Lesson 6 of 7
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Applying the concept to your context

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So one of my colleagues, let’s call him Brian, came to me and he asked me if I could help him improve his equity-minded teaching. And while I was talking to Brian, it was clear he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do, but he did make it clear that despite all of his goodwill that he didn’t have a lot of time for very large scale changes. So what Brian illustrated to me are two challenges that a lot of instructors have. One is we don’t know what we don’t know. And for this reason, I think we should never stop thinking about improving our teaching by getting advice and coaching. We’re never too good for some kind of coaching.

The second challenge that Brian demonstrated was a lack of time. So let me tell you what happened with Brian. I asked Brian if I could observe him in his teaching and when I did I was really impressed with a variety of things that Brian was doing. Notably he had a lot of group discussion. But as I looked a little closer I noticed that there were many students who were dominating certain groups. And other groups had students that were really quiet and withdrawn. So when I pointed this observation out to Brian, I asked him if he wanted to brainstorm some ideas.

We brainstormed ways that he could bring more structure to the group work that he was already doing with his students. He came up with some ideas to make sure that he had better instructions for students, so that all the groups knew what they were doing, and he wanted to make sure that these instructions were given visually as well as verbally.

And then we talked about ways to provide roles for those students within groups such as somebody being a scribe, somebody being a reporter who would report out to the whole class, a brainstormer, a timekeeper, and so on and those roles would rotate. When I saw Brian about a month later, I asked them how things were going and he was thrilled. He said that students were giving him a lot of feedback in surveys and his office hours and letting him know that they thought this kind of group work was a much better experience than other types of group work that they had had in the past.

So let’s take Brian’s example as a lesson and recognise that there are often really small tweaks we can make to our teaching that can have a big impact.

It’s always good to get advice and coaching from colleagues. You might want to ask a colleague to observe your teaching and then compare ideas or ways you could include more students in your classes. 

Think about ways you could bring more structure to your syllabus or classroom. You might want to assign roles to students in group work or allow for timed thinking time in class before inviting students to share their thoughts. It’s often small changes to your teaching that have the greatest impact.

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Choose one class activity or assignment. What are a few things you could add to incorporate more structure?

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