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Engaging with Campus Incidents in the Social Work Classroom

The Center for Research, Learning and Teaching recent workshop Engaging with Campus Incidents in the Social Work Classroom offered these resources:

Workshop Summary

The session explored criteria for deciding whether to discuss a campus (or broader) incident in the social work classroom. We discussed the importance of keeping abreast of current events. We explored 4 strategies for incorporating campus incidents into classes. Faculty were encouraged to decide which of the 4 strategies they could use in various situations, stressing that there is no single best way, but rather the strategies should be seen as a continuum of options for various situations. The 4 strategies explored included:

  1. Briefly mentioning campus incidents or issues at the beginning of class. This method acknowledges something that may be on the students’ minds and shows that you (and by extension, the SSW), are aware of its significance. 

  2. Connecting a campus incident or issue to a course reading or theme during a portion of class. This accomplishes the things mentioned in #1, but also allows you to dive a little deeper into the issue, and help students see how issues discussed in the classroom manifest outside of these walls. This strategy is a strong option when the issue relates to the class material.  For example, perhaps the issue could be used as a case study to talk about an issue to be covered that day, or used as an example to illustrate something they read about. This can also happen outside of class. For example, you might send an article to the class about a campus event, and note how it relates to something recently covered in class.

  3. Spending an entire class session engaging with a campus incident or issue. In this case, you might alert the class in advance of the change, and send them items to read to prepare. This may be an appropriate method if the issue at hand relates directly to the course topic (even if not that day), or if the event was so significant that the instructor believes that the entire class period is necessary.

  4. Making space for students to bring up campus incidents or issues in class. This may take the form of a routine check-in for students to talk about issues on campus and beyond, and how those issues relate to course content.  This can happen in the classroom, and/or on Canvas. Building this “matters arising” into the regular fabric of the class will normalize it, and help students see how class content plays out regularly in the world around them.

Students are expecting us to acknowledge campus and world events, and to bring them into the classroom. They express frustration when this is not done, and interpret this as either faculty not knowing, or not caring.  We strongly encourage faculty to integrate these techniques into their practice going forward.

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