Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Class Spotlight: Multicultural Education

With the close of the fall semester about a month away and registration for new classes around the corner, I began to wonder about the variety of classes that I've taken at UVa. Coming in, I thought I would be sitting in a lecture hall, listening to the professor ramble while the students sat absorbing the information and taking notes. While I have taken some classes that have fit this perception, I have taken a surprising number of classes that have been quite different.

For example, take my EDLF 5000: Multicultural Education class taught by Professor Bob Covert. Even though I'm in the College of Arts and Sciences, I was able to sign up for this class which is taught under the Curry School of Education. This is common among UVa's undergraduate schools--there are many classes open to just about any major. I walked in the first day and immediately was given my first assignment: sit next to someone that you haven't met who looks different than you and start a conversation. Little did I know that this would be the same assignment each week! Another one of our semester long assignments is to try and remember everyone's name! There is no textbook for the class because multiculturalism is not found in a book: it is found in the people and culture that we interact with everyday. The class is very much discussion driven even though there are about 75 students in the class. The professor doesn't give presentations while students take notes: the professor challenges us to think critically by asking the questions and then students stand up to give the answers. After a lecture of about an hour, we break into smaller discussion groups which are facilitated by undergrad's who took the class the previous semester. In small group, we delve further into what we explored during lecture and recount personal stories to see how the topics apply to our lives. It doesn't hurt that we bring snacks as well. Topics that we have covered in the class include racism, sexism, ableism, sexuality, education, prejudice, and culture. And yes...we do actually do work, writing reflection papers once a week about what we took away from class and writing papers on how our own experiences have shaped who we are today. In my opinion, the most meaningful assignment is a mandatory requirement to do at least 12 hours of community service, preferably with children. The point is to take what we have learned in class and see how it plays out in the community.

This class will surely be one that I will remember many years down the road. Classes like this are one reason why I'm loving my experience at UVa.

Picture by Steve Norum (CLAS 11')

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