Inclusive Pedagogy in a Zoom Filled World…

While reading about inclusive pedagogy this week, one of my first thoughts strayed to the challenges the Zoom teaching environment might pose for inclusion within the classroom. Zoom in its most basic form isn’t the most inclusive. Many people, including myself, often struggle to navigate the screen sharing feature, let alone annotating someone else’s shared slides! I thought back to most of the classes I have taken while in Zoomlandia, and with the exception of this class and Communicating Science, the majority of students have had their videos turned off and mics muted the entire time. How does this environment help students feel safe to discuss difficult topics or feel comfortable sharing at all? How can the instructor ensure students are abiding by ground rules when they go off into the virtual other world during breakout groups?

I figured that someone had considered some tips for improving inclusive pedagogy in the Zoom classroom and found this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education addressing just that. The author first acknowledges that everyone is still trying to understand the “hidden curriculum” of Zoom, or the unwritten rules/expectations that we’re expected to know but were never taught. They then highlight eight tips to incorporate into remote teaching to keep inclusivity in mind as you structure your lessons. They first suggest to ask students to consider the settings for their names on Zoom to choose how they would like to be addressed, which could include students’ preferred pronouns. Similar to in-person classes, the author also recommends establishing ground rules for each Zoom session. They acknowledge that all students may not feel comfortable or are unable to keep their videos on, but they recommend asking students to keep their videos on when possible. Instructors should explain their rationale behind their requests and could also ask the students for rule suggestions.

To ensure you are catering to different types of students in your classroom (e.g. extroverts, introverts), the authors recommend employing different methods to encourage students to “speak up”, such as using the hand raising feature, typing in the chat or just good old fashioned talking! The authors also emphasize careful consideration to the way you start and end the Zoom lessons. We’ve all been there- the professor and students are awkwardly staring at each other in silence as they wait for other students to join. To help create a comfortable atmosphere at the start of class, the authors recommend posing a question to the group, like, “what’s one thing you’re grateful for today?” To end the class in a more structured way, they recommend also posing a question, such as, “what was the most confusing part of class today?”

The obvious tip that finally appeared in the article- use those breakout rooms! The authors do note that instructors should provide as much structure as possible when creating these groups, equipping the students with the instructions and resources they need to complete the breakout group activity and report out afterwards. Due to the unpredictable nature of Zoom, they also emphasize providing recording of the sessions with audio transcriptions when possible, as well as creating online, asynchronous discussion interfaces. Finally, and I believe most importantly, the authors highlight that we’re all learning this new teaching environment together and we’re all in the same boat!

While some of these tips may seem obvious, I found the ideas for starting and ending classes to be especially helpful. I TA for a class where we “banter” about sustainability related topics for several minutes prior to class. The instructor hopes this will encourage students in this large lecture to join in, recreating that pre-class chatting that often happens organically in-person. However, I find it is more isolating and sets this tone for the remainder of class of us (TAs and instructor) vs. them (the students). I realize this isn’t the intention of the instructor, and I have done little to change this, but it could be time to change things up and make banter feel like, well actual banter again…

Article referenced-Hogan, K. A. & Sathy, V. (2020). 8 ways to be more inclusive in your zoom teaching. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from:

https://www.chronicle.com/article/8-ways-to-be-more-inclusive-in-your-zoom-teaching/?cid=gen_sign_in