Inclusive Teaching: An excerpt from Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy’s new book

Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy’s book Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom is new in West Virginia’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, edited by James Lang and Michelle Miller. We’re pleased to share an excerpt from the book, which ships now when ordered from our site.

We met in a cramped conference room with a group of ten colleagues in a faculty learning community hosted by the teaching and learning center on our campus. One of our assignments was to observe each other teaching and then meet to discuss our pedagogy. Debriefing over coffee, we immediately identified many ideas we held in common: we were both feeling dissatisfied with aspects of our courses and we felt frustrated that being a funny, dynamic lecturer seemed to be the definition of effective teaching by students and colleagues. We didn’t see how an instructor’s personality equated to effective learning. Discovering we were both introverts, we affirmed each other’s thoughts that deep learning by students shouldn’t require us to become people we are not. We had discussions about what pedagogical strategies better fit our personalities and the intended student outcomes. If only Jessamyn Neuhaus, author of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers, had published her book earlier, we surely would have added it to the reading list for the faculty learning community. In her book, Neuhaus takes exception to “any hint of a suggestion that effective teaching requires a specific kind of innate personality quality or emotional state, rather than being a set of skills, attitudes, actions, abilities, and a reflective, intellectual approach that can be learned, applied, and improved with effort by anyone who wants to be an effective teacher.”

Frustration and introversion were not our only commonalities. Like so many instructors in higher education, neither of us had much pedagogy training in our graduate programs. Early in our careers, teaching workshops and education-based literature made big impressions on our development. Both scientists by training, we approached making changes to our courses through a scientific and data-driven lens. We believed that we could continually improve our abilities with teaching, a belief Carol Dweck defines as a growth mind-set. We assumed then, and still today, that effective teaching is a challenge that requires hard work, intent, practice, mistakes, reflection, and iteration. It was never a problem for us to admit to ourselves and each other when we faced challenges in our own teaching. Often, the first step to making change is to recognize that a problem exists. Because of our mind-sets and generally optimistic, change-maker attitudes, we embraced our teaching challenges and set out to overcome them.

As we bounced ideas back and forth, we discovered we were quite compatible. We continued to give each other feedback through class observations and we spent more time together through campus committees, grant work, and various meetings. We often discussed what we saw as shortfalls in inclusivity with our experiences in colleagues’ classrooms, at university meetings that lacked good facilitation, and at campus-wide events. Slowly, our ideas formed into the basis of workshops for colleagues and articles we wanted to write. This book represents what we have learned from our own experiences as practicing educators, from our dive into the scholarship of teaching and learning, and from what we’ve learned by exchanging ideas with colleagues locally and afar.

We are not alone. Many educators are looking through the lens of equity and determining that they need more inclusive teaching strategies. If you are an educator, we invite you to continually reflect on your role not merely as someone who equips students with knowledge and skills, but also as an architect of environments for inclusive learning and experiences. We can all promote and model inclusive experiences in our meetings, workshops, and trainings.

It is our hope that by reading this book and reflecting on your practices, you pick up practical tips you can use to immediately refine your work. We are practitioners at heart and thus our writing often feels like an advice guide we would have benefited from when we got our start in education nearly twenty-five years ago. We have suggested many tips (a whole book’s worth!) and we encourage you to consider what you might like to prioritize in getting started. We don’t expect that you will be able to dive into every tip in a single term. It took us many years to learn and implement these principles; we are still uncovering our own areas for improvement. Adopting an inclusive teaching mind-set is recognizing that you are not working toward one end goal. Inclusion is a continual journey. We have written this book to support you on this journey by providing a framework and common language we can share.

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