For the last five years I’ve infused each class session of “Teaching in Higher Education” with readings, activities, discussions, teaching practice, writing assignments, student-generated projects and collaborative endeavors linked to multicultural/inclusive learning and teaching (MILT). As a teacher, I work from a belief that MILT is “everybody’s every day work” and responsibility. (Okay, MILT reflects who I am at the core – but that’s a different piece.) Doing this research has been, for me, a return to doing of classroom research fueled by academic work in political science, Women’s Studies and American Studies at unis where teaching well actually mattered and often took shape as participatory, active, writing and speaking enriched, creative and interdisciplinary learning emphasizing meaning making and collaboration.
Early in this overall curriculum revision that became a research project Thing 1, I co-wrote What is Multicultural Learning? as a synthesis of the ways Carol Chomsky and I had come to view learning at the end of our time leading a multicultural learning and teaching fellowship program offering small grants and peer-mentoring for a multidisciplinary cohort of faculty and staff developing innovative MILT courses and curricula and public engagement projects. This statement became the base from which I began my first reworking of the Teaching in Higher Education course between 2005-2008 (reported in New Directions for Learning and Teaching).
Finishing the Spring 2010 course, I knew that I’d met my goals of provoking new thinking about student learners among the groups of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who self-select into these courses, and of setting up our classroom to foster networking beyond its walls, its time constraints, its immediate conversations and initial immersion in new ways of thinking about learning and teaching.
I’ve reported on the research related to that course revision – through the New Directions for Teaching and Learning (the special issue is a product of our Carnegie workgroup on Scholarship of Multicultural Teaching and Learning) and in the Education in a Changing Environment Conference Proceedings 2009, and presentations at a 2008 London Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference as well as the 2010 ISSOTL conference in Liverpool (both at http://www.slideshare.net/alexa032/).
In these research pieces I’ve been able to chronicle thinking anew – on my part and by my students’ – about links between teaching decisions and understandings about MILT, and to look at some strands of quantitative (confidence surveys) and qualitative data (student writing samples) to characterize what and how students name their own learning about MILT. In a last round of data gathering this semester, I’ll be returning to a group of student alums who are now holding teaching positions as a range of institutions. Using a mixed methods query (return to confidence survey, open-ended questions about current teaching, and semi-structured interview about a current course and syllabus), I am hoping to learn whether and what sorts of long-term impact the MILT infused course may have had on their thinking about learners and acting as co-learning teachers, perhaps enacting principles of MILT as everybody’s every day work. I look forward to what I will learn over the spring and summer as I sift, mull, follow up on, bring colleagues into coding of, and work again with past students to understand the data.
And that will be good. Working with the data will help me make sense in that “deep learning, critical reflection, praxis shaping teaching continuous professional development” way. It will allow me to synthesize and speak about how 35 years of teaching (I started at 19 “supervising” the college newspaper writers earning internship credits) has produced an understanding of learning rooted to place and places, a people and peoples, a perspective and perspectivism.
But it won’t be enough. And so Thing 2 begins.