The University Record, January 23, 1996

Multiculturalism in first-year seminars is topic of CRLT-sponsored program

By Carlean Ponder
News and Information Services 

Incorporating multicultural content and instruction into first-year seminars was the focus of a workshop offered by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

The workshop, facilitated by CRLT's Shari Saunders and David Ametrano, offered tips for including multiculturalism in three areas---curriculum, pedagogy and classroom climate. According to Saunders, the Center often receives requests from faculty concerned about making their curriculum more inclusive of different perspectives.

Charles Behling, lecturer in psychology, who teaches "I too Sing America," a course focused on prejudice and discrimination, found that his course is often intimidating to students. "It's embarrassing to say I don't know how not to discriminate against people as opposed to saying I don't know how to do calculus," said Behling.

To overcome this type of intimidation, Behling emphasizesdiscussing where prejudices come from and models himself as an imperfect person rather than an expert on the subject. He was surprised to find that religion, not race or sexuality, is the area that makes most students uncomfortable.

Murray Jackson, associate professor emeritus of education, who teaches "Poetry in the City," a course concerned with writings about city life, incorporates multi-culturalism into class readings. Much of the literature is about the troubles and promises of contemporary citizens.

Saunders said she hoped workshop attendees would take back to their classrooms a positive attitude about multicultural instruction. "Things get uncomfortable, things get tense," she said. "But we can learn to disagree and argue while still caring about people and learning from ourselves in the process."