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Community & Belonging in the Classroom

By Dr. Shauna M Morgan

 

In the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, we are committed to focusing on equitable and inclusive pedagogies. This semester, we launched our Inclusion and Equity Series, beginning with the “Fostering Community and Belonging” workshop on Tuesday, September 17! Inclusion and Equity workshops are intended to give instructors the opportunity to explore ideas and practices that make our classrooms safe and healthy spaces. As teacher, I understand that students come into the classroom not only with an established set of academic knowledge, but also with cultural education that can destabilize, challenge, or enhance the learning environment. My goal is to foster dynamic classroom settings that are open, welcoming, and respectful of robust intellectual discourse and socio-cultural realities, and this is also the atmosphere I hope to generate in my workshops.

 

At “Fostering Community and Belonging” this past week, participants explored the dynamics of classroom communities and discussed how inclusive teaching promotes community and belonging in the academic setting. We examined a variety of scenarios that would call for proactive pedagogical approaches or interpersonal interventions in the classroom. For example, we considered the positive impact of instructors choosing to identify their pronouns in addition to including a diversity statement on their syllabus. This gesture immediately lays the foundation for building a safe and inclusive classroom community by normalizing gender identities and demonstrating a respect for differences.

 

Our discussion was enlivened by the faculty and staff members from across the university who brought their own powerful teaching approaches, provocative questions, and innovative ideas that make our academic spaces more equitable and inclusive. The thoughtful conversation was, at times, punctuated by both laughter and by a poignant awareness that more opportunities to collaborate would allow faculty and staff to be more successful in the transformative experiences we hope to foment.

 

The Inclusion and Equity series continues in October with “Designing and Facilitating Inclusive Learning Environments” and “Difficult Conversations in the Classroom” in November. In the spring semester, a “Courageous Classrooms” workshop cluster will be offered to help faculty successfully prepare for and navigate challenging, tense, or controversial moments and topics in the classroom. One of CELT’s goals is to provide the tools instructors need to design inclusive and equitable courses with increased cultural competencies and generative learning outcomes.

 

We are steadfast in our work to support the University of Kentucky’s commitment to creating equitable and inclusive learning environments and fostering a campus community enriched by diversity and a feeling of belonging. Whether you would like to attend a workshop, drop by during open office hours, or seek a consultation, CELT is ready and enthusiastic about contributing to your success in the classroom.

 

Title photo: Jacob Lawrence, The Library, 1960, tempera on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.24