Liberal Education and Inclusive Excellence

AAC&U (The Association for American Colleges and Universities) has created and posted their new guide to a liberal education.  This guide points out that while the new Liberal Education has to address the most compelling issues of our lives,and prepare students for work, citizenship and life – it also has to do it in ways that serves ALL of our students, and thus renewing our Democracy (preserving justice, liberty, human dignity, equality of all persons).  

FIRST, IT WILL REQUIRE ADVOCACY, A DETERMINED EFFORT TO RALLY THE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY AROUND THE VISION AND TO CARRY IT WITH CONFIDENCE, INTEGRITY, AND PERSUASIVE FORCE INTO THE PUBLIC SQUARE.

SECOND, IT WILL REQUIRE RENEWED AND REINVIGORATED COMMITMENT TO THE CIVIC AND DEMOCRATIC PURPOSES OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

THIRD, IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO MAKE EQUITY A PERVADING FOCUS OF EDUCATIONAL REFORM AND INNOVATION, MOVING BEYOND THE GOALS OF ACCESS AND COMPOSITIONAL DIVERSITY TO DESIGN AND DELIVER EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES THAT SUPPORT THE SUCCESS OF ALL STUDENTS.

FOURTH, IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO TAKE PROACTIVE STEPS TO ENSURE THAT COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES ARE PLACES OF WELCOME WHERE ALL STUDENTS ARE, AND FEEL THEMSELVES TO BE, SAFE AND PLACES OF BELONGING WHERE NO STUDENTS ARE, OR FEEL THEMSELVES TO BE, MARGINALIZED.

FIFTH, IF THE EMERGING VISION OF LIBERAL EDUCATION DESCRIBED HERE IS TO BE FULLY REALIZED, IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO ADDRESS ISSUES OF AFFORDABILITY.

 

What does an undergraduate education ordered to the essential learning outcomes of a liberal education and conducted under the standard of inclusive excellence actually look like in practice? Where and for whom does it happen?


Question: What does ‘Inclusive Excellence’ look like to you? What does it look like in an online class?

Pratt Institute faculty (from multiple disciplines) who participated in the RTO responded:

  • Re: Curriculum – Grad school is very expensive, so you have a certain student body. Consider who you’re teaching and which designers/people you profile to represent the student body.
  • Decolonizing the curriculum by asking the students to bring the images of work or artists/designers to the professor. “Flipping the classroom” handing over power to the students. 
  • Give students space/agency to show their learning.
  • Find ways to include as many modalities as you can not only in terms of the content, but also in terms of how the message is delivered and understood by different types of learners. Say the information more than once, and in more than one way. (Say it, show it, write it… ask students to explain it in their own words)
  • Creating context or framing to what you might be teaching to recognize limitations of what we might be presenting (ie. western representations). We’re most successful when we consider who might be left out; design curriculum for those on the margins. 
  • Inclusion is related to excellence. An inclusive curriculum is stronger. Excellence is served by having an inclusive approach. Although it’s great to give students the opportunity to bring in subject matter that interests them, it has the potential to put students in an uncomfortable and unfair position of educating other students on issues that disproportionately affect them personally. 
  • We’d like to add a wider range of examples to study which might open students’ minds to different perspectives and experiences without putting that burden on individual students.
  • Open, transparent, and responsible pedagogy
  • Be a facilitator: Viewing the role of professor as facilitator and guide to create community and help brainstorm/problem solve
  • Reconsider excellence as an outcome…perhaps excellence as a process?
  • Online is a different experience for different learners. Class and access issues need to be considered, implicit biases need to be unpacked
  • Establishing community norms/setting expectations in the syllabus (from the onset)
  • Considerations about lack of access for international (and domestic!) students
  • It makes one realize how both sides of the “would-be divide” makes you more empathetic to the overall need for care and community alongside learning and exploration (and dare I say, imagination!)

  • Consider the 3 Cs: Cooperation, Collaboration, Culture of respect
  • Address differences in mannerisms and approaches in class – okay to ask questions during class
  • Approaching concerns around racism – differences between local and international students
  • The ways we tell the story and the resources that we use can be varied, from various authors who are diverse, various mediums as well, which allows for student choice and ownership of their own learning, both through the curriculum resources and the form of expression — easier to implement into the online platform
  • Students are different types of learners.  There can be preconceived ideas about what information is important to share, but there can be various resources that students can learn about and make it more accessible
  • Use an intro survey to understand where students are — why are they interested in the course, are there things they would like to add to the course?  One professor conducted this privately and got interesting feedback, learned a lot about the students, and took down some barriers
  • Equalizing the resources, because students have different access to resources, adding limitations created equity (in a studio course).  Solving the same problems with the same tools
  • Anticipate struggles that students are going to have in advance — important to imagine what the barriers are going to be so you can bake it into your course
  • Deconstructing projects into smaller components makes it easier for students to struggle at their own pace but not get lost (scaffolding)
  • Vary the teaching modes — sometimes in small groups, sometime independently
  • Also include the students by giving choice in how they learn
  • Finding different ways to assess students to measure growth
  • Also finding that some students are uncomfortable with choice, but saw the benefits of it at the end of the semester, took some time to adjust 
  • Clarifies that students be in the mindset that flexibility is important for everyone, and perhaps even be grade driven (may lead to obedience
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