Written by Sarah Bania-Dobyns, Josef Korbel School of International Studies
In the winter quarter of 2018, I taught a class that had been taught for many years in the Graduate Program at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies: Cross-Cultural Communications. This course is considered a “skills” course within the MA programs in the Korbel School. Therefore, as I designed the course, it was critical for me to keep its practical orientation so that students would walk away with tools they would use in international and/or domestic, cross-cultural and intercultural professional contexts. As I examined the syllabus that the previous instructor had designed, I sought to build on what had been successful, while deepening students’ practical engagement with cross-cultural communication skills.
Adding an Experiential Learning Component
As I looked at the prior syllabus, I thought there was great potential for giving students more practice with non-written communication skills. The class was grounded in theories and concepts from the cross-cultural communications field (e.g. Edward Hall, Geert Hofstede), so students were learning a solid framework they could use to understand and expect cultural differences. However, other than giving a verbal presentation, students were not extensively practicing verbal and non-verbal communication. I knew that our students would go on to careers in which they could be involved in issues as diverse as human trafficking, disaster relief, peacekeeping, and other international roles where cultural mistakes could make a critical difference.
While I could not replicate the seriousness of inter-cultural situations they would face in the classroom, I did think that I could simulate inter-cultural encounters so that students would gain practice thinking on their feet when faced with dilemmas prompted by — or exacerbated by– cultural differences (see Figure 1). To do this, I introduced the use of several video simulations that would challenge students to use different communication strategies in hypothetical cross-cultural situations. Students would role-play the scenarios in groups, using culturally informed knowledge to make decisions about how to interact in the simulations. They would also engage in a thorough reflection process in which they would re-evaluate their own communication styles in light of course readings and their interactions within the simulations.
Before even discussing the pedagogical issues surrounding the simulations, there were some basic practical issues that had to be addressed first. How would students record and share the simulations with each other? With the class?
To make the recordings, students were able to check out video recording equipment from the Digital Media office. Also, in one of the simulations, the students were asked to focus on the challenges posed by long-distance, remote communication, so they recorded that simulation using Zoom.
To share the videos, students used DU’s Video Manager. Rich Path, from the Office of Teaching and Learning, visited my class to orient the class to using Video Manager, an internal university resource where students, faculty, and staff can upload and share videos. Video Manager allows you to upload videos that are for your own private viewing, as well as for specific groups, which you can create.
For the simulations process in the class, I planned on having students work in groups for the length of the quarter. Together, each group would role-play the simulations (there were 4). Thus, I created several groups on Video Manager, as well as a whole class group so that students could share their videos with each other and with the whole class.
Finally, I encouraged students to use the “bookmarks” function in Video Manager, which allows users to mark specific time frames within the video with notes–much like placing an electronic post-it note. This function was valuable when we held feedback sessions in class to reflect on the simulation process. The bookmarks allowed the individuals who were receiving feedback to mark specific moments within the video that they wanted to focus on in their feedback sessions.
I also scaffolded a reflective process around the simulations so that students would become more aware of their own communication preferences, strengths, and areas of growth as related to culture.
How it Went: Learnings for Future Courses
When I began planning this course, I was most concerned about making sure that all the technological components would be integrated smoothly into the course. And there were certainly a few minor issues with using Video Manager, but we were able to address these technological issues fairly easily.
What turned out to be much more challenging was the integration of a rigorous, reflective process alongside the video simulations. I anticipated that I would need to model a feedback session, so I invited Casey Dinger, the Assistant Director of Internationalization, to co-facilitate a feedback session. The model feedback session involved showing a brief video of a cross-cultural encounter. I then role-played as one of the characters, and I explained my reflections on my culturally influenced behavior in the video, and then identified what I wanted feedback on. Then Casey facilitated the discussion, guiding students to use concepts such as uncertainty avoidance, power distance, etc., to analyze my role in the video and provide feedback.
However, students found it extremely challenging to write about their own experiences from a critical, reflective standpoint. As graduate students, they were used to writing traditional academic papers, in which the use of the personal voice is limited. I was asking them to use a personal voice, but also critique it by using academic reasoning and sources. Because of these challenges, I ended up scaling back the number of simulations in order to make time for discussion about the goals of this type of writing. In a future iteration of the course, I plan to introduce them to the concept of reflective academic writing with an initial assignment that will introduce them to the purpose of such writing and to the premise of the course: to reflect carefully and thoughtfully about communication in cross-cultural contexts and to use the theories as tools to help each individual become more aware of –and therefore grow– his/her own communication skills.
Sarah Bania-Dobyns would like to thank the following people for their assistance with the class: Rich Path, for his assistance with incorporating the new technology elements; Casey Dinger, for visiting the course, helping model some of the reflective elements, and providing feedback about the simulations; and Dr. Linda Seward, from Middle Tennessee State University, who consulted with the instructor on course content.
Written by Jessica Comola, Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
It’s 8am in my Spring 2018 Intro to Creative Writing class: eleven students down their coffees, trying to wake up quickly enough to absorb the information in this new course syllabus. On the first page, they are met with the participation requirement: in addition to in-class participation, they’ll each be expected to make one entry weekly in our “ENGL 1000: Glossary of Terms,” a GoogleDoc accessed through Canvas. I explain this co-created, asynchronous document is intended to broaden what participation can look like in a discussion-based, seated class, providing opportunities for engagement beyond traditional, verbal contributions. Some students looked relieved, others a bit skeptical, but in those first few weeks they complete the work, adding 1) a term, 2) a definition in their own words, and 3) their initials in parentheses so I can keep track of who has done what.
This class is typical: one freshman English major, the rest mostly seniors from the natural, social, and applied sciences needing to squeeze in an elective before graduation. They share reservations about “creativity”—questioning what it means and whether or not they “have it.” Creative writing classes are often viewed, for better or worse, as spaces of unfettered self-expression; as we discuss course goals, I clarify (and complicate) what this can mean: reading/writing as a reflexive practice aimed at greater self-awareness and rhetorical attunement, shared critique as a site for personal observation, articulation, and collaborative thinking, and creativity as critical work, where we’re asked to engage all the complex relationships between a text’s content, form, and function(s).
My own creative work, and my pedagogical practices, come out of a critical disability studies background; I view my classroom as an extension of this work, where in-class participation, a given in my field, can be a site for rethinking unintentional ableist practices. Some students are comfortable initiating spoken contributions: raising their hands, jumping into existing conversations, articulating ideas on the spot. For these students, the expectations of a conventional workshop classroom pose no challenges when it comes to the participation average. For others, assessments of participation, presence, and expression based in real-time, verbal contribution prove prohibitive. My goal is to create viable alternatives for these individuals, while encouraging students of all kinds towards multiple avenues of engagement.
In Week 5, I check in on how the Glossary is shaping up in a brief, written survey: I use their responses as a launchpad to discuss relationships between this document and our larger course goals. Students share that they are pulling most of their terms from my opening lectures (~10 mins) and our group discussions of readings for that day (~50 mins). The Glossary is helping them capture the vocabulary of the course, pushing them to articulate concepts in their own words and serving as a communal note-taking space. They connect this work back to our goals of critical/analytical thinking and collaborative work. But they also share that it feels competitive; they’re so focused on contributing a new term that they’re losing track of the nuances of our discussion. We have a frank talk about what changes could be made and decide to further expand what a contribution might look like. Not only can they share a term and its definition, they might also add an example from our materials or an external link to a “further reading” example online. We discuss broadening the scope of the terms beyond those specific to creative writing; because there are so many non-majors, and because an intro course can serve as a taste of the broader field, we expand our terminology toward greater conceptual work—not only can they contribute words like “metaphor” or “memoir” that come directly out of creative writing, they can also add terms like “associative thinking,” or “rhetorical analysis” that they have not been asked to define explicitly in their own majors.
As we move through the quarter, the GoogleDoc grows to nearly 200 terms and the individual entries expand beyond one-sentence definitions. Students ask if they can contribute examples of terms from each other’s creative work and their own writing, they suggest a Word-of-the-Week that I add to the Glossary with my own definitions/examples as a model, they ask to return to older entries and build on them with a new and deepened understanding of terms as we apply them in different contexts, and I point out they’ve been using it as a place to ask each other questions as well. For my part, I use it to track levels of student engagement that push beyond conventional in-person approaches, and it gives me much greater insight into which concepts and materials students might need to spend more time with. I use the document to reflect on my own teaching methods, returning to concepts with underdeveloped or somewhat precarious definitions, and challenging students to make connections between terms, especially those they may still be in the process of fully digesting.
In Week 10, I check back in with them more formally about the functions of this document: they feel that it has opened new avenues for self-reflection outside of the classroom and for more complex conversations with each other. While it still feels at times like they’re vying for original entries, the expanded options for contribution within the document have redirected it more toward a site for collaborative conversation rather than individual competition. In future classes, they suggest I spend more time framing the Glossary from the start so that students can understand it not as a site for busywork or a way to rack up quick participation points, but rather as a space for ongoing engagement with the vocabulary of a field that’s much more conceptually complex than many of them assumed.
17 May 2018
Written by: Kate Tennis, Korbel School of International Studies
In International Relations and many related disciplines, we pride ourselves in producing strong writers. Most of our upper-level courses require students to produce long papers. While students learn a lot, it is difficult for them to showcase their work; in today’s crowded information environment, few people have the time or patience to read lengthy writing.
I didn’t want to lose the benefits of learning to write these longer papers, as I believe that the research, analysis, and writing skills are invaluable. However, I wanted to help students transform what they learned into a format that was more succinct and digestible—a portfolio piece that they could share with potential employers, colleagues, and even friends and family.
To meet these goals, I decided to try “One New Thing” in a 3000-level course on Current Issues in Human Security. The final project I assigned for the course was a 10-15-minute podcast, produced in small groups. But these podcasts were grounded in research that students conducted individually and presented as a traditional writing assignment in Week 8.
Students submitted a research plans in Week 3, dividing themselves into 2-3-person groups and describing how each member’s individual research project would help them collectively explore a single facet of human security in their final podcast. I then had a number of smaller assignments throughout the quarter where they were required to develop specific portions of their individual or group work.
I do not have a background in audio production, so benefited enormously from the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning and the Digital Media Center. Specifically, Rich Path in the Office of Teaching and Learning generously took time to teach me about me about recording and editing software, and provided an in-class recording demo. And Anna Winter at the Digital Media Center taught a fantastic workshop, introducing my students to audio editing in Audacity. Huge thanks to both of them.
How did it go?
Overall, the podcasts were very successful. The students brought a wealth of content from their individual research papers, and were excited about presenting this information in an acoustically compelling and interesting way. I devoted the last two class periods to “listening parties” where we played the podcasts and used them to generate conversations and Q&A for the groups about the topics that they studied. This gave students the opportunity to take ownership of their knowledge and recognize themselves as experts in their topical areas.
What lessons have I taken away from this process?
Most importantly, I loved watching students merge their individual and group work—but this required more support and planning than I had expected. While some groups had little trouble finding like-minded group-members and envisioning the links between their projects, some groups had less obvious affinity between their interests, and I played a larger role in helping them structure their collaborations.
Second, the idea of combining a longer traditional writing assignment with a shorter portfolio piece is one that I plan to carry into all of my future courses—it was hugely successful. But not all students were equally motivated by the audio format. Podcasts are currently a booming medium—leading to a “rebirth” or “second golden age” of radio. Indeed, many of our course “readings” were in the form of podcasts. So most students were excited to work in this format, but I got feedback from a couple who would have preferred to have had an alternative medium as an option.
27 Apr 2018
Finding a sense of belonging in a chemistry class is one factor in facilitating a positive experience in a first-year college student. In order to build a sense of feeling like part of a group along with ownership of class material, I provided an opportunity for first-year students to teach their peers one subject in General Chemistry Lab II in Winter 2018.
In January, first-year students were asked to identify and write down on a sheet of paper one topic they felt they would be comfortable teaching to the class. Toward the end of the quarter, the students then taught their chosen topic to the small groups that they worked with throughout the quarter. This allowed them the opportunity to rigorously study a topic that they were interested in as well as learn from, and provide feedback to, the other students. The students were asked to provide three pieces of feedback after each teaching session: one thing they learned from listening to their classmates’ presentations, one thing they felt their classmate did really well, and one thing they felt their classmate could improve upon. Using the same groups during the quarter allowed them to feel very comfortable with each other by this point and led to successful teaching sessions and good feedback. Following a similar exercise in Fall 2017, one student inquired whether this fun-activity would be repeated in Spring 2018.
Dr. Yolanda Anyon and Heather Kennedy were awarded a One New Thing mini grant to support an innovation in the Community and Positive Youth Development (CPYD) course offered by the Graduate School of Social Work. The course provides students an opportunity to learn about evidence-based, strengths focused approaches to working with children and adolescents. Prior to the One New Thing award, the major assignment for the course was for students to create a mock lesson plan for a hypothetical after school program. One challenge with this assignment was that students struggled to integrate anti-oppressive approaches and cultural considerations into their lesson plans. There were also several limitations to this assignment format. First, without an audience for the students’ work, the assignment lacked relevance and real world applicability. Second, the lessons were not connected to each other, so students did not learn how to sequence and scaffold learning opportunities for youth.
To address these challenges, Anyon and Kennedy brainstormed ways the course assignment could be improved, deciding that many of the challenges identified would be addressed if the lesson plans were responsive to a real need by an organization serving diverse youth. We therefore contacted our partners in Denver Public School’s (DPS) Whole Child Supports in the Division of Student Equity and Opportunity to identify a potential venue for our students’ work. They articulated a need for a curricular resource that would provide their youth with an opportunity to explore their identities and build stronger relationships with adults in their school.
In partnership with DPS, Heather revised the course assignment so that the final project for the Winter, 2017 section of the class involved students creating a sequenced curriculum of 10 lesson plans focused on identity development and relationship building. She facilitated a participatory action research process with students to guide them in the development of the ten session curriculum. CPYD students chose the overarching topics of each lesson, decided how they would be sequenced, and designed the activities that constituted each lesson. Students worked in pairs and developed one lesson each.
CPYD students submitted several different versions of their lessons and talked with one another in staff meeting-style discussions to make sure the curriculum flowed and was cohesive. In class, each pair presented part of their lesson and received feedback both on their facilitation style and the content of their assignment. Students were encouraged to consider both universal design principles and anti-oppressive practices within their individual lessons. At the end of the quarter, once the curricula was at a stage of near completion, the CPYD students met with a youth board called the Youth Partnership for Health, to get feedback on their ideas. The students revised their lesson plans based on this feedback before their final submission. Ms. Kennedy and Dr. Anyon then worked with a graphic designer to format the curriculum so that it looked professional, and presented it to DPS.
In the next quarter (Spring 2017), Ms. Kennedy worked with Dr. Kristen Atkinson (instructor) to revise the final assignment for that section of the course so that it would build on the project completed in the winter. Students were tasked with creating 12-20 minute online training modules that would accompany the curriculum and to prepare adult facilitators (e.g. after school program providers) for delivering the lesson plans. To prepare for this assignment, CPYD students first watched and critiqued a variety of online trainings. Then, in pairs, they each chose a topic (brainstormed by students in the winter section) that would be the focus of their module. Each pair researched their respective focus area and drafted an outline of their online training. Then, students each recorded the training using either Zoom or Screencast-o-matic, received feedback from their peers, and integrated these suggestions into final versions of the recorded trainings.
The curriculum and online training modules have been shared with DPS, and also have been provided to other youth serving agencies and youth work practitioners. Both are available on portfolio: https://portfolio.du.edu/yanyon/page/65215
How did it go, and what did you learn?
The students in the Winter 2017 quarter were initially frustrated with aspects of the assignment that were ambiguous because it was new, and overwhelmed by the pressure of creating a cohesive product for an actual client. Over time, however, the students commented how the project was both rewarding, because they were making something that was real, and daunting and tiring, for the same reason. At the end of the quarter, the students were very proud of what they had created. The multiple layers of choice and voice they had in the classroom was different than what they had experienced previously. The students reported that they appreciated the ability to make substantive choices in the design of the curriculum, even if that was also a central challenge they faced in completing the assignment.
The Spring 2017 quarter students also initially felt that their responsibilities of summarizing evidence, making it meaningful for adults, and creating an interactive training on a new software was quite challenging. Given that this was the second time allowing students to make substantive choices and have a very present voice in the classroom decisions, we were able to normalize those sentiments at the outset. After some initial anxiety abated, the students saw the value in what they were making and their work exceeded our expectations.
University College’s (UCOL) Michelle Kruse-Crocker applied for a One New Thing mini grant to review the articles and textbooks for their two main research courses. Staff and instructors worked together to update the readings to reflect more diversity and inclusion. This blog post summarizes the process and outcomes of the project.
1. What were you trying to change or solve?
The two main University College research courses -4905 and 4910- contain a variety of articles and textbooks used to deliver information about types of research and social science methods exploration. The Research Practices and Applications course was taught using an outdated text that contained some publisher constraints. In addition, prior student evaluation feedback indicated and that text did not contain a diversity or inclusivity focus. Allison O’Grady, University College Senior Instructional Support Specialist, collected course evaluations from 16 sections of the research courses that allowed for a view of the quantitative and qualitative data about teaching materials and readings to help inform our discussions about new material choices. Results indicated that students were not completely displeased with the current readings, but no mention of diversity or inclusion appeared as a highlight or important factor related to the readings, although that is a goal within our unit. Therefore, we were at a crossroads of needing a new text and seeking an opportunity to select new course materials from a more inclusive and diversity-focused lens.
The goal: Determine feasibility for faculty and the program director to make changes to the reading materials for University College’s two main research courses that enrich the students’ exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds.
The following were the operational definitions paraphrased from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, which helped to focus the reading group.
- Diversity – Individual differences and group/social differences.
- Inclusion – The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (AAC&U, 2017).
2. What did you do?
Articles were selected by our group (all readers are Master Teachers at University College). Each article was selected for one or more of the following items: the author’s diversity, the sample diversity, or the diversity of the professional fields represented that reflect those that our students are engaged with studying while at University College. All articles were read by the group and examined through a Diversity and Inclusion in Course Readings Rubric, developed for Research Practices and Applications (4910) by Valentina Iturbe-LaGrave, Assistant Director for Inclusive Teaching Practices at the OTL. The rubric served as an inquiry tool for categorization of the authors or reading by the following criteria: Race, Gender Social Class, and Sexual Orientation. Our UCOL program assistant, Genna Madic, conducted research about each article’s authors to determine what form of diversity they represent in terms of demographics and divergent thought. We created a chart to track different aspects that contribute to author’s diversity – knowing these were surface level based assumptions to some degree. All readers were provided with the readings’ authors’ information. A determination of whether a reading or course material content met the rubric criteria led to the addition or subtraction of the reading from our reserve of potential course materials. This process was challenging and led to much discussion about meaning and intent of the project and if the readings aligned with the overall course outcomes. However, we did decide that the readings chosen can easily be incorporated into curricula because they included research conduct, the role of IRB and ethical boards, and how to recognize and evaluate ethical situations in practice as they relate to author diversity, sample diversity or inclusion, and diversity of thought.
3. How did it go, and what did you learn?
In the end, new readings were found and selected to add to the research courses to help foster a variety of ideas and inputs for students to gain exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds. However, the difficulty for all readers was the application of the rubric. The readers felt it did not fit our exact purpose nor was it clear to each reader how to interpret different criteria. Based on readers’ feedback and not the rubric, they felt that the end result was a set of articles that truly did “increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions” (AAC&U, 2017).
When we started this evaluation process, we thought it would take only a matter of two to four weeks. However, it took much longer due to the back and forth discussions about interpretation of rubric language. We did find that when embarking on updating and changing readings for this class or others in University College the issue of diversity and inclusion has now been raised to the fore. This is a worthy exercise to complete for any course.
17 Jul 2017
Between Winter and Spring quarters of 2017, I taught three sections of FIN 3300, an introductory course in Investments that is required for Finance majors and elective for non-Finance business majors. I am a strong believer in rigorously grading participation to incentivize it. However, keeping track of many students’ participation is naturally challenging. During these two quarters, I experimented with the use of “exit tickets” to facilitate assessment of participation.
An exit ticket is simply a half sheet of paper with two questions on it. Students must fill one out each class to get participation credit for that day. The first question is: “What was the most interesting thing you learned today or what is one concept you are still confused about?” The second question is: “What was your most valuable one contribution to the class today?”
The second question is the main assessment tool for grading participation. I instruct them to be brief describing their contribution, but specific enough that I can judge the contribution’s quality. Students earn full credit if they ask a substantive question, or offer a nontrivial insight or answer to a question in class discussion. They earn partial credit if their contribution falls short of that.
The first question has several purposes, including helping students answer the second question. First, it forces them to pause for a moment and reflect on what they have experienced during the class time, which by itself increases their engagement with the material. Second, this question offers students a chance to participate indirectly—and earn some credit—by identifying confusion that may have prevented them from participating during class. Finally, this question also helps identify points of confusion that I the instructor can fix in future classes, which of course promotes engagement and participation.
The exit tickets were somewhat successful and worked roughly as one would expect. Relative to prior quarters teaching the same course, I observed a noticeable increase in participation among the segment of students who would not normally be inclined to actively participate and participation scores increased on average. Student evaluations also overwhelmingly conveyed appreciation about my encouraging of participation, although two student comments expressed dissatisfaction being graded with exit tickets.
While exit tickets are simple and effective, they have their limitations that should be considered before use. First, they incentivize everyone to contribute something to class discussion, but some students will do only that and then reduce their effort for the rest of class once they have. Of course, this is often an improvement from nothing at all. A second issue is that some absences are excusable and perhaps students cannot be expected to make a stellar contribution every single class. I recommend dropping two or three ticket scores when computing final course grades.
Overall, exit tickets are worth a try if they are consistent with your teaching style.
27 Apr 2017
Feeling stressed out? Many professionals deal with stressful work environments. If the stress is ignored, it could lead to negative coping habits or burnout. In this video, Francis Agyakwa, MSW Adjunct Faculty at the Graduate School of Social Work demonstrates how he teaches his social work students to deal with work stress by drumming. This activity was supported and funded by the OTL OneNewThing Mini-Grant program.
What were you trying to change or solve? Identify the aspect of teaching and/or learning that you were attempting to improve or the challenge you were attempting to address by implementing your project.
This past Winter quarter (2017), I taught Health Disparities, a new course in the Counseling Psychology Department. The course is an elective, with only 50 minutes of class time per week. It was challenging to think of a framework that would take fullest advantage of every student’s talent and ability to contribute to addressing health disparities. I knew that student active participation in class would be key to their learning, but I struggled to see how to fit lecturing plus discussion of materials and hands-on activities in 50 minutes.
What did you do? Briefly explain your technique/strategy/idea/tool/activity. Include a description of what the students did differently (for example; how they interacted with you, each other, and/or the learning environment) and your role.
In consultation with OTL, we decided that a flipped classroom model was the best way to approach the course. Every week, students viewed short video lectures at home, before the class session, and in-class time was devoted to development of and participation in a quarter-long photo voice project. The video lectures were the key ingredient of the class. They were created with Zoom and posted on Canvas. Students could easily access them and complete follow-up associated quizzes (also on Canvas). During class sessions, I functioned as a coach or facilitator, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort as the photo voice project unveiled. Progressively, students felt more empowered to run the class when we were in the classroom. Results of the photo voice were posted in a class-generated DU Portfolio at the end of the quarter.
How did it go, and what did you learn? Describe how the students responded, what learning improvements you see or can infer, the aspects of the method that were most difficult or surprising, and the potential challenges that others might face. What advice would you give to someone and/or what would you do differently next time?
Recording the lectures is somewhat time-consuming. Yet, the video lectures were surprisingly easy to create and upload, despite my initial anxiety. Students reported liking the online lectures, as they were brief but comprehensive and easily accessible for them. They also were excited to work collaboratively on the photo voice project and have space/time to share their photos every week. Therefore, I feel encouraged to continue recording some of my lectures in the future, to save class time for hands-on activities.
Roncoroni, Julia , Ph.D.
Counseling Psychology Department
Morgridge College of Education
University of Denver