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Module 5: Examples from courses

Pratbubblor

 

Here we present examples of situations that can arise during teaching. A number of questions are posed after each case for you to consider. Initially, try to place yourself in the situation and consider how you would act. Then ask yourself why you chose this way of acting or reacting.

The examples are either based on real events or have been inspired by real events. Student representatives have been involved in drawing up the examples. The intention is to stimulate consideration of how teaching assistants can and should interact with individual students. The examples attempt to integrate issues of teaching theory with problems that arise in matters of, for example, gender equality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

 

5.1 Example: Laddishness

Sandra is a first-year student taking the X programme. She is enjoying her courses and has made new friends among the participants. As teaching assistant, you have achieved good contact with Sandra and she approaches you freely with questions concerning both the course and other matters.

However, Sandra is having some difficultly coping with the “laddishness” displayed by certain teachers. She has concluded that there is nothing to be done and she should not be offended by statements such as: “Well, maybe you guys who have understood it all can explain it to the girls”.

Her patience runs out, however, when in a class in which students are meant to take on various roles, she hears the lecturer state that: “It’s not credible that a Swedish company would have a female managing director of non-Swedish background”. This is said in a jocular manner, and many of the students enjoy the joke. The lecturer is a skilled teacher who usually receives good course evaluations. Sandra is considering quitting the programme, and contacts you.

What can you do, in your role as teaching assistant?

In this example, a student approaches you because a lecturer on the course has victimised her. Your task as teaching assistant in this situation is to pass this information on to the examiner or director of studies.

Who can provide support?

The examiner for the course on which you are assisting and the director of studies responsible for the course are your initial contacts. It may also be relevant to contact other people. Suggestions are given under the heading “Case management and points of contact”.

 

5.2 Example: Sexual orientation

You are working as laboratory assistant on a course. One of the students in your group, Karl, is the chair of a student association for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people. He is also politically active and occasionally appears in the local newspaper. During a meeting with the teachers of the course, the students’ results are discussed, and you mention that Karl is achieving the best results in your laboratory group.

“Really – that poofter? He probably won’t be here very long”, says the examiner, and rapidly passes on to one of the other assistants.

You hear pointed remarks during many of the lab sessions. But Karl seems to take it all in stride.

“Pink shirt today? Is the Pride parade coming up soon?” Peter teases Rikard.

“Bloody hell! I’m not queer simply because I’m wearing a nice shirt, am I? Make a pass at someone else if that’s what you’re looking for,” says Rikard, and looks over at Karl, who is sitting at the other end of the laboratory. He does not appear to react.

“Listen here, girlies, quiet down, can’t you? Some people here are actually trying to work”, says Henrik. Emma is sitting a few places away from him, and regards him obliquely.

Towards the end of the course, when Karl has already passed all of the laboratory sessions, he approaches you.

“There’s something I want to discuss with you. The fact is that I’m considering making an allegation of discrimination, but I’m not sure whether I have enough evidence. Have you seen or heard anything that could help me?”

What can you do, in your role as laboratory assistant?

In this example, a student approaches you because he has experienced victimisation by other students in the course. Furthermore, you know that the course teachers, and in particular the examiner, have made discriminatory comments about the student in question. Your task as laboratory assistant in these circumstances is to ensure that the laboratory sessions are comfortable social surroundings for everyone. You should, therefore, point out in the laboratory that the faculty does not accept this type of behaviour – from students or employees. It is of minor significance that Karl initially appears to accept what is happening. As laboratory assistant, you have a responsibility to work to ensure a healthy study environment – you are the faculty representative in the laboratory. You should also pass information about what has happened to the director of studies.

Who can provide support?

The examiner for the course on which you are assisting and the director of studies responsible for the course are your initial contacts. In this case, it appears that the examiner may be part of the problem, and for this reason you should initially contact the director of studies. It may also be relevant to contact other people. Suggestions are given under the heading “Case management and points of contact”.

 

5.3 Example: Offensive material

A female student, Lotta, visits you one morning and is very upset. She says that she has discovered printouts in one of the computer rooms whose contents she describes as extremely offensive. When Lotta went to collect her own printout, some documents were lying in the printer that someone else had printed. As she removed her document, she could not avoid seeing the contents of the previous printout. The material consisted of a sheet music and Lotta describes its contents as severely sexist against women.

Lotta states that the document had been sitting in the output tray of the printer for 40 minutes before she discovered it. The cover sheet of the document gives the name of the student, Erika, who had printed the document.

You contact Erika, who confirms that she is responsible that the document was printed on the printer in question, and states that the songsheet is intended to be used at a dinner in one of the student sections. It was never her intention that the material be distributed outside of the group, and she apologises that the material has ended up in the wrong hands and has offended someone.

What can you do, in your role as teaching assistant?

In this example, a student approaches you because someone, assumed to be a fellow student, is distributing offensive material. Your task as laboratory assistant in these circumstances is to pass this information on to the examiner or director of studies, and in consultation with him or her attempt to find out what has happened and how to proceed.

Who can provide support?

The examiner for the course on which you are assisting and the director of studies responsible for the course are your initial contacts. The course leader has previous teaching experience, and can support you and provide advice. Older laboratory assistants may also have experience from which you can benefit. It may also be relevant to contact other people. Suggestions are given under the heading “Case management and points of contact”.

 

5.4 Example: Effects on an assistant

You are working as teaching assistant on an introductory course for first-year students. One of the graded components of the course is a group project that is to produce a short report. You are appointed to examine several of these reports and provide feedback.

At an initial meeting, you establish good contact with the members of the group, except for one. The group has nine members, and it just happens to be the case that there is only one person who is the same sex as you. Even though the entire group maintains its distance from you, the person who is the same sex as you uses a dismissive tone with you.

After having examined the report and provided feedback to the group, you receive an email in which the group questions your ability to examine their report. No clear grounds for this are given, but you have a hunch that your sex may be a factor.

What can you do, in your role as teaching assistant?

In this example, you are subject to possible victimisation in your role as teaching assistant. You should inform your colleagues on the course as soon as possible. They have experience that may help. You can also ask them to help you by conducting a second examination of the report. It is, however, still your task to ensure that the study environment is a comfortable social environment for everybody. Therefore, it may be a good idea to arrange a meeting with the group and the course examiner in order to discuss and resolve possible misunderstandings.

Who can provide support?

Teaching assistants, lecturers, the course examiner and the director of studies should be your initial contacts in this situation. They may have similar experiences and be able to provide support or suggest solutions. It may also be relevant to contact other people. Suggestions are given under the heading “Case management and points of contact”.

 

5.5 Example: Knowledge gaps – a female teaching assistant for a male-dominated group

“I have always approached the classroom with the view that everyone is equal, and I have not been conscious of viewing different people differently.

It has been my experience that the women in my group were more ready to ask for help in the beginning. The men seemed to be more proud, and I found it necessary to ask them whether they wanted help.

After a few classes, I felt that some of the men wanted to test whether I had sufficient knowledge.

They posed questions that were not directly related to the exercises we were discussing. On several occasions I have heard ironic comments and subtle pointed comments about me as teaching assistant if I have given the wrong answer or not been able to answer their questions satisfactorily.

I couldn’t answer their questions and became insecure in my role as teaching assistant. I didn’t dare to take up space, and I wondered whether this was not only because I am a woman but also because I am the same age as the students.”  

What can you do, in your role as teaching assistant?

Contact the examiner for the course.

Request and receive information about the teaching material and literature used.

Have the courage required to point out that you will discuss examples and exercises that are relevant to the group.

 

Who can provide support?

Teaching assistants, lecturers, the course examiner and the director of studies should be your initial contacts in this situation. They may have similar experiences and be able to provide support or suggest solutions. It may also be relevant to contact other people. Suggestions are given under the heading “Case management and points of contact”.

MODULEs

1. Facts and figures

2. The teaching assistant

3. Gender in practice

4. Behaviour to be counteracted

5. Examples from courses

6. Teaching assistant experiences

7. Reflection

8. Plan for the gender-awareness course


Contact

Do you have any questions or comments? Or if you represent another organization or academy, and want to use this material? Please contact course coordinator:

vivian.vimarlund@liu.se


Page manager: vivian.vimarlund@liu.se
Last updated: Wed Oct 24 11:22:52 CEST 2018