Knowing Yourself

When trying to create a respectful and inclusive multicultural classroom, it is probably obvious that an instructor should strive to understand one’s students. It may be less obvious how useful it is to know ourselves.

Know your course goals

Our goals in a specific course are related to content (in turn related to departmental, university, disciplinary expectations and personal choices) and may or may not have clear connections to diversity or multiculturalism. Being very clear about what we hope to achieve helps us to decide what is within and beyond the scope of the class. It also increases our chances of success.

Regardless of the content, we also have goals (and values) related to classroom environment, pedagogy, assessment, and feedback. Ideally at least some of  these pedagogical areas are designed with issues of fairness and inclusiveness in mind.

Know your role 

There are many roles faculty members can inhabit in the classroom. Do you see yourself as primarily as a facilitator? Authority? Role model? Mediator? Presenter? Provocateur? Devil’s advocate? Coach? Co-learner? Manager? What pedagogical strategies are you comfortable with (or not)? What ones would you like to become comfortable with?

Know what you know (and what you don’t)

It helps if we reflect upon what we know about various types of peoples and cultures. Some of us know more about people from certain parts of the world, different religious traditions, various types of disabilities, etc. We all are more familiar with what we already have been exposed to or studied. As with any other kind of knowledge, we can pinpoint where we need to learn more in order to grow as faculty.

Know yourself

There are multiple parts to our identities and it may be helpful to reflect upon them and how they may affect us in the classroom. We have been socialized in ways related to our particular background and education. What are our assumptions, beliefs, preferences, values, stereotypes, biases, blind spots, and “triggers”? 

If you’d like to reflect more or have a conversation with other trusted faculty members, Elon faculty members can access a “Self-Assessment Questionnaire” included in the supplemental materials from a webinar facilitated by Matt Ouellette and Christine Stanley at https://www.elon.edu/teaching/multicultural/ (Elon password required.)