I have another recommended reading for you! I found this really nice framework for disarming microaggressions, both targeted directly towards the perpetrator, but also institutional and societal macroaggressions, in Sue et al. (2019). The article includes a lot of really helpful examples of what this might look like in practice. Below is a summary of the aspects that I want to take from the article to bring into a workshop I’m teaching next month (so I am reading this through a very specific lens for my own context). I definitely recommend to check out the original article to look at great examples of strategies to intervene depending on the objective (if nothing else, browse table 1)!
I found a new YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!!!-book: “The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain” by Zakrajsek (2022). It is aimed at students and it might be the most important thing students ever read in school…
A great teaching method that engages students with literature, and that Cathy Bovill recently introduced me to, are “doughnut rounds”: Students (or workshop participants) are asked to read an article and formulate a certain number of questions, that are then discussed in groups. This leads to people being able to fill in gaps in their understanding (for example due to superficial reading…) and to general engagement with the topic.
I read the book “Relationship-rich education. How human connections drive success in college” by Felten & Lambert (2020) almost a year ago and found it super inspiring, but also very hard to summarize. You should check it out yourself, of course, but here are my key take-aways.
If I had to pick one book that has influenced my current thinking about teaching and learning the most, I would pick Wenger’s 1998 “Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity” (link to my summary of the book and some later work on CoPs). What I find really helpful to think about in the CoP framework is that there are many different, but legitimate, roles, that can also — again, legitimately — change over time. The description of one specific role, the “broker”, really spoke to me when I first read the book: Someone who is involved in many different CoPs and facilitates information flow between them. That’s kinda what I have always been doing because that’s what I find most interesting (much more interesting than really digging deep into one topic), without thinking about that being an important contribution to all those CoPs. And now I read another Wenger work which made me realize that while I was probably a broker for many years, maybe now I am on my way of becoming a “systems convener” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2014): “They are dreamers but they are also schemers, with a solid dose of strategic thinking and tactical acuity.”
A lot of things are happening around teaching sustainability at LU right now! As I am planning the second iteration of my “teaching sustainability” course, I am reading more about what we actually mean by “teaching sustainability”. It is clear that this is not a good title for my course, but we haven’t come up with a better one yet, and I think me struggling with finding a good name is a symptom of me struggling with what the essence of that course is. I don’t want my course “just” to be about how to teach about the SDGs or problems or solutions, it needs to be bigger than that. But then how to make sure there is still a clear focus?
This is mostly a “note to self”: Found a really interesting article on “how syllabi can serve as communication tools for creating inclusive classrooms” by Gun et al. (2021). A review of 60ish biology syllabi as well as the literature of what should be included, and pointers on which group of students especially benefits from the information and why, as well as examples. This is great to help students build “cultural capital” and level the playing field! And strong motivation to pay more attention to syllabi as actual communication tools and how they — as oftentimes first point of contact between instructor and students — can shape the classroom climate.
They even provide a template syllabus here: https://zenodo.org/record/4317968#.Y8EIaC8w0f8
Highly recommended reading!
Gin, L. E., Scott, R. A., Pfeiffer, L. D., Zheng, Y., Cooper, K. M., & Brownell, S. E. (2021). It’s in the syllabus… or is it? How biology syllabi can serve as communication tools for creating inclusive classrooms at a large-enrollment research institution. Advances in Physiology Education.
Somehow a print of the “Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice” (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006) article ended up on my desk. I don’t know who wanted me to read it, but I am glad I did! See my summary below.
As we are talking more and more about co-creation and all these cool things, I find it important to remember that sometimes, giving a lecture is still a really good choice. Especially when it happens at the right time, when we have created conditions for students to actually want to be told about stuff.
One way to create “a time for telling” for students with very little prior knowledge is described in Schwartz & Bransford (1998), where students work with contrasting cases to the point that they are really curious about why the cases are different (one example I have heard mentioned in this context is the coke-and-mentos experiment, that only leads to this cool fountain when you use diet coke, not any other type of coke. But why???), and are prepared to listen to someone giving them an explanation. In this case, listening to a lecture is perceived as the fastest way to learn the information that is relevant and interesting in this moment, rather than, in many other cases, listening to a boring monologue that needs to be memorised because someone thinks that it should be.
I really enjoyed reading the article “Motivating personal growth by seeking discomfort” by Woolley & Fishbach (2022). They investigate the discomfort, for example awkwardness, we often experience when engaging in activities of personal growth. This discomfort might lead us to not engage as much with an activity, or even avoid it, but what if we managed to reframe the feeling? They conduct five studies where participants actively try to experience discomfort in situations that could lead to personal growth (think acting classes to help with fear of public speaking), and where discomfort is interpreted as a sign that personal growth is happening, that they are making progress towards their goals. And they find that this increased engagement and motivation. This worked even when engaging in conversations with people on difficult topics: When instructed to feel discomfort rather than just to learn, people performed better.
I can very much relate to this article. For example, going to free diving training for the first time on my own, as a new beginner in a foreign country, where I’ll be in a pool wearing a swimsuit among divers wearing wetsuits is a situation that made me … let’s say, nervous. Or uncomfortable. But once I told myself that it is really only this once that I will feel this awkward, and that the next time I will know where the changing rooms are, and will be able to look back on all my experiences and how it really wasn’t so bad the first time, it became more of a fun challenge than a threat. Similarly, the first time I had to speak in front of a large group of people, using microphone and all, after a 2 year covid break, I knew that gaining that experience would make all subsequent public speaches easier. So to me, reading this article explained an observation I had just recently made myself. And I definitely talk myself into a “stress is enhancing” mindset before I have to “perform” (be it speak publicly, or play a concert), which is also mentioned as a technique that actually works.
But I talked about this paper with a colleague who could not relate at all, he says he never feels the discomfort in the first place. Lucky him, I guess? But still, I think this is a message that I will carry with me into my teaching. If you do feel discomfort, what if that’s a sign of growth and not a sign to stop?
Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2022). Motivating personal growth by seeking discomfort. Psychological science, 33(4), 510-523.