What would it take to start a movement in which every new course proposal aimed for inclusivity and diversity?
What would it take to have sustained conversations about diversity and inclusivity in course development and delivery?
What would it look like if every required course syllabus was regularly reexamined with an eye for inclusivity and diversity?
What would be possible if suggestions like these weren’t met with raised hackles or self-defensive positioning?
What would first-year courses look like if each syllabus was designed to deliver introductory content and inclusive and diverse methodologies?
What would department meetings look like if diversity was an agreed-upon requirement and practice for teaching and learning?
What would you change about the syllabi you’re teaching this semester, were you to do a gender audit or an accounting for diversity of authors?
Do these seem like impossible questions to answer? Do they seem all too familiar?
Last week as I was
grading procrastinating, I stumbled upon something very exciting happening on Aimée’s Facebook wall. An amazing discussion was unfolding about the need for, well, more public discussions about how we teachers replicate our own knowledge, and in so doing, unwittingly replicate our own biases. Without reproducing the discussion in full here, the gist was this: despite it being *shrug, mic drop* 2015, syllabi are, for the most part, remarkably lacking in inclusivity and diversity. Why?
Once we are in a position to be hireable to stand at the front of a classroom and teach, presumably we have developed a degree of expertise. Expertise may be in the content of your research, or in your learned ability to structure compelling lecture-techniques to deliver content. You may be an expert at walking into the room and guiding discussion with no notes. But none of us are wholly expert in all things. That belies the definition of what an expert is. And so we are, as teachers, both able to stand tall in our own areas of expertise and, I should hope, recognize where we each, all of us, have room for improvement. For consultation. For collaboration and learning. Right?
Uh. Maybe not, eh?
Maybe collaborative discussion is happening around learning outcomes and syllabus development in your department, and then again, maybe not so much. Maybe not at all? Certainly, not enough.
As I watched the conversation unfold it became clear that while there may be a deep desire for meaningful and sustained conversations and practices around creating inclusive and diverse syllabi, most of the people involved in the conversation were not seeing that in their own departments. But rather than fall into frustrated silences the people Aimée had a suggestion: why not start a discussion and collaborative brainstorming/resource-sharing movement on Twitter?
This reminds me of another version of Marcia Chatelaine‘s #FergusonSyllabus, which used Twitter first as a call to action in the classroom, and then as a collaborative brainstorming session about how to facilitate meaningful discussions about racism in America in a variety of learning contexts.
This suggestion also makes me think of the shadow syllabus.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
This is the hashtag Aimée has devised, and we’re getting started today!
If you are interested in thinking through and working to build inclusive and diverse syllabi for your courses next term, search #inclusivesyllabus
If you are an expert in building inclusive and diverse syllabi in your field, share your process #inclusivesyllabus
If you think that your field/period/genre/methodology doesn’t allow for inclusivity and diversity, try thinking that through #inclusivesyllabus
See you there!