Macalester faculty are deeply committed to being excellent, engaging, and effective teachers. Many of us are drawn to Macalester’s small liberal arts environment because of the high value placed on teaching and for the opportunity to connect with our students in small classes, studios, research labs, rehearsal, etc., as well as during office hours. We also serve as students’ academic advisors, and we take that role very seriously. The Serie Center offers regular programming that supports faculty to become increasingly reflective about our pedagogical and advising practices, and to share what we are learning with one another.
The critical role of context
When Dr. Jamie Washington was on campus during the 2018-2019 academic year, he reminded us of the importance of attending to “context before content” – to recognizing the impact that our social identities, experiences, current and historical circumstances, etc., have on teaching and learning. We are, for example, living on the edge of a precipitous climate catastrophe; racism and economic inequality and other forms of systemic injustice have long histories that create challenging current realities; the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of millions of people, devastated individuals and communities, and in many parts of the world there is no clear end in sight to the ravages of this virus and its variants. It is critical that we recognize that these and many other contexts shape our students’ lives, our own lives, and the lives of our colleagues.
The Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship’s critical faculty/staff development and support page offers an approach for building radical and transformative practices that “considers how dynamics of power … continue to shape structures, systems, practices, and ideologies of education.”
The links below will take you to sites that offer additional perspective, resources, and recommendations on a number of topics, many of which can help you address “context before content” and center our students’ – and your own – humanity in the work that we do. You might find this continually updated collection of short articles on a wide variety of topics from the National Education Association’s Thriving in Academe series helpful, too.
Extensive campus resources are available to encourage faculty to extend their pedagogical and curricular practices through community engagement and the use of technology. For example, faculty who are interested in building a civic engagement component into their classes can work closely with the staff in the Civic Engagement Center. Our Digital Liberal Arts team offers expertise and collaboration for digitally-based projects. Additional support for and innovation related to technology use in the classroom is available from our Academic Information Associates and at MacDigital. In addition, our Director of Writing offers excellent resources and consultation related to writing pedagogy.