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Classroom Discussion Guidelines
Classroom Discussion Guidelines
Step up, step back.
If you usually don’t talk much, challenge yourself to speak more. If you talk more than others, learn to listen more. Everyone participates differently. The key here is to give others a chance to talk and not dominate the discussion.
Throw Sunlight, Not Shade.
Like beautiful flowers, we are here to learn and grow together. This will involve discussing difficult topics and challenging some of our deepest held beliefs and assumptions with curiosity and respect. In order to do that your actions and behavior in the classroom should support the growth and learning of others. Childish, violent, or disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated.
One Person, One Mic
One person will speak at a time. Do not shut other people down, interrupt, make rude gestures or facial expressions, or distract others while someone else is trying to present their ideas or questions. Be patient, respectful, and recognize that some of us find public speaking difficult or take longer to explain our ideas. Raise your hand to let the facilitator/instructor know you want to speak and wait until called on.
Listen with patience, generosity, and curiosity. Turn off all electronic equipment unless authorized by the instructor.
Speak in “I” statements
Don’t tell others what to do or think as if it is a command. Instead, describe your own perspective or experience. Speak for yourself; don’t volunteer other people to speak. Consider when it is appropriate to speak from your own experience and when it is better to consider the text or listen to others. Acknowledge when your experience is too limited or privileged to be generalized. Agree to challenge hurtful comments with care. Focus on the statement and do not make accusations to the person or act on negative assumptions you may have about the person.
Be Open to New, Unfamiliar, and Challenging Ideas
Closed minds do not learn. Even students with substantial prior knowledge in these areas will be required to consider new ways of thinking and deeper levels of analysis. Consider study groups, journaling, or office hours to work through your questions.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Take responsibility for the quality of the class through your participation. Respect that there are different ways to communicate in the group. Speak authentically from the heart. Be considerate to others who are doing the same. Recognize your classmates as important resources and use this opportunity to build relationships with people you may wish to work with in the future.
A Final Note
In this class, we will take as given well-established environmental science regarding for example the effect of toxins on human health and ecosystems and the effect of greenhouse gases on climate. We will not spend class time debating the fine points of broadly accepted science, but rather will focus on applying this science to issues related to environmental justice.
Similarly, we will take as given the broadly well-documented existence of environmental injustices, and their well-established intersection with sexism, racism, classism, colonialism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression. We will not spend valuable class time debating the existence of these oppressions, but rather will focus on applying methods of critical analysis rooted in these oppressions to illuminate the underlying mechanisms of environmental injustice and ways to struggle against it.
Your success in the course will center around not just learning the concepts, but also being able to apply methods of critical analysis in science and ethnic studies to a broad range of situations. Here as some suggestions to help in developing those skills:
The photo on the right shows a learning pyramid originally developed by Benjamin Bloom and modified by Lorin Anderson. The lower parts of the pyramid are required but your goal as a student in this class is to move up as far on the pyramid as you can.
1. Identify where you are at during the start of the quarter (you may identify with parts of several categories). Then identify where you would like to be by the end of the quarter.
2. Identify what challenges may be present for you. What could be blocking you or making it difficult to achieve your goals?
3. Create a goal action plan that will allow you to address some of the challenges you have identified for yourself.
Preparation Completes all readings and assignments on time. Actively takes and reviews notes. Forms study groups voluntarily and works well with other students. Asks questions. Prepares in advance if they will miss anything. Successful self organization and study habits.
Learning Active learner seeking mastery of the subject. Considers practical applications and theoretical debates. Asks questions, utilizes resources, shares their analysis. Takes risks to engage new or controversial information. Works to develop their ability to evaluate data, arguments, theories, and evidence. Challenges limited frameworks creatively and kindly. Works to gain the skills to construct their own scholarly argument. Considers the appropriateness and limitations of personal experience as a source. Concerned for class environment and learning of others. Considers instructor a valuable resource.
Preparation Completes all readings and assignments on time. Takes notes. Works well with others when required by instructor. Could improve organization and study skills. Sometimes asks questions.
Learning Focuses on learning to achieve grades. Is unsure of practical applications or theories, but interested. Asks questions. Is engaged in class. Considers new information or controversial topics critically. Works to develop their ability to evaluate data, arguments, theories, and evidence. Is open to challenging their own preconceptions to deepen learning. Explores the mechanics of arguments. Considers the appropriateness and limitations of personal experience as a source. Puts in effort to make class enjoyable or productive. Considers instructor a valuable resource.
Preparation Completes most assignments and readings. Sometimes late or misses class. Not organized. Notes are of poor quality. Rarely engages other students about course, or if so, only to use them for notes or to complain about class. Needs to improve organization and study habits.
Learning Excessive concern about grades but not about learning. Does minimal work. Rarely asks questions. Has some skills for assessing new information, but avoids challenges or uncomfortable topics. Summarizes, not analyzes. Does not evaluate when personal experience is appropriate or when it's limited or privileged (fails to recognize when scholarly sources should be used over personal experience). Only wants instructor to provide answers.
Preparation Poor attendance. Does not read or take notes. Distracted in class, talking, spacing out, on the computer, etc. Cheats or relies on other students or questionable websites for information. Tries to get around doing work. Poor organization or study skills.
Learning Only wants to put in the minimal effort to pass class. Doesn't ask questions. Easily defensive with new information or alternative points of view. Is resistant to class structure or concepts. Sees issues as black/white. Reaffirms previous misconceptions without providing compelling evidence. Draws only on limited personal experiences or perceived common sense, not on the texts or data of the course. Attempts to mimic what they think the teacher wants. Is resentful or resistant to active participation or intellectual challenges.