Structured Interactions

Structured Interactions: Providing or eliciting goals, protocols, and processes that support equitable access and contributions to interactive elements of the learning environment – and disrupt patterns that reinforce or reflect systemic inequities.

This list offers examples of concrete strategies aligned with this general equity-focused teaching principle. If you would like to submit your own example for consideration, please click here.

Develop discussion guidelines or community agreements about class, lab, or team interactions.
  • View examples of discussion guidelines for general as well as STEM courses from CRLT. (Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan)
  • See an example syllabus (section 6.1) from UM course Biotechnology, Human Values, & The Engineer, ENGINEERING 100, taught in 2017 by Belmont, Sulewski, and Casper.
  • See further guidelines for discussing difficult or controversial topics from CRLT: dealing with the unexpected, planning for discussions, including everyone, being an active facilitator, etc.
Reflect upon those guidelines with students at strategic points throughout the term.
  • Soliciting feedback from students on this issue will be useful. One can incorporate this feedback as a part of the more general feedback like during a Midterm Student Feedback session.
  • View this example of collaboration norms that can be shared with students to help them think about how they can best engage within groups. (Adapted from Foundational Course Initiative, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan)
In facilitated discussions or Q&A sessions, use strategies for including a range of voices. (e.g. take a queue, ask to hear from those who have not spoken, wait until several hands are raised to call on anyone, or use paired or small group conversations to seed larger discussion.)
  • Create a list or queue, ask to hear from those who have not spoken, wait until several hands are raised before calling on anyone, or use paired or small group conversations to seed larger discussion.
Give all students time to gather their thoughts in writing before discussing with the whole group.
  • See this example of a Think-Write-Pair-Share with instructions for both students and instructors. It also includes a sample worksheet template.
Task students to work in pairs or small groups on brief, well-defined activities (with a timeline and specific goals/outcomes).
  • See this website for a primer on formal and informal cooperative groups from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
When possible, assign student groups/teams or provide criteria for student-formed groups/teams that both help leverage diversity and avoid isolating students from underrepresented identities.
  • Watch a video example (Starting around 2:05 mins) from UM professor of Mechanical Engineering Steve Skerlos.
  • Develop a background questionnaire [see example here] to gain more information about students’ skills [see sample here] and experiences. (Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, U-M; and Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University)
In presentations of group work, guide students to share speaking responsibilities equitably or provide guidance for choosing a spokesperson.
At the beginning of group or team projects, create time and a process for students to discuss their respective strengths, personal learning goals, anticipated contributions, etc.
  • See this example of a team contract. (George Brown College, Canada) and this example of a team contract with guiding questions. (Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering)
  • See this example group work plan for students working on collaborative writing assignments. (Sweetland Center for Writing, U-M)
  • View tips (from McIntyre & Malowany) as a tool to give students, to help them identify their strengths as a member of a student team.
During long-term group or team projects, provide a process for students to reflect upon the team work/dynamics and provide constructive feedback to one another while the project is still underway.
  • See a one-page list of Classroom Strategies for Group Management by UM graduate students M. Renda (Graduate Student Instructional Consultant) and A. Cao (Engineer and Engineering Teaching Consultant).
  • These sample peer feedback forms [link here] could be used to help teams think individually and collectively about their team dynamics.
Give students regular opportunities to reflect upon ways their learning has been enhanced by interaction with classmates. This could be as simple as asking them to reflect on their learning at the end of a session with the question, "What did you learn from someone else today?"
  • See this example of an assessment of individual contributions to a group writing project. (Sweetland Center for Writing, U-M)
Establish processes for ensuring you're giving equitable time and attention to each student/group in lab settings.
  • See a one-page list of Techniques for Ensuring Equal Participation by Indiana University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.