Greetings from the land of the Anishinaabe and Sioux people, referred to by colonizers as Menomonie, WI. My name is Dana Wanzer, PhD, and I teach evaluation in our MS in Applied Psychology program at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Today I’m sharing with you why and how I shifted my approach to teaching during the past year.
As COVID-19 shifted instruction online and as I committed more deeply toward challenging the white supremacy inherent in our society, I had to fundamentally rethink how I taught all my courses. Students were overwhelmed with the transition to online education, with the public health crisis that stifled physical interaction, and with the social and racial justice movements.
My first fundamental shift was on course policies and expectations, emphasizing care and compassion for my students. I removed my late policy, allowing students to turn in nearly any assignment at any point during the semester with no penalty. I removed policing mechanisms from my course including attendance policies, camera usage policies, and proctoring software. I revised my syllabus to use more welcoming and inclusive language, shifting the syllabus from a contractual-type document to an invitation to the course and resource for students.
My second fundamental shift was in my curriculum. I began reading more and more about white supremacy, structural racism, social justice, and more, thinking critically about how I could incorporate this into the curriculum. I audited the readings in my evaluation course to ensure readings from a variety of authors across gender, race/ethnicity, and nation. I recommend Evaluation in Today’s World by Campbell & Thomas for folks interested in a textbook that integrates a social justice, diversity, and inclusion lens to evaluation throughout every chapter.
My third fundamental shift was in my pedagogy. I fully flipped my courses so class time is spent applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating in group settings with instructor facilitation and support. I better implemented principles of universal-design for learning and trauma-informed pedagogy into my courses. I began using software like Perusall to help students with course readings, and jamovi as a free, open-source, easy-to-use alternative to SPSS.
I soon realized my pedagogy was fully aligned with progressive education pedagogies that involve critical pedagogy, experiential learning, and inclusive spaces. This led me to my fourth fundamental shift, in my assessment and evaluation. I have begun exploring alternative grading mechanisms, including ungrading, which I argue aligns more with how we approach our practice as evaluators.
“To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.” – bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, p. 13
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