All the students who start out in a class often do not make it until the end of semester. A new book by two UNC professors is seeking to change this.
Viji Sathy and Kelly Hogan are the authors of "Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom."
“Look to your left. Look to your right. You all are going to help each other through this course, through this curriculum, whatever it is — we're all a team, and that includes us as instructors and helping you understand the material,” Sathy, professor of the practice in the UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, said.
Sathy and Hogan define inclusive teaching as a framework or mindset based on the idea that learning is not left to chance in a group of diverse students — who differ not only in race, gender or ethnicity, but also in other parts of their identifies and backgrounds.
“We think about introverts,” Hogan, a UNC biology professor, said. “We think about people who might have imposter syndrome. We think about first-generation college students, students from small rural towns. We like to think about how all of those students are being incorporated into a classroom in a way that feels safe and comfortable.”
Sathy said diversity in class is an asset and important for learning.
“We don't want to ever blame students for being different and coming to us with these different experiences,” Sathy said. “We want to think about what role we play as educators in leveling the playing field.”
The book, published in August , discusses the experiences and successes Sathy and Hogan have had with inclusive teaching, with a variety of diverse student events, blended with anecdotes and research. Hogan and Sathy both received their doctoral degrees from UNC.
Hogan said she found it important to write a book that was accessible and practical to readers, especially to college instructors of STEM, arts or the social sciences — many who may not have had extensive training in the field of education.
The brightly-colored book cover features a kolam, a pattern drawn by women in India at doorsteps using rice flour, an ode to Sathy’s cultural background.
“To me, this signifies the sort of invitation that you're crossing the threshold (into) the classroom — hopefully, we're being inviting in that approach,” Sathy said.
While writing the book, the authors put themselves in the shoes of students in order to remember their own experiences as students.
Hogan said as a student she was quiet and did not usually participate in class.
“The classes were taught in one way which was the instructor talking the whole time, and sometimes asking a question to the group where you would have had to raise your hand and answer a question, and that was it," Hogan said.
The book discusses strategies that instructors can use when planning courses, syllabi or grading policies, such as using outlines to promote inclusivity and cater to all students.
Eric Hastie, a teaching assistant professor in the Biology Department, was one of the few people who read the book before it was published. He considers one of his greatest strengths to be community building and has used some of the strategies mentioned in Sathy and Hogan’s book in his classroom.
Hastie said he finds the book to be an excellent resource to teachers, both new and old.
“One of the things that I just started doing were these group office hours outside where I just go and crochet, and the students come and chat and whatever,” Hastie said. “I never would have thought to try that without thinking about some of the activities that they wrote about in their book.”
Sathy and Hogan both said they are pleased with the book’s feedback so far and look forward to seeing how it can improve teaching in a class, be it big or small.
“It feels wonderful to think that we might impact potentially more students than are in my classroom, that people might benefit from these kinds of discussions and spark more research, for example, on the topic, and spark more conversations about what works,” Sathy said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.