The opening session of the 2023 SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology, which took place at SUNY Oswego, included a keynote address in the form of a live podcast interview with Flower Darby. This podcast episode is a recording of this session, which included both a live and a remote audience. Flower is an Associate Director of the Teaching for Learning Center at the University of Missouri at Columbia. She is the co-author, with James Lang, of Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes and a co-author of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching.
- Flower Darby, (2020. “Pandemic-Related Remote Learning.” Tea for Teaching podcast episode 126, March 19.
- Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. John Wiley & Sons.
- Artze-Vega, Isis; Flower Darby; Bryan Dewsbury; Mays Imad (2023). The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching. Norton.
- Covey, S. R., & Covey, S. R. (1994). Seven Habits of Highly Effective. Simon and Schuster (contains a discussion of the circle of control).
- Cavanagh, Sarah Rose (2023). “They Need Us to be Well.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. May 2.
- Darby, Flower (2023). “4 Steps to Help You Plan for ChatGPT in Your Classroom.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 27.
John: The opening session of the 2023 SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology, which took place at SUNY Oswego included a keynote address in the form of a live podcast interview with Flower Darby. This podcast episode is a recording of this session, which included both a live and a remote audience.
When colleges shut down in the country in mid-March of 2020 we reached out to Flower Darby to provide some guidance for people who were moving to remote instruction, for the most part, for the first time. She joined us on a special episode… in fact, it was the only time we released two episodes in one week… and she provided advice to faculty on emergency remote instruction, resource sharing, and strategies to keep courses going. Today, we are pleased to have Flower back with us to reflect on the impact of the past three years and map a road forward for teaching and the academy.
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 Flower Darby. Flower is an Associate Director of the Teaching for Learning Center at the University of Missouri at Columbia. She is the co-author, with James Lang, of Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes and a co-author of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching. Welcome back, Flower.
Flower: Thank you, John. Thank you, Rebecca. Thank you all for having me and for being here and focusing on how we can map that all important road forward. So good to be here with you all.
Rebecca: So it wouldn’t be an episode of tea for teaching if we didn’t ask about our teas. So our teas today are: … Flower, are you drinking tea?
Flower: I have my iced tea in here. And it is a Hawaiian Islands Passionfruit blend.
John: And I have a Tea Forte black currant tea today.
Rebecca: And I brought out the Jasmine dragon pearls green tea for today’s episode.
John: When we last talked on March 17 2020, you provided some suggestions on how we could maintain instructional continuity during that two-week shutdown we were going to have to deal with [LAUGHTER] and one of the things you asked in the conversation was what are we going to reflect on looking back when we’re through this immediate crisis situation? So we’re going to turn this question back to you. What sticks in your mind the most from the period of pandemic teaching?
Flower: Yeah, thank you, John, it’s such a big question. And I have reflected very deeply on this over the past three years of ongoing research, conversations with 1000s of educators around the country and around the world. And really, there is one thing that has become crystal clear for me. And that is the centrality and the importance of holistic wellbeing for both ourselves, our faculty, our staff, and our students. I’m excited about how technology use has advanced as a result of the pandemic. But that’s not actually the central focus for me. It is about the importance of our wellbeing, of our students’ holistic wellbeing, and of how we need to center and highlight and forefront social connections and those kinds of relational aspects of teaching and learning with technology in person wherever we are. That extended period of isolation and loss and grief and challenge and distance in education really brought to the front for me the importance of connectedness, and being intentional in how we connect with our students and help them connect with each other as well.
Rebecca: I think you’ve started hinting at this already, Flower, but how has higher ed been transformed by this pandemic experience?
Flower: Yeah, thank you, Rebecca. So I do think that there has been a lot of work done to enhance technology implementations, to provide better support for faculty who are just in the trenches trying to figure this out, whether it’s using new features in Canvas or your learning management system that you may not have used before. Here at the University of Missouri all of our classrooms are now called Zoum rooms. And that’s Zoum, because we’re at Mizzou, which is spelled M-I-Z-Z-O-U. And it’s a challenge for faculty to be in these high-tech teaching spaces and it’s wonderful that the university is making this commitment. But for me again, it is not about the tech, we have seen good tech advancements. We just heard from the Chancellor about some really amazing innovations and that is wonderful because it is going to keep moving us forward. But it is true, I do believe the truth of transformation that is beginning, and that we need to continue, is focusing on this notion of holistic wellbeing and relational teaching and learning.
John: In 202o, one of the things we talked about in that last conversation was the insufficient systemic institutional support for teaching centers, instructional designers, and the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. Have leaders in higher education made long-term sustainable investments in this work.
Flower: Yeah, great question. I think some have, and of course, my answer is going to be, “And we could do more here.” Here again, I just mentioned that example locally here at the University of Missouri with all this investment in the Zoum rooms. What I’m hearing sometimes, though, is that the challenge in managing all the bells and whistles, especially if you do have students who are in the room in front of you, and also Zooming in, it is not something that we necessarily prepare college faculty to do in our graduate programs. I’ve had so many countless conversations over the last few years where the fact is, as a professor, I did not necessarily set out to be a tech whiz as well. So I’m seeing encouraging signs and improvements and a greater awareness of the potential for effective use of teaching with technology to enhance inclusive and accessible, equity-minded student success. And I’m going to say we can do more.
Rebecca: As you just mentioned, prior to the pandemic, many faculty and students were resistant to online instruction. And while this resistance has faded, in some cases, one of the concerns that you expressed in our earlier discussion was the physical isolation experienced in online learning and you mentioned this a bit earlier today. Has the pandemic helped us to develop new ways of encouraging that relationship building online?
Flower: I would say yes, and I would say greater awareness and receptivity to the importance of building relationships online. I think that once again, we still have work to do in this area. But I do believe that prior to the pandemic, there was less awareness on the part of faculty and no blame no shame, I would say it’s the way that institutions and graduate programs may or may not prepare faculty for effective online teaching. I would say there was kind of less institutional awareness of the importance of those relationships online. Now we have seen what happens, we felt it, we’ve lived it in our bodies, when we felt disconnected from our students, when we’ve tried to teach to black boxes with a name, or Anna’s iPad on the Zoom screen. We’ve kind of lived out that disconnect and that isolation. And yet, we know there was abundant research to show that we can have really engaging interactions in our online spaces. And we know that it increases access. I’m here with you today from beautiful Columbia, Missouri, because we have this option available, although I would love to be in the room, but we have other folks joining online as well. We see the value, we know the importance of those connections, those relationships. And one thing that I have really focused in on in the last couple of years is being intentional in the way that we create and structure those opportunities for rapport building and to close the distance because we know that it’s not going to happen by accident online, whether asynchronous or synchronous, intentionality is required. And I encourage faculty to rethink how they use their class time, what the activities are in asynchronous modules, maybe even the kinds of assessments that are in our syllabi, and whether we’re offering points for those kinds of activities. Basically, my argument is that we can do more to design for intentional social connections… that I would say would apply in all class modalities.
John: During the pandemic, the inequities that our students face became much more visible. When we were connecting to students who were zooming in from home and they had trouble accessing the one computer they had to share with four or five other people, or when they didn’t have good network access, or when they were struggling to try to work to pay some bills, and so forth, those inequities became really hard to ignore, for faculty. And campuses did a lot to mitigate that, by loaning computers, by loaning hotspots, and providing other resources. But now that we’ve moved back to more on-campus instruction, and with staffing shortages and budget cuts very common in higher ed, do we run the risk of falling back on some of the exclusionary practices that we had practiced in the past?
Flower: I would say yes, we run that risk. But I actually want to take a little tangent here and tell you about a conversation that I had just on Friday. This past Friday, I was at a conference in Portland, Oregon for teachers of accounting, and I had a very heartwarming and encouraging conversation with one individual faculty, and I think it’s highly representative of where our heads are, and more importantly, where our hearts are now. Of course, I was presenting on the importance of social and emotional connections… that’s what I do… and she shared a story…in fact, I have a couple of poignant stories from that event. This particular one said “You know, I used to be the hardline accountant, you follow the rules and you make the deadlines or you get out,” and then she said “until I was watching my students trying to take their exams via Zoom, and I saw one of my students, his little brother was like hitting him on the head with like a paddle while he’s trying to take his exam. And I saw all kinds of other things.” This experience, the pandemic did give us a view, a window into our students’ lived experiences. The other one, just very briefly, another faculty member, a caring, passionate, dedicated, instructor was talking about how she had one student in one particular semester who lost 13 members of her family to COVID. How much community was built as the entire class was caring deeply. So I do believe there is lasting change. The first accountant I was telling you about, she’s like, “I’ll never go back to that hardline approach. I have more empathy for my students now. I see what they’re dealing with to make this happen.” Now, that said, yes, we do run the risk of falling back into exclusionary practices. I’ve been thoughtful, reflective of how we want to go back to the way things have always been, and I get it, I’m back on a physical campus, I spent the entire time of the pandemic myself working remotely, and I hungered for a physical campus with real live embodied people and students on the pedway. And I’m loving this experience. So I get it that we want to come back to our tried and true, our comfort zones, our methods we’ve relied on. And if we slip back into, for example, less than equitable teaching methods like large lectures and high-stakes exams, we are absolutely sliding back into exclusionary practices. So I would encourage us to not waste this crisis, which is not my unique phrase, but I think it’s definitely apt in this time. Let’s keep pushing forward so that we can become more inclusive and equity focused as higher ed as a whole,
Rebecca: It can definitely be easy to slip back into habits, but I know many of us are really committed to that change and the equitable work that you’ve been talking about, Flower. What can we do together to redesign higher education to be more equitable? What do we need to do?
Flower: Yeah, great question, and sometimes I think, huge picture as in, it’s way too big to change, and other times, I really focus on the circle of control. So I definitely think that, if you haven’t seen it before, I think it’s Stephen Covey has these circles, the inner one is control, here’s what I have influence over, then there’s a broader circle, that’s influence, here’s what I have some influence about. And then the third circle is concern, there’s not a lot that I can do. And so I think we can focus primarily on our control circle. I do think, and we make this argument in the newly released Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching, we make the argument that we do need to advocate for systemic change, and we need to do that in community. So we can work towards that. And then there are influences and aspects that we cannot really necessarily change. We can be concerned about them and mindful. So what can we do? Well, here’s what it comes down to for me, and I’ve thought a lot about this. I would argue, as I just mentioned a minute ago, we have to stop doing things the way we always have. So if you think about the history of higher education in the United States, it is based on centuries of tradition in Europe. And it was designed to be available to elite white men. It is exclusionary in its very nature. So we have this opportunity to say we know that our student body is diversifying. And we know that is so important because with diversity comes strength, comes creativity, comes new perspectives, comes better solutions. So let’s stop doing things the way we always have. Let’s stop with those large lectures. And I do sometimes think about things we can’t change, like, untenable work conditions where contingent faculty are going semester to semester, or we’re being asked to teach these large enrollment classes with very little, if any, TA support. Those are things that are challenging that are, for me, are in that circle of concern. But I think a general mindset to think about is, if I’m tempted to slip back into doing things the way I used to do, maybe that’s an opportunity to ask myself, whether there’s a more equity-minded way to do some things, a more inclusive way, a more active way to help students really process and interact with the materials that we’re teaching.
Rebecca: You’ve talked a little bit about burnout, stress, and mental health concerns that continue to challenge our students, faculty, and staff. And we’ve talked about needing to humanize the learning experience through the pandemic. What role… and you already hinted at this, [LAUGHTER] but I’m hoping you can dig into it… what role does holistic wellbeing play into the future of the academy?
Flower: You know, clearly by now, you know, I’m glad to say it needs to play a central role. And I don’t think as an academy, we are quite there yet. We do work and exist in an overworked culture. We absolutely do. And I would say we’re high-achieving individuals. If we choose to be here, we’re passionate, we’re focused, we work hard, but in general, we need to give grace to ourselves to take more opportunity to support our own wellbeing. We need to extend that grace to each other in community… to say “it’s okay, go ahead and take that weekend off. I don’t need the manuscript on Monday. It’s alright.” And then collectively, again, I think the more that we’re having these conversations, that can help. So just recently, my good friend and colleague, Sarah Rose Cavanaugh, had a piece come out in The Chronicle. And the headline was, “They Need Us to Be Well,” and it’s about how, if we want to support student success, if we want to advance equity and become even more inclusive than we already are, we actually have to start with ourselves. And I don’t think that we do this very well in this culture. I have had to work, to learn to give myself permission to take a weekend off. It’s something that we, again, for me, it’s about giving permission, it’s about supporting each other in these decisions as well. And then, broadly speaking, I hope that we are seeing the beginnings of a culture change. Questions about the validity and the feasibility of teaching these large-enrollment sections or teaching online classes with very little attention paid to interactions between people. I think we do have this opening for these conversations, and I’m doing everything I can to advance those conversations.
John: In response to the pandemic, faculty face unprecedented changes in the way in which they were teaching. And since then, we’ve had a number of other changes in our practices. Here at SUNY, we’ve had a transition to a new learning management system that came immediately after these transitions. And I know other campuses happen to be doing the same thing at the same time. But one of the things that’s happened recently is the introduction of new AI tools, such as ChatGPT and image generation tools. And one of the questions a lot of faculty have is how they might be able to accurately assess student learning in the presence of these tools, while also appreciating the affordances that these tools provide. And how will these AI tools transform instructional practices and the future of the Academy?
Flower: Yeah, great question. And sadly, I don’t have a crystal ball, [LAUGHTER]
Flower: …however, I do have some thoughts [LAUGHTER] to share and some, again, recent research, there was a survey that I heard of… just yesterday, I saw a summary of it, it was run by the Washington Post. And it was essentially saying that many faculty are not really thinking about ChatGPT generative AI, all these new tools. We’re doing a little bit of the “I don’t want to deal with that quite yet.” And again, that’s an overgeneralization. But that’s what the survey results really did show. So how these tools will impact our work in education? My real answer is: “Yes, they absolutely will,” I have come to conclude that they are like the advent of the Internet. Remember, way back in the early to mid-90s, when it didn’t used to be possible to do an online search for something? I think this tool, this change,is along the same lines of the smartphone. Remember, when we didn’t always have a super powerful computer available to us in our pocket or our bag? For me, this is a seismic change, and it will change the way we do things. Now, that’s scary… and exciting. [LAUGHTER] Our world is changing, and we have to be willing to embrace it. Are we worried about whether students are going to do their own work? Absolutely. Do we know that we need to equip our students to use these tools in order to thrive in their careers? We know that too. Right now we’re in a very unique moment of trying to walk a middle ground here, trying to see what are the opportunities of these tools? How do we help to understand whether our students are actually doing their own work? I don’t have those answers. What I do know is that this is another big, and quite frankly, painful opportunity to think deeply again, about the way we do teaching and learning in higher education. The pandemic was this for me, ChatGPT, and Gen AI is this for me. We can think deeply about the way we do things. We’re gonna have to change some things. And that deep reflection and change process is undeniably painful, undeniably scary, and can be deeply meaningful and rewarding as well.
Rebecca: That’s a little too much seismic activity going on there. [LAUGHTER]
Flower: It is. It’s a tough moment. It’s a really tough moment in higher ed. I want to just be honest about that.
Rebecca: So at this moment, we’d like to move to some audience questions. And we do have a first audience question. And that first question, Flower, is moving forward, which pandemic modifications, or temporary adjustments, should we adopt as best practices to meet the needs of modern learners?
Flower: I have one that comes very easily to mind. And thankfully, it’s not a big huge effort or overhaul to our course design and pedagogy. And that is, let’s check in with our students more often. Let’s check in more frequently. During the pandemic, in an effort to engage those black boxes that were on our Zoom screens, many of us developed new ways of using Zoom polls, of asking quick questions in the chat box, assigning collaborative activities in Google Docs or Padlet, these kinds of things, and the students have unwaveringly told us that they appreciate us checking in more often. So, whether it is a matter of if you are lecturing in person, every 10 to 12 minutes or so ask your students a quick question, quiz them on the concept, or ask them “How are you doing? Are you with me?” …here again to think about the Zoom example, which I know not everybody is really doing as much of, and that’s probably good. But I know one instructor who would use to say, “Are you with me?” and her students knew that they could use the emojis in the chat box… one thumbs up was like, I’m not doing too good. Two thumbs up, pretty good, pretty good. Three thumbs up, I got it. And she told me that if she saw a range of those one thumbs ups coming in, she’d be like, “That’s it. We’re not going any further until we kind of talk this through a little bit more. What are your questions?” That’s the kind of informal checking in with our students that I’m encouraging us to do. Again, this can take the form of an activity that happens during class, a quick poll, it can be a show of hands, I saw a great example, just last week, those of you here in the room and watching the video will see this, for the audio recording, I’ll just describe it. I heard this great example of a biology instructor asking her students a very simple check your understanding question during a large lecture, and she had taught her students that they should answer the question based on a number of responses, the responses were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And she said, choose the best answer and just put it right here, on your chest, so that you can hold up the number of fingers right against your chest. And what this does is it doesn’t let anybody have to feel really awkward or insecure about “I’m not sure if I’m holding up the number one, and maybe I’m wrong.” By holding it right here, we’re doing a couple of things. We’re providing safety, we’re building trust, we’re giving students an opportunity to retrieve the information that they have just been taught. And again, you can adapt this approach to anything: How are you doing? Are you with me? Hold up a one if you’re feeling terrible. So this idea of the informal check-ins with students… you can also do online anonymous surveys using Survey Monkey, Google form, whatever is in the learning management system. Ask your students: How are you? What do we need to do more of? The stop, start, continue, survey is a really great model. What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? What should we continue doing? And then very importantly, if you do those kinds of surveys, which are really powerful and equity minded, you want to circle back to your students and say, “Alright, here’s what you told me. No, we’re not going to stop having our weekly homework assignments. Those are important. But here are some changes that I can do.” So informal check ins with your students, it does a lot of different things… key for me is demonstrate pedagogical caring, that we do care about our students. And we want them to be successful. And it helps our students to communicate to us if we need to slow down or provide another explanation, those kinds of things.
Rebecca: So I’m wondering, Flower, if you can talk a little bit more about some of these same kinds of practices, but in an online environment, in an asynchronous online environment, where sometimes it’s a little more difficult to figure out how to adopt some of these practices?
Flower: Yeah, great question, Rebecca. And thank you for kind of bringing us back to online because I have another huge takeaway for me [LAUGHTER] from the pandemic is that online, asynchronous, I think, is one of the most challenging formats to teach in. And I myself still struggle to see the students in my classes as real embodied people. It is so easy to fall into the sense that they are names on a screen, that they are tasks on a to-do list. And we know that our students don’t think we’re real. They tell us repeatedly… well, they don’t tell us they tell each other, they tell the media. My own daughters have said to me online teachers aren’t real. I kid you not. [LAUGHTER] During the pandemic they’re like “My teachers aren’t real people.” So very important, asynchronous while recognizing the limitations, and I don’t actually mean of the format in this case. I mean, the demands on people’s busy lives, because we know students who choose asynchronous online frequently need the flexibility. And maybe they don’t necessarily see the value of all the discussion forums and those kinds of things. So how do we do this relationship building, this increasing interaction? Certainly, I would argue that, as instructors, we need to be communicating with our students more often than not, and that can be announcements, it can be interacting in the discussion boards, not a ton, not dominating, but posting a guiding question here, or “that’s a great point” kind of there. We can be responsive in our assignment feedback, we don’t have to write a tome of comments. But even using an emoji or a quick comment to say, “I see you. I appreciate your work.” Some learning management systems make it very easy to record assignment feedback. Now, all of these, we need to hold in balance with the point I was making earlier about self care and holistic wellbeing for ourselves. I am not saying that we should become 24/7 chatbots, who are always available to our online students. I am saying they need more than what we might do. And we can also foster these connections to support their wellbeing with each other. So here’s one very quick example. I love an activity called “share one photo” and what this is, you can create this in an asynchronous class as an individual assignment, or as a discussion forum getting to know you kind of opportunity and if you do it… well, in either format, you could do this more than once. It could be an ongoing or an every other week, something like this. It’s a great way to intentionally structure social connections and relationship building. And what you do is you ask your students to look in their photo library on their smartphone, don’t go out and take a new photo, look in your photo library, choose one photo that is meaningful to you, write a line or two about why you chose to show that and submit it. And it’s worth points. Because it’s not just that we only focus on the class content, we focus on building relationships to help our students thrive. This can be really powerful, you will get different responses. If it’s an individual assignment, you make it more vulnerable images, if it’s a discussion post, you’ll have opportunities for students to connect with each other, like I was just saying, it doesn’t always have to be just you. But this is a way for students to choose what they want to share. It demonstrates to them that you care about them as people and not just names on a screen. And it can be a really powerful and fun way to see a little bit more about who your students are as people. I would certainly encourage that we do the same. Let’s also share one photo, help our students see us as real people as well.
John: One of the questions that has come in is from someone who is in a nursing education program, and the instructor notes that they use a lot of high-stakes exams and assessments in that. Do you have any suggestions on how they can move away from that? And I’ll just add a little bit to it, given that they do have high- stakes assessments as a criteria for licensing.
Flower: Yeah, great point, I was gonna make the same point there, John, thank you. There are disciplinary considerations to all of the recommendations that people like me come in and make. [LAUGHTER] And if you do have those accreditation exams, then part of your curriculum needs to be preparing your students to be successful on those high-stakes accreditation exams. So for me, a lot of times it’s about keeping things in tension, or in balance. We know that they need practice, they need to develop a comfort level with higher stakes, higher pressure situations. And honestly, I’m thinking about on the job, when you’re dealing with a patient, there could be a healthcare crisis that you need to be able to respond to. So, for me, preparing future nurses to deal with the pressure is part of the learning outcomes. But maybe, while they’re students, maybe we can balance that just a little bit. Maybe it’s not just about those high-stakes exams, maybe we balance out the grading scheme to award more points, as an example, for a weekly written reflection, where students can explain how they’re thinking about the processes that they’re learning about. If we have to, and I’m going to qualify… if we have to, for disciplinary reasons, have those bigger exams, because I’m going to invite us to think about: “Do we have to have those exams in this case?” Yeah, maybe. But maybe what we can do too, in a very equity-minded way is to offer retakes, offer test corrections, and a critical part there is to again structure a way for students to articulate where they went wrong, what they learned through this process. So kind of explain, how do I get this wrong? What did I need to do differently. So for me, it’s about balancing the grading scheme, thinking about equity-minded grading in terms of maybe you could build in the drop one exam, drop your lowest test, there’s a lot more that we write about that in the Norton Guide, which by the way, I want to say is actually available for free as an ebook. And, of course, I don’t have the link right in front of me. But maybe in the podcast notes, you can place the link to finding out more about that book, because it is freely available and has lots more of these kinds of ideas in it.
John: It’s a great resource, and we will share a link to that in the show notes.
Rebecca: We have a question that came in from Kristin Croyle, who is one of our previous guests on Tea for Teaching, and also is our Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here at SUNY Oswego. And she asked, “What do you recommend for campus leadership approaches to support student learning and faculty staff wellbeing and what should we institutionally start, stop, and continue doing?”
Flower: Oh, I love it. Thank you so much.
Rebecca: No small question there.
Flower: [LAUGHTER] I know, right? Well, first of all, I’m going to actually focus on faculty. When we support faculty wellbeing it can translate most effectively to student wellbeing and success and equity. But one thing we haven’t really talked about today is how our own identities as instructors impact our day-to-day experience. And that can be a big question. It can be related to identities, our social identities, involving our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, it can involve lots of things. It can even involve the work… and I did this for literally decades… being an adjunct faculty and teaching just wherever I could, mostly online, so at least I wasn’t a freeway flyer, but recognizing that our individual faculty have a lot of demands, a lot of needs, and one size does not fit all from a campus leadership perspective. So recognizing and elevating the importance of attending to our individual faculty to maybe working with them to adjust teaching loads. There’s a lot in the recent media and literature about how some instructors who hold some marginalized identities end up doing a lot of emotional labor that many other identities may not, in terms of supporting students who are underrepresented, extra demands on their time. So let’s stop treating all faculty the same. Pie in the sky, let’s also stop with these untenable working conditions. But that’s a big one. Let us start paying attention to the individual wellbeing of the individuals who are doing this hard and important work of supporting our students and helping them to learn and grow and graduate and make a better life. And let’s continue having these conversations. This is the way we’re going to enact change.
John: We have a question from Christine Miller. And she asks, “While respecting academic freedom, how do we spread the good news of equitable and inclusive practices to resistant faculty and support these practices with our adjunct faculty?
Flower: Yeah, this is a great question. And the opportunity to work on the Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching gave us as an author team, which I do want to give a shout out to my brilliant co authors Isis Artze-Vega, Bryan Dewsbury, and Mays Imad. It gave us lots of opportunity to wrestle with this. And here’s exactly where we landed. I used a phrase earlier that has served me quite well. And that is to not blame and not shame. Let’s recognize that our colleagues, maybe those whom we support, whether we’re perhaps in an instructional design role, whether we’re in a leadership position, let’s recognize that every person is on their own individual equity journey. And we don’t want to judge somebody for perhaps not being in the place that we are, for being a little bit more resistant. The way that I think about it is that maybe we haven’t given them an invitation to slow down and think about things from a different perspective. Maybe they haven’t had that opportunity to see their accounting student trying to take an exam while their little brother was hitting them on the head. So let’s meet our faculty colleagues where they are. We talk about this with our students, too. Let’s meet them where they are, let’s help them to find a way in to what we’re encouraging them to learn and think about. Let’s not blame. Let’s not shame. Let’s extend grace. Let’s support each other. Let’s ask questions. Let’s tell stories. Because, as I just mentioned, the one with the accounting student and the exam, these are things that get people to think about things differently. So it’s a really important question. I’m asked this a lot. And we think about polarized political situations, you think about legislation that is being enacted around the country or being debated. And yet, of course, I’m gonna say this work is worth doing. It’s all the more worth doing. Let’s be strategic, and let’s be supportive of each other and not get frustrated with somebody who isn’t quite where we want them to be yet. We’re all on a journey.
Rebecca: There’s another question. There’s actually a bunch of questions that we’re not going to get to because they all came at the same time. But there’s another question here that says, “You mentioned the different circles of control for advocating for equity and advocating in communities. How do you seek out or help build those communities on your campus, and then build consensus on what that community can influence on the campus?”
Flower: For me, it’s about being intentional to dedicate time and I will try to be brief in my answers, so hopefully, we can get to a few questions if possible. Let’s be intentional with our own personal time to create those communities and work together. One example that has a long history is a book club. So maybe a group of folks on the community, on the campus, want to choose our new book, or any range of other really great books and set aside time in your semester to connect with other colleagues, working with your centers for teaching excellence, working with your instructional designers. These are ways that we can individually choose within our own circle of control to establish community with our colleagues and support each other in this work.
John: We have an anonymous question, which is: “If you were to create or select an emoji to represent [LAUGHTER] the road forward in higher education, what would it be?”
Flower: Wow, that is a good one. The first image that flashed into my mind is the big mountain [LAUGHTER] with a path going up. And I kind of like that because it can represent a couple of different nuances. It can be: we have a long way to go, we have an uphill battle. But it can also be: we have this amazing opportunity and challenge ahead of us and we can ascend and climb this mountain together. I’m going to leave it at that.
Rebecca: Well, thank you CIT audience members for your questions and engagement. And also Flower, for all your answers to not the easiest questions. But we always wrap up with one last question, as you know, and that is: “What’s next?”
Flower: Yeah, thank you. You may have asked me this question in March of 2020. And I have the same answer. [LAUGHTER] I am resuming work, working hard on a manuscript on effective teaching, applying emotion science to teaching with technology. I was working on that manuscript. This amazing opportunity to join the author team for the Norton guide came along, So I had to pause on the emotion science book, but I am picking it up in earnest, and I think again, it holds a lot of keys for how we can enhance equitable higher education for ourselves and our students.
Rebecca: I know it’s something we’re definitely looking forward to here.
Flower: Thank you.
John: And thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it, and it’s great to talk to you again.
Flower: Yeah, very nice to be here with you all and I hope it’s a wonderful rest of the conference as well.
Rebecca: So let’s give Flower a warm thank you. [APPLAUSE]
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.