Podcast #56

A.T. Miller has published numerous articles on inclusive and multicultural teaching, and as the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Diversity, he currently directs Cornell’s Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. In this episode we talk with A.T. about the valuable skills and alternative perspectives that non-traditional students bring to the classroom, and what “normal” academic things might not be obvious or comfortable for these students. A.T. shares a whole host practical ways to provide a level playing field to all your students.

You can subscribe to the Teach Better Podcast through your favorite podcast app or simply subscribe through iTunes if you don’t have one yet.

Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:40 Welcoming our guest and his career. How are first-generation and non-traditional students are different from the prototypical college students? College is opaque to students whose parents may not have gone.

6:51 How the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives at Cornell came into being. Pursuing equity for a range of student populations.

12:28 Higher ed, tweed jackets, and sherry. Sometimes first-generation and non-traditional students may not know what whole disciplines and majors are. These students may also not know all of what the college experience offers.

18:41 Students may have specific academic gaps, but those are not so hard to fix.

22:25 Things that hold back non-traditional students: curving grades, students picking their own groups or teams. Clear rotating roles in group work avoids systematically disadvantaging students who are different.

28:28 If you want to know what’s going on with your students, you might actually ask them. You as the professor can’t provide a diversity you don’t bring. Incorporate the students’ voices.

35:11 Hold required office hours. Many of these issues have simple solutions which do a lot of work for you and the students.

40:23 You can learn about your own implicit bias by taking an online quiz. Asking someone to observe you is a good way to discover implicit bias more concretely in the classroom. Athletes can also be stereotyped by instructors. Non-traditional students may not feel entitled to ask for an extension, say.

48:26 Less stringent deadlines can also help non-traditional students. In STEM classes, takehome exams are trickier. The unproductive dynamic of dangling grades over students is especially unproductive for non-traditional students.

54:39 Students need to be ready to solve the kinds of questions they will see on the exam. The more real-world the problems are, the better for non-traditional students. In a multicultural calculus course, the problems are part of weeklong stories. (This lowered withdrawals and drops.)

57:13 Teaching fails: shutting down a student to show he’s naive and you’re not. Picking on what AT thought were the privileged kids. But the privileged students can learn from their non-traditional peers. And that student can be blind to the advantages he’s had.

1:02:14 Signing off.