Course content and instructors are often forgotten once a semester concludes. In this episode, Breanna Boppre joins us to discuss how experiential learning can humanize course content and provide meaningful and rich experiences that stick with learners for many years. Bree is an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University’s Department of Victim Studies. She is also the author of a chapter in Picture a Professor, edited by Jessamyn Neuhaus.
- Neuhaus, Jessamyn (2022). Picture a Professor: Interrupting Biases about Faculty and Increasing Student Learning. West Virginia University Press.
- Department of Victim Studies, Sam Houston State University
- Costa, Karen (2022). Trauma Aware Pedagogy. Tea for Teaching podcast, June 8.
- Costa, Karen (2020). Trauma-informed Pedagogy. Tea for Teaching podcast, April 22.
- Bedera, Nicole (2021). Beyond Trigger Warnings. Tea for Teaching. August 18.,
- Bedera, N. (2021). Beyond trigger warnings: A survivor-centered approach to teaching on sexual violence and avoiding institutional betrayal. Teaching Sociology, 49(3), 267-277.
- Kohn, A., & Blum, S. D. (2020). Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead). West Virginia University Press.
- Michelle Pacansky-Brock: twitter
- fabiola torres: twitter
- Kevin M. Gannon. (2020). Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press
John: Course content and instructors are often forgotten once a semester concludes. In this episode, we discuss how experiential learning provides meaningful and rich experiences that stick with learners for many years.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…
Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.
John: Our guest today is Breanna Boppre. Bree is an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University’s Department of Victim Studies. She is also the author of a chapter in Picture a Professor, edited by our friend, Jessamyn Neuhaus. Welcome, Bree.
Bree: Thanks for having me.
John: We’re very happy you can join us.
Rebecca: Today’s teas are… Bree, are you drinking tea?
Bree: I sure am. I am drinking a tea given to me by my close friend and department chair, Shelley Clevenger. She gifted me this tea. It says, “you’re magic” on the front. And one of the ingredients is “luster dust.” So the tea is actually blue with glitter.
John: That is a first, I believe.
Bree: It’s very unique, and it’s herbal tea. It tastes great.
Rebecca: Does it taste sparkly?
Bree: Mmmm, if sparkly had a taste, this would be it. [LAUGHTER]
John: So, we’re having a sparkle party.
Bree: Yes, definitely a sparkle party. [LAUGHTER]
John: I’m drinking a black raspberry green tea.
Bree: Ooh, yum.
Rebecca: And I have a jasmine black today.
Bree: Nice. That sounds good too. Not quite as sparkly as mine, but… [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: Definitely not, and not as blue, either. [LAUGHTER]
John: So we’ve invited you here today to discuss your chapter in Picture a Professor. Before we discuss your chapter, could you tell us a little bit about your department and the classes that you teach? Because we have not run across a Department of Victim Studies before, and I think it would be helpful to learn a little bit more about that.
Bree: Yes, I would love to talk about our department. It’s actually the first and only Victim Studies Department in the nation, and so this is really unique for us to have this opportunity. We’re housed in the College of Criminal Justice. So we’re a subset of criminal justice but we like to think of ourselves as different, both in what we study and teach about, but also the way that we do things. So we are very much community engaged. We emphasize caring and kind pedagogy, and we emphasize things that engage with the community to help survivors. And so, we have a lot of campus events. We have a lot of events dedicated to building awareness, but also donations and things for organizations in our community that helps survivors. And so, it’s really a great opportunity. I’m really excited to be here in the Department of Victim Studies. I’ve been here just over a year now. And the classes that I teach… violence against women, and I teach it more as gendered victimization. So we talk a lot about how gender and stereotypes shape victimization and harm. I also teach a brand new class that I created called “transformative justice,” which is a survivor-led movement aimed to address harm and violence without relying on systems that cause additional harm and trauma. And so, preventing harm and crime in the community before people end up in prisons and involved in the system. So that’s a really cool class that I’ve enjoyed teaching. I also teach family violence, and I teach research methods at the grad level, and that’s what I was prepping right before the podcast. So those are the classes I teach. I’m really excited about them. It’s heavy content, for sure, but I enjoy it.
Rebecca: I can imagine that teaching such topics really often includes students who are also victims and there’s some challenges in that arena as well. Can you talk a little bit about some strategies that your department uses to support survivors who are in your classes?
Bree: Yeah, so I can talk about what I do personally. So I’ve done a lot of research beyond teaching about the impacts of trauma, and I actually have a background in cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling techniques. And so, I interned as a grad student with community corrections and would engage in these counseling type classes for men who are on probation and parole. And one thing that I noticed was that the amount of trauma that these individuals have experienced, you can’t treat someone separate of that trauma. And so, that’s very much how I teach in the classroom as well. I’ve relied a lot on other scholars, like Karen Costa, who’s done a lot on trauma-aware teaching, who I know was a guest on the podcast multiple times, and others who, instead of teaching business as usual, we have to center the experiences of survivors and recognize that the vast majority of students have survived something traumatic at some point in their lives, whether it’s victimization, sexual assault, things like that, but even the adversity that they’ve encountered throughout their lives. That has has an impact on their experience in our classrooms. And so, I have used Nicole Bedera’s method of survivor-centered teaching, she has an amazing article in Teaching Sociology that really centers survivors in how we teach. And so, oftentimes, and even myself, when I first started teaching, and a student would disclose to me something related to victimization, because a lot of students feel close to me, they see me as that caring empathetic person. And so, I have had a lot of disclosures throughout my teaching. And at first, I wasn’t exactly sure how to handle it, because we know Title IX, we know that we are mandatory reporters of certain victimization and of certain things that we’re told, but not everything. And so my role as a professor, I’m very aware that I am not a licensed counselor, and I take that very seriously in referring out, as Karen Costa says. And so, I’ve done a lot of work to understand the role of Title IX and my role as a mandatory reporter, and that has really helped me know effective boundaries to myself and my teaching while also supporting students. And so, Nicole Bedera recommends really understanding each institution’s Title IX office requirements, because they can differ across institution. So one of the first things I did when I came to Sam Houston State was reach out to the Title IX office, and really try to understand what I am mandated to report. And now in every victimization related class, I have a module about survivor-centered teaching and self care. And so, in that module, I explain to students what they disclose to me, how that could potentially trigger a report, because I want them to be empowered and informed. I want them to know that if they disclose specifics, that if it occurs on campus, or a campus event, that’s something that I have to report, and if they don’t want me to report, they can disclose those things in a different way. And so, that takes more of the ownership on students and the power and agency to them, rather than to me, and it’s made me a lot more comfortable when students do disclose because I have a lot of assignments where they reflect, and that’s where the experiential learning background comes in. I’m very much about reflection, and so a lot of the students, I prompt them to reflect on the material and that prompts them to often disclose that they have survived something in their life that’s similar. And so, being empowered and informed, both as the students and me as the professor, having those survivor-centered and trauma-aware tools have made me a lot better able to address it in a supportive and empathetic way.
John: That transparency should make students feel much more comfortable and as you said, empowers them to make decisions that are best for them, which I think provides a much better relationship.
Rebecca: So it’s worth mentioning, if you’re interested in Nicole Bedera’s work, she was on episode 201, “Beyond Trigger Warnings.”
Bree: Highly recommend her article. Seriously, this changed my teaching for the better in many ways, and I’m a huge fan of her work.
John: We’ll include a link to that in the show notes. So the title of your chapter is “Using Experiential Learning to Humanize Course Content and Connect with Students,” and you’ve already addressed a little bit about how you use experiential learning. Could you expand on that just a little bit in terms of how you do this in your classes?
Bree: Yeah, so I actually started engaging with experiential learning as a doctoral student. Our PhD program is actually unique in that it had a required teaching and pedagogy class, which is shockingly rare for academic PhD programs, especially in criminology and criminal justice. So I was really fortunate to have that experience where we learned about teaching and pedagogy before we even entered the classroom. And so, we had to explore different approaches and write up what we envision our teaching approach to be, and one of those approaches that always stood out to me was experiential learning, and part of that interest in experiential learning was my own experience as an undergrad student. When I think back to my classes, one of the most vivid memories I have is in a corrections class, we toured a local prison, and I can still remember the weather that day, how it felt being in that prison. It was very dank and dark, which is similar to most prisons. [LAUGHTER] And so, that feeling of being there, I can close my eyes and still envision that day of touring that prison that really stuck with me. And the power of experiential learning to have that impact, to engage with multiple senses, your sight, your hearing, your smelling, you’re feeling the temperature, all of that has an impact, and I especially think it’s important for criminal justice in teaching classes related to prisons, which is what I taught for many years at Wichita State before coming to Sam Houston State, and those experiences are really what stand out with students and have that high impact. So that’s part of why I decided to focus on experiential learning for my pedagogy, especially early on, and we would do things like go on prison tours, or we would go on tours of local domestic violence shelters. I would take the students to these locations, and as I’ll talk about later on, when we discuss experiential learning online, there’s potential issues related to accessibility there. But if the students are able, it really is an immersive experience, and it’s really beneficial for them to go to these sites with the support of their instructor to gain that experience… that hands-on, what would a job in this area be like… but also to connect with people who work in the field. Because often my students have gained internships or jobs from going on these tours, the agencies also view it as a potential hiring or recruitment opportunity. So it’s really beneficial for me as the instructor, but also for the students and for the agencies in the field to connect directly with often juniors and seniors who I teach, and they’re going to be graduating soon and want to do something with that degree. So that’s really the “why” for me. It’s also very humanizing, and I talk about it in the chapter as a method of inclusive teaching. Because for me, I was never one of those people who wanted to be the sage on the stage, I’m much more into collaborative learning, and being more of the guide on the side. And so, I found with experiential learning, it really helped us build community and experiences together. Every time, I swear, when we would go visit the prison, something would happen. So one time we went and it was chow time, which is food time, and they offered to let us try the food. So that was a big experience for many students that we still talked about after and that’s, again, a big part of experiential learning is the reflection piece. So we would reflect on that experience together in class, we would talk about it, but also students would reflect on it on their own through reflection papers. And so, as I’ve evolved these approaches, one of my favorite parts of experiential learning is service learning. And so, service learning is really taking experiential learning to a next level, where we’re incorporating real-world experience, learning and applying concepts to helping actual agencies or a community of need that is identified by the students in the class and using that volunteer work to help and engage in civic engagement.
Rebecca: Those shared experiences are really powerful. We’ve seen these in many different situations, whether it’s service learning, or field trips, or study-abroad opportunities where groups of students are together, and they have this shared moment. It helps them connect, but also it’s a place to relate content back to that they all know, because they were all there, which has a lot of power. So you hinted at this already, Bree, but we know that you’re teaching entirely online now. So how do you go from visiting prisons to your current circumstance of teaching online and how do you bring these experiential components in that modality?
Bree: Yes, so I’m not gonna lie. In spring 2020, when the pandemic hit and we were told, “You’re going remote for two weeks,” and then that two weeks turned into the rest of the semester, I freaked out a little because I relied so heavily on the in-person, and the experiential learning is a big part of that. I did freak out. And so, I had never really taught online before. I taught one summer class online previously, it was a, quote, “canned class” that I couldn’t really change or adapt from. And so, I freaked out a bit. And then I remember the last class before we went online, I got a text from my colleagues saying, “the provost is about to announce, we’re going online.” I was like, alright, we’re going to stop what we’re doing: “What has worked for you as students online and what has not worked?” and we workshopped together, what the rest of the term was going to look like. And so, a lot of them mentioned, “we love these aspects of the in person, that community building, the humanization.” And so, I really had to think carefully and critically about, okay, how do I accomplish that online? And so, like I mentioned, the way I teach, I don’t like lecturing. I will lecture for like 10 minutes at a time, but you will never see a class where I’m just lecturing for an hour, that’s not enjoyable for me. And so, I tried to think about how to translate that to the online platform. Because often, I would pepper in my lecturing with other videos, with activities, we would do Kahoots, we would do group breakouts, we would do all these things,“oh, my gosh, how do I do this online?” So I came up with this approach, in our activities, where I would really think through how we did this in person, and try to modify it for online. So even though we can’t be in the classroom physically, at the same place, the same time together, how can we still achieve this community remotely. And so, I would do things like the Kahoots, the quizzes, the community sorts of activities to try and accomplish that, and with experiential learning, I’ve taken a lot of aspects of experiential learning, especially the reflection piece that has become very important to my pedagogy. And so, it may not be the traditional experiential learning anymore for me online. There’s parts that I incorporate, but I’ve really have had to adapt. And so, some of that includes being more creative about these big project-based assignments that I have. So I read Susan Blum’s, edited book, Ungrading, which is awesome. And so, inspired by that, I started assigning eportfolios, where students will experientially go through these modules, and they have reflection questions guiding them, and they write up kind of like this blog-style summary of the content, like they’re explaining it to someone who has no background in criminal justice victim studies, they have no idea what any of this is, and they’re explaining it to someone else. So it is very much like a blog. But then the second piece of those module reflections are reflecting on their learning, and that’s where they really think about their experience during the module, even though it’s online, even though they may be sitting watching TV or they may be having childcare during while they’re trying to learn. A lot of my students are single moms or in caretaking roles, they have a lot of other things going on. And so, they’re reflecting on that learning experience, despite all the other things that are going on in their lives. And so, that has been really key for me, that reflecting not just on the content, but their learning experience. So that’s been a way that I’ve adapted experiential learning. I still incorporate service learning as much as I can. So there’s four main types of service learning and direct service learning is the one that we often think of, when students go to a physical location and volunteer. Now, during the pandemic, that was not possible. So a lot of the agencies that I worked with, especially prisons, they shut down access, students were not allowed to come there. So I had to think differently about creating opportunities for civic engagement and advocacy. And so, some of the things that I’ve done are infographics and public service announcements to build awareness about social issues and taking that a step further to create those specifically for campus organizations. Or even now I’m partnering with local agencies, nonprofits, who may not have the resources to devote to social media and branding, and my students are actually helping with that by creating social media campaigns and things like that. And so, I’ve just tried to be creative. We have unlimited technology, we have so much available to us that is web based, or internet based, that students have access to, like Canva. Oh, my gosh, Canva is the best tool that I’ve incorporated, and they make these data visuals and public service announcements through Canva and they can even do it on their mobile phone. So it makes it really accessible for them, and it gives them a way to make an impact, even though we can’t have that direct service learning experience.
John: Could you tell us a little bit more about some of the service learning activities that your students have been engaged in?
Bree: Yes. So, I again, teach research methods, which often is not the favorite class, both from students and instructors. It’s often seen as a more boring content area, which is fair. There’s a lot of jargon, there’s a lot of complex concepts for students to learn. But I have found that experiential learning is even more important for teaching research methods. And the way that I do it is through research-based service learning. Well, because of the pandemic and because of agencies shutting down and not having direct access, I’ve been focused more on helping our campus community because that is an organization that I have access to and that I’m directly involved with. And so, some of the things that we’ve done in the past is we had students and I create surveys together for their fellow students in the university to fill out and then students, they create the survey questions. They think through research questions, how to create measures and concepts related to those questions. I facilitate this process, but they’re doing a lot of it firsthand, and then we distribute the survey online to students across the campus, they see how many students respond to the survey, which is often 10 to 20%, and they see the implications of that, and then they work through the data themselves. I’ll compile it in an Excel file for them, and then they create data visuals. They interpret the results, and then together, we compile a report that we give to university stakeholders. And so, that has been a really rewarding, and accessible version of service learning for me… is that research-based service learning, and it’s also beneficial for me. As pre-tenure, 40% of my position is research, 40% is teaching, and then the 20% is service. So I find that research-based service learning really combines all aspects of my scholarship together, and it makes it this really rewarding aspect of my teaching that has been successful both in person and online. And so, that has been a really cool avenue that I also have gone on to publish the results, and that has led to peer-reviewed articles and things that are important towards my tenure. So I wanted to bring that up, because I know a lot of fellow instructors, they see service learning or experiential learning and are like, “Oh, that all sounds great, but the amount of time that goes into it is a lot, especially when you’re working with external agencies.” And so, I really promote research-based service learning as this accessible alternative that can also benefit those faculty and instructors that are expected to do research as well.
Rebecca: Finding those connections between service, teaching, and research can always be really challenging. But when you can find those connections, definitely a worthwhile endeavor. I know that I’ve had similar experiences. Can you talk a little bit about students’ response to service learning, as well as your community partner? And I guess in this case, it would be your campus stakeholders?
Bree: Yeah. So I’ll back up a little. When I taught in person, one of the first service- learning projects I did was for the local drug court. And so, the drug court manager would actually come to our class, and we presented the results to her. And so, that experience of being live, us handing her the results, talking about the results together as a class, that made it really rewarding for both me and the students. And so, as a result of that drug court partnership, one of my students actually got an internship at drug court, which was super cool. That may not have happened organically otherwise. And so, students’ responses have been very positive to both service learning and experiential learning broadly. I think that both teaching and learning online can be very isolating. That was my fear of teaching online, was losing that connection, and that connection from what I’ve learned from Michelle Pacansky-Brock and Fabiola Torres on Twitter, I’ve taken trainings with them on humanizing course content. They are amazing. What I’ve learned from them and doing trainings about online teaching is that really the connection matters, and there are still ways that we can get that connection through humanization. And so, I think building those connections for students’ research shows, especially for underserved students, first-generation college students like myself… I was a first-gen student… those sorts of efforts to build that community and build that connection between student and instructor but also among students is really key towards their success and retention. So I have noticed, just taking the extra effort to send out personal check ins to students to get to know them as human beings, has greatly increased my student evaluations, but also my fulfillment and enjoyment as an instructor, because I read Kevin Gannon’s work, Radical Hope, it’s on my bookshelf over here, and he mentions this tension, often between this authoritative type of instruction where often instructors are seen as adversaries, and instead, there’s things that we can do to connect with students. So we go into this role of being allies to students, and that’s really where I see my role as empowering and supporting students rather than enforcing rules and teaching during the pandemic really, really brought that to light for me, that often these rules, especially around late work, and imposing late penalties, and strict rules around that, that’s not sustainable. And so, it’s also not inclusive, especially for our students, who many of them, again, are mothers, they’re in caretaking roles, they’re parents, they have full-time jobs already outside of their class that they’re taking with me. I think that instructors maybe forget that students have these full lives outside of this one class that they’re taking with you, and I try to be really mindful of that. And so, students’ responses to experiential learning have been great. My response has been great. The stakeholders have also really appreciated being able to connect with students. When we sent out the report to stakeholders for the campus survey, one of the interesting findings was there’s this care center on campus that offers free mental health referrals and academic assistance to students in crisis, and based on our survey with criminal justice students, only 25% even knew that the care team existed. And so, I shared this with the care team. I’m like, “Look, I know the amazing work you do. I’ve referred various students to you but largely, students don’t know you exist, which might be impacting self referral.” And so, students in that class gave recommendations for how to build awareness of the care team, and the following semester that I taught this class, we partnered with care team and created a social media campaign to build student awareness about who the care team is and what they do. And so, that was a really cool way of legacy teaching where we built upon what one class did in a semester, which was Spring 2020, where everything was wild, and it took a lot to get done in one semester, with the beginning of a pandemic, we built upon that in a second semester, to really create actionable things that the care team could use to build awareness about what they do for the campus.
John: You mentioned a focus on inclusive teaching, could you talk a little bit more about some strategies that you use to create an inclusive environment in your classes? You’ve talked about some of these, but do you have any other suggestions? Because I think everyone’s trying to make their classes more inclusive now and any tips you could provide would be helpful.
Bree: Yeah. So I think for me, a big part of it has been educating myself. I’ve taken a lot of trainings, I’ve had trainings specifically on Universal Design for Learning, inclusive teaching. So some of those trainings that I took actually had us listen to interviews from students about their experiences as first-generation students, as students who English is not their first language, as students who are full time working and caretakers. Listening to their stories really helped me design my classes in a way that is more accessible. I design my classes being very empathetic and mindful of the students who enter our class. So SHSU is a Hispanic-serving Institution, more than 50% of my students are first-generation college students, so I automatically design my classes for that population, and in turn, like we see from Universal Design for Learning, that has benefits for everybody. So if you design a building with a ramp for individuals who can’t walk, that ultimately can benefit other individuals. The ramp makes it easier for them to get to the building to get inside. So I really embrace that approach in my teaching, and I try to be inclusive from the start. Again, educating yourself is a big part. I’ve done a lot of work on anti-racist pedagogy and just in everyday life, so that has been really helpful for me as well. And then I’m not perfect by any means. I try really hard, and there have been times where things have come up and students have felt safe enough to bring it up to me that there was potentially issue with how something was presented or delivered in the class, and I think my biggest advice is, when that happens, take a step back, take a pause, and really use empathy to listen. This student took time out of their everyday life to come to you and explain how this content or how the delivery made them feel. So I know that the first instinct might be to be defensive. But I think it’s really important to take a step back and try to really understand where the student is coming from. And actually I have this situation in the fall and it ended up turning out to be a really informative and transformative experience for me, but also for the student and now the student still keeps in touch with me and emails me often about updates in her life. And so, I think that’s a really big part of teaching in a way that’s empowering and supportive, rather than being authoritative and the sage on the stage when you share that power, and that’s important for me teaching in victim studies, because I teach in our victim services management program, which is the master’s degree. The students who come into this program are rock stars, they have worked in the field for years, they are running nonprofits, they are doing all this amazing work already. And so by sharing the power, and by me recognizing I have this degree, and I have some experience, but their experience is just as valuable and important as mine. I think that is really setting the stage for inclusive teaching and that’s what I embrace.
John: You mentioned a collaborative environment in your classes. What role do students play in creating content for your classes?
Bree: Yeah, so that’s actually my ultimate goal for students. In a lot of the effective online teaching trainings I’ve took, a lot of what we give to students is stuck on the learning management system. If you give a student an assignment or a quiz, they submit it, and they may never have access again. So a lot of the assignments I give them are getting off the learning management system and giving them tools and things that they can have beyond the semester. And so, some examples of that are, again, creating eportfolios. So they create these eportfolios that they use throughout the class, they create their intro background page where they talk about themselves, as much as they want to share or not, they can keep it anonymous if they want to. But they create this front page, which is personalized to them. And then they have different sections where they have module reflections. They have a course glossary, where they define key terms for each module and put the term and the definition there. And so, I started this approach… again, after reading Ungrading. But also, when I think back to classes, I had this really cool class about serial killers. And we created a portfolio with case studies about each serial killer, and I hung onto that thing for like a decade. I even gave it to my grandma who was super into crime shows and she wanted to read it. And so, I was like, this is something that is missing when we teach on the learning management system, and it’s something that I want to facilitate for students. Online, I think the eportfolio fits best rather than a paper portfolio. And so, it’s something that they can take with them and,it was funny, I was at a campus event, it was a campus ally training, and there was a staff member there who said, “Oh, you’re Dr. Boppre, one of our student workers is taking your class and she showed me her eportfolio that she made in your class and was so proud of it, and it looks so cool.” I’m like “That is gold. If that is what happens as a result of my teaching, I have achieved what I wanted to.” I want students to end my classes with some creative item that they develop throughout the class, and that they’re so proud of and so excited about that they’re sharing it with others. And so, the eportfolios, I definitely love those. I also assign infographics, which I think I mentioned earlier. So students create these visually appealing flyers with information about controversial issues in our field. So for victimization related classes, they’ll talk about intimate partner violence, violence against women, and they’ll summarize the research. They will do what they would typically do for a research paper, but in this visually appealing, accessible format. Honestly, I can’t tell you that I’ve ever shared a paper from class with anybody from undergrad, but I would share an infographic. I would show someone and say, “Look at what I’ve done,” and that’s what students tell me, they’re really proud of that infographic that they’ve created. And so, that has been really rewarding for me is to help facilitate these students’ creations. I’m not gonna lie, it does take a lot of tutorials and working through students to develop these skills, but I tell them, I’m very purposeful about the technology that I choose for classes and I’ve honestly had to ditch some approaches for some that are more useful and relevant to their future careers. But I really focus on the tools and technology that I think will best serve them in their future careers no matter what they do. And so, that’s why I emphasize these eportfolios, because you’re developing a website, and I have a personal website for all my scholarship, but I’ve used Google Sites to create community exhibits, I’ve used them to present research presentations. I’ve used these web design skills for so many other things that I can envision for other students and the same with the infographics and getting used to using Canva. We live in an ever growing society that wants information quickly and visually, especially like TikTok, Instagram… that is the reality that we live in today. And so, these approaches really fit with where we’re going in our society. And so, learning Canva, you might make an infographic for class, but then you have those skills to make a flyer for an event at work, or you have those skills to create an infographic for something else related to your class or for your career. And so, that’s really what I emphasize, these creative, project-based finales is what I call them, because they help students create something and cultivate skills that will benefit them far beyond the end of the semester.
John: David wildly refers to those assignments that end up in the LMS and disappear at the end of the semester as “disposable assignments.” And the type of thing you’re describing are the non-disposable, open pedagogy type things that students often find much more engaging, because they have much more meaning to them, and I think you’ve described that quite nicely. So we always end with a question, what’s next?
Bree: So I’m entering my fifth year on the tenure track. So, I’m still very much focused on research. But this upcoming semester, I’m actually putting all of the trauma awareness and the survivor centered teaching into my research-based service-learning project with students. And so, we are actually going to ask students about survivor-centered teaching and trauma-aware teaching and we’re going to do a survey and focus group with students. So I’m really excited to test students’ reactions to these approaches and the need. That’s ultimately what I want to demonstrate, the need for these approaches from an empirical standpoint, and involving students in that process. I think that’s going to be really powerful. One of my students in my summer class actually inspired me to do this because we were having a zoom session, and we talked about survivor-centered teaching, and she’s just like, this is the first time I’ve ever felt empowered to tell my story, because in every other class, I have felt silenced by these Title IX and mandatory reporting warnings, I just have not felt comfortable or able to share. And so that is a big part of my future in what’s next, is continuing to empower students to tell their stories and to view students as the whole student, and how these life experiences shaped their interactions in the classroom and the eportfolios is a way that I get to do that. They do get to share their stories and reflect on it. But I’m always looking for what more we can do, and that’s really what I want to focus on. Because these life experiences, even my own life experiences. Both my parents were incarcerated throughout my life, I grew up visiting my dad in prisons for 15 plus years. Every weekend, I was at the prison. To say that experience has no impact on my teaching or learning would just be ridiculous to say. That had a huge impact on who I am, how I learned, how I teach. And so, I’m very upfront about that with students, and I also want to empower them to have their own stories and reflect on how it impacts their experiences, because education truly can be transformative. It was for me as a first-generation college student, as someone with those life experiences in my childhood. Being able to go to college transformed my life, and if I can play a small role in that for my students, that’s my ultimate life goal and that’s why I’m here.
Rebecca: Thank you so much Bree for sharing your really great techniques and providing us with a lot of things to think about as more of us are teaching online and thinking about experiential learning and service learning in those contexts.
John: And we noted on your website, you have a word cloud that lists some words that students have used to describe your teaching, and the most frequent words were fun and creative. But right behind those were unique, amazing, informative, thorough, and awesome. And that would be a nice aspirational goal for many of us, to see those types of responses for students, because I suspect that those wouldn’t be the most common words that students generally use for most of their classes. So thank you for joining us, and I hope you’ll be back again in the near future.
Bree: Yes, I was so excited to come. A lot of my pedagogical heroes have been on this show. So I’m very honored to be here and thanks so much for having me.
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Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.
John: Editing assistance provided by Anna Croyle, Annalyn Smith, and Joshua Vega.