Graduate Teaching on Diversity: Week 8/9

Because of Thanksgiving, we only met in Week 8.  We had a guest lecture by Anne Gillies from our Office of Equity and Inclusion.  Anne gave an overview of implicit bias, what it is, how it arises and how we can overcome it.  It was the only full lecture we’ve had in the class so far, and it will be interesting to see what students prefer — I will be surveying students next week on various aspects of the course.  I think I would prefer, as a student, discussion-based classes, but students may be more comfortable, in a university setting, in a more standard lecture-based scenario.

But then this class is all about getting students out of their comfort zones.

Anne has attendees take some Implicit Association Tests before discussing implicit bias, which I find an interesting tactic.  Anne also came to our faculty retreat at the start of the quarter to give a too-short (not her choice) version of her talk.  There was some resistance from faculty to the notion of implicit bias and that the implicit association tests may say anything about one’s implicit biases. I had the same concerns when I first took these tests.  So, before the class, I asked Anne if she had some readings about just that, to preempt people’s scientific skepticism: this is a technical article and this article is less technical (and resulting Q&A).

There weren’t many questions, but of course, we didn’t have much time for questions (again, we need more time for these topics!).  I am reminded that, when inviting a guest lecturer, I need to do a better job of explaining the audience.  I fear that the majority international, many of whom are English-language learners, audience may have had difficulty with the pace of the lecture and the American cultural references.

I also looked over a short assignment to the class.  I had students read Never Meant to Survive: A Black Woman’s Journey: An Interview with Evelyn Hammonds, which my colleague Padma Akkaraju pointed me to.  It is an interview of a black women who studied physics and eventually left physics, despite academic success, in graduate school.  When I read this interview, I was struck by how many aspects of discrimination were described and yet, because it is an older article and an interview as opposed to a scholarly article, it doesn’t use a lot of the terminology that we use today (such as implicit bias and intersectionality).  So, as an assignment, I had students read the article and underline and annotate instances corresponding to a short vocabulary for diversity we studied in week 1.  Overall, there were quite thoughtful annotations and several students annotated similarities to their own experiences at OSU.  In future renditions of this course, I would put this assignment much earlier in the course — in week 2, for example.  I also quite liked this mechanism for an assigned reading, so will likely use it again (and recommend it for others).

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