Event Follow-Up: Students’ Experiences at UWGB via Neurodiverse Viewpoints

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, CATL collaborated with Assistant Vice Chancellor Stacie Christian to host a student panel on neurodiversity. Six student panelists shared their experiences as neurodiverse learners, including common barriers and misconceptions related to neurodiversity. One of the topics the panel discussed was how instructors can support them. A few common themes emerged from students’ responses so we’ve compiled them below, along with resources for ways you might implement these recommendations in your teaching.

Make Assignment Details Transparent

The student panelists shared that they find it extremely helpful when professors explain the purpose of an assignment and provide clear instructions. Their recommendation aligns with the transparency in learning and teaching (TILT) framework, a concept you may be familiar with if you’ve taken LITE 201. The TILT framework is an evidence-based approach to assignment design in which instructors demystify activities by explaining their purpose, detailing the task that students need to complete, and providing concrete grading criteria. Not sure where to start? Check out this checklist for designing transparent assignments from TILT Higher Ed. Or, for a deeper dive into the topic, consider taking a look at this webinar recording on transparent assignment design.

Explicitly Communicate Your Support

One of the “unwritten rules” of college is that students can go to their instructors when they have a question about the course or the need to connect with another institutional resource, such as tutoring or counseling. While this fact may be obvious to some students, it is not to everyone. Whether due to anxiety, trouble picking up on subtext, or unfamiliarity with the norms of higher education, some students may not ask their instructor for help unless they are given explicit permission to do so. Panelists suggested that instructors include a statement in their syllabus to remind students that they can come to the instructor if they have questions or concerns for help and/or referral to the best resource. It’s a small action but adding a statement like this can help reassure students that you care about their success and wellbeing. For more ideas on how to create a welcoming syllabus, check out this post on liquid syllabi and CATL’s liquid syllabus template. If you want to explore other ways of building trust with your students, consider creating a “getting to know you” survey, establishing class norms, or incorporating a name pronunciation activity.

Provide Alternative Formats for Information

Several student panelists emphasized the importance of providing alternate ways of communicating information whenever possible. This recommendation is not only related to “multiple means of representation” from universal design for learning (UDL) theory, but it also aligns with best practices for digital accessibility. Adding alternative means of representation doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, if you include audio or video files in your course, try to pick resources that also provide captions or a transcript. Or, if you use images, make sure you include a caption or alt text when the image is being used to convey information. If you’d like to learn more about accessibility, we encourage you to sign up for LITE 120, a self-paced training course that covers the basics of accessibility in Canvas, as well as SAS’s training course on creating accessible documents (i.e., with Word, PowerPoint, or PDF).

Related Events and Opportunities

Want to learn more about supporting diverse learners? CATL’s “Workshop Wednesday” series this semester has two upcoming sessions that may be of interest to you! First, on Wednesday, Mar. 6, we’ll take a look at how to make course materials more accessible. Then, on Wednesday, Apr. 3, we’ll explore universal design for learning (UDL) and some practical ways to apply UDL concepts in our teaching and learning. Both workshops will be from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. Registration for the March workshop on accessibility is already open. Stay tuned for details on registration for April’s workshop.

As always, CATL also welcomes you to connect with us if you’d like to learn more about any of these topics. Send us an email or request a consultation to get started!

Event Follow-Up: “Language Inclusivity at UWGB”

What language practices do your students bring to our UWGB community? How do you value and sustain those language practices in your classrooms and other interactions with students? This follow-up to the “Language Inclusivity at UWGB” workshop led by Dr. Cory Mathieu, 2022-23 EDI Consultant, on April 14, 2023, includes the session recording, an event summary, key takeaways, and resources for further reading.

Session Recording (April 14, 2023)

Event Summary

Text by Edith Mendez and Cory Mathieu

Language is fundamental to the teaching and learning that occurs in every classroom at UWGB. All academic content is construed by language. However, our students use language to not only communicate academic concepts and ideas, but also as a representation of their identity, their culture, and their sense of belonging. When our students’ language practices ­– the myriad ways they use language ­– are not upheld, uplifted, and valued in our classrooms, they can feel that they themselves are unwelcome or unaccepted in our academic spaces.

Standard language ideologies, or beliefs that certain varieties of language are more academic, more intelligent, or, simply, more correct, are deeply ingrained in our society and, especially, in academia. Students who do not speak or write ‘standard English’ are often expected to adjust their language practices to be successful, both in academics and beyond. This causes many issues, not only because their language is deemed inferior but because of the intersectionality of language and identity. Our students’ character, who they are as individuals, is then also linked to these negative connotations. Considerable research has shown that students of color and multilingual students are most frequently affected by these ideologies as their language practices are most regularly deemed to be ‘non-standard’ by those in positions of power.

Through this workshop, we further describe and debunk standard language ideologies while also offering insight as to how this issue is actively affecting UWGB students, not only academically but in terms of their identities and sense of belonging. We do so in order to offer alternative perspectives, policies, practices that are linguistically inclusive, actively welcoming and valuing the language, experiences, knowledge, capabilities, and strengths all students bring to our classrooms.

Key Takeaways

  • “Standard English” is a myth! (Lippi-Green, 2012)
    • All languages that are spoken within the U.S. and are acquired as first languages are
      • Linguistically acceptable
      • Grammatical
    • Standard English is the variety that has been afforded power and status (Lippi-Green, 2012)​.
      • ‘White mainstream English’
  • Issue with appropriateness-based approach to education
    • Standard language is a language of power, but it does not provide power to everyone.
      • Students of color will always be seen as people of color and treated as such, regardless of how they speak
  • Language is central to identity
    • Identity is central to a sense of belonging
      • Sense of belonging is central to learning
  • If students do not feel as if they belong, they may be negatively impacted
    • Academically
    • As Individuals
      • Mentally
      • Emotionally
  • There are things you can do to make each and every one of the students that walk through your door feel welcomed, valued, capable, and respected
    • Language inclusivity syllabus statement
    • Varied performance assessments with different audiences to allow for content to be expressed through different language varieties and registers
    • Explicit teaching of language and genres expected of students
    • Critical discussions about language use in your content area – why do we use and expect the language that we do? Who determined and continues to determine what language is acceptable or not in this discipline?

Further Reading

Cold Lunch & Hot Topic Follow-up: To Record or Not to Record

To Record or Not to Record? 

That appears to be the question many of us are asking ourselves.  

COVID has accelerated the presence of remote learning technology in the classroom. Much of this technology allows for videoconferencing and video recording. For many of us videoconferencing has become a normal part of the workday as we use Teams and Zoom for classes and/or meetings. This increased use and comfort of working with technology has translated into our teaching and learning, so the question is more of a should we record instead of a can we record. 

Comfort with recording, however, does not require us to implement that technology in the classroom. As you decide what to do for your class, CATL would encourage you to think first about pedagogy and content before considering technology. 

The purest and simplest answer is to be consistent with the modality of your class. The reality, though, is that our students have become accustomed to recordings being available  because we have offered recordings to support learning as part of our response to COVID. As we move away from that emergency approach to teaching, some students may still expect class recordings to be readily available regardless of the modality if they miss a class now for illness, family obligations, or work.  

Perhaps this point has merit, however, there are a few limitations we would suggest you consider before you make your final decision regarding whether to record or not record your classes.  

It may be easy to record a class meeting if you are in one of the classrooms that has all the equipment necessary to support videoconferencing or lecture streaming. Virtual classrooms that are completely run in Teams or Zoom are also easy to record. Before you hit the record button, though, you need to be mindful of your pedagogy. If your classroom is not equipped with cameras and microphones, it may seem like using our GBIT provided laptops, smart phones, or a DE cart could be a solution. But such a solution is limited by technology. We have all been in meetings this semester where the audio and video focused on one person or access to information shared in the meeting was limited. Recording with our laptops, DE carts, or personal phones creates a limited, potentially inequitable learning experience.  

If you rely on active learning, large class discussions, or significant periods of Q&A in your class, passively watching a recording of the video may not yield a comparable learning experience for your students. The CATL Team has curated a few ideas to consider offering students who must miss a class meeting which can be viewed below.  

If you elect to record a specific class meeting to accommodate a student absence, please follow best practices in video sharing, as well as guidelines for FERPA. Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching provides a good starting point to consider as you design and deliver Effective Educational Videos. In a recording, you can elect to pause or remove student conversations in class, but remember that if students’ images, names, or voices are captured in the video, you should limit access to the video to that one class. The Department of Education provides guidance a FAQ on Photos and Videos that should help with determining how best to manage FERPA concerns with class recordings.  

Finally, if these conversations have led to thoughts about your class modality and whether you should change it for a future term, please consult with your Chair. They, in consultation with the Associate Deans and Associate Provost, can help you with any policy questions you might have about the UWGB modalities. 

Strategies to Deal with Student Absences and Makeup Work 

  • At the beginning of the semester, create semester-long small groups of students and encourage them to communicate with each other about sharing notes from class. You can create a Canvas Discussion group for students to interact or post photos or links to their class notes.
    • You can also encourage students to coordinate amongst their group and share what strategy for note taking is most effective and ask students to create a plan for sharing class notes when a group member has missed a class.
    • You can use Hypothesis to create a shared note-taking document that is assigned to these small groups (e.g., post your module PowerPoint slides as a group Hypothesis PDF document for possible annotating).
  • If students are working on a group project and one of their members is missing, have one student in the group be a notetaker to fill in their missing member on what the group accomplished during class. The student who missed class and group work time will know of any important decisions that were made and be aware of tasks they need to complete to make up for the missed work time.
    • You could even require students to complete a group charter at the beginning of the group project to establish group member roles, expectations, and communication methods.
  • Have students do research to find scholarly resources, videos, or web resources that supplement the topics and materials covered during the days they missed. Ask for a brief summary of the source or sources. Bonus: you may learn of a few new resources to share with the class.
  • If your class includes reading assignments, ask students to submit a reading journal to share their observations and questions regarding assigned reading content. The reading journal serves both to meet participation for in-person class and an opportunity to engage with students about the content shared and discussion questions they may have asked if in class.
  • If you track attendance or incorporate participation points in your course, consider creating a Canvas Discussion Board where students can respond to prompts as a make-up activity if they miss class.
  • If a student missed class, and you require them to complete an alternative assignment to make up for the in-class absence, use the “Assign to” feature in Canvas to assign just the absent student(s) the make-up activity.
  • Administer your exams and quizzes through Canvas. Doing so can make it easier for students to make them up if they miss an exam day. Canvas quiz features like shuffling answer options or using question banks can also help prevent cheating if you are concerned about a student taking the quiz later than the rest of the class.
  • If you use Power Point slides for lectures or in-class instruction, consider posting them to Canvas. You can share the slides before or after class. A best practice for slides is to have limited text that students fill in with notes, as note-taking is an important part of studying and learning.
    • As a bonus for sharing your slides with the class, some students might like to print off the slides in advance and use the paper copy for taking notes during the lecture, which will also be helpful for studying later.
  • Consider supplementing your face-to-face instruction by regularly sharing brief videos (and/or audio and text resources) in Canvas that review “muddiest points” from class meetings or work through additional example problems. This type of material can be videos you create yourself or videos you have discovered on a public site (YouTube, etc.). Doing this can aid students who missed class and reinforce the learning of students who were present.
    • In general, short, targeted videos tend to be more effective than full lecture recordings and as a bonus you can reuse the material from term to term.
  • Consider using in-class digital activities which can be completed synchronously or asynchronously.
    • For example, a Hypothesis annotation activity or a collective note-taking document can be used during in-class instruction but can also be completed by a student after the fact, allowing them to see their peers' contributions as well.
    • Another example is the use of a PlayPosit video with embedded questions. PlayPosit Broadcast can be used to let students interact with the video synchronously in class, or you can create a lightbulb activity to be completed before or after a course or for an asynchronous course.

Event Follow-Up: Planning for Our Pedagogical Futures

Below is the recording of the presentation and discussion with Christin DePouw “Planning for Our Pedagogical Futures” from Thursday, Apr. 21, 2022. We’ve provided the video as a PlayPosit bulb so that you can engage with questions from the workshop facilitator.

To view the bulb, type your first and last name, then click “Save.”

Additional Sources & Reading

Event Follow-Up: Culturally Sustaining/Responsive Pedagogy in the “After” of the Pandemic

Below is the recording of the presentation and discussion with Christin DePouw “Culturally Sustaining/Responsive Pedagogy in the ‘After’ of the Pandemic” from Thursday, Mar. 31, 2022. We’ve provided the video as a PlayPosit bulb so that you can engage with questions from the workshop facilitator.

To view the bulb, type your first and last name, then click “Save.”