Welcome back to a new school year! I hope everyone’s year is off to a rousing start. I know we have already had to deal with a lot of natural disasters, and I hope anyone in those zones has stayed safe. Do let us know if there is anything STP can do to help.
Thanks to Melissa Maffeo for a great and successful program at the APA convention. We had some interesting sessions. You can learn more about STP’s programming at APA 2023 by viewing the August 2023 Special Issue of STP News.
The Executive Committee is gearing up for our meetings at the conference in October prior to and during the Annual Conference on Teaching. If you have anything of concern, please let me know so that we can discuss it.
Speaking of the Annual Conference on Teaching, Lindsay Masland and her committee are hard at work to put on another fabulous time in Portland. I hope you will be able to join us in person. Information about the schedule is available here. There will be an online conference in February 2024 as well.
As always, Lindsay has come up with a great opportunity for networking and connecting. She has announced that she is able to support Affinity Group meetings at ACT: On Location in Portland this year! From Lindsay: “So, if you've ever wanted to meet up with other psych teachers who are like you—whether "like you" means a shared sociodemographic identity, a specific teaching context, or some other area of interest—this could be the perfect venue for you! But, for these meetings to happen, we need folks to propose groups. So, if you'd like to make new friends and are willing to take on the very light lift of filling out an application for a potential group meet-up, please fill out this application by September 15th!”
The mention of affinity groups is a great lead-in to my guest columnist this month, Dr. Teceta Tormala from Palo Alto University. Teceta is also the Vice-President for Diversity and International Relations. At the 2022 ACT she talked about how she uses affinity groups in her teaching. She has brought many new ideas to STP, and I am excited for everyone to read about identity and teaching.
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Socioculturally-Embedded Intersectional Teaching in a Polarized World
Dr. Teceta Tormala, STP Vice President for Diversity and International Relations
I am cycling into my 19th year of teaching (wow!), and I think often about how my teaching- and the scholarship of teaching and learning- has evolved over the past two decades. When I was in graduate school and in my early years in academia, the teaching model of “the sage on the stage” predominated, and the prototypical sage was White, male, and in middle age. In my early years, as a Black woman in her late 20s and early 30s, the mold didn’t fit. As my time as an educator progressed, I came to more fully understand where I fit in the model of teaching and learning, and what was missing from my course content and teaching practice. I had to find another path distinct from the way in which much of psychology had been taught, often decontextualized from the multiplicity of individuals and the complexities of the lived experiences of groups in the sociocultural context of a complicated world. Our field wasn’t always inclusive of the psychological processes and experiences of all.
The term that I have been using to capture this approach to teaching is socioculturally-embedded intersectional teaching, which I conceptualize as facilitating and educating from one’s intersectional self with awareness of the nested contexts of the classroom, institution, and society, and in service of deepening and broadening knowledge of the collective. The lens that our corner of the field- the teaching of psychology, and the scholarship of teaching and learning of psychology- must continue to embrace in our approach to educating is a systemic one, which foregrounds the importance of sociocultural identity, structural factors, and sociohistorical forces in shaping individuals. The work of Urie Bronfenbrenner offers a path, through ecological systems theory, that is attentive to the nested contexts in which each of us exists, and the impact that interactions, relationships, places, policies, laws, social representations, and ideologies have on our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
We are not operating within a vacuum- we are living and teaching in the reality of 2023, riven with conflict and hatred, in which politics, culture, and identity are clashing at their intersections to deleterious effect on nations, on groups, and on individuals. As educators, we need to grapple with this reality as it impacts our teaching and as it impacts our students’ learning. Who we are and who our students are matters; what we teach matters; how we teach matters. How do we engage across lines of difference in meaningful ways? How do we create open and vulnerable classroom spaces where diverse experiences and opinions can be stated and be heard? What are the ways through which students who are liberal and conservative, disabled and abled, people of color and multiracial and white, religious and areligious can truly engage in our classrooms? Why does cultural responsiveness matter when teaching AP psychology or introductory biological psychology or high-level seminars? How do we stay engaged in the work of teaching the content that we love within the noise and conflict of a dispiriting, troubling world?
Models that we see today within our field orient towards belonging and inclusion. Dr. Thema Bryant’s theme from the 2023 APA convention was, “You belong here”. From her role as president of APA, she invited attendees to wear something that reflected an important aspect of their identity, be it religion, race, nationality, sexuality, or another lived experience. The organizers included an interfaith program, with hourlong practices from Native Hawaiian, Buddhist, Muslim, Lakota, Christian, Sufi, and Jewish spiritual and religious traditions, open to people from all backgrounds. Within STP, I have been thrilled to be a part of the creation of affinity groups organized around identity and lived experience. STP members are excited about spaces for connection, support, and community. At present, there are affinity groups aligned around a multitude of educator identities and experiences: Race and ethnic identity (Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi (APID); Arab, Middle Eastern, and North African (AMENA); Latinx; Black); queer identity; in/visible dis/ability identity; educators at community colleges; late career and retired educators; educators who are parents and caregivers. At the ACT conference in October, Lindsay Masland and the ACT programming committee graciously created space in the schedule for these groups to meet and connect.
Each of us is a whole, complicated, multicultural self with group-based beliefs and experiences- and the only singular us who will ever exist. We share a core humanity and a deep need for connection, and this is the bridge that we traverse as educators- between the collective and the individual, between your way and my way and our way, all in service of deepening our understanding of the human condition.