¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 To start, each of us needs to closely examine our own role in a seminar room, to think about who is present (and absent) in Graduate Center seminars specifically, what kinds of contributions or ways of making knowledge are valued or ignored, and how the world outside of the walls of 356 5th Avenue (or of academia, generally) shapes what happens inside of them. With all of the wonderful work that happens at the GC, I’m not sure that we have this specific conversation often enough about our own school.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 But there are many thinkers who are having this conversation about higher ed. Thinkers like Victor Villanueva, Asao Inoue, Staci Perryman-Clark, Margaret Price, Paul Kei Matsuda, Geneva Smitherman, Mike Rose (and many others) examine the role of identity and access in our undergraduate classrooms, our graduate programs, and in the profession at large. And their work tells a complex and troubling story about invisible academic norms surrounding class participation, attendance, attitudes about what constitutes “standard” English, and attitudes about what makes for “good” or “bad”writing.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 They ask us to think about the ways that student and professional academic behaviors have been misinterpreted as “insulting,” “dismissive,” “argumentative,” “lazy,” or “unmotivated,” among other negative descriptors, because of the restricted ways in which academics are encouraged to operate.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Many of these thinkers note a common refrain when describing students who don’t typically make it to graduate school, or students who are more likely to struggle once they’re there. What the academic world often describes as “rigorous” can be what some students (and professors) experience as utterly debilitating or excessively exclusive.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 So while it may go without saying that graduate student experiences in the seminar (and in graduate school more broadly) are impacted by identity, by previous learning experiences, and by a variety of factors that are external to the MALS program, we all have a responsibility to collectively transform our seminars (and our graduate programs) into places where we can all benefit from the specific knowledge bases, experiences, and perspectives of our peers and professor.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 This is especially true for students who have traditionally benefited from academic environments and who may be more likely to attribute academic success to their own intelligence or work ethic, alone, rather than understanding that it has been made possible, in part, by structurally engineered privilege.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 One resource that I’ve found particularly provocative and helpful came from Kenneth Tobin’s graduate seminar in the Urban Education department on research methodologies in the learning sciences. This heuristic can be used (and continually revised, and continually discussed) throughout a seminar course as a way for students to check in with themselves and their classmates.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 While not all of these qualities might be appropriate or valued equally in every seminar context, it was very worthwhile to consider where we each fell on the spectrum of “yes” or “no” answers to these questions, and to consider (especially) what kinds of nuances these questions demanded us to consider. For example, what does it mean to have “respectful” talk, and how can we define this in the particular seminar room in which we find ourselves?
Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0
Characteristics developed for use in a cogenerative dialogue heuristic (Tobin)
1. I strive to make sense of what others are saying.
2. I try to get others to contribute to what is being discussed.
3. Others try to get me to contribute during discussions.
4. There is a place for me to speak. Therefore, I speak as much as others in my group.
5. Others in my group have the opportunity to speak as often as I do.
6. Every member of the group has equal opportunity to talk as I do.
7. My talk is respectful.
8. When I talk others listen to what I have to say.
9. When I talk I build on what others have to say.
10. I try to learn from others’ talk.
11. I try to understand different perspectives.
12. I feel as if I belong with this group
13. The members of the group have a sense of solidarity.
14. I maintain focus during dialogue.
15. Dialogue in the group is timely.
16. Dialogue in the group is appropriate.
17. Dialogue in the group is anticipatory.
18. My oral contributions are thoughtful.
19. As I listen to others, I attempt to put aside my own perspectives and understand theirs.
20. I test the potential of others’ ideas.
21. During group discussions there is a least one review of what was accomplished.
22. Different perspectives from members of the group have contributed to my own learning.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Employing heuristics like this one, then, is not a plea for everyone to be nice to each other: it’s simply a tool to help us consider how we may be (intentionally or unintentionally) inviting some people to speak while implying that others should remain silent.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Each seminar must navigate its own guidelines for participation (including what “counts” as participation), and each student (not just the professor) must remain conscious of their own role in facilitating what disability studies scholar Jay Dolmage (2006) calls “ways to move.”
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Have your classmates and professors at the GC, or in other contexts, made strides to ensure that your seminars are places that invite discussion, debate, collaboration, and dissent? Please post some resources of your own, ideas, or links for navigating the seminar (or graduate school more generally) in the comments.