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Student Voices

During the 2022-23 academic year, the Searle Center partnered with the Office of Undergraduate Research and welcomed two undergraduate research assistants. To facilitate this high impact practice, their mentor, Veronica Womack, constructed the undergraduate research experience with high expectations, substantive conversations about inclusion and equity, and public dissemination. 

Scholars Anna Dellit and Nancy Zhen learned about the process and ethical considerations of conducting systematic reviews in educational research. They went on to create their own systematic review about the experiences of minoritized students attending predominately white institutions and presented their findings and recommendations to our team of educational developers. Dive into their insights below! 

3 things I want you to know about fostering belonging in your class - Nancy Zhen

From my own experiences as a Northwestern undergraduate as well as through the knowledge I have gained from my amazing experiences with the Searle Center for Advanced Teaching and Learning, I have discovered that these three key themes appear most prevalent to fostering belonging within the classroom:

1) Take the time to self-reflect about your own identity. Ask yourself, “Is my background influencing teaching within the classroom?”, “What implicit biases may be present, or what gaps in the course content that I am teaching may appear as a result of my positionality?. Whether that is reflecting deeply about your positionality or sharing your thoughts on such questions with a colleague, developing self-awareness can enable you to consider and incorporate course content involving perspectives beyond the mainstream. Students can learn about different perspectives when faculty analyze their own biases.

2) Make the commitment to take risks and change course content that reflects multidimensional perspectives within the classroom. Reading studies on underrepresented women in STEM classes or incorporating feedback from students can take time and effort, yet go a long way in fostering inclusion within the classroom. 

3) Assume the best of intentions. Being caring, compassionate, trusting, and empathetic goes a long way. From always leaving one’s door open, being respectful of events around campus that can deeply affect students’ emotions, or rephrasing “Well, what do you think?” to “What other questions do you all have?” can go a long way in making students feel that they belong in your class.

A student perspective on identity and navigating faculty-student relationships - Anna Dellit

As an undergraduate student in both Black and Asian American Studies I have found myself in some of the most welcoming and reflective classroom spaces that value both student and faculty sense of belonging. I attribute this to the critical interrogation and recognition of race as a prevalent factor in the classroom that can not be dismissed or avoided. I have appreciated the ability of my professors to be vulnerable and connected to the material in a way that allows the students to open up and share their experiences as well. That all being said, my time with the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching and the project: Centering Minoritized Student and Faculty Perspectives in Education, has made me question why only certain classroom spaces engage in dialogue about race and belonging.  

Navigating student-faculty relationships can be difficult given the authority of professors to control the grading scale and the authority of students through anonymous CTEC course evaluations. Writing the literature review has made me realize the importance of a shared, respectful authority that allows for co-ownership and co-creation of the classroom as a generative space. This foundational classroom expectation must extend beyond select fields of study and instead be an agreed standard for every department to uphold.   

Image of Anna Dellit

Anna Dellit

Image of Nancy Zhen

Nancy Zhen