Faculty Institute for Inclusive Teaching holds forum for instructors

FIIT tries to teach instructors the advantages of having an inclusive classroom, and how to achieve that goal.
Dr. Monique Luisi discusses her presentation on expanding the Missouri Method titled "One Goal Many Audiences" at the FIIT Forum held on April 29, 2019. Photo by Photo Editor Tanner Bubeck

Professors and graduate students gathered in Townsend Hall on Monday, April 29 for the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Teaching Forum, where instructors who had undergone FIIT training gave presentations on strategies for inclusive teaching and the benefits of teaching that way.

The event, which was sponsored by the Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity and the College of Education, brought together instructors from all fields of study at MU. Each presenter gave a 5 minute presentation, which was followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

Dr. Bethany Stone, a presenter and professor of Biological Sciences, attempted to dispel the notion that diversity and inclusion should not be a concern in STEM classes. She said that in her botany classes she attempts to teach science in a social context.

“We talked about whether GMO’s are safe and good for the environment, and used that context to learn about protein synthesis,” Stone said in her presentation.

Earlier in the year Stone conducted surveys on her students in terms of their race, orientation, preferred pronouns, hometowns and majors. She used the information from those surveys to place each of her students into teams of four ensuring that each team was diverse, but that no one student would feel isolated within their team.

When instructors discuss science through a social lense, Stone says, they encourage students to share their diverse perspectives and become more engaged in the material.

“My attendance jumped by 6 percent over my previous highest attendance, which is pretty exciting for an 8 a.m. non-major course,” Stone said.

The presentations offered a variety of tactics for forming an inclusive classroom environment.

Dr. Mark Palmer, an associate professor in Geography, implemented a system he called 3D in his classroom. The 3 D’s are diversity, discussion and dialogues.

“3D is a bridge that connects people and attempts to find common ground,” Palmer said in his presentation.

Often, finding common ground can be a long journey, and not a quick transformation, Palmer said.

“A lot of times we think we’re living in a Charles Dickens type scenario where Scrooge is angry one day and happy the next,” Palmer said in his presentation. “Unless there is some kind of major event, in my experience it’s a much longer process.”

Dr. Ashley Woodson of the College of Education explored the ideas of meeting students where they are. She had her classes discuss the attendance policy and allowed them to amend it to fit their needs.

“We acknowledge that being ‘present’ within the classroom environment looks differently for all individuals,” the new attendance policy read after amendments.

She also encouraged students to have accountability partners both inside and outside the classroom.

Dr. Leigh Neier of the College of Education discussed her own experiences with being afraid to talk in difficult conversations, especially after having said something that she regretted. She asked other instructors to think about how they can encourage their students to speak up even if they are scared to do so.

“I wonder why some of those students aren’t talking when difficult dialogues pop up,” Neier said in her presentation. “I wonder who is not talking and what their reason is, and how can we approach that and hopefully overcome that.”

Dr. Elisa Glick, the founder of FIIT, closed the forum by describing the central goal of the FIIT program.

“At its most aspirational, FIIT really is about institutional change,” Glick said. “We are doing things that are crucial to shaping the type of institution that we all want to be a part of.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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