As I mentioned last week, students in my globalization course are partnering with a local non-profit organization. The impetus for this partnership is a foundation grant on civic engagement, and I’m one of the members of the faculty learning community that has been created as part of the project. Student behavior has been a topic of discussion within this group. Treating others with civility, empathy, and understanding should be the norm in the classroom, especially in one where students are expected to collaborate with each other in teams. These behaviors become even more important when students are interacting with the general public as part of a course. So I created an exercise for the first day of class that was inspired by the practices of a few of my colleagues.
First, students individually wrote answers to these questions:
- What helps me understand differences in people’s backgrounds, skills, and values?
- What do other people do that helps or hurts my learning?
- What standards and expectations do I have for myself?
- What standards and expectations do I have for others?
- How should I respond if these standards and expectations are not met?
Second, I led a discussion on how students had answered the questions, noting students’ comments on the board.
Third, I distilled students’ ideas down into these guidelines for behavior:
- Create opportunities to learn from others, by listening, sharing ideas, and engaging in hands-on tasks in a collaborative manner.
- Recognize that other people may have perspectives, experiences, and skills that are different from one’s own.
- Be respectful of these differences; grant each person dignity—extend respect to others.
- Be conscious of one’s own assumptions and beliefs.
- Debate the idea not the person, and be curious—explore “How did you come to that idea?”
- Prioritize relationships with others—be mentally present.
- Allow others to enter the conversation; avoid interrupting when others are speaking.
- Be an active participant in one’s learning by being conscious of the process.
- Minimize distractions from electronics.
- Bring in knowledge from elsewhere and apply it.
- Stay one step ahead—manage time effectively.
- Build individual accountability into collective tasks so that one person doesn’t suffer because of another person’s irresponsibility.
- Ignore trivial differences of opinion but openly discuss behaviors that might lessen other people’s learning.
- Inform the instructor of unproductive behaviors when needed.
I’ll distribute this compilation to students next time we meet, and we’ll discuss the guidelines to give them a chance to make additional revisions. Students will then sign a printed copy of the final version. Later in the semester we’ll revisit these guidelines to review their effectiveness and make changes if needed.