Recognizing and Embracing Cultural Communications and Sensitivity in the Classroom

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Eighty-three graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) attended the panel discussion, Recognizing & Embracing Cultural Communications & Sensitivity in the Classroom, on February 10 and nineteen GTAs from various Colleges attended the repeated panel on March 2, 2017.

Invited panelists for both panels were Sim Chin, Director, International Student and Faculty Office; Molly Holmes, Director, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center; and Debra Miller, Director, Disabilities Resource. The panels were cosponsored by the CEET and Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

The panel discussions were offered to help GTAs be sensitive in communicating with their students who represent a range of cultures who are potentially different than their own.  The presenters spoke about interacting with students from different cultures, considering gender and sexuality of their students, and dealing with students with disabilities.

After the panel discussion, GTAs took part in an interactive activity to help them think about privilege and heterosexism and to reflect on their own behaviors and beliefs regarding sexuality. After the activity, one GTA asked, “Why don’t we follow the golden rule, treat everyone with respect and kindness? Be that star!” Another GTA suggested that, “These kinds of workshops will definitely help us to grow through our lives and do well in [our] professional careers.”

Center staff conducted evaluations at the conclusion of the panels.  89% of the GTAs indicated that the concepts/techniques covered in the panels were applicable in their teaching or other student-related activities, and 90% indicated that their participation in the panels has potential benefit to students.  GTAs also provided comments, such as:

  • This gave me a good understanding of how to treat people with disabilities.
  • Now I have a broader understanding of cultures.
  • I will be adding an accessibility statement in my syllabus.
  • We need to be more sensitive about the LGBT community.
  • I now feel more prepared to approach an unexpected situation.
  • Be mindful of students because you might not know who they are.

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