Tag Archives: teaching

Resources for Evaluating Dialogue

Written by Dr. Sarah Ropp

Evaluating dialogue in the classroom is a tricky business, whether we are talking about assessment (trying to determine the degree to which classroom dialogue has achieved its goal for the purpose of affirming or adjusting pedagogical approach) or grading (attempting to assign a quantitative value to student performance). As Brookfield and Presskill (1999) write, “We don’t believe there really are any standardized protocols or universal measures we can apply to assessing a discussion leader’s effectiveness or the value of student contributions.” 

However, reflecting critically on what has just happened in the dialogue, including facilitator choices and participant contributions and experiences, is deeply valuable for both teachers and students. And assigning a grade to dialogue participation is a way to signal its value and importance as a learning outcome in the course, validate student effort, and make expectations transparent and consistent. 

There are endless ways to both assess and grade dialogue. Below are some ready-to-use resources to spark ideas. 

 

Ways to Support AAPI Students and Other Stressed and Traumatized Students Right Now

Written by Dr. Sarah Ropp

April is a stressful time of year under the very best of circumstances. These are not the very best of circumstances: daily, there is more news of violent attacks, both rhetorical and physical, against people from the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities; police violence against Black people; mass shootings across the country; and gender violence. Below are a few ideas for supporting students, and yourself, during the last month of this semester. They include options to pursue bystander intervention training; practical mental health resources; and 3 ideas for classroom dialogues related to imposter syndrome and belonging, challenging biased language, and considering the racialization of social threats in a comparative historical perspective.  

 

  • Attend a Bystander Intervention Training 

Hollaback! in partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) are offering free, one-hour, online bystander intervention trainings specifically focused on recognizing and responding to incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander bias. Sign up here. Advertise to students, too

Note that you can also sign up for bystander intervention training to address gender-based harassment, here.

  • Share Resources with Students

“Making It to May: Ideas for Stress Relief” is a one-page infographic with about 30 simple, free ideas for coping with stress and anxiety. Circulate to students via Canvas announcement, add to your email signature for the rest of the semester, or take 1-3 minutes to practice one of the techniques together at the beginning or end of each class. PDF version here

The Students’ Guide to Radical Healing is a fantastic 40-page graphic booklet that helps people understand trauma and its impact as well as discover a variety of healing modalities. Circulate to students and keep handy to reshare with individuals as needed. 

Graduate Student Mental Health Services is a 5-page booklet that contains links and contact information for all relevant campus resources related to health and wellness. Most of the content is relevant for undergraduates as well! Circulate to students, but keep a copy handy for yourself as well, both for your own use and in order to be able to refer students to services readily. 

  • Incorporate Classroom Dialogues on Belonging, Biased Language, and Racializing Threat

Classroom Dialogue #1: Imposter Syndrome and Belonging

  1. Define imposter syndrome using this four-minute video: “What Is Imposter Syndrome?” 
  2. Read and respond to this brief article on Kevin Cokley’s imposter syndrome study at UT-Austin: “Impostor Feelings Fuel Negative Mental Health Outcomes for Minority Students.” Did anything surprise you about these findings? Are they consistent with your own experiences and/or observations? What further questions does the article raise for you? The focus of this article is on ethnic and racial minority students; what other groups of students do you think are likely to experience imposter syndrome? 
  3. Take this quick assessment to determine whether you struggle with imposter feelings to any degree: Clance IP scale. Are you surprised by these results? Is imposter syndrome something you have thought or talked much about before?
  4. Watch this one-minute video from the Blanton Museum: “Belonging”. Complete the associated dialogue and action. After each person shares, affirm their belonging in the way that feels most natural and sincere to you: 

  Verbally: “Thank you for sharing that.” “Welcome.” “Glad you’re here.” (etc) 

Physically: Smile. Nod your head. Bow. Give a thumbs up. (etc)

Visually: Use a Zoom reaction button. Type a smiley face or heart into the chat. Hold up a drawing of a heart or other symbol of welcome and affirmation. (etc) 

Classroom Dialogue #2: Identifying and Challenging Biased Language

  1. Read this text: “Biased Language Definitions and Examples,” ThoughtCo (2019) 
  2. Generate a list of other examples of biased language. Here are a few examples to start: 
    • “ghetto” (a racialized term used to indicate any of the following or a combination: impoverished, violent, “tacky,” unrefined, uneducated, etc)   
    • “crippled” (used either in a literal sense to describe a disability or non-literal sense to describe the impacts of difficulty or hardship)
    • “gypped” (a derogatory reference to Sinti and Roma peoples, formerly known as Gypsies, to mean “cheated” or “scammed”) 
    • “Indian giver” (a derogatory reference to Native Americans, to mean one who gives a gift with the intention of recalling it for oneself) 
    • “Latino time” (used to indicate a stereotype of habitual lateness or a relaxed, non-rigid sense of time) 
    • “A blonde moment” (indicating a moment of forgetfulness, silliness, illogic, unintelligence, etc) 
    • “ethnic-looking,” “ethnic food,” “ethnic clothing,” etc (indicating anything NOT associated with the presumed “neutral” or “default” White + Anglo-Saxon + Protestant + Northern European culture, people, and phenotype) 
  • “Hysterical” (a gendered way to describe an emotional response that is erratic, overdramatic, irrational, out-of-control, etc)
  • “Kung flu” or “Chinese virus” (a racialized way to describe COVID-19) 

Note that biased language also includes mocking or imitating non-dominant accents, speech patterns, dialects, and language varieties like African American Vernacular English; South Asian or East Asian accents; a Southern U.S. accent adopted to indicate ignorance or poverty; speech patterns stereotypically associated with gay men; etc. 

3.  Share examples. Categorize examples into 2 groups: 1) examples that the class agrees fairly unanimously is biased and harmful and 2) examples that people have questions about. Discuss why the examples of biased language in the “we have questions about this” category generate doubt. Is it because it is a term whose connection to a certain identity group may not be known to most people who use it (e.g. many people don’t know that “hysterical” refers to the uterus)? Is it because the term is sometimes invoked with a positive intention (e.g. praising someone’s “ethnic features”)? Is it because the term might be used lovingly by the folks belonging to the identity group it refers to (e.g. lots of Latinx people invoke the concept of “Latino time”)? (And so on.) Work through that doubt: Who gets to decide what language is unacceptable and who gets to use what language? What should you do if you’re not sure whether a term is biased or not? 

4.  What harm does biased language do? Think about the known or potential impact of biased language in terms of the personal (feelings; self-image; sense of belonging or exclusion; interpersonal relationships) and the public/political (policy; political action; political rhetoric; social norms; cultural attitudes; etc). Connect specific examples of biased language to specific harms, if you can. What should you do if you use biased language, on purpose or not? 

5.  What should you do if you witness the use of biased language by classmates, peers, colleagues, family members, authority figures, and others? To begin, refer to some of the five Ds of bystander intervention identified in BeVocal UT’s Powerpoint presentation:

What would a direct response look like?

How could you distract from what is happening?

Does delay apply here?

Under what circumstances would you delegate intervention? 

When is documentation necessary or useful? 

What are other ways to address biased language? 

Classroom Dialogue #3: Racializing Threat in Historical Perspective

Text: “Lead’s Racial Matters,” from Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect, Mel Y. Chen, Duke UP, 2012. Pair with Jabin Botford’s photograph of Trump crossing out “corona” in “coronavirus” and writing in “Chinese” instead. 

Summary of Text: Chen discusses the 2007 panic in the U.S. over traces of lead paint in children’s toys manufactured in China, describing how an “inanimate but migrant” substance–lead–became racialized and notions of the Chinese other as toxic, impure, and threatening became reanimated and re-legitimized. 

Possible discussion prompts: Compare and contrast the coronavirus crisis to the 2007 lead paint scare: what similarities do you notice? What important differences exist? Discuss some other moments in history in which a specific threat (imagined or real) was racialized. Pick one such moment and research the consequences for the ethnic group(s) associated with this threat as well as the consequences on policy and society more generally. Describe or predict, referring to your research, what some of the consequences of the coronavirus have been or will be, in terms of racial relations in the U.S., international relations, immigration policy, border enforcement, etc, etc. Discuss what Asian and Asian-descended people are experiencing locally, nationally, or globally at the moment, referring to recent testimonies, interviews, articles, and/or (if applicable and only if you wish) personal experience. 

 

Dialogue Techniques for Fostering Environmental Awareness across the Curriculum

written by Dr. Sarah Ropp

Spring has arrived to Austin–arguably its most beautiful season–and with it, growing hope for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the devastating effects of February’s extreme cold are still evident in the landscape, perhaps most poignantly in the collapsed nopales splayed out over the sidewalks. And the financial and health impacts of infrastructural and political failures to support the people of Texas during that extreme weather event have produced a lingering bitterness in many of us. April is Earth Month, and there is no better time to consider how we can bring a greater sense of environmental awareness into our classrooms through a few minutes a week of focused peer-to-peer dialogue. 

No matter what content we teach, place-based pedagogies are important. They support students’ mental health and ability to engage in the classroom by acknowledging and attending to the ways in which our relationship to our environment affects us on a moment-to-moment basis. They break down artificial boundaries between “in here” and “out there” and encourage students to understand classrooms as an extension of communities and themselves as critical agents within their environments. They illuminate the ways in which varying experiences of restriction and freedom within environments are fundamental to understanding social inequities created by ableism, racism, misogyny, heteronormativity, transphobia, and more. Below are a few opportunities to engage your students in dialogue around the environment over the course of this month.

5 Ways to Incorporate More Classroom Dialogue about Environmental Awareness 

This infographic details 5 quick ways to foster more eco-awareness in your classroom without losing instructional time devoted to your content. 

Difficult Dialogues Public Forum on Health, Infrastructure, and the Environment

April 13, 7-8pm, via Zoom

The Spring 2021 Difficult Dialogues Public Forum features three of our 2020-2022 Faculty Fellows in a conversation about health, infrastructure, and the environment. Faculty from a range of disciplines will discuss their research on environmental contamination, climate change and climate planning, and environmental racism and injustice. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by HI Director Pauline Strong. 

Click here to register and learn more about the speakers and their topics.

Controversy and Conversation Film Discussion of An American Ascent

May 6, 7:30-8:30pm, via Zoom

An American Ascent focuses on the first African American expedition to climb Denali, North America’s highest peak. The film also discusses what it refers to as the “Adventure Gap,” referring to the disproportionately low number of African Americans participating in nature-based recreational activities. One of the nine climbers poses: “Think about the story that mountaineering has been. It’s been mainly white male, and if a little black girl were to look into mountaineering and hear that single story, she would probably say ‘I don’t have much of a place there.’” Follow the group on their challenging journey to the summit of Mount Denali as they discuss the impacts they hope to have on their communities.

Starla Simmons, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, will lead the discussion. Professor Simmons’s work is rooted in social justice and racial equity. In addition to her clinical practice and  academic work, she has served as the Austin leader for Outdoor Afro, an organization dedicated to promoting and celebrating Black leadership in nature.

Click here to register and to find more information about the film and how to watch it.

Activities for Helping Students Think Through Positionality from Shetal Vohra-Gupta’s Difficult Dialogues Workshop

Written by Difficult Dialogues Program Coordinator Sarah Ropp.

On Friday, March 26, the Difficult Dialogues program was very pleased to host Shetal Vohra-Gupta (Assistant Professor of Social Work) for our third faculty-led dialogic pedagogy workshop of the Spring 2021 semester. Entitled “Helping Students Think Through Positionality,” Vohra-Gupta’s workshop was one of our bimonthly Difficult Dialogues faculty learning community events. Vohra-Gupta presented some of the activities she uses throughout the semester to engage students participating in her UGS/DD 303 course “The Invisible 80%: Students, Policy, and Action,” which she has been teaching regularly since Fall 2017, in meaningful reflection around their intersecting social identities. Highly adaptable across disciplines and content, three of Vohra-Gupta’s techniques are summarized below. 

 

    1. Identity Mapping. At the beginning of the semester, Vohra-Gupta explained, she invites students to name a few of their major social identities and reflect on the impact each identity has had on their lived experience, both pragmatically and affectively. Students engage in this reflection through a three-tiered graphic organizer, modeled after an approach presented in Danielle Jacobson and Nida Mustafa’s 2019 article “Social Identity Map: A Reflexivity Tool for Practicing Explicit Positionality in Critical Qualitative Research.” Here’s how it works: 
  • Tier 1: Students draw 8 boxes and write one of the social identities they possess in each box (for example: Class, Age, Citizenship, Ability, Race, Sexual Orientation, Cis/Trans, and Gender). 
  • Tier 2: Students draw two smaller boxes connected to each Tier 1 identity box. For each of these Tier 1 social identities, students name two ways in which this identity affects their day-to-day life, writing a simple word or phrase into the smaller boxes (for example, a student might name “health care” as an impact they associate with Canadian citizenship). These impacts may be experienced as positive, negative, a mix, or neither.
  • Tier 3: From each of the smaller Tier 2 boxes, students draw additional lines to connect emotions that they experience as a result of the pragmatic impacts (Tier 2) of their various identities (Tier 1). For example, “shame” and “desire to be an advocate” might be two emotions experienced in connection with a White racial identity. 


  • Positionality Statements. Vohra-Gupta stressed the importance of participating in critical self-reflection around identity as an instructor–not just having students do so. She explained that she does this for multiple reasons: to model reflection for students, to acknowledge and ameliorate to some degree the power imbalance between instructor and student, and to engage with her own positionality as a scholar and teacher on a regular, ongoing basis. Vohra-Gupta shared a short positionality statement of about three sentences that she uses to introduce students both to herself as an instructor and to the content and format of a positionality statement. Her statement contains a list of three or so of her primary social identities, as well as a definition of her scholarly and pedagogical identities (for example, as a feminist and critical race scholar). She invites students, after they have participated in the social identity mapping activity, to craft their own positionality statements. 


  • Written Reflection. Following the social identity mapping and positionality statement activities, Vohra-Gupta has her students apply their reflections more systematically, through a written essay assignment in which students must describe how their various and intersecting social identities impact their relationship to and experience with a given policy. For example, Vohra-Gupta shared, female students had written about their experiences of feeling exposed and embarrassed due to the “clear-bag” policy at UT stadium sporting events. Vohra-Gupta’s course is about university policy, but this exercise can be adapted to any course topic–our identities affect our lived experiences in every area, after all.  

 

Additional Resource: 

Workshop participant Amy Nathan Wright (Assistant Professor of Instruction, Human Dimensions of Organizations) shared this original identity inventory exercise as a potential follow-up to the identity mapping activity.