The Problem: Teachers accidentally alienate certain students
As a rookie teacher, I thought I had it all figured out. For some odd reason, I went out on a limb and professed a position on a controversial subject to my kids. As I bellowed my views, I was inspired by a lot of nodding. There was no doubt the majority were thoroughly on board. I could sense them thinking, Go Mr. Sturtevant. We’re with you.
I was shocked, however, when a student confronted me after class. This young lady, while a good student, always seemed standoffish. But she was anything but aloof on this day: “Mr. Sturtevant, you should be careful about promoting your views so passionately. I don’t agree with you, and I’m not alone.”
While this interaction unnerved me, my ego was still invested in my position. After she left, an intense sinking feeling suddenly drained my body. It was truly an epiphany. Of course my student was right. I was erecting barriers between us. Why in the world would I alienate certain kids who may not agree with me on a certain issue?
The Hack:Create a Teacher Disposition Assessment
A Teacher Disposition Assessment (TDA) measures bias. Student experts, who consume your presentations daily, generate critical information. The TDA is a set of teacher-created prompts based on potentially controversial subjects that may surface in the course content. A TDA is a fantastic exit ticket at the end of a semester, but it can be used anytime.
Creating the TDA on a form creation platform like SurveyMonkey is awesome because student responses are anonymous. Plus, learners can see how their classmates responded collectively. SurveyMonkey displays results with colorful bar graphs.
I teach a World Civilizations class. Here’s one of my TDA item prompts:
“Muslims should be restricted from entering the United States.”
Sturtevant strongly agrees
Sturtevant somewhat agrees
Sturtevant somewhat disagrees
Sturtevant strongly disagrees
Sturtevant’s opinions on this issue are unclear
It’s fine to be provocative; such statements will engage your audience. Student responses provide wonderful insights. This hack could help you dramatically in the engagement department. You may be shocked by what you learn. You may have to make adjustments in your statements and actions, but that’s the idea behind the TDA.
What You Can Do Tomorrow
Craft a list of “loaded” topics. These are potential content bombshells that frequently emerge during a semester.
Create a Teacher Disposition Assessment (TDA). This assessment will be comprised of controversial statements about topics in your content. Students will try to determine your disposition toward such statements.
Conduct a post-assessment debriefing. You could learn much from student feedback. Share the overall responses to the TDA and ask students what it says about you and their perceptions of you.
Empower students to act as consultants. After they’ve completed the TDA and participated in the debriefing, share an anonymous Google Form where they can give you advice and feedback. Note: you can create a Google Form like this in less than five minutes.
Prompt students to reflect. Ask students to monitor their statements and actions over the next twenty-four hours. Perhaps this activity will influence their behavior as well. It could lead to some fascinating conversation the next day.
You can’t engage all students if you’re biased. A Teacher Disposition Assessment will help you make adjustments and bond with kids.