Chinese (international) students. It made me think about being more inclusive of all students, including those we may think are super-smart and have their own support group… because they may not!
  • Assume positive intent… but intent doesn’t trump impact. What we do and how we address bias is important. Say something. I would like to have access to the presenter slides.
  • Inclusion isn’t about neutralizing the classroom. Instead, we are responsible for giving students tools to navigate identity & politics in our instruction.
  • “Perception of belonging is powerful!” Mindfulness of others are listening and understanding, nonjudgement, is to encourage effort without fear.
  • Creating inclusive connections and inclusive teaching requires active attention & planning. Sometimes it can be easy to think you are being inclusive by thinking you are treating everyone equally, but you are missing opportunities to truly make sure everyone feels like they belong in the classroom.
  • Who are you representing in your classroom and curriculum? We often think we are doing better at this – especially if we are in the dominant group.
  • I’m going to be more proactive and deliberate not only in diffusing uncomfortable moments but also in turning them into teachable ones.
  • Inclusive Teaching. I’m very glad to learn more how diversity and inclusion impact on students’ learning and more importantly their sense of belonging. This conference creates or demonstrates an example of how we could do in our own classrooms where many opportunities and creativity can be implemented/provided to our students.

Materials from the conference are available to those with an Ohio State login, and you can join the Twitter conversation by searching or using #OSUTeach18.