By Madeline Hurwitz, Graduate Intern, and Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA
Deanna Lloyd is a Senior Instructor in Crop & Soil Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU. She teaches a WIC course, Agricultural and Environmental Predicaments, for the Department of Crop & Soil Science. Deanna’s teaching and research focus on inclusive, socially just pedagogies and experiential learning. In the following interview with WIC Graduate Intern Madeline Hurwitz and WIC GTA Olivia Rowland, Deanna discusses the structure of her WIC course, why she invites students to write in many genres, and how she integrates difference, power, and discrimination (DPD) into WIC. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
From our interview with Deanna, Madeline Hurwitz has also created a tip sheet for WIC faculty, which you can access here.
Olivia Rowland (OR): Can you introduce yourself by telling us a bit about your teaching and research here at OSU?
Deanna Lloyd (DL): My name is Deanna Lloyd, and I use she or they pronouns. I teach in the College of Agricultural Sciences. My home department right now is Horticulture, and I teach some organic agriculture classes primarily for them. I also teach for the Sustainability Double-Degree Program, and so I teach one-and-a-half Sustainability classes. That’s the teaching side of things. I’m an instructor, so that’s primarily my role.
But I do engage in research as well, and that primarily focuses on inclusive teaching online, inclusive ag education, and I’m just starting to explore how futures thinking and imagination can be cultivated with sustainability students to imagine future scenarios that are positive and hopeful for us. Because we can’t make it happen unless we dream it first.
Madeline Hurwitz (MH): Very cool. Which WIC course do you teach?
DL: I teach one called Agricultural and Environmental Predicaments. And it’s actually cross-listed as Crop Science, Soil Science, and Sustainability. It’s pretty common for Crop and Soil classes to be cross listed, since the department is actually Crop & Soil Science, but then Sustainability’s on there as well.
For that class, predicament is the key term. I use the dictionary definition of a difficult, perplexing, or trying situation, which is kind of fun. I really clarify for students that this is what we’re going to be talking about, and the questions we’re examining don’t necessarily have clear right or wrong answers. So that’s where critical thinking and systems thinking comes in, which is really fun because I can say, “I don’t know, we’re all experts here.” It’s a nice framing so that students aren’t like, “There’s a right and there’s a wrong.”
MH: Is it hard teaching all three of those disciplines? It sounds like there’s a lot going on.
DL: Thankfully sustainability, how I engage with it, really is interdisciplinary and holistic in that it can cover anything. I can see anything with a sustainability lens, so that makes that part easy. And then the crop and soil piece is pretty simple because we’re talking about some of those topics, and they have some overlap. I use that sustainability lens throughout the course.
OR: How long have you been teaching this course? Has it changed over time?
DL: This academic year will be my sixth year teaching it. I took the class over from someone in the Crop & Soil Science Department, and at that point it was not cross listed with Sustainability. That came on once I started because I was a Sustainability instructor. We kept the idea of the predicaments the same and still having a major paper, those WIC elements that are required, but we each have our own spin on it. So it does look like a different class, and that sustainability lens is something that’s different too. That lens is thinking about sustainability through three dimensions: economic, ecological, and social. That’s the very general way that sustainability is described. It’s a great way to think about something because it usually can pull in so many different ideas if you use those three lenses.
As for how it’s changed, I’ve just evolved as an educator as my strategies change, or I learn a new strategy. And the predicaments have shifted, just thinking about what contemporary issues are going on, what issues I think are going to work well with the assignments. And also student feedback—I solicit their feedback throughout the term and at the end of the term, like which predicaments did you like the most, what ones would you recommend for future classes? So that’s been really fun to see some of those.
MH: That’s great, thank you. How do you approach teaching reading in that course?
DL: Honestly, I need more professional development and help with that to do it with intentionality. Two assignments I plucked from the WIC workshop. I have students do guided readings where you take either statements and students can identify them as true or false and support them with evidence from the readings, or take quotes and ask them to elaborate on that. That’s one part, making them dig a little more. That was full WIC.
I do also try to support them in considering how to evaluate research papers and journal articles, so that when they’re sifting through they can do that effectively and efficiently. And then we do a lot of synthesis through concept maps, mind maps for the articles and material that they’re reading.
OR: Teaching reading is something we’ve been thinking about in WIC, and that’s what the WIC workshops and seminar are for, is just to take things.
DL: I love them, those little pieces that I just implement. It’s so handy.
OR: How do you teach different genres and types of writing in your WIC course?
DL: This is what makes it the most fun for me as an instructor. I kick off the class just with a place-based essay. I have students read a number of papers by people that describe their relationship to place in some way, shape, or form, positive or negative. The readings highlight not only place connection but also issues of difference, power, and discrimination while integrating perspectives from authors with diverse social identities. We read texts like Birding While Black by J. Drew Lanham and Goldenrod & Asters: My Life with Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Then I invite students to just write a couple pages about some place or community, or some relationship they have to place, and to reflect on that. It’s a great way to kick off the class, because a lot of times students are like, “Oh my gosh, a writing-intensive course, this is going be full on.” And I can say, “Let’s just reflect here.” So that’s a great way for me to get to know them better and to get their wiggles out with writing. And it’s a fun way to remind them that all writing doesn’t need to be objective and scientific, because all of the readings that I use for this assignment are creative nonfiction from folks who work in some way in ag or natural resources.
And then throughout the term, we just have different assignments that practice synthesis, like a social media post that goes along with a journal article review. So, students synthesize material into a journal article review, and then they synthesize that into however many characters for a social media post. That’s a fun one for them to do. We practice writing an extension publication, so we read through a bunch of publications, think about the commonalities we’re seeing, and talk to some extension professionals. That’s really fun because a lot of students are more interested in that trajectory; they’re not going to be researchers. We do letters to the editor, stakeholder statements for issues that have two sides. Sometimes, depending on the topics, we do something like a policy brief.
And those are all in addition to that big scientific paper that they’ve been working on throughout the whole term. I do peer reviews on every assignment, except for that place-based essay, so they’re constantly learning from each other too.
MH: I really like that place-based essay prompt. I bet those are fun to read.
DL: They’re so fun to read, and sometimes they bring me to tears. They’re so heartfelt and vulnerable. I think it sets a stage too for students to know that they can bring their lived experiences to this class, and that those experiences will be validated.
MH: How do you incorporate difference, power, and discrimination (DPD) into your WIC course?
DL: I took the DPD Academy right as I was developing the WIC course, and so it was really in my mind. I would say the biggest thing that I bring to this course and all of my courses is the practice of systems thinking with that sustainability lens, because we can see all of these issues and topics we’re talking about through those different lenses. And that really helps students consider how an issue affects different communities, or economics, or the sustainability of our ecological systems. Just practicing systems thinking in every class—if that’s all students get out of it, that’s a top learning objective.
I think about the topic and material choices that I make, so I purposefully focus on topics where we can examine pretty clearly how different systems and structures can create inequities, power differentials, and also these things called predicaments, which are complex and difficult and trying. For example, one of the main topics of the course is seed patenting and sovereignty, and with that we might read and talk about how it connects to food justice, Indigenous rights, the Green Revolution, and corporate consolidation. With cacao and chocolate, some of the subtopics include their connections to food labeling, import and export issues, impacts of trade agreements, labor concerns, fair trade, and so on. There’s a lot there about interrogating whose perspective are we reading about and what angles we’re taking for these different topics.
I bring in different guest speakers to share their pieces. I’ve partnered with different folks around campus, like Natalia Fernández in SCARC [Special Collections and Archive Research Center] at the library. We’ve been doing this amazing introduction to the Bracero program, which brought workers from Mexico up into the United States during World War II. Students get to learn about this huge component of agricultural labor that they didn’t know about, and they’re actually working with archival material, which is really cool.
I also do the pedagogy part of thinking about the learner-focused classroom, peer-to-peer engagement, that validation of knowledge. I try to think about my own positionality and practice that reflexivity. So, there are different tiers of how I try to incorporate DPD ideas into the class.
OR: That’s great. I think it definitely has to happen on so many different levels. I’m also curious, since you teach a WIC course, if you use writing to engage students with DPD issues.
DL: It comes back to reading and writing. A lot of the materials that I use push students to think about those topics. Some of the reflections and prompts for the different assignments ask them to think about those topics from different perspectives. I also expect systems thinking in their writing. Like, I don’t just want students to evaluate what chlorpyrifos pesticides do for crops, I want them to think about what a pesticide ban means for the communities that were using them, for the communities that were exposed to them, for the animals, for the economics of our state, all of these pieces. Trying to extract that in their writing and helping them synthesize that through their writing is the goal.
MH: Did you face any obstacles in implementing DPD?
DL: Yes, well, we’re just humans and we’re all socialized into different ways of knowing, and people are at different levels of understanding around some of these topics. So, I have to think about how to scaffold the information so that I can support students who might be new to these ideas and also challenge students who have engaged with these ideas before. That’s where some of that peer-to-peer learning is amazing, and they can learn through dialogue.
Dialogue facilitation is one piece that, as an instructor and curator of information for students, I’m constantly trying to get better at. I try to pull together these ideas, which some folks in the class might agree with and some might not, and share these perspectives in a way where we can all have our minds expanded in terms of understanding that there’s different ways that we all approach these things.
I love that WIC has a cap on the number of students because you can have some of that nitty gritty dialogue facilitation and guide and support it in a meaningful way. Students are willing to go there; it’s just creating that space for students that might feel like maybe they’re in the minority in terms of their perspective to actually feel comfortable sharing.
OR: Do you have any tips for other teachers, especially about integrating DPD?
DL: There are a ton of resources on the DPD website, so I would point people in that direction if they’re thinking about how to talk about or integrate some of these DPD concepts into specific disciplines. I would also say take advantage of the professional development opportunities that we have at OSU, like the Social Justice Education Initiative. The Dialogue Facilitation Lab is amazing. Of course, the DPD Academy for folks developing DPD courses. There are lots of DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] trainings and the WIC trainings.
Thinking about the interdisciplinarity of all of the topics that we teach—even though we’re siloed in disciplines, they stretch and connect to everything. When we’re willing to expand how we think about what we teach and what counts as our topic, that opens up a lot of perspectives. It also opens up a lot of opportunities to call on other experts to share their perspectives, which has been so fun. Having a small class and integrating guest speakers is something students love, and it helps expand my mind too, because there’s all of this expertise that I learn from.
An overall tip would be to solicit feedback from students, because students are all amazing. They have so many ideas, and they engage with them in a different perspective from faculty. I’ve found what I’ve learned from students to be so insightful, and it helps me go deeper with my reflection and reflexivity.
If you’d like a condensed version of Deanna’s advice, you can find a list of suggestions and resources from this interview in the tip sheet.