Learning While Teaching: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Toward a More Inclusive Pedagogy: 

Learning While Teaching Cultural Material Out of Your Comfort Zone

Facilitated by Janice Robertson, Visiting Associate Professor (History of Art and Design)

Four (4) workshop sessions this Fall semester:

Wednesdays from 4-6 pm (Oct 16, Oct 23 Rubin Field Trip 6-8 pm, Oct 30 and Nov 6);

RSVP now

Please note: Based on participant interests, only one option will run this Fall semester. You will be notified if your selected option is no longer available.

Our classrooms are increasingly diverse. Culturally sensitive and pedagogically conscientious teachers want to be inclusive of all of the students’ cultural heritage, but it is a daunting task. Some of us might feel inadequate and vulnerable because we know that we are not experts in our own right – not in every topic even within our own fields.  Some of us wall ourselves off from students out of fear that we might be found out, at the same time, we project these expectations upon our students, effectively weaponizing them.

Within the framework of this workshop we let go of those expectations as we become learners together. In the process of learning the new material (in this case, five or six objects representative of Buddhist art), participants engage in a series of discussions on inclusive teaching and learning strategies (outlined below). These conversations will create opportunities for reflection and fuel the group to identify teaching and learning practices that would work in their own disciplines.  Participants might find that this framework can be easily reproduced in their own classes and it can also be extended to other topics.

The Rubin Museum of Art serves as an important resource. It is education oriented by design. It focuses on the Himalayan origins of Buddhist art, narrowing things down for us in a meaningful way. There is an intimate feeling to it, and it is not unusual to see people having conversations around the art objects, so we will fit in quite nicely.

VoiceThread multimedia technology serves as an important digital tool. It facilitates the sharing of visual material, enabling users to interact around it. Everyone can see what everyone else is doing (as opposed to one-way exchanges between student and teacher); this promotes collaboration and the development of group conversations. The silence in classrooms can be deafening, but once learners find their voice—and feel that there is a place for it—they start showing up. Participants who attend and complete all four sessions of this workshop will be awarded a one-year Higher Education subscription to VoiceThread (valued at $100), for use in their own classes.


We seek participants from all Schools and disciplines who are curious and willing to experiment. We ask for your commitment to participate in all four sessions and conversations. Part time faculty will receive a stipend for their commitment to this group.

Four-Part Outline (schedule is subject to change)

Week 1: Getting to know you: Who are we? Where do we come from? What brings us together? What are our goals and aspirations? Hands on introduction to VoiceThread technology. Team formation. Teams meet, view material in VoiceThreads, and develop strategies for next week’s museum field trip.

Week 2: Field trip to the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W. 17th St/7th Ave): A different approach to field trips is involved. Students don’t usually know what they are going to see until they are standing in front of it, the teacher speaks, then the class moves on to the next object. In this case, participants know in advance what they are going to see at the museum, for high res images of the objects and museum labels have been shared on VoiceThreads. Teams are charged with starting conversations around the object assigned to them, so there is some level of preparation. Discoveries happen in the process.

Week 3: VoiceThread computer lab: Speaking, writing and drawing may come into play. Teams collaborate and are charged with developing group conversations on VoiceThread. Participants are encouraged to draw on museum experiences. They are also encouraged to think in bigger terms and develop comparisons with objects taught in other classes (this could turn out to be very interesting). A librarian is present, interacting with participants and responding to research questions. Library books deemed relevant by workshop participants are also available in the computer lab.

Week 4: Reflection and assessment: Participants reflect on their learning experiences (both content and process), and consider how this might feed into their future teaching strategies. Issues of grading and assessment warrant discussion: How does one assess the learning that has taken place in this environment? What does one look for? How does one grade responses that aren’t black or white, right or wrong? Last but not least, introduction to the VoiceThread class management component, for those who are interested.

Part time/Visiting faculty qualify for a stipend if they attend all 4 workshops in this series.  Stipend paperwork will be processed at the last workshop of the series.

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