While the Vanier College community celebrates its rich mix of students from a variety of cultural, religious, linguistic, and other backgrounds, this diversity also presents teachers with interesting challenges in the classroom. Hence, on May 20, 2015, more than 50 teachers gathered at Vanier College for “Inclusion in/en Action”, a conference on diversity in the classroom and an opportunity for them to share their perspectives on diversity in its many forms on the Vanier campus and explore how to make classrooms more inclusive.
Research project on Current Pedagogical Practices Regarding Diversity
Vanier General Education teachers Kim Matthews (Humanities), Rachel Jobin (French), and Alan Wong (English), the principal organizers of the day-long event, presented Current Pedagogical Practices Regarding Diversity in the Humanities, French, and English Departments, which highlighted the results of research they conducted with their colleagues over the past year regarding their pedagogical practices, particularly those that encourage diversity and inclusion.
Following a summary presentation of the research results teachers broke out in small groups to discuss case studies based on concerns and questions raised by faculty during the course of the research. “For example, one study considered how to encourage and manage student experts,” said Kim Matthews. “Encouraging student experts is an effective way to engage students but it may also challenge teachers on a number of levels. The case study discussions provide faculty the opportunity to examine challenges and formulate effective pedagogical approaches.”
Keynote speaker: Dr. Adeela Arshad-Ayaz and Playback Theatre
The keynote speaker Dr. Adeela Arshad-Ayaz, currently Assistant Professor of Education Studies in the Department of Education at Concordia University, gave a presentation entitled Inclusive Classroom: Include What? Include Where? Include How? As well, Playback Theatre with The Living Histories Ensemble presented improvisations on diversity issues.
The conference was a welcome opportunity for teachers to discuss pedagogical matters with fellow teachers and to get practical tips and approaches to make classrooms as inclusive as possible. “It was an ideal occasion for French teachers to compare their classroom experiences with those of teachers from departments,” said Rachel Jobin. “It helped us grow closer together. It was a lively day and it was wonderful to see all the teachers getting involved and participating in all the discussions.”
VTV Diversity video
The event was launched in the morning by the premiere of a video on Diversity produced by VTV – Vanier TV. The video featured students and teachers speaking about aspects of diversity and sharing their personal experiences of being different. Some spoke about being members of a visible or cultural minority, others about being part of the LGBTTIQA community, and one interviewee shared her views on being deaf and speaking only in sign language. A series of several videos on diversity will be posted on VTV in the coming months.
“The interest shown by the participants in inclusion and diversity speaks to the dedication of our faculty and the student-first approach we foster at Vanier,” concluded Kim Matthews. “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of the conference and look forward to continuing the dialogue.”