Open and Accessibile Education
This year has been one of a lot of change and adaptation for me. In addition to the COVID changes in the past two years, I have been struggling with my identity as “Teaching Lecturer”, “New Staff Member” and a member of the PSU community as a whole. I love being involved with Cluster Learning projects. I think it is something special about Plymouth.
Being a part of the CPLC has been challenging for me. Trying to learn a healthy work/life balance, while being a TL and a full-time staff member has been a journey. I won’t lie, I haven’t been as attentive to the CPLC as I would have liked to have been. That being said, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a dynamic and passionate team of people that are dedicated to student success in all parts of their lives.
The values that guide my life at Plymouth continue to be centered around all of the students I interact with. I’ll do a small comparison to my first semester here in Fall 2019, although I do want to focus on my here and now and my future with Cluster Learning. When I started teaching here, I was fresh out of graduate school. I had never taught a full class semester by myself. My graduate school handled undergrad anthropology classes very differently. They were mostly large classes and I didn’t have a lot of contact with the students in my position. I am so thankful that faculty members who taught me now trusted me to handle two undergrad classes that Fall. I had kept to the same format of classes that I was familiar with. That format was full textbook, 3 exams and 2 term papers. During that semester, I realized that I needed to change that format for myself. Thankfully, I found the Colab and was introduced to teaching values that I resonated with. For the Spring 2020 semester, I tossed out my textbooks but still kept the exams. Then the pandemic hit and then really tossed everything out and prioritized my student’s and my own physical and mental health. I was also a part of the ACE program that summer in order to continue to change my teaching methods to further support the values I wanted to integrate into classes. All of this to say, before I found the Colab and specifically Cluster learning, I was not teaching in the ways that matched the values I wanted to hold. Now, I can happily say that I teach with the values that the CPLC support.
The next anecdote is not to pat myself on my back, but I relate it here because I think it speaks to how integrating Cluster Learning, especially values of inclusion and equity. After getting rid of strict deadlines, exams and streamlining the readings I assign I had several students come to me to talk about accommodations they worked out with Campus Accessibility Services. I was so glad they reached out to me to talk about their accommodations and most of their accommodations were based around extended exams times and being able to use laptops for note-taking. The students realized that because I designed my class around accommodations like this so everyone has the same access to my class. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that without the introduction and support of the CPLC.
Being able to introduce the values discussed in CPLC to students has so much worth. Showing that I respect student’s time, prioritizing my own mental health and communicating that to my classes, explaining why I don’t assign textbooks, etc. has been the most rewarding part of this. Communicating these values has really connected me with students.
I think Plymouth is going in the right directions to integrate Cluster Learning into many other academic spaces at PSU and beyond. I think with these three seasons of participants have created a network of people who understand the importance and implementation of Cluster Learning and Pedagogy. I can’t imagine my Plymouth experience without this group of people and a place to share pedagogy. As a new professor (although, now being 6 semesters in, I’m not sure how much that fits anymore) this program was crucial in carrying my pedagogy to a healthier place for both my students and I.