Reflecting on Teaching Q&A Library Sessions

This week I taught 3 sections of EN102 in the Q&A format. For those sessions, I had the students submit research questions ahead of time so that I could form a lesson plan based on the sessions. One issue that I ran into was the fact that the Q&A was not scheduled well based on other assignments in the class. The first class had just finished an assignment, and they did not have many questions at all related to research. This made the session a little less successful in my opinion. The second two sessions were situated better in the course. The students had many thoughtful questions about research and the reliability of sources. I co-taugtht this session. Having someone else helping with the class and having more thoughtful questions made it much more successful. In the future, I would want to schedule these sessions closer to an actual assignment so that the students are more engaged.

Reading Algorithms of Oppression

After finishing Academic Ableism, we have turned to reading Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble. In this book, Noble uses the lens of black feminism to critique the way Google displays and categorizes search results. The impetus for this book was her experience searching “black girls” on Google and the resulting search including porn as some of the first results that come up. Since then, Google has changed the algorithm so that this is less likely to happen. In the first chapter, she also discusses the problematic way that Google has displayed results for the word “Jew” in the past. When Google tried to fix this problem, they displayed results without informing people than certain results had been omitted. While this may prevent people from seeing antisemitism, it does not fully solve the problem. She then discusses how ads work and why this can be problematic as well. At the end of chapter one, she argues that “despite the widespread beliefs in the Internet as a democratic space where people have the power to dynamically participate as equals, the Internet is in fact organized to the benefit of powerful elites, including corporations that can afford to purchase and redirect searches to their own sites. “

Reflecting on Teaching

Last week, I taught two sections of EN102. In the first session, the students were learning about source evaluation and finding sources using Scout. I started the class with a quiz. I felt like the students were not totally prepared for the session, but it could have been some nervousness on their part to be with a new teacher. We then did an overview of Scout. Most of the students were able to easily find their sources, but I wish I could have had a few more questions.

In the second section, the class was a little more talkative. For this class, we just went through how to use Scout and the library resources. I had them brainstorm their topic before class and generate key words so that they would be ready for our session. Most of the class completed the assignment beforehand. This gave plenty of time for everyone to research and find 3 different types of sources for their paper. Overall, I felt like this class was successful. I do like the approach of having students prepare keywords ahead of time.

Separate but Equal?: Chapter 2 of Academic Ableism

Dolmage continues his exploration of how disability accommodations do currently manifest themselves, both within the academy and within other aspects of society. He provides several examples that primarily center around the kinds of technologies designed to “enable” people with disabilities to utilize things designed entirely with their abled counterparts in mind. The chapter touches on how so often teaching faculty tack on additional provisions for students with disabilities while keeping many of their practices and fundamental approaches to pedagogy completely static. This approach quite often leaves the student with a disability in the awkward position of accommodating themselves and often results in an inequitable expenditure of effort to achieve the same level of success or academic standing as is expended by their fellow students. This chapter made me consider what changes need to be initiated to library instruction to ensure that pedagogy and lesson design put accessibility concerns first rather than continuously relying on students with disabilities to shoulder the undue burden of their own education. In my estimation, it isn’t enough to leave course design entirely to an accessibility office’s discretion of accommodations. It is important for disability concerns to be rooted at the heart of critical pedagogy, because, as Dolmage points out, disability does not discriminate.

No Disabled Students: Thoughts on Chapter 1 of Academic Ableism

                One of the things in this chapter that really struck me was the assumptions made by faculty members regarding disability among their students. Early in the chapter, Dolmage references Amy Vidali and her experience with many faculty members who had said to her some variation of “but there are no disabled students in my class.” Dolmage goes on to talk about how teachers often operate their classrooms under these assumptions. Dolmage connects this idea more concretely with the traditional viewpoints of eugenics within the university which he outlined in the introduction.

                This chapter made me think about the ways that I approach teaching. It specifically challenged me to consider how much energy I put into making my instruction sessions accessible for a group of students regardless of what information I have about their needs. While I can’t always provide an answer or completely address the needs of every student in a given session, working towards a universal design and implementing disability-considerate practices for each session will ultimately be beneficial to both the students who may need accommodations and even those who may not need them but benefit from the design regardless.

Academic Ableism and America’s Latent Eugenics Ideology

                The introduction to Jay Timothy Dolmage’s Academic Ableism is a stark reminder of the real history of anti-disabled social Darwinist ideology and its origins in the early 20th century North American university’s academic eugenics movements. Dolmage details in brief not only how universities have ignored or tokenized their students and faculty with disabilities, but also systematically assisted in my marginalization and attempted eradication of those same populations. While things have certainly changed, Academic Ableism begins with a premise towards being skeptical of disability and access initiatives as anything more than compliance. The introduction sets up the discussion about disability well. It positions American universities as both purveyors and perpetuators of marginalization for people with disabilities. Several key factors of Dolmage’s view regarding disability and the methodology through which he will be analyzing it are laid out early in the introduction.

                Overall, the introduction does a good job of setting up the study of disability and the academy’s relationship to it. Dolmage points out some key issues of intersection that occur between universities and disable people with other non-hegemonic qualities like race, gender, sexuality, as well as others. Having an intersectional approach to disability is important when addressing systemic issues, because people with disabilities can come from every race, every gender, with every sexuality and with every religious background. This kind of recognition places this book in conversation with many different perspectives on diverse populations among people with disabilities. This is especially important when talking about eugenics, as all of the qualities stated above have at times been separate criteria for eugenics.

Reading Academic Ableism Chapter 2

In this chapter, Dolmage uses the spatial metaphor of the retrofit as his next example. The chapter opens by discussing the failure of the American Disabilities Act (ADA). He discusses the various ways that the ADA sometimes provides fixes for issues that do not really make things easier for people with disabilities, one example being a ramp that was built to help someone enter public houses. The ramp looks pretty ridiculous and has 10 levels to it. Rather than trying to find the best solution, the builders designed something that makes it much harder to use. The ramp was supposed to be built to help the girl who lived there access her house, but in reality it makes it very time consuming to even try to enter.

One line that resonated with me was: “Disability also can’t be seen as something frozen in time and frozen in othered bodies—it has to be embraced as an always-everywhere, as a material but always changing reality” (73).

Essentially, this chapter questions the rhetoric of accommodations and the way the system is currently set up to make the student have to seek help rather than the system being originally built to accommodate people with a range of disabilities.

Reflecting on Academic Ableism Chapter 1

In this chapter, Dolmage uses the metaphor of space to discuss academic ableism in the university. He argues that:

“if rhetoric is the circulation of discourse through the body, then spaces and institutions cannot be disconnected from the bodies within them, the bodies they selectively exclude, and the bodies that actively intervene to reshape them” (44).

The first space he examines are the “steep steps.” He discusses how these steps are both a metaphor for the elitism of universities and a reality in many of the physical structures of campuses. The steps, along with the symbol of gate, set the university apart from the rest of the world. He goes on to talk about the way we construct what disability means and how the term has negative connotations.

I found it really disturbing to think about how to a certain extent eugenicist principles continue in universities today. He gives the example of how the top schools tend to pool from the same top 20% of students who in turn marry each other being a continuation of these principles. I had certainly never made that connection myself.

On Reading “Academic Ableism”

The introduction to “Academic Ableism” by Jay Dolmage opens with an example of a steep set of stairs. The stairs are seen as a part of the university’s identity, and they serve as a barrier to those who might try to enter. Dolmage then discusses the history of asylums in North America, focusing on how universities have a similar way of isolating people from society at large. While asylums kept the “lowest” of individuals, universities chose only the “best” to enter its gates.

I found the history he gave on the history of eugenics and how it changed academia both fascinating and disturbing. While I was aware there was a large movement in the early 1900s, I did not know that it has weaseled its way into the university curriculum to such a degree.

Following the section on Eugenics, Dolmage discusses the lack of funding for students and faculty with disabilities as well as the lack of representation of faculty with disabilities.

Some of the discussion and space and disability made me reflect on the construction going on in our own library to make the buildings more accessible. The main library itself is also framed by those high steps.

Reflecting on Teaching EN101

Last week, I taught my last class of the semester with my co-worker Mason. Previously, I had taught two sections of this same course. The course theme was Shakespeare adaptations. In this class period, we broke everyone into groups for about half the class and had them create their own Shakespeare adaptations. For the second part of class, we had them search in four different databases to find the 3-6 sources they needed for their final paper. The first class was a little more resistant to group work than the second class was. At the end of the class, we had them fill out an assessment reflecting on the class section. Overall, the students seemed to find the session helpful although a few people responded that they did not like the group work or that more modern databases would be nice. I feel much more prepared to teach this kind of class in the future.