Monday, April 09, 2018

Level 3, Maybe Achieved

A couple of weeks ago I blogged a bit about our diversity training program.  Here's the way it looks.  At the first level, everyone is supposed to do a (really stupid and irritating) computer module thing on diversity.  I checked that off over the summer, I think, when we were supposed to.  (Some folks are still checking it off.)

The second level involves a variety of programs put on by various folks around campus, all of which are supposed to help us be more aware and helpful to students with what we might think of as diversity challenges.  (And to be clear, the challenges aren't the students, but rather that the systems impede or block some students, either because they're poorly designed, or because they're reflecting a history of racism, sexism, heteronormativity, elitism, ableism, and so forth.)

The success of these programs relies on folks actually wanting to learn something and wanting to make some changes, even small changes, to make things better for students (and colleagues, too!).

To be clear, once folks have done the computer Level 1 thingy, they can be done.  So the folks doing the Level 2 programs are all self-selected, and so perhaps a bit more sincerely interested.

There's also a Level 3.  Level 3 involves doing some project that relates what one's learned in the Level 2 programs to one's work here.  For a faculty member, it most logically involves either teaching or research.  And if you complete 10 Level 2 sessions and do a Level 3 project, then you get a certificate.  I'm not sure the certificate is really hugely meaningful, but hopefully the learning involved and the project actually are at least somewhat meaningful.

You're supposed to consult with one of the learning/teaching experts from that office when you've completed 4-5 Level 2 sessions, and then decide on and do a project.

So, in March, having completed enough sessions, I asked for a meeting, and met with one of the L/T experts.  She's a faculty member, and really good.  She said that some teachers change their curriculum to be more inclusive, so I said that I've changed my intro to lit a couple years ago to include all writers of color.  And I told her about using critical race theory in classes and my scholarly work.  So she said I was already pretty much ahead of the game.  And she suggested I look at some materials they had on increasing student engagement, and maybe make up a project based on something there.

So I looked, and I chatted with a smart friend who teaches high school.  And I came up with two things to try in my intro to lit course to increase student engagement.

The first involved using an app called "Padlet" which enables groups to put up a sort of virtual post-it note board.  We did that, and it was okay, until some students started putting up silly videos.  (I made the mistake of not making them add the app and so get a sign on, and thus, they were anonymous.)

But it was neat to try, and if people were really engaged and excited, it would work well, I think.

Then I tried having students in groups write a googledoc and then make it available to everyone.  And that worked really well, I thought.  One student suggested that if I made the google doc (and put the group work questions in), they could all edit at the same time and then would only have one big document to look at.  So that's what I'll do next time.

I actually really liked the way it worked, and that students who rarely talk in class contributed in the class discussion of their googledoc responses.

I have to get a bit more experience with googledocs to make one and invite folks to it (because I've never tried to do that before), but I suspect it's not too difficult to figure out the basics.

So I spent some time today writing that up, and filling out the form for the Level 3 project thing.  I still have some Level 2 programs to complete to finish 10, but I'm glad I did the project and learned something in the process.  (I sent it in today, and now am like an impatient student, waiting to hear if I "passed.")


  1. Something I want to try with Googledocs next year is having students write essay drafts in it and share them with me, so perhaps I can write notes and comments that appear in the margin, and maybe students can write multiple drafts. This past year I worked to give students global comments that showed I was thinking about their whole essay, which helped me to avoid falling into the looking-for-errors trap. I really liked how it improved my attitude toward student writing. But I think I need to find a middle ground between commenting globally and commenting on specifics.

  2. It's really hard. Have you thought about maybe commenting typing on a separate document, and then emailing that?