Inclusion & Diversity
It is my belief that an inclusive studio begins by establishing a community within the classroom, where all students feel like they have ownership of the space and course content, as well as a valued role in the class. Students are expected to be considerate and respectful of the faculty, staff, and other students working in the space, and hold themselves and their peers accountable for the proper use of the tools, materials, and studio. Examples of these expectations include showing up prepared and on time for class, being attentive during instruction, contributing to group activities such as critique and clean up, and learning how to identify when others need assistance and lending a helping hand. In addition, students are encouraged to ask their classmates for feedback outside of organized critiques, draw inspiration from one another, move about the classroom to visually connect with different approaches to process and technique, and join in convivial conversation during class. To help facilitate this interaction, the use of headphones and electronic devices is not permitted during most studio workdays, ensuring students’ presence in the space with their peers. The employment of prompts and instructor-guided discourse are also conducive to creating this environment. All of this sets the framework for a group of students that feel connected to one another and the space in which they work, generating a sense of belonging and security.
With this foundation, students are more receptive to concepts outside of their comfort zone and investigating artists that differ from themselves. The inclusion of diverse individuals, as well as the recognition and representation of the unique students in my classroom, in my lectures and methods of teaching, is a priority. One way I set out to accomplish this, is through the creation and continuous curation of an artist resource “library” to draw from for lectures and other assignments. This library lists the nationality and race, gender identity, concepts, and other relevant information for sculptors and artists that align with the objectives of the courses I teach, allowing me to easily compile a list of diverse artists to include in my instruction. Students are also given research and writing assignments to promote self-guided exploration of these artists, artworks, and ideas. Through in-class presentations, students share their research and personal analysis with their peers, fostering student-led discussion. During these organized discussions, as well as informal classroom conversation, I act as a mediator, ensuring that students are engaging in constructive and inclusive communication.
In addition to addressing the socially constructed identities of my students in my teaching, I work diligently to accommodate different learning styles and learning abilities. Information for assignments is given in multiple formats, including the verbal presentation of written assignment sheets, visual presentation of project examples, and verbal/visual demonstration of processes and techniques. During demonstrations, I also focus on how it might sound, smell, or feel when correct or incorrect procedure is used. This gives students an immersive, multisensory connection to what they are learning and a wider set of metrics to gauge proper technique. This can also be especially beneficial for students who are more reliant on other senses due to disability. Working one-on-one with students while they engage in physical tests related to the assignment, provides them the opportunity to apply what they are learning with dedicated guidance. Depending on the process, it also allows me to pinpoint techniques or tool usage that may be problematic and offer different approaches or adaptations based upon physical ability.
My background in teacher education and sustained pedagogical research have been instrumental in implementing instructional methods to meet the diverse needs of my students, and have equipped me with many tools to identify and accommodate neurodiversity. Additionally, student feedback throughout the semester allows me to determine if these methods and accommodations are effective, as well as identify what additional support and supplemental materials could be integrated in the future. On occasion, student feedback on assignments will also inform me of implicit biases that I may hold. Recognizing that I have blind spots as a result of my privilege, I strive to educate myself and redress my shortcomings. Building meaningful relationships with my students early on, allows me to broaden my own understanding of the lived experience from their perspective so that I can provide more inclusive education.