A number of "I VOTED" stickers

Preparing to Teach in the Context of the Election

Overlapping crises have framed our experience this fall and the election brings these crises into sharp focusPrinceton’s Bridging Divides Initiative and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) write “amid a rising tide of political polarization, hate crimes, and widespread social mobilization, the United States is at a heightened risk of violence and instability going into the 2020 election.” This risk, they note “is further exacerbated by an economic contraction triggered by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which may now be posed for a second wave.” Instructors, students, and staff feel the impact of this instability and vulnerability alike. 

Whether or not the election itself is a relevant and teachable topic for your class, it will likely be a major influence on the lived experience of all of us. This post collects some information on how to work with the reality that the election hovers over all of us. Then, the post discuses some ways you may wish to incorporate it into your classroom. It ends with places to refer students. 

The election touches us all (but not equally) 

We all live within a context of increased stress as we approach the election. Much of this stress is outside our direct control. Depending on the identities one holds, they may also experience the increased stress of racist, homophobic, or otherwise marginalizing public discourse. Our experiences with the election are not equal. In this context, political polarization has increased the general perception of feeling dehumanized. Wall carry complicated feelings into the classroom but we do so unequally. 

To complicate matters, many instructors are already doing additional care work in their teaching and home lives. The election may bring on feelings of more care work to come. The University of Oregon has collected some self-care strategies and some ways to communicate care to students that you may find useful to employ in your classroom. The goal is not to increase the already high workload but rather to acknowledge the care work instructors are doing and offer strategies for doing it. 

Selfcare strategies 

Plan flexibility into your schedule: It may be helpful to look at your meetings and see which ones are crucial and which ones are not. Perhaps you can find ways to decrease your workload and find space to reflect, process, and breathe. 

Plan to process your emotions:If you haven’t already, identify people you feel you can contact to discuss your feelings about the election—even plan for when you’ll connect. 

Access resources that support mental and emotional health: The campus put together a “Coping and Emotional Well-being” page which serves as a hub for ideas regarding self-care as well as local and national resources that are available to members of the UWGB community. 

Communicate care to students 

Verbalize care: You may wish to put an announcement in Canvas that you acknowledge that the election is a stressful event and that you care about your students’ well being regardless of their political beliefs.  

Build flexibility into your class schedule: Assess the workload for the week of the election and see if there is possibility to build in some flexibility with deadlines. 

Refer students: You cannot solve all problems and may wish to share the resources at the bottom of this post with your students. 

If the election fits into your course content 

What role does your discipline play? 

Teaching about the election may not suit your classes. But, if it does, just about every discipline can help our students evaluate the platforms of our elected leaders from a critical perspectiveThe University of Michigan Center for Research in Learning and Teaching (CRLT) has put together some resources to help instructors think through how to facilitate lessons about the election from within their disciplines: 

As you prepare to facilitate discussion about the election, consider these questions: 

  • Which topics within my discipline might require special attention in light of the election? 
  • How might the candidate platforms be a resource for teaching and learning these topics? 
  • How might my discipline be impacted by policy decisions as a result of the election? 
  • What are the diverse perspectives and voices that characterize my field related to these topics, and how do I maintain some balance in presenting them? ​ 

Related Resources: 

How might your courses allow students to practice core democratic skills? 

Again, as the Michigan CRLT recommends, the classroom can be a place of informed and respectful dialogue amid a political context when this is all too rare. In that sense classrooms are vital democratic spaces. In addition to the content of our individual disciplines, there are overarching democratic skills that students can develop in courses across the University. These include: 

  • The ability to engage in respectful discourse and thoughtful argumentation 
  • The capacity to speak and listen in ways that promote collective learning and advance social good 
  • The skills of critical literacy and the ability to evaluate bias in text, discourse, and other mediums 

Related Resources: 

Where/how can I refer students? 

It is easy to feel alone when teaching remotely. But there are resources on campus where you can (and should) refer students. These resources are always available but the election may highlight the need for some of these resources. 

Discussing further 

The election affects us all but we may not all engage with it in the classroom in the same way. The purpose of this post is not to provide “the answer” for how to teach the importance of the election to students. Rather it acknowledges the election’s role as a framing element of our lives and offers multiple ways to engage with it at the personal, interpersonal, and disciplinary levels.  

Yet, it is not the final word. The Center wishes to hear about your ideas and experiences in incorporating the election into your classroom. Feel free to respond in the comments to this post. 

Also, the Solidarity Café—an asynchronous discussion space hosted by CATL—has some threads already started that carry forward the themes of this post, teaching about the election and handling the uncertainty in our work and home lives. 

Person rowing a small boat on calm waters

Re-Engaging Students Mid-Semester

Are you having a hard time reaching all of your students through your usual communication channels or are you unsure of ways to re-engage students who haven’t been turning in work? In our blog post last week, we collected resources about how to get feedback from your students at mid-semester to figure out what’s working and what might need to shift. This week, we want to give you some strategies for engaging with your students when they may be difficult to reach mid-semester. 

Here are our strategies for leveraging technology and tools to re-engage students: 

  1. Use transparent and consistent messaging strategies. Letting students know how you’re going to contact them early in the semester can help set this expectation, but if what you decided to use isn’t working as expected, try reaching out to the whole class with a duplicate message either:
  2. Use the “Message Students Who” tool built into the Canvas Gradebook. This feature allows you to just message students who haven’t submitted to an assignment or based on some other criteria. See how to do this here: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Instructor-Guide/How-do-I-send-a-message-to-students-from-the-Gradebook/ta-p/741 
  3. Record short, just-in-time-videos to help direct students to the things they should focus on for the week and in the upcoming weeks. Here’s how you can create videos using Kaltura My Media: https://uknowit.uwgb.edu/89306 
    • Consider also creating a page or schedule where students can see with all due dates listed for the course if you don’t have one already.
  4. Add due dates to assignments, discussions, and quizzes so that students are reminded via the “student todo list on the course homepage. 
  5. If you use conferences or ask your students to meet with you during the semester use the Canvas Scheduler to create appointment groupshttps://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Instructor-Guide/How-do-I-add-a-Scheduler-appointment-group-in-a-course-calendar/ta-p/1021
  6. If you used Navigate to create progress reports for your students around week 5, you can still create “ad hoc alerts” to help your students, who may need some additional assistance, to connect with their advisors.

What other scalable tips and tricks you can share to reach students? Let us know either by commenting here or sharing in the Solidarity Café. 

Foundations of Teaching with Canvas: On-Your-Own Edition

CATL has a new self-paced course available!

Learn about how Canvas can support your in-person, hybrid, blended, or online course in this on-your-own, asynchronous course. After completing the course, you’ll be able to:

  • Use the core tools of Canvas – discussions, quizzes, assignments, grades, pages, and modules – within the context of how you’d like to teach your courses.
  • Use the communication tools bundled in Canvas – discussions, announcements, chat, Blackboard Collaborate, and Kaltura – to stay connected with your students.
  • Use Canvas to present course materials and assess student learning.

You’ll engage with these topics as you work through the Foundations course, applying them to one of your own concluded courses or an empty “master” course for future use. Participants that choose to confirm their completion of the training course by submitting their work will be eligible for a digital badge indicating their professional development efforts as well as opening further advanced training opportunities.

Signing Up

To sign up for the Foundations of Teaching with Canvas course, follow these steps:

  1. Open this link, https://uws-td.instructure.com/enroll/6GACEA.
  2. Sign in with your UW-Green Bay username and password.
  3. Once signed in, click on the [Enroll in Course]
  4. You’re now enrolled in the course as a student. Click on [Go to the Course] to begin immediately.

If you enroll in the course and can’t find it later, refer to this guide from Canvas on adding courses to your Dashboard.

Teaching Toolbox

CATL continues to add to the Teaching Toolbox: a suite of resources to help you build and carry out your courses. 

Technology Toolkit 

In this section of the new CATL Resources site, we’ve created some guides to help you think about how you might wish to use technology to support your learning outcomes and pedagogyWe’ve created technology guides for things like Collaborate Ultra, VoiceThread, Kaltura My Media Video Recording, Video Quizzes, and more!

View the Technology Toolkit Here

Resilient Teaching Toolkit 

In this section, we’ve created some resources about how to teach when the center of gravity for your courses may be in flux due to the nature of the Fall 2020 semester. Some pages include things like optional attendance policies, interpersonal activities, equity challenges, and preserving class community. We’ve also created pages around “Practical Hybrid Course Tips” and how to “Navigate masked in-person and online group work.”  

View the Resilient Teaching Toolkit Here

Peer Assessment of Teaching (For Remote Instruction)

Sometimes a little collegiality is just what the doctor ordered to iron out the kinks in a course. 

We can all use some feedback every now and then and teaching in new environments calls upon new skills. A colleague with fresh eyes can help you spot what is going well and what can be improved.

The Center has adapted our regular peer assessment of teaching to suit the new pandemic format. Watch for more information to enlist a colleague (or two!) to be evaluation buddies. 

Note that this process is for formative evaluation only and is not intended for summative review for promotion or tenure.