The date, November 9, 2016 – one day after the 2016 presidential election. Needless to say, political pundits were not the only ones surprised by the election results. When I entered my classroom that day there was a palpable “something” in the air. It was clear my students were not in a space to conduct classroom work as usual.
As the 2020 election approaches, I have found myself thinking a lot about how to help our students navigate our incredibly politically polarized society. Listening carefully to each other and understanding other people’s points of view is certainly an important goal of the work we do in our classrooms and across campus. But there are also many situations in life when it’s just as important to be able to talk with other people and connect with them despite and across political differences.
I have always borrowed an idea from narrative journalism for one of my W101 assignments, and asked my students to immerse themselves in an experience that is outside of their comfort zone. They could choose the experience; for some it was to go to a political club opposite of their inclination; or for a white student to go to Black Student Alliance; or for students to explore religions other than their own or, if they are not religious, to explore any religion.
In the past, when I was physically co-present with students in the classroom, I was able to “read the room” and get a pulse of where our learning community was. By this, I mean I was able to fairly quickly track my students’ understanding of an idea or topic by their body language and facial expressions, questions they asked each other that I would overhear, or questions asked for a simple show of hands.
Chantal Feitosa, Visiting Artist
A remote spin on the formative critique
By Micaela Vivero, Studio Art
In Studio Art we have done a field trip to New York City with our senior practicum students for over 10 years. In this trip we visit museums, galleries, artist studios and get to talk with artists about their own experience of being a practicing artist in such an important art center as is New York City.
In my WRI101, I want my students to understand how their writing process begins with reading. Gaining insight into this connection involves denaturalizing how they read and asking them to try out particular reading practices. To do so, I developed an exercise based on Peter Elbow’s believing game and the doubting game with an assigned text in my course.
This semester I am teaching a junior-level chemistry class with only majors. By this stage in their college experience, these students are dedicated to learning and ready to engage deeply with the material. My challenge is that 25% (5/20) of the class is remote. I wanted to ensure that all students had an equitable learning experience, content delivery worked smoothly for everybody, and all students were able to fully engage not only with the material, but with me and their classmates as well.
I have taught a number of writing courses during my time at Denison. I have become a big fan of the writing workshop model. With a minimal amount of tech from the Google suite, this process transitioned very well to remote learning. Surprisingly, there are only three main ingredients:
Assign a prompt – I start with a detailed writing prompt that is often a response to a specific reading or video from a list I provide.
This fall I was assigned to a very large teaching space. This was great for social-distancing but created issues for my remote students. With one external mic in this large space, I was afraid my remote students would not be able to hear me. In addition to sound, I was also concerned about presentation.
Our daily thought/application board
Headed into the fall with my hybrid class, I was concerned that my remote students would be disconnected from the class. I was teaching a 400-level course with 18 juniors and seniors, two of whom were remote. How could I make sure that these students felt as engaged in the course as my on-campus leaners?