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Improving classroom climate through acknowledging student concerns

Students feel more engaged in courses that connect to their reality and value them as individuals.  Even small connections with student concerns can have significant impacts.

Recent bias incidents are likely on students’ minds.  While perhaps not directly relevant to engineering classes, efforts by faculty to acknowledge these cultural challenges will resonate deeply with students.

If you would like to comment on recent issues in your class, here are a few ideas that may help you develop an effective strategy for your class and your personality.  Sample slides and resources are attached and are available at the MTEI website. 

  1. Simply acknowledge in class what has happened (bias incidents), the impact it has on our community, and on your and the college’s response to such behaviors.
  2. You might encourage students to (i) seek support from each other, campus resources, family and friends, and (ii) provide support to those most impacted. 
  3. Post and advertise the “Raising a Concern about Harassment and Discrimination” (PDF), and the slide on campus resources, to your Blackboard or CMS site.
  4. If you want to more actively engage your class, consider these possibilities
  • Reflect on the “Any Person, Any Study” priority for Cornell.  Share your intent to make your class welcoming and inclusive for all students and ask students to make a point of being inclusive in their interactions 
  • Acknowledge that not everyone is impacted in the same way. Ask for a “Moment of Reflection” to think about practices they have seen that are inclusive or exclusive and how engineering practice impacts various populations
  • Write-pair-share” exercise:  Have students individually reflect, in writing, on the impact to themselves or their friends (3 minutes).  Then have them share their responses in small groups (3 minutes).  To broaden the impact, consider   having students fold their comments and pass them around like “hot potatoes” for some time, followed by small group discussion of ideas that landed in their group.