EEB graduate student Susan Cheng received a Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching grant from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

The Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching program was launched during the 2014-15 academic year with 10 different projects designed to spark faculty exchanges about how to cultivate learning environments that welcome and support students of all backgrounds and identities.

Dr. Jo Kurdziel, EEB lecturer, Cindee Giffen, a lecturer in EEB and the Comprehensive Studies Program, and EEB graduate student Marian Schmidt managed the reading group, which focused on building inclusive biology classrooms and research environments. They met six times every other week during the winter semester. The group spent the first three weeks discussing the book, “Whistling Vivaldi,” and the last three weeks discussing academic literature. “Whistling Vivaldi,” written by acclaimed social psychologist Claude M. Steele, provides an insider’s look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotype and identity.

Cheng’s $1,000 grant covered the cost of books, a CRLT consultant who attended the first meeting to help set discussion guidelines and create a welcoming environment, the development of a resource for those interested in related information, and meeting refreshments. The resource, which is being developed, will include five topics: background and context of inclusive teaching, classroom climate, course structure and materials, providing feedback, being aware of stereotype threat and preventing it. Reading group participants (about 18) are writing short summaries based on information learned during the group focusing on best practices and strategies for EEB, including links to source material and other resources.

Before the reading group began, organizers attended an introductory meeting. This summer, they will be interviewed by CRLT about insights and best practices learned from the reading group, and in the fall, they will participate in a CRLT symposium.

“Many participants want to continue the discussion,” said Kurdziel. “We are thinking of reading another book together this summer or fall.” They are considering U-M Professor Scott Page’s book, “The Difference,” which many people were enthusiastic about. Feedback from the group participants was overwhelmingly positive regarding community building, meeting new people within EEB, the range of experience within the group and the resulting diversity of opinions, and an appreciation for the opportunity for discussions with many sincerely committed teachers and learners.

As part of the overall Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching campus initiative, faculty participants from over two dozen departments and programs discussed topics such as the effects of religious identity on student learning, female underrepresentation in particular fields of study, and the dynamics of stereotype threat in science courses. Funds were provided by the office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs.

Find out more: The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching’s Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series