The DePaul Teaching Commons workshop that I will focus on in this reflection statement is the “Social Justice and Diversity in the Classroom” workshop from April 12, 2018. The workshop was led by Olya Glantsman (College of Science and Health) and Elizabeth McConnell (College of Science and Health, Psychology).

I was initially drawn to attend this specific workshop because as a journalism professor, I often find myself discussing contemporary news events and issues with students in the classroom that touch upon challenging social and political topics. It is my goal as an instructor to focus on the facts of an event or issue, while giving students space to share their perspectives and experiences both covering a topic and drawing from personal life experience.

The April 2018 workshop covered social justice curriculum, the sequencing of classroom activities to build upon students’ increasing self-reflection and exploration, tips for responding to student comments and controversial discussion topics in the classroom setting and the role of the instructor.

The most useful aspect of the workshop was gaining practical tips for facilitating classroom discussions, setting the classroom tone and laying out ground rules for discussion on sensitive topics and for connecting, as well as redirecting, these discussions back to course material.

I drew on what I learned in this seminar in organizing a workshop for the annual DePaul Teaching and Learning Conference in May 2018. I organized the workshop to include three panelists from different colleges on campus sharing their diverse perspectives on teaching about climate change. The workshop also included a small group activity (the brainstorm prompt handout is available here) and time for the small groups to discuss and reflect.

The workshop description is as follows:

Vision Building for a Carbonless Future: Connecting Students to Hope and Resilience on Climate Change
Jill Hopke (Communication), Hugh Bartling (LAS), Mark Potosnak (CSH), Barb Willard (Communication)
Climate change is a global challenge. It cuts across environmental studies and social science learning domains. It affects our students, as well as future generations. As faculty, we operate in the classroom as both experts and individuals with hopes of our own for creating a more just, sustainable future. In our interactions with students, we navigate this by designing classroom activities that foster learning communities in which students can question why the world is the way it is (e.g. our dependence on fossil fuels) and envision what could be different (e.g. transition to a clean energy future). In this interactive workshop, faculty from three colleges (Communication, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and Science and Health) will share teaching methods and classroom activities for engaging students on climate change solutions. Panelists will lead participants through a small group discussion and brainstorming activity to draft a classroom activity on a topic in participants’ areas of expertise. Panelist are: Hugh Bartling (Associate Professor, Public Policy Studies), Jill Hopke (Assistant Professor, Journalism), Mark Potosnak (Associate Professor and Chair, Environmental Science and Studies), and Barb Willard (Associate Professor, Communication Studies). Panelists will share examples of navigating the challenge of finding purpose in the classroom.