Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Note 7: Small Steps Can Go a Long Way

Friday November 20, 2015 by Anonymous (not verified)

I find that when the fervor surrounding a controversy begins to abate, it is then that the real work begins.  Paying attention to how inclusivity and equity are part of your teaching may feel at this point like it’s one more thing that is, albeit very important, vying for your finite amount of time. Knowing that this is likely the case, it is important for me to reiterate that small steps can go a long way.  There are things you can do now, whether you are preparing for a course, concluding a course, or just thinking about your teaching; picking one or two things to do differently may be all you can (and should) do.  You may be surprised at the effect such changes will have in your work with students.

I offer two articles that may help in this process.  The first, Perceptions of Faculty Behavior by Students of Color (Chesler, M., Wilson, M. & Malani, A.,1993), reports the findings of 15 focus groups conducted with students of color at the University of Michigan.  While it is over 20 years old, this research is so relevant, it reads as though it were done this year.  I like it for two major reasons:  1) it focuses on students’ perceptions and experiences, instead of what professors think students perceive or experience and 2) the authors offer examples of positive professor-student interactions as well as negative ones.  We are so often told what we are doing wrong, and it is refreshing to see what we also do right. 

I am also including Tanner’s (2013) Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity.  If you are planning for next semester’s or next fall’s class, I hope you will find this article very useful.  Tanner herself is a Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, but her strategies translate across all disciplines.  Further, the strategies she discusses are not limited to those pertaining to race and equity; they are highly useful for mitigating many of the inequities can appear in our pedagogical work.

Lastly, I’d like to remind you of our upcoming opportunities for conversation about Challenging Classroom Discussions about Diversity and Equity. The two dates we have scheduled are:

  • Monday, November 30th from 4-5 pm &
  • Tuesday, December 8th, from 8:30 – 9:30 am  

With warm regards,

Nancy S. Niemi, Ph.D.
Director, Faculty Teaching Initiatives

Contact Information 

Contact Dr. Niemi via email Nancy.Niemi@yale.edu or phone 203.432.8644 with thoughts about the collection and/or to receive these notes in your inbox.


engagement, equality, diversity, inclusion