Ebonee Johnson

This series highlights an array of teaching strategies implemented by faculty members at the University of Iowa. Each strategy aims to enhance student engagement and broaden the scope of their learning.  

This month’s strategies are provided by Eboneé Traneice Johnson, Ph.D., CRC, Assistant Professor, Rehabilitation and Counselor Education.

Brave Space. I aim to facilitate construction of a brave classroom space based on Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens (2013) 5 guidelines. In our first class, using these guidelines as a framework, students co-construct their own, more comprehensive code of conduct for engaging in challenging dialogues around issues of marginalization and oppression as they relate to the fields of counseling and counselor education. I bring their code to class weekly and place in the center of their learning tables as a visual reminder.

Building Community. It is important for students to trust their peers and the instructor in classes where polarizing viewpoints and confrontation may emerge. I make an effort to build community by incorporating short in-classroom activities in which students can get to know one another by learning about each other’s lived experiences. By incorporating these activities (e.g., what I value most is….) students form a greater bond for working on group projects, they “look out” for one another, and have more “buy in” for the brave classroom space.    

Teaching Alliance. Similar to the counseling therapeutic working alliance, Fernando Estrada’s (2015) conceptualization of a teaching alliance provides the overarching framework for my courses. To the greatest extent possible, the inherent power dynamic between instructor and student is diminished to create an equal partnership for learning, including shared responsibilities (e.g., preparedness). Examples of activities to facilitate a teaching alliance include incorporating student choice in assignments, seeking student input in rubric development, scheduling office hours to match student schedules (in-person or virtual), and ensuring accessibility of learning materials. 

Evidence-based Pedagogical Frameworks. As elucidated by the previous examples, I aim to incorporate evidence-based pedagogical frameworks in my learning communities. Frameworks such as University of Iowa Professor of Education Sherry Watt’s (2007) privileged identity exploration model help me to anticipate potential defensive behavior students may display in courses that address multicultural and diversity issues. By applying these frameworks, I can be proactive in anticipating potentially negative emotional response and plan accordingly.