a Diverse Student Body
your expectations high and provide support so that students can
all students equal attention in class and equal access to advising
outside class. Don't overlook capable but less
all students equal amounts of helpful and honest criticism. Don't
prejudge students' capabilities.
curricula if necessary to include different kinds of racial and
cultural experiences and to include them in more than just stereotypical
classroom dynamics to ensure that no students become isolated.
the structure of the course to include more than just individual
and abstract modes of learning.
call on any student as a "spokesperson" for his or her
and acknowledge the history and emotions your students may bring
to non-academic experiences, such as racial incidents, that may
affect classroom performance.
Specific Teaching Strategies
and Course Expectations:
your students a sense not only of what they need to learn, but also of
why they should learn this, why you feel your material, and indeed
your field, is important and interesting. Teach them not only "what,"
but also "so what?"
not assume a certain level of experience, but examine the specific needs
of the students in your class. Particularly if you are teaching introductory
courses, do not assume that all students automatically know what it means
to write a literature, psychology or history paper, how or when to skim
a text, or even that all their papers must have a well-defined linear
argument (Angelo). Rather, attempt to find out what your students do know
and work from there.
merely explain the rules, but also the reasons behind the rules. Students
are often simply taught rules for academic discourse, particularly writing
(e.g., put your thesis at the end of the first paragraph, don't use "I,"
etc.). Instead, show them the underlying reasons for such rules.
what you want your students to do. Show them through your behavior
what it means to be a sociologist or a chemist.
ground rules or specific guidelines and appropriate rules of behavior
for the class early in the semester. You can also enlist students
to help come up with and enforce these rules.
confuse student responses that indicate an emotional investment in the
subject with "irrational" or "unscholarly" reactions.
Students from one culture might regard a class discussion as interesting
and intense because it evokes excited and personal responses; others might
regard the same discussion as overly emotional, chaotic, or rude.
sensitive issues and acknowledge racial, class or cultural differences
in the classroom when appropriate. Aside from personal or cultural
styles, issues of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation may produce
deep feeling in the classroom. When discussing such controversial issues,
you should expect emotional responses or even conflict. Such emotion is
not necessarily negative unless it makes students unduly upset, inhibits
class discussion, or causes students to behave rudely. In such cases you
may need to intervene and remind the students of your rules for classroom
discussion. See chapter IV for a list of other techniques to use if the
discussions become more heated.
up patterns of segregation in the classroom if it is tied to patterns
of nonparticipation. It's usually better to break up such patterns
without simply assigning new seats (which students naturally resent).
Instead, assign small groups across racial/ethnic or gender lines, and
when you reconvene to discuss issues among the whole class, don't give
students time to move back to their accustomed seats. To avoid lecturing
to or sitting next to only one group of students, move purposely around
the room or think of ways to get students to reposition themselves, since
those students sitting closest to you will be most likely to talk. Note
also that patterns of segregation often depend upon which students have
minority status in the classroom and may differ accordingly.
some students are hesitant to speak up in class, have them contribute
in small groups first. (For further information on small group techniques,
see the books on cooperative learning listed in Appendix II.)
setting up study groups or assigning collaborative projects that require
meetings outside of class. Interaction among students and between
students and faculty, particularly through activities built around substantive
academic work, has proven to have a positive impact upon students' success
in college (Astin 1992, Light). Small study or discussion groups have
proven particularly helpful (Light 70-71), yet some students are less
likely than others to begin or join such groups on their own (Light 18).
students to groups for collaborative learning projects. Projects such
as peer editing, group papers, laboratory assignments, or presentations
enable students to work with each other. Such groups can meet either
in or out of class, and can be either short- or long-term. Such a structure
requires careful planning and encouragement and may not be appropriate
for all classes.
2. If your students meet in groups outside class, they need to be able
to contact one another. Enabling the email function in Instructional
Toolkit will allow students to find the email addresses for other students
in the class. Only those who have agreed for their email address to
be made public will appear there, so any students who do not wish to
give out such information may choose to arrange project meetings with
their group after class.
3. You can also set up an electronic discussion group for the course
using Toolkit. This function allows students to post questions or ideas
and to receive comments from you and other students outside of class.
Some U.Va. instructors have found that discussion groups allow normally
quiet or shy students to express themselves and even take a lead in
conversations with classmates. (For information on setting up a discussion
group or on Toolkit more generally, see http:// toolkit.virginia.edu
including projects and activities that use group learning, encourage group
interaction and support. Pay careful attention to group dynamics:
and monitor small groups to ensure that some students do not become
excluded from full participation. Proponents of cooperative learning
recommend that you create heterogeneous groups and avoid having friends
together in one group. Students who choose their own groups often inadvertently
exclude some students. Even in collaborative environments, interracial
or intercultural tensions can arise. If you pay attention, you can head
off such difficulties by speaking to students privately, reassigning
roles within the group, breaking up the group into smaller components,
or reassigning groups.
small groups periodically to make certain each member of the group is
given comparable responsibility and control. Try to ensure that everyone
in the group is assigned equal responsibility, and that some students
do not become relegated to more trivial tasks. To do so, you may need
to note how students fulfill the assignment and modify your procedures,
intervening if more assertive students begin to dominate. For example,
in male-female partnerships in scientific experiments, studies have
shown that the male student often performs the experiment while the
female student writes down the observations (Rosser 59). In such cases
the female student does not participate directly. To counter such problems,
make the rules of the assignment clear (e.g., each person will help
perform the experiment) and request that the teams add this point to
their honor pledge, or assign different responsibilities to individuals
as part of the instructions (X performs the experiment, Y notes the
results, and so on).
a safe environment for discussion by asking all students to talk in
turn and listen actively to their peers and assist those students who
need help understanding or responding to a concept.
using falsely inclusive terms or statements like "women"
when you mean European or European American women or "all women/
men" when you mean only heterosexual individuals. Vary the concrete
examples and case studies you use to include a variety of social characteristics,
such as race or gender. Include multicultural examples, visuals, and materials
as much as possible in lectures. Include multiple perspectives on the
syllabus, in class discussion, and in assignments, when possible. If you
include course material or examples that place a group in the position
of oppressed victim, be sure to provide examples of empowerment for balance.
Other ways to involve multiple perspectives include playing devil's advocate,
engaging in a debate about the possible interpretations of a text, and
assigning the work of relevant minority scholars.
to pronounce students' names correctly and in the proper order. Do
not shorten or simplify the student's name without his/her clear approval.
Although mistakes are always possible in a large class and at the beginning
of a course, do your best not to call students by the wrong name. Many
students of color report that such misnaming makes them feel that to the
professor "they are all alike." If you are not sure what to
call the student, ask for the name when you call on him/her. If you are
European or African American, remember that Asian and Latino students
may arrange their given and family names in an order different from that
you are accustomed to.
ask any student to be a representative spokesperson for his or her perceived
group or look pointedly at or away from these same students when you
discuss issues of race, class, gender, etc. Do not ask or expect students
to be knowledgeable about their ethnic heritage, history, language, or
culture unless they volunteer such information.
direct and honest about your own engagement with or bias toward or against
the material. This gives students permission to be honest about their
your teaching methods to include visual or active learning when appropriate.
Studies have found that kinesthetic and visual learning experiences are
more effective than discussion for certain underrepresented groups (Brookfield
and Preskill 134-135). Though not all members of a group will have the
same preferences, it is safe to assume that every group of individuals
will contain a variety of learning styles.
frequent evaluations of students' progress. Tell students who are
at risk exactly what their deficiencies are and what they need to do to
remedy them. If possible, speak to such students individually. If you
ask a student to attend the Writing Center or departmental small-group
tutoring sessions, follow up to see if the student has done so. Do not
assume particular groups of students will be at risk, but also do not
refrain from critiquing their work through misplaced good intentions.
If less experienced students are to improve their performance, they must
know exactly where they stand, and what they can do to remedy their deficiencies.
monitoring your classroom behavior, by being videotaped, having a
colleague observe your class, or relying on the Anonymous Feedback function
of Instructional Toolkit, to see if you pay more attention to certain
students, or if the students think that you are paying such attention.
You might also add questions to the standard evaluations to elicit student
perceptions about the dynamics of class participation.