This spring, Illinois State University faculty and staff members have the chance to advance their teaching through microaggression trainings. The work is part of a campus-wide collaboration aimed toward emphasizing teaching through a lens of equity.
“Everything you say, everything you do inside and outside the classroom matters,” said the Office of the Provost’s Assistant Vice President for Academic Administration Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino. “Research consistently shows that one of the most important factors in student success is faculty-student interactions. Those verbal and non-verbal communications impact student learning.”
Cuenca-Carlino was already leading a Professional Development Task Force considering multiple ways the University could support faculty and staff members to adopt more inclusive, equity-minded practices. When students reported their experiences of microaggressions in the classroom, Provost Jan Murphy requested the professional development plan included sessions specifically dealing with microaggressions in the classroom. In response, Cuenca-Carlino assembled a cross-campus team that includes Mayuko Nakamura and Julie-Ann McFann of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT); Assistant Professor Brea Banks of the Department of Psychology; Associate Professor Tina Thompson of the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods; and David Adams, Dakesa Piña, Lisa Albaugh, Danielle Markus, Brendon Glon, Samantha Kurkjian, and Laura Phillips of the Student Counseling Center.
The scenario-based trainings will also look to evidence-based teaching practices and data. “The best teaching incorporates scientific findings on classroom learning,” said Cuenca-Carlino, who noted empirical literature shows microaggressions disrupt learning for all students in the classroom by having negative emotional, cognitive, psychological, and physiological consequences. “Research shows that faculty who are reflective of their own biases and view their classroom through the perspective of the students they serve, have a better chance of reaching all students in their class. They are treating teaching as a scholarly act.”
More than 40 sessions will be conducted for faculty and staff in academic affairs during the spring semester in departments, schools, and units throughout campus. Each one is preceded by a survey to help customize training for each area. The three-hour sessions include understanding biases and privilege, the impact of microaggressions in students’ learning and well-being, and how to intervene when microaggressions occur.
The trainings are part of a larger integrated professional development model being designed that fosters inclusive excellence. The goal is to support faculty to learn and reflect about equity and inclusion, the science of learning, and see teaching as a scholarly act. “In order to support students, we have to support faculty to be equity-minded and culturally responsive in the classroom. Faculty plays a significant role in student retention and overall success,” said Cuenca-Carlino.