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Diversity in Teaching and Learning

For 2014- 2015, the DCEC primarily organized its work around the theme, “Diversity in Teaching and Learning,” a continuation of the theme from the previous academic year. The work of the entire DCEC was determined to include oversight of the work of the subcommittees, budget, the DCEC sponsorship grant, and a series of diversity workshops for faculty. These workshops were in response to a faculty survey on diversity conducted by the DCEC during the academic year of 2012-2013. What follows is an account of activities of the DCEC.

Activities of the DCEC 2014-2015

“Difficult Conversations” Workshop Series 2014-2015: Enhancing Diversity at Penn State's College of Education

Four Workshops
Dr. Reginald Nettles, Consultant
Dr. William Ayers, Guest Speaker

The Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC) of the College of Education held a series of interactive diversity education workshops. These workshops were given in response to a faculty survey on diversity conducted by the DCEC during the 2012-2013 academic year. The results of that survey indicated faculty's desire to better understand how to facilitate and mediate classroom conversations pertaining to underrepresented perspectives, experiences, and minority identities. We extended this opportunity to graduate teaching assistants who share similar concerns. Three of the four workshops were facilitated by Dr. Reginald Nettles, a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist who specializes in diversity awareness and inclusion in workplaces. One workshop, co-sponsored with the Curriculum & Instruction Graduate Student Association (CIGSA), was facilitated by Dr. William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (now retired).

These workshops were intended to support dimensions of diversity based on the needs of participants. The agenda for each workshop was co-constructed by Dr. Nettles and participants. Dr. Nettles works with a contemporary understanding of diversity that recognizes the many dimensions of diversity including race, ethnicity, gender, class, physical ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, and age across local and global contexts. There were three reasons articulated for working with Nettles, a psychotherapist. First, we realized that issues of diversity can cause anxiety and other emotional responses that might be important to discuss and the necessity of working with a consultant who has experience and recognizes the connections between emotional and pedagogical landscapes. Second, we understand that our classes contain group dynamics, and that working with a trained group psychotherapist might help us think through pedagogical strategies to promote healthy dialogue in our teaching. Third, we want to create a space where those of us in teaching positions within the college to be in dialogue with each other, within and across the various departments and programs in which we teach. We recognize that we don’t often have a chance to do that, and that this, too, is part of diversity and community enhancement in our college. 

First Workshop: November 7, 2014

The first workshop, held once in the morning and again in the afternoon, was led by Dr. Nettles, in which he first introduced concepts and definitions of diversity, identity, minority, micro-aggression, and multiple minority identities. Following this interactive presentation, participants shared a story in small groups pertaining to a difficult moment they had experienced while teaching, and raised questions and issues to the larger group for the consideration of setting agenda for the second workshop.  

Second Workshop: February 13, 2015

To prepare for the second workshop series (again held in the morning and in the afternoon), a survey was sent out to all participants who attended the first workshop in order to build from the work that was started there. Feedback included the desire to spend more discussion time in the workshop in order to dig deeper into the nature of what each of us engages and struggles with when we teach difficult issues pertaining to diversity. A fair number of people is the desire to break through “polite” or “PC” language so that we might more fully engage with one another around meaningful dialogue. We broke into small groups organized around diversity topics of interest identified by participants (e.g., race, gender, being a GTA of color), in which individuals shared stories, and convened as a large group to share and reflect upon the issues that came up.

Third Workshop: March 20, 2015

Building from our last two workshop discussions, we are aligning our efforts with the Curriculum & Instruction Graduate Student Association (CIGSA) to invite you to spend the morning with invited speaker and facilitator Dr. William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (now retired). Dr. Ayers facilitated our conversation based some of the difficult dialogues and issues that have been raised during our previous DCEC workshops with Dr. Nettles. In this workshop, we sought to continue our discussions in small and large groups, as well as listen to the experiences of Dr. Ayers, with an eye toward pedagogical strategies that allow for difficult dialogues to take place in our educational settings -- our courses, advising offices, and field placements. Dr. Ayers led us through a series of possible pedagogical strategies for working with diversity as well as facilitated an activity in which we generated questions that participants had pertaining diversity.

Fourth Workshop, April 10, 2015

Building from our last three workshop discussions, participants worked with the questions written down during workshop #3 and share experiences and stories pertaining to the issues these questions raise for us We also spent time as a large group with Dr. Reginald Nettles to reflect on how we might build capacity for future discussions on diversity in our college.

Moving forward, The DCEC decided that we would like to build capacity within our college to sustain these conversations. Student panels, faculty panels, and workshops conducted by faculty in our college were just some of the suggestions put forth at the final workshop, and in a reflection on the series at the last DCEC meeting of the year.

Other DCEC-sponsored events

he Praxis of Ethnic Studies: Transforming Second Sight into Critical Consciousness

Youth Participatory Action Research: A Workshop

Dr. Julio Cammarota

April 9, 2015

In a DCEC sponsored grant for the Curriculum & Instruction Graduate Student Association (CIGSA), the committee co-sponsored a workshop and talk by Dr. Julio Cammarota. Dr. Cammarota gave a presentation to the general Penn State public about the power and possibility of ethnic studies in transforming the lives of youth. Drawing on years of collaboration and research with teachers, academics, and youth, Dr. Cammarota will underscore the vital role ethnic studies must play in both universities and k-12 schools in creating a more equitable and just society. He also led a workshop on youth participatory action research –an innovative and transformative form of research that empowers the voices youth to alter their lived experiences. Drawing on his experience as the co-founder of Social Justice Education Project in Tucson School District, Dr. Cammarota will highlight the philosophy, ethnical dimensions, and pragmatics of conducting youth participatory action research. 

Proposed COE Leadership Certificate in Diversity and Equity

A proposed Leadership Certificate in Diversity and Equity (LCDE), still in development, is a direct result of years of work within the DCEC, and is based upon survey, interview, and focus group data with undergraduates. During 2014-2015, the student subcommittee met to develop a holistic, experiential, and rigorous certificate that challenges students to not have a critical and thoughtful understanding of diversity, but also be able to demonstrate in numerous ways leadership in diversity. The LCDE would emphasize the development of critical competencies, values, and ethics in relation to educational diversity (in all its forms), equity, and justice. The LCDE take place in four stages: 1) Application 2) Initial Course 3) Field Experience 4) Capstone course. Throughout their time obtaining the LCDE students will be asked to engage and leadership in action through service learning and journaling/blogging.

Trip to Gettysburg: August 6, 2015

Led by Dean Monk, the College and the DCEC sponsored a professional development trip to Gettysburg to learn about the diversity in leadership styles. The Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC) will conduct a post-event forum to reflect on leadership philosophies presented on this trip.  The College will provide bus transportation to and from Gettysburg as well as lunch.  This trip was considered a day of work for staff.