Class Dynamics and Rhetoric

Table of Contents

  1. Implement accessible class norms
  2. Be trauma-informed

Implement accessible class norms

  • Have students state their preferred pronouns in advance to avoid misgendering.
  • Avoid over-valuing “professional” etiquette: Do not assume all students have familiarity with the culture of academia. Explicitly articulate implicit behavioral norms that you expect students to follow, and explain why they are useful. If any etiquette is necessary to your course goals, model and teach it to the class.
  • Equitable opportunities for participation: Instead of relying on instructor selection of students for participation (e.g. cold-calling and hand-raising), consider other methods, such as popcorn (spontaneous student speech), conversation-style lectures, group presentations, digital platforms for live comment submission, and online forums or chats. Ensure that only one person speaks at a time for ease of processing information.

Be trauma-informed

  • Use content warnings for sensitive material or topics of discussion.
  • Do not tone-police your students’ emotional expression or forbid / invalidate emotions in the classroom.
  • Reduce the potential for inequitable emotional labor: Certain topics, particularly issues of justice, demand disproportionate emotional labor from marginalized students, as well as the potential for their experiences to be invalidated by someone else. Avoid eliciting additional labor or exacerbating trauma by pressuring students to share their personal experience or perspective within the narrative that this will be educational for the class.
  • Avoid erasure of experience: Recognize the presence of different experiences in the classroom. Do not use language supporting the assumption that no one in the room has had a certain experience. For example, when discussing terminal diseases in class, do not assume that none of your students have one.
  • Respect privacy: Refrain from requiring or pressuring students to bring up their personal experiences in the classroom.