Educational Development Digest: May 2021

Pedagogy and Practice

The last class of the semester – make it meaningful

By Catherine Ford

It is finally May! For some of us, we can hardly believe it is here already – too fast and there are still so many things to get accomplished! For others of us, we throw up our hands and shout, “Thank goodness!” It couldn’t have arrived soon enough. Chances are, your students also fall into these categories. Where does that leave us? It places us in a space that we want to, need to, make these last few class meetings and online discussions count and wrap up in a meaningful way instead of just slipping away.

Do you spend as much time thinking about and prepping for the last class meeting as you did on the first class meeting? The Teaching Professor blog also asks the question: How do we make the last class session mirror the same energy and focus as the first class session?

You may feel you don’t have extra time right now to dedicate this energy in preparation, so what can you do in this last week or two to pull the semester together and end on a strong note? Here are some suggestions from Minnesota State faculty colleagues and a few centers for teaching and learning that do not require a ton of extra prep work.

  • Ask students to repeat an activity they completed early in the semester with the new context of the semester’s learnings. Victor Cole, Metropolitan State University
  • Create a Wisdom Wall. Ask students to reflect on their experiences in the course and identify a piece of advice for future participants. Miki Huntington, Minneapolis College
  • Chalk talk: Try a more public but silent variation of written essays using this technique popularized by Stephen Brookfield. Write your favorite reflection questions on sheets of poster paper (one per page) and tape them around your classroom, asking students to circulate and respond to each. Take pictures of the final products and upload them to your class LMS site as a bit of inspiration before the final. (Melissa J. Himelein, CC-BY-NC-SA)
  • Check out this additional “potpourri of ideas from Berkeley faculty” – Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning

Connect your endings to beginnings. What did you focus on at the beginning of the semester or first class meeting (other than the syllabus, policy, and procedures)?  Bring the course full-circle and bring this to the attention of your students. And this is the end of a really long, taxing academic year, which makes me especially appreciate Christopher Uhl’s (2005) comparison of class endings to a goodbye – they can be “cold and perfunctory or warm and heartfelt” (p. 165). We’ve (faculty and students) endured a lot this year, and it is okay to acknowledge this as we attempt to bring closure and a sense of accomplishment of what we have covered this term. The warm and heartfelt goodbye can prompt lingering reflection and help provide this closure with an eye to the future.

Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching53(4), 165-166.

NED Event Highlight

Join the Summer 2021 Biology CRP Short Course

Minnesota State faculty in the biology field of study are invited to join a summer 2021 culturally responsive pedagogy short course that is geared specifically for biology instructors.

Teach Together Minnesota! Paths Forward

This opportunity stems from the May 18 event Teach Together Minnesota! where educators have a chance to connect with colleagues within their discipline to have facilitated discussions grounded in cultural fluency and culturally relevant pedagogies. Continue the conversations with your colleagues in discipline-specific short courses and faculty learning communities, the first of which being available for biology faculty.

Stay tuned for other short courses provided for specific disciplines around topics such as:

  • Assessment of Student Learning
  • Improving Online Assessments
  • Designing Your Course for Student Learning
  • Humanizing Your Online Course
  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Learn more about Teach Together Minnesota! and paths forward for discipline-specific opportunities at

Academic Technology Tips

Practices for Anti-Oppressive Teaching

By Brock Behling

According to Taylor & Cranton there are 5 common themes or characteristics of transformative learning spaces.  Without intentionality in supporting these elements it is possible that some oppressive acts will emerge throughout the learning journey.  Being aware of this reality and actively incorporating anti-oppressive practices can help create a more welcoming and supportive learning environment that can lead to powerful transformative learning from willing participants. Any subject and group can benefit from incorporating fundamentals for optimal learning, however personalized learning opportunities require additional considerations.

As you may recall the key elements in Taylor & Cranton’s research states that:

  • Learning happens in relationships
  • There needs to be shared ownership and control of the learning spaces
  • The whole person should be acknowledged
  • There should be sufficient time for collaboration, action, reflection and integration
  • The learner’s questions, needs, and purpose should be included in the process of inquiry

It is important to build upon a foundation of trust and respect when nurturing relationships.  Offering opportunities for learners to positively connect with instructors and peers is an important element that can be supported by setting a welcoming tone that encourages sharing and inclusion.  Consider using collective language like “we” instead of “you” when possible. Stopping micro-aggressions that may occur, requires awareness of lived-truths and a move away from a culture of assumptions.  The importance of learning and encouraging others to value and use names and pronouns correctly can help build a step toward establishing a relationship which is critically needed for transformative learning opportunities. 

Sharing ownership in the learning space requires input from all stakeholders.  Intake surveys that are anonymous allow for candid feedback but it is also important to have individual follow-ups which can help ensure that there is equal access opportunity input for all.  Using technology tools like digital forms or polls can be a nice way to anticipate trends and adapt as needed.  Incorporating every voice is something that can be taken for granted when ample opportunities for sharing are not provided, as majority opinions can influence potential dissent.  Forming a collective agreement around the way the interactions take place and clearly identifying the boundaries and scope of inquiry can help ensure ideas and understanding are cultivated or questioned in a manner that best supports learning.

The complexity of the individual may surface as more participation takes place and more personalized reflection is occurring, but judgement on brief glimpses into a specific aspect of one’s identity can limit the whole depth that exists in that person.  Providing opportunities for deeper understanding of situations and finding more context to statements can help support the empathy needed to get to a point of elevated learning opportunities. Consider incorporating exceptions for all learners and building in opportunities that trust learners to prioritize their personal responsibilities above learning requirements when needed with clearly defined alternatives if the original activity cannot be completed as expected. 

The passion associated with personal growth and sharing can bring about visceral reactions that need sufficient time to process.  Incorporating project-based learning choices and allowing adequate reflection on the particular experience or information presented with time to find alternative perspectives can allow for deeper integration into lived-experiences and future aspirations for the group. The importance of clearly defining brave spaces can help establish boundaries associated with the work being done around personalized content.

Finding out what current needs are or questions around a topic, with a constant feedback loop and opportunities to explore personal understanding of a topic through formative assessment techniques can help motivate an individual to continue pushing forward and reaching the next level in their desired growth.

Any form of oppression will disrupt community, addressing micro-aggressions, disrespect, assumptions, negative associations, or any superiority statements can help prevent serious damage to relationships which impact transformative learning potential. When creating and modeling an environment that is Anti-racist, Anti-ableism, Anti-sexism, and Anti-classism, you are creating an anti-oppressive learning environment that is pro-equality.  Learn more about our Equity 2030 work being highlighted on the new equity blog.

Initiatives Update

Pay It Forward Funding applications due this Friday!

Minnesota State seeks to support student, faculty, and staff innovation that shows great potential for improving teaching, learning, and access for students across our 37 colleges and universities.

Pay It Forward Funding

Pay It Forward Funding is available for up to $10,000, and rewards innovators who wish to replicate previously funded innovations from a college or university campus.  Successful proposals will focus on past funded innovations displayed in the Innovations Gallery.  Priority will be given to projects that support the Minnesota State Equity 2030 goal.

Pay It Forward funding supports:

  • The 1:1 replicating of an innovation from one college or university campus to another within Minnesota State.
  • The creation of an innovation similar to or heavily inspired by an existing innovation on a college or university campus.

Funding recipients will be determined based on the merits of each proposal. Applications must be submitted no later than 4:00 p.m. on May 7, 2021.  Awards to be announced no later than Friday, May 21, 2021. Funding up to $10,000 is available to individual innovators or teams.

Find the application in the Innovation Funding SharePoint Site.

Share Your Voice

Help Improve the Educational Development Digest

As the academic year comes to an end, we would like to hear from you about the Educational Development Digest. Help us improve on this monthly summary of educational development news and events by providing feedback in a short survey by May 21, 2021.

This survey is anonymous, however there is an opportunity to share your contact information if you would like to be part of a future focus group about the Educational Development Digest and other NED communications.

Upcoming Events

Visit the NED Events Calendar to search for upcoming webinars, learning communities, short courses, and long courses.

Summer 2021 Faculty Development Opportunities Flyer
NED Course Catalog

2 thoughts on “Educational Development Digest: May 2021

    1. Hi Michael, thanks for letting us know. The link should be working now.

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