As a white, female, first generation scholar, disciplinarily trained in experimental psychology as well as curriculum and instruction, currently working in faculty development, I am a pragmatist. Rather than holding firmly to a particular theoretical paradigm or research design, I choose the best theory and approach for the question of interest. Currently, this has me wrestling with how we examine inclusive pedagogies utilizing rigorous methodologies while still being respectful of the individuals we study. How do we design this work with a foundation based on utilizing strengths in the classroom rather than traditional SoTL model where we are fixing a problem or solving a deficit?
The SoTL literature addresses the question of rigor through principles of good practice and suggesting authors draw on their own disciplinary perspectives of rigorous research. These principles include (1) inquiry into student learning; (2) grounded in context; (3) methodologically sound; (4) conducted in partnership with students; and (5) appropriately public.
Inclusivity literature addresses the question of respect and shared agency. As defined in the ACE & ITLC joint draft Modern Framework for Effective Undergraduate Education, “inclusive classrooms recognize, respect, and celebrate the diversity inherent in the learning environment, ensures access to learning opportunities are grounded in equity, and approaches learning from a contextually relevant perspective.”
I’ve been exploring how to bring these two literatures together in best practice for engaging in SoTL work around facets of inclusive teaching and learning with my colleagues. While there is great information within disciplines (i.e., critical race theory, disability studies, universal design for learning), SoTL is interdisciplinary by nature and for good SoTL work around inclusive teaching, we need to bring these conversations into the SoTL realm. In this spirit, two of my colleagues have offered a brief insight into their thoughts on this topic as well.
Shed – I am a mixed-race, queer femme woman who is currently writing her dissertation in gender studies. At the predominantly white institution at which I study at work, however, I am rarely recognized as contributing to diversity. Very rarely are any facets of my identity incorporated into definitions of diversity, and that includes (quite ironically) in studies on inclusivity. This is because I occupy “in-between” positionalities. I became especially aware of this when applying for diversity-focused scholarships and fellowships as a graduate student.
I am Arab-American. Arab-Americans have suffered, and continue to suffer, extensive discrimination and violence in the U.S., and are incredibly under-represented in the academy. However, Arab-American is often falsely lumped into Caucasian, at IU and at most institutions. In addition, few institutions are willing to recognize mixed-race as a category; I do not even have that option on most forms I fill out. I do not identify along the lines of gay, straight, or bisexual, because of the constraints of those categories. Rarely do I get the opportunity, though, to identify as something outside of those labels.
I am concerned with how upcoming SoTL research on inclusivity will recognize and validate those “in-betweens” of identity. How can we truly be inclusive, without reducing students and teachers to binaries of ‘this’ or ‘that’?
Tamar – As a first year, African American, female student attending a predominantly white institution to study English and Educational Policy, it is very seldom that I’ve noticed a special effort made to ensure classrooms are embodying inclusivity. I’ve been here for a semester and I have already experienced teaching that was ineffective in including the backgrounds and experiences of all students. Establishing some SoTL work in inclusivity would certainly be beneficial considering the fact that most institutions claim to celebrate and seek out diversity. My concern is focused around how the students’ perspectives will be included in this process?
If you are interested in joining this discussion or thinking more about SoTL work around inclusive classrooms, join us for one or more of the inclusive teaching and learning SoTL events this month. If you are unable to attend the sessions or would like to talk one-on-one, contact CITL to schedule an individual consultation.