Key Takeaways from TLL’s 2023-24 Speaker Series

Key Takeaways from TLL’s 2023-24 Speaker Series

This academic year, our speaker series emphasized ways to motivate and support student engagement in the classroom and beyond by highlighting how STEM work benefits the community, communicating the value of deep engagement in the classroom, and creating classroom environments that support students with disabilities as well as student mental health and wellbeing. Moving beyond the classroom, several speakers articulated how instructors can help prepare students to address the climate crisis and engage in social justice. Below, you can read about each talk and follow the embedded links to watch the video or read the blog post summary. 

Finding the Why: Integrating Purpose in STEM (September 2023)
Dr. Amanda Diekman explained how STEM learning environments often signal the importance of self-oriented goals connected to power and achievement (agentic goals). Research by Diekman and her colleagues suggests that communicating how STEM careers can also help others and involve collaborative work (communal goals) increases interest in STEM careers for everyone, including those from historically underrepresented minorities and first-generation/low-income students. 

Implications for teaching: Highlight the collaborative nature of scientific work and prompt students to think about “why” scientists conduct experiments to emphasize communal goals

Speaking Up in STEM: Self-advocacy and Classroom Experiences of Undergraduates with Disabilities (October 2023)
Dr. Julie Stanton described barriers to students with disabilities using accommodations in STEM majors, as well as the factors that support their self-advocacy. Stanton also described specific ways to implement active learning that are more inclusive of students with disabilities.

Implications for teaching: STEM instructors can create a more supportive classroom environment for students with disabilities by clearly communicating helpful resources and articulating how students can use accommodations in the classroom. To make active learning more inclusive, instructors should explain correct answers after polling the class and articulating expectations and options for student roles in group work.

Balancing High Expectations and Flexibility to Support Student Mental Health (December 2023)
Dr. Sarah Rose Cavanagh articulated how designing courses incorporating “compassionate challenge” can support students’ mental health and wellbeing. Structured learning activities, predictable routines, and encouraging support help students persist in the face of stressful circumstances.

Implications for teaching: Compassionate challenge shows up in teaching practices that balance warmth and support with high expectations, including low-stakes assessments, frequent feedback, opportunities to revise, and “flexibility with guardrails.”

Climate Across the Curriculum: An Octopus’s Journey (February 2024)
Dr. Sandra Goldmark shared her professional journey from integrating climate topics into her own courses to supporting her colleagues in integrating climate topics and action across the curriculum. She emphasized the need to develop new areas of expertise and take on new roles to “wrap her arms around” the complexities of the climate crisis. 

Implications for teaching: Identify the tools, practices and skills in your discipline that may help address the climate crisis and work to develop students’ competencies in these areas. Engage in “radical collaboration” to leverage the unique strengths across disciplines.

Beyond Content: Teaching for Civic Participation and Engagement (April 2024)
Dr. Bryan Dewsbury shared his own story both as a first-generation college student and as a professor to emphasize the role that faculty play in supporting students’ identities in college and in their future engagement as citizens. He described how students may not recognize that they may be struggling due to a “hidden curriculum” about how to navigate college. He also emphasizes how instructors can integrate social justice into the curriculum by helping students build skills in how to communicate across differences.

Implications for teaching: Consider and work to clearly communicate the unspoken norms and expectations that govern student success (that is, the hidden curriculum). Integrate concepts and skills (e.g., ways of thinking) that are valued in your discipline and relevant to understanding and engaging in social justice.

Post coming soon.
Exploring the Role of Classroom Climate in the Active Learning Course (April 2024)
Dr. Sarah Eddy discussed the role of instructors and learning assistants in creating an environment that motivates students’ deep engagement with active learning. Instructors can communicate their rationale for including active learning and affirm that mistakes are an important part of learning. Moreover, learning assistants increase students’ buy-in to active learning by providing direct feedback on their efforts and progress.

Implications for teaching: Clearly articulate why you are including active learning and structure activities to make space for students to practice and make mistakes without a cost to their grades. Train teaching and learning assistants to provide growth-oriented feedback that emphasizes progress and effort during active learning.