Teaching and Learning Post-Election: OTL Resources for Instructors
As members of the Wayne State University community continue to absorb and grapple with understanding the implications of the presidential election, the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) has prepared some resource materials for instructors.
As President Wilson recently said, “…whether we agree or disagree with the election outcome, we must come together for the sake of our students, our university and our community.” At the OTL we have been hearing from instructors seeking guidance and resources on how to talk with their students in this post-election time. Of course, such strategies depend on many factors and you may or may not choose to engage your students in conversation about the election results. In either case, we hope the following will prove helpful.
Huston and DiPietro (2007) suggest that instructors’ responses need not be complicated, time-intensive, or personalized for students to perceive them as helpful. They offer the following strategies as useful to consider:
- Be yourself. Students appreciate an instructor who responds in a unique and humane way. Faculty should not feel pressured to homogenize their responses or have the perfect answer.
- Acknowledge that members of the class may quite possibly have a direct relationship with the current event (and different perspectives on what the election may mean personally, to their families, to their communities, and to the country).
- Consider holding a minute of silent reflection at the beginning of class.
- Be self-reflective yet neutral. Students unsure of how to relate to events may benefit from seeing a mentor model open-ended reflection and self-control.
- Understand that this election might resonate with prior experiences with authorities and social institutions (both in our own life and in our students’ lives).
- Cognitive research informs us that working memory capacity is reduced during times of enhanced stress, making students less capable of focusing and learning new material:
- Consider supporting anxious students by offering to grant an extension on current assignments for those who request it.
- Offer to review course material again in a future class session in case students are preoccupied or distracted.
- Consider posting campus resources for students on your course Blackboard site. A simple acknowledgement that this may be a stressful time and that seeking formal and / or informal support in addition to friends and family can be genuinely helpful.
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Consider the tools of your discipline as the point of entry. Faculty responses that required high levels of effort were also viewed as helpful, so those who wish to use the lens of their discipline to examine the events and possible future outcomes surrounding this election are encouraged to do so. Such strategies might include journal writing, listening to a story that addresses relevant themes, reading selected poems, and other activities that allow students to address the events (Huston & DiPietro, 2007).
The Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) staff is available to consult with instructors on teaching strategies and learning-related outcomes associated with addressing sensitive and emotionally charged issues when these emerge in the classroom in either anticipated or unplanned ways. We are available in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate). To schedule an individual consultation, click here or call (313) 577-0001.
Our colleagues in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan have prepared a useful resource, Returning to the Classroom After the Election, as well. Should you decide to invite a discussion, it may help to review these guidelines for difficult topics.
Additionally, Lee Warren, from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, describes a series of concrete strategies instructors can implement to facilitate learning in the midst of emotionally charged topics in Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom.
Sometimes, more comprehensive social and psychological support is warranted. Additional resources include:
- Employee Assistance Program (Human Resources)
- University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning has posted a number of resources for self-care strategies at: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/post-election-resources-and-support/