Queering the Curriculum’ to make syllabi more inclusive


Joseph VincenziReporter

‘Queering the curriculum’ – that is, re-working various class syllabi to make them more inclusive – was the subject of a four-and a half-hour long faculty meeting early Friday morning.

The meeting, which began at 9 a.m., involved at least 25 different professors representing various disciplines including art education, women and gender studies, philosophy, world language and social work.

Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, a professor of women’s and gender studies and the facilitator of the event, explained that the meeting was to discuss how to make lesson plans and teaching more inclusively for a wide variety of students.

“Queering the curriculum is a way to look critically into our teachings,” said Lin. She said the transformation of the teaching curriculum is a good way to “keep up with Southern’s increasingly diverse student body.”

At the meeting, faculty engaged in a variety of exercises to stimulate thinking about how teaching curriculum might be more inclusive. One such exercise early on involved passing around a sheet of paper to every faculty member at the table.

In the activity, each professor would take turns drawing random lines and squiggles on the paper and then pass on the paper to another professor. By the end, the final product would become a drawing of a “monster.”

Lin said it was a “very engaging exercise,” as it allows each professor to fully express their thoughts about making class syllabi and how it would affect students in their classes. The monsters would be reflective of certain obstacles that each professor would have to face in creating the course syllabus.

“Monsters express some of the boundaries we’re working with,” said Lin.

One professor, Cheri Ehrlich, an art educator, represented the art department. She said she focuses on the fun lesson approach. She incorporated a lesson plan where students would draw random lines and then try to dance according to the nature of those lines.

Ehrlich said these kinds of activities are beneficial to students for learning about art styles in addition to simply viewing different pieces of art.

She said she thinks presenting different points of view, from artists of different genders, sexuality, races, religions, and socio-cultural backgrounds, provides more insight into the artists’ decisions for creating their works and there is more inclusivity for the students.

The students themselves had mixed reactions to the discussion topics presented at the meeting. Art education major Sam Scott, a freshman, said she has high hopes for the possible changes to the curriculum.

“I believe there will be definite positive change in class,” said Scott. “If everyone is on the same page, everyone is going to want to do their part.”

Scott said she believes making lessons fun for students can increase overall engagement with the lesson. She recalls that classes like history draw little attention from students because they are not always taught with spirit.

Another student, communications major Zach Leach, a freshman said making lesson plans more engaging can make it easier for students to learn but questions whether the changes to class syllabi would be necessary.

“I think it could be good, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Leach. Lin said this was not the first of these meetings to discuss possible changes to the teaching curriculum. A similar session was conducted in April of 2019 to discuss including more indigenous people’s work into class lessons.

For the professors at the meeting, the main goal was to answer the question: “What do students expect as normal?” Coming to a place of comfort and agreement is what all professors from all disciplines hope to accomplish.

Lin said, “Every course is a new course.”

Photo Credit: Joseph Vincenzi

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