Reframing the Assignment
The Fall 2017 semester has been a very busy one for me. The Therapeutic Recreation program, a new Health Sciences program officially opened in the Fall 2017 semester. With that, there has been a shift in the course assignments that were originally created during the college curriculum review phase. The original assignment that was used in the Fall semester utilizing and implementing the UDL principles was for a course in the Health & Human Services program. The low stakes assignment designed introduced students to one local social welfare program of interest. This activity encouraged students to use critical thinking by allowing them to become actively involved in their learning by taking the concepts of social welfare policy and analysis and connecting it to the role of a social worker within a clinical setting. Utilizing UDL within the course and with assigning students this activity allowed students to illustrate connections with real life experience to the practical and theoretical knowledge on Social Work & Human Services and the role of a Social Worker/Human Service professional within a clinical setting. The activity received a lot of positive feedback from the students, in terms of engagement and integration of real life application of clinical skills from a clinician in the field of Social Work.
With that, I am looking to re-designing this particular assignment for one of the Therapeutic Recreation course, HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork. I will develop a low stakes activity that will encouraged students to use critical thinking by allowing them to become actively involved in their learning by taking the concepts of therapeutic leadership learned in the HTR 102- Professional Issues in Therapeutic Recreation course and connecting it to their capstone course and clinical fieldwork internship (HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork). The assignment will be built around the students’ interaction with patients/clients in any of the following fields of practice: children, HIV/AIDS, mental health, long term care/nursing homes, substance use. The activity will interrelate with my research on investigating, “How can UDL and its principles be implemented within a clinical environment?” “What are the best practices for clinical practice using UDL to measure competency for students with disabilities?”
As with the low stakes activity in Health & Human Services, the challenge with incorporating UDL and the three principles with the HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork course is that the most of the skills required of students to demonstrate competency and mastery of concepts, coursework and hands on patient care are, in most cases, determined by federal, local and state regulatory, accrediting and licensing bodies not affiliated with the college. The idea of assisting students in establishing a “professional identity” will be incorporated in the clinical fieldwork course. The activity will assist students to who must complete an internship or fieldwork experience in a clinical setting by providing the student with some supports and/or accommodations that are individualized and flexible in order to incorporate UDL within the clinical setting.
Taking students out of the classroom so that they could develop an interest in establishing a professional identity to the extent that they are able to successfully demonstrate the ability to apply classroom theory and practice with personal life experiences by synthesizing and transferring learning beyond the classroom (Integrative Learning) will be the goal of the activity.
Reformulating Our Assignment…
I took the time to reflect on the last semester and the consideration of my UDL assignment into my SCH150 (Drugs, Society, & Behavior) course for Spring I 2018. I am working to fully implement a scaffolded assignment after implementing, a low-stakes version, in my class during the Fall I 2017 semester. Over the course of the Fall II 2017 semester, I worked to adjust the low-stakes portion of the assignment and to expand the more complete assignment for the course. The premise of this assignment is to expand upon the considerations of drug policy, based upon course information and review of current affairs related to drugs and drug policy within the United States.
In the Fall I 2017 I had my students complete a low-stakes reflection at the end of the course on their perspective related to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Specifically, if they felt that this policy was still correct in its application and classification of substances within the United States. Students were encouraged to either write out the blog post or to record and upload a vlog post. Currently in Spring I 2018, I have more fully-integrated a scaffolded assignment with both low-stakes and high-stakes portions using different modalities to access the various strengths of students within the classroom. First, after a brief discussion on the history of U.S. drug policy and the aforementioned act as well as watching a documentary “Breaking the Taboo” and writing a brief reaction response, students record and upload a brief (up to 5 minutes) recording on their current perspective on the aforementioned act (i.e. what does it say, is it a good policy). The students will receive feedback as well as discuss their perspectives in class on the topic further. Students will begin compiling their evidence to think about potential reclassification of drugs within the current structure as we dive into discussing the different substances over the course of the semester. Students also continually watch films and write brief reaction posts that will help further inform their final paper. At the end of the course, students will have compiled the final high-stakes paper and then will work in teams to have a low-stakes debate in-class (once I provide position statement for them to approach the debate).
I am still working on adjust the assignment. However, my DfA colleagues have continued to be a wonderful support to this process. It has been through their work and listening to their assignments that I have been able to re-evaluate how to approach work within the classroom. It is helped me figure out the key objectives and understanding that there are a multitude of ways to work toward accomplishing that objective for the course. Overall, this project and initiative will help ensure a more inclusive and accepting environment at LaGuardia and beyond.
Fan Fiction as Anti-Ableist Praxis
Last term, I wrote about something I was doing with my theatre class. It was a consent-based model of participation and assessment, which I use in all my classes but make physically explicit in my theatre class. This term, I think the compositionist in me was feeling left out; so I’m going to focus on something new I’m doing in my English 102 class. At LAGCC, this class is Writing Through Literature.
I’ve long been an advocate of fan fiction as a form of potential community building. Additionally, I think fan fic can be a radical reclaiming of who gets to create the narratives we tell ourselves. Emotions — the grief of straight cis white able-body-minded men writing everyone else’s stories, as well as the sheer joy of recognizing ourselves on the backs of dragons — drive the fan fiction writing process. So, too, does a sense of social justice and the thirst to be included that marginalized creators feel deep in our bones. Historically, fan fic is a genre created by and for marginalized authors who don’t otherwise see ourselves in dominant narratives.
And if fan fiction is about joy, about community, about justice and representation and improving our writing skills while flexing our inclusivity muscles, why, then, should it not be practiced in our writing classrooms?
So, this term, I’m having my comp students write fan fiction of Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like.” I have never seen them all take to an assignment with such fervor, and it is, so far, amazing. Letting them analyze the poem and engage deeply with Giovanni’s text and subtext while being able to craft their own original stories has been an absolute revelation thus far.
Why am I including this as an anti-ableist, inclusive practice, though? Because emotional inclusivity and emotional access to classrooms is, I believe, just as necessary as any other form of access. Are all my students fan fic readers and writers? Nope. Have each and every one of them expressed excitement about the idea that they’re allowed to craft their own tales as a valid way to analyze literature? Have each and every one of them found that suddenly, their chosen forms of expression — and through this, their chosen forms of learning — are sanctioned and encouraged and rewarded in the classroom? Yep. Yep, they have.
And to me, that is every bit as anti-ableist as it can come, especially when we consider the sheer amount of young people who experience depression and anxiety who are engaged in fan fiction reading and writing outside of the classroom.
My assignment is on my course blog, and you can peruse it for yourself; and, perhaps, even draft a little fan fic of your own!