From Problem to Solution, an Overview of my Design Process

Challenges: Intellectual and Existential Hurdles

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is not for the faint of heart. Besides intellectually challenging, the course is psychologically and existentially difficult as it requires students/users to analyze and critique their own identity, as well as the world around them and their place in it. However, this also offers an exciting opportunity, to make the course content and assignments current as well as relatable to the students’ real life.

Practice What You Preach: Inclusive Design

When teaching about diversity and inclusion, along the lines of gender, race, sexual orientation and disability, inclusive course materials and assignments are a minimum requirement. When teaching  a heterogeneous group of students, with different identities, backgrounds, strengths, and interests, you better leave your traditional Wester canon at home. Coming up with creative assignments – significantly different from the traditional written coursework, which excludes students with learning disability – is also an absolute must.

Product: A Course Based on Transformative Teaching

After rigorous Research and Literature Review on Transformational Teaching and Inclusive Pedagogy, I ultimately designed a syllabus that invites students to apply the abstract and often dry theory, to current artistic and pop culture case studies. I carefully curated a heterogeneous selection of artifacts, from music videos, to podcasts, tv shows, and commercials, which kept the content fresh and relatable.

Secondly, I applied an intersectional analytic lens to my own syllabus and made sure to offer a variety of different voices, from canonic White voices, to Latinx, Black, and Transnational Voices – and not merely limited to the occasional “Black History Month.” The same counts for disabled and queer texts and content.

Finally, I designed inclusive assignments that do not assume that writing is every students strength. I allowed students to pick between traditional papers, or “alternative form” projects, in which they represented their arguments in an artistic medium of their choice. I also allowed and encouraged students to use relatable and personal projects. The final iteration of the course even ended in a public art exhibit, in which students displayed their final course work in a public exhibit. This allowed students to share their work with the world and go into meaningful conversations beyond the classroom.

Below, a Mood Video of my students exhibit “All Tied Up. Unraveling Love, Sex, and Desire.”

Video and Pictures courtesy of my student Haley Grissett

Analyzing User Testimonials and Course Evaluations  

I designed course evaluations and gathered student testimonials as methods to optimize my course, assignments, and readings over the years. Throughout the semester I made sure to have occasional check-ins with students to tweak and better the course content and assignments. Since I had the opportunity to teach different iterations of this course over the span of multiple years, I was able to improve the course significantly, as can be seen in the table bellow.

Three course evaluations compared to demonstrate the progress. Light pink shows improvements after one semesters, the darker pink shows improvements after multiple years.

Reception: Raving Evaluations and Awards

The final re-designed course was a big hit, as illustrated by Positive Course Evaluations as well as Student Testimonials and an Emory Center for Faculty Development and Excellence Classroom Grant and prestigious Andre W. Mellon Interventions Project Public Teaching Fellowship.

Here are some pictures of my students, proudly posing next to their final art works, taken during the exhibit of my final course.