In the framework for culturally responsive teaching developed by Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995) , they begin with the premise that motivation (and its outward manifestation: engagement) cannot be separated from culture. Therefore, if student engagement with learning is connected with culture, then teaching and learning processes must attend to culture. According to their framework, educators can focus on four conditions created by the teacher and students that directly impact intrinsic motivation. These conditions are:
Establishing inclusion is foundational for the stabilization of the rest of the class. It is essential that inclusion be demonstrated and made the centerpiece if students are to truly feel included and safe to participate in the course. This is especially important if you plan to address difficult topics in your course content.
Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995) outlined the following conditions for establishing inclusion, which they defined as, “creating a learning atmosphere in which students and teachers feel respected by and connected to one another”:
One of the first practices to implement to establish inclusion is the development of ground rules. The UTLC has worked with folks in the past who chose not to establish community ground rules or norms before heading into difficult dialogues. Inevitably, each one of them regretted the decision. Ground rules, or norms, help keep the conversation learning-focused and empowers students to participate and hold each other (and you) accountable.
Ground rules are essential for us to understand the parameters of the space and how we are to engage with one another. Here is another great resource from Dr. Silvia Bettez in the School of Education.
For smaller courses (20 or fewer), you can provide students with a wide-open approach. This means you provide students with a primer – such as this primer based off the work of Claude Steele’s work “What guidelines can we agree on now in order to create a learning environment in which we can ask each other anything?” Then, have students call out their recommendations or needs in response. Have someone write these recommendations down in a visible space followed by student vote on which recommendations they want to keep. Jennifer has her students vote in a thumbs-up manner – thumbs up means “I agree to this recommendation,” thumbs sideways means “I can live with this recommendation,” and thumbs down means “I do not agree with this recommendation” (which requires additional group discussion).
For slightly larger groups (80 or fewer), you can provide a semi-structured approach. This means you can ask students to reflect on a prompt, such as the one listed above. Then, have students in pairs or small groups compare lists and develop a set of recommendations for the class. After each group has set up their recommendations, have them share these with the larger group. Have a note-taker write these in a visible space as they are being shared, with students voting on each recommendation.
For large groups (anything above 80), you can provide a structured approach. This means you provide the students with a prompt, such the one listed above, but you also provide them with some guiding terms that you ask the students to define in context of the prompt. These terms can include respect, active listening, and engaged participation. Collect the student responses and then develop a set of ground rules for the course. You can have students respond and suggest potential edits to your drafted ground rules for a more inclusive approach.
Here are a few example recommendations you can suggest if students get stalled in the process (*adapted from Sustained Dialogue Institute):