Although this course covers a fair amount of theory, we define its learning objectives to be skill-focused. This decision is based on the perspective that while theory is a valuable foundation, what is most important is whether the course enables students to take actions that promote the well-being and inclusion of themselves and others.
This course aims to increase students’ abilities to:
- Bravely, knowledgeably, openly, and inclusively discuss JEDI-related topics.
- Name central JEDI concepts occurring in day-to-day interactions.
- Self-advocate and practice self-care in the academic context.
- Practice allyship to others in the academic context.
- Apply evidence-based JEDI-promoting practices in research, teaching, and academic leadership positions.
- Identify JEDI topics of interest and continue learning independently.
This course is structured around collaborate learning. The high-level approach is that students learn different sub-topics each week, and then they come together and synthesize what they’ve learned to collectively develop a stronger understanding of the week’s more general topic. We implement this approach via core questions, lenses, and synthesis groups, as defined below.
Core questions and lenses. In this class, the central task on which students collaborate is answering the core question—a concrete, but conceptually vast question. Students can approach this question through one of multiple lenses—concrete sub-topics which inform the core question:
Lenses and synthesis groups. Synthesis groups are assigned groups of 4-5 students, and they are consistent week to week. Students engage in free-form discussion about the current week’s topic within these groups. Each student is assigned a lens each week, which they investigate independently in their pre-class activity. These lenses are assigned randomly, but in a way that is crosscutting to students’ synthesis group assignments, as depicted in the figure below. This way, every synthesis group contains at least one member who studied each lens, facilitating the collaborative sharing of knowledge and perspectives within groups.
A typical week of the course has the following schedule, where gray is out-of-class time and red is in-class time:
Pre-class activities are completed individually. Their purpose is to help students prepare to contribute to in-class discussion by guiding them through the process of researching the core question through their assigned lens. In doing a pre-class activity, a student chooses from among a set of suggested resources for their lens, studies those resources to develop their own understanding of that lens (and how it relates to the core question), and then writes up some ideas they feel will be helpful to share during in-class discussion. These activities are expected to take approximately 60 minutes (but offer essentially limitless opportunities for digging deeper). Pre-class activities are due the day before class.
We begin class with 5 minutes of mindfulness practice via the Headspace App. This exercise is dual-purpose: it gives students a few quiet moments to relax and let go of external distractions, and it also exposes them to mindfulness as a well-being tool that they can use throughout grad school (CMU PhD students are given access to the Headspace app). For more information on how mindfulness practice has been shown benefit students’ well-being, see, e.g., research by the University of Wisconsin Center for Healthy Minds.
For 40 minutes, students hear from a guest lecturer, who is a domain expert on an aspect of the current week’s topic. This guest lecture serves as the main source, other than the resources in the pre-class activities, through which students receive expert information.
synthesis group discussion
Students then meet with their synthesis group for 25 minutes to share what they’ve learned about their lens through free-form discussion. At the end of class, we allot 10 additional minutes for synthesis group to share takeaways from their discussion with the broader class.
After class, students complete a post-class reflection. This reflection is designed to help them address any lingering questions or ideas that they came across during the current week. These reflections are designed to take approximately 30 minutes and can take many forms (choices are provided in the Post-Class Reflection instructions, linked on the “Home” page). All formats require a short submission summarizing takeaways from the student’s chosen reflection activity.
Main Curriculum Contributors
Abhinav Adduri, Valerie Chen, Judeth Choi, Bailey Flanigan, Paul Gölz, Anson Kahng, Pallavi Koppol, Ananya Joshi, Tabitha Lee, Sara McAllister, Sam Reig, Ziv Scully, Catalina Vajiac, Alex Wang, Josh Williams, Liv Zane, with expert consulting from Dr. Alexis Adams from the CMU Eberly Center for Teaching and Learning.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Website contributors: Alex Wang, Bailey Flanigan, Paul Gölz