May the force be with you: driving diversity in online teaching

Pardis Mahdavi explains how academics can ensure they support and enhance diversity work in their online teaching through her Jedi – justice, equity, diversity and inclusion – framework

Pardis Mahdavi's avatar
1 April 2021
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Key Details

This video will cover: 

00:49 How to embed diversity into your online syllabus and pedagogical approach 

01:40 Displaying a diversity statement in your course shell 

02:10 Enlightened mentoring to help students contextualise their lives with their learning 

Transcript

Hi, my name is Pardis Mahdavi and I’m a professor of anthropology and the dean of social sciences at Arizona State University. And I’ve been working on a new framework called Jedi, which stands for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

And it is an action-oriented approach to doing the work of diversity and making it work. Today I want to talk to you about how to not fail in diversity work online. Teaching online has a lot of moving parts and we all know that it’s more than just moving your class online, but that there’s an art.

But what about the important diversity work, the important work of what we call Jedi? How can we make sure that we don’t fail at this important, important endeavour when moving our courses and teaching online?

The good news is that it’s not about working harder but about working differently, and it’s about framing the work that you’ve already done.

Here are some examples: example number one, your syllabus. You already have a syllabus, right?

You’ve agonised over it. Now take a step back and ask yourself what kinds of voices of authority are on your syllabus? What voices are missing? The ask here is not to redo your syllabus per se, but to frame it for the students. Have a conversation about how the knowledge in your discipline came to be dominated by certain voices, certain authors, certain scientists. Mention the history of how this came to be and acknowledge that certain voices might be missing. Use this as a pedagogical opportunity.

Example two, a Jedi statement. We’ve all seen diversity statements incorporated into mission statements, but you can have your own Jedi statement right there in your course shell. You might consider adding this, and there are links below to some examples of these.

This is a signal to your students that questions of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion are important to you, and you want to encourage all forms of discussion from all voices. Let this be an invitation to dialogue.

Finally, example three, mentoring. You already hold virtual office hours, right? Well, how can you make the best of your time with your students and reframe from triage mode to being in mentor mode? Go from just answering their questions about courses to really mentoring.

Part of the work of a Jedi is what many call enlightened mentoring. This is when you as the teacher take an active part in the whole student, putting their lives, experiences, perspectives and challenges into context with what and how they are learning.

Next time you have a Zoom meeting with a student, try asking them to connect with what you’re learning with something that happened in their lives, or some aspect of their experiences. Invite them to seek out mentors. It doesn’t have to be you but encourage mentoring for all your students and colleagues alike.

We hope that this has been a helpful framework for you. For more information and more explanation of the history of Jedi, please click on the links below.

Finally, and most importantly, be forgiving. Recognise that we’re all going to make mistakes and acknowledge the challenges and show by example that you are ready to do the work of diversity and be successful. Thank you.

This video features Pardis Mahdavi, a professor of anthropology and the dean of social sciences at Arizona State University.

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Advice on what to do and what not to do when writing diversity statements for online courses

Diversity statements: What to avoid and what to include

Diversity statements are increasingly important for faculty, both when teaching online and applying for jobs. Pardis Mahdavi and Scott Brooks outline what to avoid and what to include when drafting a diversity statement
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Arizona State University