Place-Based Engagement: Featuring KSMOCA

Two students sitting on the ground making designs using pieces of colored tape

Place-Based Engagement: Featuring KSMoCA

At PSU, we “let knowledge serve the city”, but how? To what end? Who benefits? What does it mean to center community interests at PSU? The place-based engagement strategies utilized as part of PSU College of the Arts’ (COTA) partnership with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary (Dr. MLK, Jr.) School provides a helpful example.


PSU College of the Arts (COTA)


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary (Dr. MLK, Jr.) School

According to the Place-Based Justice Network, place-based engagement is “a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on on-campus and community impact within a clearly defined geographic area.” But how does that relate to pedagogical techniques and classroom activities? It starts with community.

Forming a Community Partnership

In 2014, administrators at Dr. MLK, Jr. School reached out to neighborhood residents and COTA faculty members Harrell Fletcher and Lisa Jarrett to explore a potential partnership. Specifically, the administrators and the PSU faculty members were mutually interested in increasing art access for the young students of Dr. MLK, Jr. School. Out of this collaboration, the King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA) was born. Since its founding, KSMoCA has hosted collaboratively-designed gallery exhibits, artist talks, a student-produced podcast, publications, an artist-in-residence program, and more.

"PSU students benefit from off-campus, authentic art practice experiences in a public school setting."

Through the KSMoCA partnership, Dr. MLK, Jr. School students gain access to local artists, PSU faculty members, and PSU students for shared learning experiences, art-making, mentorship, and generative exploration. In turn, participating PSU students benefit from off-campus, authentic art practice experiences in a public school setting. PSU students also enjoy connections to Dr. MLK, Jr. students, school administrators and professional artists—local, national and international.

a group of students standing in a hallway looking toward an adult who is speaking
Photo Courtesy of KSMoCA

What roles do PSU students play?

Currently several graduate students in the Art and Social Practice program serve in leadership roles for art projects within COTA’s interdisciplinary course “Museum in a Public School”, involving everything from a visiting artist to even student safety patrols. The undergraduates taking this course come from a variety of areas of study and, as part of their participation in the course, mentor Dr. MLK, Jr. students one-on-one and support them in creating their own art projects.

“This is a key element of impactful place-based community engagement: challenging traditional and current disparities of power and privilege via more equitable, mutual and generative strategies.”

Rather than centering the partnership on any one product or outcome, KSMoCA’s success is attributed, in large part, to the relationship between and mutual commitment of the Dr. MLK, Jr. School community and PSU. Professors Fletcher and Jarrett, along with KSMoCA’s Program Director and current MFA student, Laura Glazer, use an iterative process to frequently query and return back to the interests and needs of Dr. MLK, Jr. students, their teachers and their families in program-planning efforts. This is a key element of impactful place-based community engagement: challenging traditional and current disparities of power and privilege via more equitable, mutual and generative strategies. Based on community input, KSMoCA organizers develop themes, program ideas, and student engagement plans as mechanisms of progress towards shared interests and goals. While specific projects and funders may vary, it is this common bond–authentic relationships between neighbors–that sustains the community-based learning efforts at KSMoCA.

Activate Your Teaching

To engage with current community partners:


    • Start course-based, annual or other planning efforts by querying and centering the interests and energies of area residents, activists and partner organization staff
    • Explore new ways of connecting PSU’s assets with community partner interests and vice versa (e.g. providing HRAC report data to support a grant they are writing or sharing a previous webinar recording aligned with community partner professional development interests)
    • Consider if one or more of PSU’s current community partner organizations seems to align with your goals. Your course/initiative might be an opportunity to expand or deepen the PSU-community partnership (e.g. Latino Network’s partnerships with University Studies’ capstone program as well as GDI’s Latine Futures initiative)

To foster new community partner relationships:


    • Check in with with OAI staff Harold McNaron about potential or current partnerships that might be a good fit
    • Review PSU’s current community partners via University Relations’ Community Impact Team
    • View the Community Engagement Toolkit from PSU's Student Community Engagement Center about strategies for successful community engagement strategies.
    • Explore off-campus groups and individuals using the on-campus resources above whose work aligns well with departmental and course-based learning outcomes and themes (e.g. governmental water safety teams or entrepreneur support networks)
    • Take time to understand key elements of the community-based context of any potential partnership (e.g. history of their organization; current goals and areas of focus; current funders, collaborators) and to share key contextual elements with your new partner, especially if they are not accustomed to partnering with colleges or universities (e.g. academic calendars; PSU student demographics; potential for sustained partnership, funding)
    • Reach out to OAI staff Harold McNaron to assist with designing meeting agendas, partner agreements and other resources to help your new partnership set a firm foundation

Using Non-Supported Applications for Teaching

As stewards of PSU’s digital learning environment, the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) is always exploring new teaching and learning platforms, applications, and resources. We take a risk-minimization approach to accessibility, with the goal of full inclusivity.

How does an application become adopted campus-wide?

Before any software is adopted campus-wide, it must be rigorously tested for both security and accessibility. If approved, it may be piloted among a small cohort of faculty, and the results of that user testing are reviewed. At that point, if budget approval is granted, OAI staff are trained to support faculty use, while the Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff are trained to support student use.

In some cases, a school or program at PSU may review and license an application for specific faculty. For example, interactive materials from McGraw-Hill Connect are often used by instructors in the School of Business. If you know the application you need is used by others in your program, begin by checking with your department administrator. Make sure to ask if there’s a dedicated staff member trained to support faculty use.

Note: Please submit your request at least one term before you would like to use the software to allow enough time for the review process.

Independent application adoption

PSU maintains a suite of tools that are centrally supported and approved. You may choose to use any software that you feel would help your learning community, but if you choose to use an application that has not been adopted by PSU, here are some things to keep in mind:

Student Support

It will be up to you to test and support the tool for use in your course. OAI and OIT staff have not been trained in the use of these applications, nor do they have administrative access to these tools for troubleshooting. Take some time to explore the support materials available on the application website. Make sure to search for “support” or “help” and review those resources carefully. This material will be significantly different from the marketing content on a product’s website.

When possible, test the application by creating prototype student resources or activities. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll also be responsible for helping your students use the application. Be sure to check for any student-facing support materials available from the vendor so you can provide them.

In keeping with the University’s mission to provide equitable learning opportunities to all students, you may also take into consideration whether the tool is accessible for all students and that it is being used in a FERPA-compliant way (see FERPA Student Records Privacy Tutorial).

Student Experience

Look for possible areas of student confusion. If you can’t access a student view of the application, contact the company’s support team for more information. Another important step is to explore any user forums available. See what kinds of problems users have, and whether they receive the help and information they need.

If the learning and support resources for either instructors or students seem inadequate, you should be cautious with adoption. It can be stressful to troubleshoot issues during the term, particularly if you’ll be using the application for graded activities.

If you feel confident about adopting the application, we suggest using it for low-stakes activities at first. Let your students know you’re doing a “trial run,” and be sure to share instructions and support resources with them. It’s particularly important to make sure they know not to request help on this application from the OIT support desk.

Teaching Strategies for Digital Class Meetings

Digital class meetings are sessions that some or all students attend via Zoom or another virtual meeting platform. Such meetings may be recorded for students to also use asynchronously. Digital class meetings are most often associated with these delivery methods:

  • Online – Scheduled Meetings: Online courses with required meeting times
  • Hybrid: Fewer in-person class sessions with more online, remote, or self-directed activities

Learn more about PSU course delivery methods, including examples and guidelines, in the Faculty Guide to Course Delivery Methods.

Set Expectations

You and your students may have varied experience with digital class meetings. It can help to gauge student expectations and circumstances at the start of the term and to communicate your expectations clearly.

Try a Pre-Course Survey

A pre-course survey is a great way to get to know your students and understand where they are in their learning. When your course includes digital class meetings, it can help to include questions about students’ technology setups and their expectations for participating. For example, you might ask how students anticipate they’ll usually attend class (in-person or via Zoom). If they’ll attend via Zoom, it’s a good idea to ask about their Zoom and technology setup. Will they join:

  • From a smartphone, tablet, or laptop/desktop computer?
  • At work, on campus, or at home?
  • In a private space or from a shared space?
  • With a camera and reliable internet?

All these factors can influence access to digital class meetings.

You can use what you learn from the survey to set your expectations and plan your digital class meetings. For example, if many of your students will join from a smartphone, asking them to pull up Google Docs, Canvas, or specialized software may prove challenging.

Communicate Your Expectations

As you plan your course, take some time to reflect on your expectations for student participation in digital class meetings.

For all delivery methods:

  • How will you assess engagement in person? On Zoom? When students use recordings?
  • How will you handle questions in the chat?
  • How will you handle technological issues that emerge?
  • Are there bare minimum requirements for participating (e.g. a way to take notes, access to the textbook or handouts)?
  • Will you require attendance?
  • Will you require or expect students to keep their cameras on? If so, how will you handle accessibility, equity, and privacy issues?

For “Attend Anywhere”:

  • Do you expect students to attend in-person and use Zoom only for emergencies?
  • Will you record every session and make it available to all students? Only when requested? Only in some circumstances? PSU student feedback indicates that the availability of class recordings is one of the best features of Attend Anywhere classes.
  • Will you always attend in-person? What is your backup plan if you or a family member gets sick?
  • Will remote students interact with in-person students? For example, during small group activities or class presentations?

For “Online – Scheduled Meetings” and “Hybrid”:

  • If students miss scheduled synchronous activities (whether digital or in-person), how can they make up the work?
  • What will students need handy during scheduled meetings?
  • How do you expect the class to stay in touch and on track between meetings?

Once you have a sense of your expectations, how can you communicate them to your students or even collaborate with students to define participation norms collectively? At a minimum, consider sharing expectations in your syllabus and in early class communications.

Beyond Lecture: Active Learning in Digital Class Meetings

Student feedback indicates that when synchronous class time is heavily lecture-oriented, students are less likely to attend class in-person (Attend Anywhere) or even remotely (Online – Scheduled Meetings or Hybrid). As you plan teaching strategies, remember to factor in what you know about your particular group of students and any technological or logistical constraints.

Among the many teaching strategies to consider, this handful may be particularly well suited to the constraints and capacities of digital class meetings:

  • Include self-paced activities online before class to help build a cohesive and well-balanced blended-learning environment.
  • Use short, ungraded knowledge checks to assess learning during sessions.
  • Give students opportunities for peer-to-peer learning using think-pair-share, jigsaw, and other small group activities.
  • Allow students to choose how to give presentations: via Zoom, in-person, or recorded and shared.
  • Punctuate lectures or course discussions with polls, problem sets, example generation, and/or other applied practice. Use Google Docs and forms to give students space to contribute answers and ideas regardless of how they attend.

Check out Flexible Teaching Strategies for more.

Make and Follow a Plan for Each Class

Deliberately plan each class, accounting for the technological complexity of digital class meetings. Plan your first class session especially carefully; it sets the tone for the rest of the term. As you plan, find ways to intentionally bridge the gap between modalities and create a supportive learning environment.

Here are some example plans with teaching strategies to engage students across modalities — and with planning down to the minute.

Along with creating a detailed lesson plan for yourself, consider sharing a brief agenda with students at the start of each class meeting. This can help you set the tone for the day and communicate any particular needs or high priority items.

Here are some example class agendas.

Include All Students in Your Class Plans

Across modalities, it may be easier to connect with some students than others. In Attend Anywhere courses, for example, your instinct might be to pay more attention to the students in the room than those who join via Zoom or use the recording later. However, it’s crucial to engage with all students regardless of how they attend. Here are a few suggested practices to help connect across modalities:

  • Welcome everyone to each class, specifically speaking to in-person students, remote students, and students using the recordings.
  • Learn your students’ names, how to pronounce them, and which pronouns they use. Greet and refer to students by their names. (Get tips on learning students names, even in large classes.)
  • Find ways to show the contributions of remote and asynchronous students live and in class. For example, share the collaborative documents remote students are working on, or screen share the discussion posts asynchronous students have contributed.
  • Use Canvas as a “home base” for the course. This centralizes communications and provides a consistent space for students to interact across modalities when possible.
  • Take proactive steps to foster community and connection in your course.
  • Maintain your digital presence through timely feedback, virtual office hours, regular announcements, and other means.


Ideally, complete a practice run before your course starts in the classroom or space you’ll teach in.

  • Try out your classroom equipment, run through your day-one plan, make a practice recording, and test anything you’re worried about.
  • Ask a colleague or TA to join as a practice remote student.
  • Practice including all groups of students (in-person live, virtual live, and/or asynchronous).
  • Practice pulling up the various content you want to display and sharing it in the room and on Zoom.
  • Practice switching between items you’re sharing.
  • Practice basic touch-screen functions such as managing participants, turning the waiting room on and off, and starting/stopping the camera and microphone.
  • Use your practice recording to note any potential problems.

"Attend Anywhere" and Zoom Capabilities

Zoom capabilities in general pool classrooms might be different from what you’ve experienced elsewhere. Consider these key distinctions.

Instructor Controls and Sharing

These assume the instructor joined the meeting via the classroom’s Logitech touch panel.

You Can...

  • Start and stop recording.
  • Share screen from classroom computer display, doc cam or HDMI connection.
  • Mute/unmute Zoom participants.
  • Share computer audio to Zoom participants through screen sharing options.
  • Engage in limited chat with Zoom participants.

You Cannot...

  • Show chat screen and gallery view simultaneously.
  • Pause recording.
  • Launch Zoom polls.
  • Launch or manage breakout rooms.
  • Display remote participants in classroom.

In-Person Student View and Sound

These assume in-person students are not individually signed into the class Zoom session and are relying on the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • Remote participants are audible. (Volume is controlled by classroom speaker settings.)
  • The instructor’s shared materials are visible — by either computer display or doc cam. This may mirror what the instructor is screen-sharing to remote students via Zoom.

Not Available to Students

  • Remote participants’ video and thumbnails are not visible.
  • What students say in the classroom likely isn’t audible  over Zoom. (The default microphone is at the front of the room; audio pickup varies when the speaker is not close to the microphone.
  • Zoom chat is not visible.

Remote Student View and Sound

These assume remote students are individually signed into the class Zoom session and the instructor is using the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • The instructor is visible when at the front of the room, and audible when behind the default microphone.
  • A shared screen is visible, either from a computer feed or a doc cam, controlled by the classroom Logitech touch panel.
  • Zoom chat is available.

Not Available to Students

  • In-person students are not visible.
  • The in-class whiteboard is not reliably visible or legible.
  • In-class questions or conversations are not reliably audible.

To learn more about the technology for teaching an Attend Anywhere course, contact OIT’s Audio Visual Services and/or review OIT’s full technical documentation for Zoom rooms.

Getting More from Zoom in the Classroom

Before using these suggestions in class, try them privately to evaluate what you’re comfortable managing, along with which ones you feel will benefit you and your students the most.

Move the podium or the monitor/webcam to capture different camera views, if possible. This may be helpful for student presentations, or other times when you want to share a view of the full classroom with remote students.

Ask an in-class student to join the Zoom meeting and keep an eye on the chat. Make sure that student does not join audio. When questions or comments come up in chat, the in-person student should raise their hand and voice the chat contribution, crediting the contributor. Rotate this role each class session and let remote students know the plan. Let remote students know that direct messages to you may go unnoticed.

Join as the meeting host or co-host from your laptop or the podium computer. Don’t join audio (recommended), or keep your microphone and speakers muted to avoid audio feedback. As a host or co-host of the meeting from your laptop, you can:

  • Add live transcription to your meeting.
  • Pause and restart the video recording.
  • Initiate and manage breakout rooms.
  • Expand the chat window on your laptop view so you can more easily monitor and respond to chats.
  • Check audio or other Zoom functionality as a regular meeting participant.
  • Launch polls.

Join from your smartphone. Mute the phone microphone and speaker when using the podium mic, and vice versa, to avoid feedback. Adding the additional microphone connection allows you to:

  • Move around the classroom without dropping audio.
  • Use the second microphone to pick up student questions that can’t be heard clearly through the default microphone.

Canvas Student Support and Syllabus Statement

OAI supports only faculty, but here are some ways for students to get help with Canvas.

  • The Learning Center has self-paced learning resources for students new to Canvas. We recommend sending students there first — and encouraging them to take the Center’s remote readiness course during the term’s first week.
  • The OIT Helpdesk offers “just in time” technical support. This is good for students having trouble logging into Canvas, finding or accessing Canvas materials, and other technical issues.
  • The Help item (on the global navigation bar within Canvas) reveals links to OIT’s Canvas resources and to technology support through the myPSU portal.

Syllabus Statement

Consider adding this statement to your syllabus:

This course uses Canvas as the main learning platform. If you haven’t used Canvas before, I recommend you take the PSU Learning Center’s remote readiness course this week. If you’ve used Canvas and you just need occasional technical support, contact the OIT Helpdesk. If they can’t help you, please let me know.

Growing with Canvas

Growing with Canvas is a self-paced training course to introduce the main Canvas tools. You can self-enroll through the Canvas learning system.

The course is organized into modules with videos, text explanations, examples, and practice exercises. Consider working through the modules in order, because some topics build from others.

Introduction, which explains the course design.

  1. Planting, which covers Getting Around in Canvas and the main Communication Tools.
  2. Nurturing, which covers Customizing your Course and Course Design.
  3. Sprouting, which covers Pages, Discussions, Assignments, and Quizzes.
  4. Flowering, which covers Assignment Settings and Weights, and SpeedGrader and the Gradebook.
  5. Harvesting, which covers People and Groups, and Copying and Sharing Courses.
  6. Completed Growing with Canvas, which contains a recap and suggestions for next steps.

Each module takes one-and-a-half to two hours. Each includes a self-check quiz and activities to practice applying skills and concepts.

Student-Faculty Partnerships in Curricula

There is a growing movement to not only include but also involve students in curricula decisions. Students in higher education have challenged the notion that they are customers receiving a transactional education and instead call for higher levels of participation and agency in their learning (Matthews et al., 2017). Students collaborating with institutions, programs, and faculty to design curricula is a framework known as students as partners, or student-faculty partnerships. At Portland State University, student body President Nya Mbock has called for more student involvement with faculty in the curriculum (Swordfisk, 2021).

Positive outcomes of student-faculty partnership include increased student engagement, motivation, and ownership for learning, a positive shift of power dynamics between faculty and student (toward more equitable power), engagement and empowerment for students who are historically excluded, and increased student confidence and self-determination (Cook-Sather et al., 2014).

With any approach to curricula, the intention of including students can end up harming students. It’s important to set intentions, to be transparent, and to reflect on how power affects the partnership. Without these intentional pieces, partnership work may end up tokenizing students and essentializing the student experience (Cook-Sather et al., 2014; de Bie et al., 2021). As a result, and despite good intentions, partnerships can reinforce the inequitable learning environments that they seek to disrupt. For example, partnership work may focus on an increased sense of belonging for students, which may be problematic when the institution students are invited to feel connected with has a history of erasure and colonization for some student populations (de Bie et al., 2021).

Example Partnership Approaches

Here are three examples of partnership approaches you can include in your own practice:

  • Student-faculty course design. This happens before a course is taught and when you are designing the course. A student or group of students collaborate with the faculty member on the design of a course. This might include a redesigned syllabus or elements such as course outcomes, a course assignment, or an entire course.
  • Students create and choose. This includes students in a course you are teaching. This might include having students choose the weekly discussion topics or create and vote on quiz questions, embedding students’ social bookmarking annotations to shape course content, or having students collaborate to create course content (Cook-Sather et al., 2014).
  • Partnerships in assessment. Invite students to identify grading criteria for an assignment or final essay or invite students to co-assess their own final presentations. Another example is to bring a rubric with past student papers (used with permission) and have current students grade the papers based on that rubric. Have a discussion about the rubric and invite students to offer suggestions on adapting it for their course term.

Getting Started

Begin by reflecting on how you currently involve students in your curriculum.

Create a list of when students get to make decisions within your curriculum. (If this is currently “never,” consider starting with a negotiated syllabus.)

Acknowledge that this iterative process never really ends.

Examples in Practice

Provide a diversity of materials in formats that remain consistent from week to week. Students choose which materials to engage with to learn the concepts outlined for that week. The focus of the negotiated syllabus is to highlight student agency within their learning by creating opportunities for students to choose the way they want to learn a concept.

For example, provide lecture slides, supplementary texts, and external videos covering the information being taught each week. From this collection, students can choose which items are most useful to them and will have reliable access to their preferred materials for each new topic.

Reflect on the level at which students make decisions and identify opportunities to increase student involvement: Hold a discussion with students in class to determine course learning outcomes and discuss how predetermined assignments will help the class reach their goals.

Be prepared to make small changes to assignments based on the class discussion. This is expected, as every class will have different students. The discussion may also yield ideas for new or different assignments to help the class meet their co-created learning outcomes.

Alternatively, hold a discussion with students in class to create course assignments based on predetermined course outcomes and how these assignments will help the class reach their goals.

Integrate the student voice into your course by providing ample room for identity expression and application of the material to students’ own lived experiences — in ways such as including languages spoken beyond English and encouraging cultural and community practices. This engages more parts of the brain and allows for greater communication between them, along with deeper integration of the learned material into long-term memory (Johnson et al., 2006)

Develop a syllabus, in partnership with students, that reflects your collective values. Co-creating a syllabus is a chance for students to democratically participate in their own learning. It signals that a course is designed to share power and encourage not only student involvement but also engagement and agency.

The syllabus might include co-created community guidelines, flexible deadlines based on the class’s needs for that quarter, or opportunities for students to self-grade. You might also consider including a list of linked resources (where to find cost-considerate course materials, necessary technology, internet access), a land acknowledgement, and an acknowledgment of bias.


Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felton, P. (2014). Engaging Students As Partners in Learning and Teaching : A Guide for Faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

De Bie, K., Marquis, E., Cook-Sather, A., & Luqueño, L. P. (2021). Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnership. Stylus.

Johnson, S., & Taylor, K. (2006). The Neuroscience of Adult Learning: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Wiley.

Matthews, K. E., Groenendijk, L. J., & Chunduri, P. (2017). We Want to be More Involved: Student Perceptions of Students as Partners Across the Degree Program Curriculum. International Journal for Students As Partners, 1(2).

Swordfisk, K. (2021, September 27). In pursuit of student success: ASPSU president prioritizes student involvement, improving the post-COVID learning environment. PSU News.

Learn More Elsewhere

Equity and Inclusion Practices: An Overview

This guide introduces a few pedagogies you can adopt into your inclusive teaching practice. They can help facilitate connections and conversations leading to inclusive and equitable learning — but this is not an exhaustive list.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

Culturally sustaining pedagogy builds on the work of culturally relevant teaching and culturally responsive pedagogy. It affirms and sustains students’ connections to their culture, language, and community. It focuses on students as active contributors of unique lived experiences essential to learning. It also resists monolingualism and deficit student framing by promoting cultural equality (Paris, 2012).

In Practice

“I Notice, I Wonder” is a useful culturally sustaining practice in many teaching contexts. It’s an introductory brainstorming activity in which students from all backgrounds and abilities can participate.

Further Reading

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) attempts to minimize barriers and create equal opportunities for all students to express what they know. UDL creates multiple paths to learning and understanding that benefit all students, regardless of disability. This framework focuses on adding flexibility, choice, and relevance to three key areas of instruction: expression of knowledge, representation of information, and engagement.

In Practice

Further Reading

Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

Originating in neuroscience, trauma-informed pedagogy acknowledges and attempts to mitigate the trauma’s impact on learning. Trauma can come from sources including but not limited to adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs) such as physical or emotional abuse, institutional and systemic oppression, and COVID-19. While trauma affects each individual differently, it’s likely to impact cognitive functions such as memory, emotional regulation, stamina, and focus. Strategies within this framework include a focus on community, relationships, routine, and flexibility.

In Practice

Further Reading

Community-Based Learning Pedagogy

What is the role of a university in a community? How might curricula contribute to students’ civic identity? How does a course honor the life experience students bring to the classroom? Community-based learning (CBL) pedagogies attempt to address these and other foundational questions concerning the intentional interplay between movements for justice, academic knowledge, and the spaces we share.

In Practice

Further Reading

Contemplative Pedagogy

Contemplative pedagogy encourages deep learning through focused attention, reflection, and mindfulness practice. It engages students in an introspective, first-person way of knowing the world around them through an embodied educational experience, which allows students to see themselves in their courses. “Inviting the contemplative simply includes the natural human capacity for knowing through silence, looking inward, pondering deeply, beholding, witnessing the contents of our consciousness…. These approaches cultivate an inner technology of knowing….” (Hart, 2004, pp. 29–30).

Many common classroom practices — such as close reading, writing, and reflection — can draw from contemplative practices to help students focus deeply, retain new information, and integrate learning into meaningful situations.

In Practice

Further Reading

Student Voice

Student voice “aims to signal not only the literal sound of students’ words as they inform educational planning, research, and reform, but also the collective contribution of diverse students’ presence, participation and power in those processes” (Bovill et al., 2011, pp. 2–3). Notably, student voice work is shared decision-making between students and faculty that involves value, agency, and action for students and aims to be transformative for both students and faculty.

In Practice

Further Reading

Anti-Racist Pedagogy

Anti-racist pedagogy is a “paradigm located within critical theory utilized to explain and counteract the persistence and impact of racism using praxis as its focus to promote social justice for the creation of a democratic society in every respect” (Blakeney, 2005, p. 119). Further, anti-racist pedagogy reveals the structural inequalities within U.S. society while fostering students’ critical analysis skills as well as their critical self-reflection (Kishimoto, 2018). Per Kishimoto, incorporating anti-racist pedagogy at the classroom level begins with examining one’s own pedagogy and curriculum to implement change. This could involve understanding how inequitable education structures impact students differently, reevaluating assumptions we may make about students’ backgrounds, inviting a colleague to review syllabi or other course materials to identify where bias might impact curriculum and organization, meaningfully incorporating the work and voices of minoritized scholars, and incorporating high impact learning practices that create the foundations for collective exploration of historical, social, and cultural biases in the field of study.

In Practice

Further Reading


Blakeney, A. M. (2005). Antiracist pedagogy: Definition, theory, and professional development. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 2(1), 119–132.

Bovill, C., Cook‐Sather, A. & Felten, P. (2011). Students as co‐creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2), 133–145.

Hart, T. (2004). Opening the contemplative mind in the classroom. Journal of Transformative Education, 2(28), 28–46.

Kishimoto, K. (2018) Anti-racist pedagogy: from faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom. Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(4), 540–554.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.

Meet Canvas Commons

Commons is a learning object repository (LOR) that enables educators to find, import, and share learning resources in their Canvas courses. Commons gives you a way to collaborate with colleagues, share course design elements, explore new instructional ideas, and even iterate your own course design.

What's in Commons

You can find and share these course elements in Canvas Commons:

  • Modules
  • Assignments
  • Quizzes
  • Discussions
  • Pages
  • Documents
  • Multimedia resources

… and even full courses!

Everything shared with the PSU community appears on the main PSU Commons page — but you can also open your search to all public resources across institutions and Canvas sites. You can search for keywords such as author, institution, or title. You can sort by latest, most relevant, or highest-rated resources. To customize your search, use the filter to show only specific types of activities, content types, or grade levels. Each resource type in search results has a unique color and icon augmenting its text label.

In this screenshot of search results, colors and icons augment text labels to help distinguish resource types.

Examples of Commons Resources and Use Cases

Here are just a few examples of things you might find (or share) to improve your course:

Importing Commons Resources into Your Course

Once you find a Commons resource you like, you can import it into your course.

Most of what you find will be openly licensed, because most people upload to the Commons to share their work with others. However, it’s always a good idea to note the licensing information on the Resource Preview page.

In this screenshot of a resource’s Preview page, licensing information appears near its other statistics — date published, number of downloads, and number of times favorited.

If a resource is copyrighted, ask permission before using it in your own course. This can include images, text, or other content created not only by another person but also by you — if you have transferred copyright to a publisher.

Consider first importing resources into a sandbox course. Then you can review the content in detail, edit, and then move it into the course you will use with students.

Sharing Course Resources in Commons

You can share assignments, modules, quizzes, pages, discussions and entire courses to Commons.

When sharing a resource to Commons, you’ll need to:

  • Add details about the resource.
  • Choose a sharing option.
  • Select a content license.

The license you choose identifies how and to what extent others can reuse your original course content. A Creative Commons license allows you to share your content on your own terms. The benefit is that other instructors can use, build on, and improve your content. This creative collaboration can add value to your curriculum.

Note: The license you select for your resource in Commons is not tied to the license you set within Canvas course settings. Your course can be private in Canvas course settings, but public domain in Commons.

You’ll also need to choose how widely to share the resource:

  • Publicly — to share your expertise and course materials with anyone who searches Commons.
  • Within the PSU community — to create consistent design and student experience across courses or your department.
  • Privately — so you can have your own collection of learning objects to use and re-use anytime you design a course.

You may also belong to a group or consortium that shares resources with select people. For more information about sharing to custom Commons groups, contact OAI Support.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM

What are diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how are they related to higher education?

You have probably encountered these terms a lot over the past few years. Although they are popular, their application varies depending on the situation. Overall, the primary goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion work are to:

  • Promote the value of a wide variety of identities, abilities, value systems, and life experiences.
  • Recognize that these experiences have not been valued equally and make changes to promote justice and healing.
  • Create long-term, sustainable changes that allow everyone to fully access opportunities for success.

By being mindful of common hurdles such as textbook cost, different styles of learning, and diverse life experiences, you can find out what students need for success in class. This article offers some resources to promote a collaborative, equitable learning environment where students and instructors alike are fully engaged and feel successful.

Diversity and Inclusion in STEM Programs

Researchers have tried to understand why some students are more successful in STEM classes than others. Some evidence suggests ZIP codes play an important role. Knowledgeable teachers and healthy physical environments for development tend to link together in resource-rich areas. Some of these areas are rural and some more urban. The most common factors are the quality of available education and social determinants of health (Tate, 2008).

These resource-rich areas have benefitted from STEM leaders and innovators, so the emphasis on strong STEM education makes sense. However, this also means early STEM success has more to do with a student’s environment than personal interest or ability. Disparities that begin in K-12 education inform the opportunities available to students in higher education, both in college access and student engagement in classes. And as some ZIP codes progress while others stagnate, students with similar life experiences will continue to reinforce assumptions about who is “good” at STEM and who is not (Tate, 2008).

Socio-economic factors — such as physical environment, family system environment, family income and occupation, and teacher experience at the K-12 level — impact not only who has access to higher education, but also the future of STEM fields (Phillips, 2019). “…[W]e note that STEM is the only field where Black and Latina/o youth are significantly more likely than their White peers to switch and earn a degree in another field…. In summary, we find evidence of white privilege in STEM degree attainment that is not mirrored in other major fields. (Riegle-Crumb et al., 2019).” Similarly, women who graduate from STEM programs are less likely to continue into STEM careers than men. Trans and genderqueer students are heavily under-represented. This means an even more homogenous group than the STEM student body is designing future technology and changing the world for everyone else.

An important approach to innovative STEM classrooms is to include and support students from varied backgrounds and lived experiences. Inclusive classrooms help everyone stay engaged and passionate, pursuing their interests in the field.

Anti-racist and inclusive practices, in the classroom and in STEM teaching, can be grounded both in pedagogy and in the instructor’s personal experience. Here are some reflective practices along with some resources available at PSU.

Incorporating Inclusive and Anti-Racist Practices into a STEM Course

Anti-Racist Reflection, Research, and Action as an Act of Self and Community Care

“Teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students (hooks, 1994, p. 15).”

Teachers can only go as far in the classroom as they have in their own growth and cultivation of well-being. Creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive classrooms is not one-size-fits-all. Arguably, it’s most effective when instructors have grounded their approach in critical reflection and continued learning. bell hooks describes emphasizing the community of the classroom and instructors leading with vulnerability to create an environment where students are empowered, curious, and engaged in learning.

The more instructors pay attention to their own well-being, the more vulnerability is possible in the classroom. Here are resources for fostering an inclusive, responsive classroom environment that invites instructors to care for themselves and learn about anti-racism practices.

Personal Reflection

Our identities and life experiences inform the way we teach and learn; it can be easy to accidentally alienate students who have different life experiences. Approaching students when maintaining a growth mindset and reflective teaching practice can help instructors engage in the classroom as learners themselves.

Researching Anti-Racist Practices


Inconsistencies in Inclusion Practices

You might find diversity, equity, and inclusion discussed in ways that conflict with each other. This can be frustrating when you want to engage in this work effectively but without causing harm. When looking at DEI efforts abstractly — without the context of your own students in mind — choosing techniques may seem impossible. It can help to ask, “What does my learning community need to fully engage?”

You might reflect on some of these questions as you think about how to best support your learning community:

  • What are the traditional research or learning methods in your field? Do these methods create barriers based on race, gender, class, age, or ability?
  • What are some guidelines for class engagement meaningful to you as an instructor? How can you create space for others with different values to express themselves?
  • Are there elements of your job that limit or broaden your ability to create an inclusive classroom?

Engaged Pedagogy in the Classroom

Resources and Tips for Building an Inclusive Course

Campus resource centers provide sample syllabus language and additional resources:

Adding Diversity to Your Syllabus

Reach out to STEM subject librarians for assistance finding resources from diverse authors and sources to supplement your syllabus.

Some external lists to consider:

Additional Resources for Structuring Courses and Incorporating Student Feedback

Surveys can be useful for gauging student interests, needs, and familiarity with the course material both before and throughout the term.

Consider scheduling mid-quarter student feedback (a teaching consultation) through OAI, to collect qualitative student feedback anonymously.

Universal Design for Learning emphasizes creating more opportunities for students to learn course material by offering multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement.

Consider assignments that can both help you get more inclusive material and engage student interests. Some ideas:

  • Ask students to find information about scientists of color or how the field has impacted groups who have been under-invested in.
  • Ask students to write their own quiz or learning goals and discuss as a class how you can support each other to meet the objectives.
  • Ask students to update the curriculum, or build their own curriculum based on what they learned in the course and their lived experiences. (Consider a negotiated syllabus.)

Beyond the Classroom: Structural Changes

You might feel limited by what you can do in the classroom, knowing the structural inequalities that contribute to a lack of diversity. Here are some ideas for thinking about equity, diversity, and inclusion outside of a class environment.

Promote National and Local Community Initiatives

Movements making historically and systemically marginalized STEM professionals more visible are growing. Promoting these initiatives can be a great way to support marginalized students and expand everyone’s thinking.

Build a Network of Support with Students and Faculty

Students are often looking to instructors for guidance on how to create change. You may get questions about diversity already. Collaboration can be powerful and can help identify what is needed to prevent exclusion based on gender, race, class, ability, and other identities. Here are some suggestions for supporting this collaboration:

  • Complete OAI’s Certificate of Innovation in College Teaching. This program helps current and future instructors think about accessibility, develop their own teaching pedagogy, and build a support network with other educators.
  • Check out other professional development opportunities offered at OAI.
  • Build a network of former students who want to speak to your class and mentor students in the course.
  • If you have access to a Teaching Assistant (TA), promote hiring TAs who have different experiences than instructors, and work with your TA to build the syllabus.
  • Meet with other instructors in your department to share resources and discuss opportunities to make the program more equitable and inclusive.


hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge.

Phillips, A. (2019). The Quest for Diversity in Higher Education. Pepperdine Policy Review, 11, Article 4.

Riegle-Crumb, C, King, B., & Irizarry, Y. (2019). Does STEM Stand Out? Examining Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Across Postsecondary Fields. Educational Researcher, 48(3), 133–144.

Tate, W. F. (2008). “Geography of Opportunity”: Poverty, Place, and Educational Outcomes. Educational Researcher, 37(7), 397–411.

Getting Started with Canvas Basics

Course Access

To access your PSU Canvas account, go to You will be prompted to authenticate with your PSU Odin name and password. This will take you to the main Canvas Dashboard where all courses to which you have access are listed.

Home Page

When students log in to your Canvas course for the first time, they need something friendly and welcoming that orients them and directly communicates what to do. Make sure your Course Home Page is ready.


Canvas has several ways to communicate with your students. Learn how you can stay connected.


Canvas has a number of tools to help you share course materials with your students. Using Modules to organize this content can simplify navigation for both you and your students.


Discussions are threaded conversations on a single topic. They are asynchronous, which means participants do not have to be online at the same time. You can use this flexible tool for communication and assessment.


Canvas Assignments is an assessment tool. Anything a student submits for grading and feedback is an “assignment.” Learn about the ways you can use the Assignments page.

Student Interactions

In  online learning, you’ll often need to structure peer collaborations into the course and encourage them  through course structure, proactive communication, and feedback.


As with assessments in a face-to-face classroom, Quizzes in Canvas help you gauge student understanding of course content.


The Gradebook stores all information about student progress in the course, measuring both letter grades and course outcomes.

Course Management

Canvas has lots of features and tools for teaching a course. But you also need these “under the hood” functions for managing your course site.