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Growth Mindset Activity for STEM

Previous research has shown that socio-psychological interventions are effective at mitigating some of the negative factors, such as stereotype threat, that result in racial, gender, and first generation achievement gaps in STEM classrooms. Growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed through strategic efforts and hard work and are not simply innate or fixed. Growth mindset is especially important for members of social groups that are negatively stereotyped by harmful and inaccurate messages about the innate intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. This activity has STEM students write or discuss the science behind intelligence and its development to instill a growth mindset in students.

Group Process Activity

This page provides a collection of vetted activities that will assist instructors and students in developing group cohesion, thoughtful engagement, and reflective responses to challenging material. The activities are divided into four types: Icebreakers, Group Maintenance, Dialogue Starters, and Reflection. The activities are designed to help instructors and students build an inclusive classroom.

Dominant Narratives

This page provides a discussion-based lesson plan on dominant narratives. A dominant narrative is an explanation or story that is told in service of the dominant social group’s interest and ideologies. Dominant narratives usually achieve dominance through repetition, the apparent authority of the speaker, and the silencing of alternative accounts. In this activity, instructors ask students to analyze distant or contemporary dominant narratives as a class. Once students understand what a dominant narrative is and how it functions, they share additional examples of dominant narratives. This discussion guide helps students recognize dominant narratives, how they are perpetuated, and how and whom they benefit/harm.

Perfectly Logical Explanations

This discussion guide shows instructors how to engage with dominant narratives and “perfectly logical explanations” (PLEs). Dominant narratives are well-known and widely accepted explanations or narratives that are typically in service of the interests and ideologies of dominant social groups. Those who use dominant narratives employ PLEs to provide context and justify their perspective in order to avoid being judged. The guide below is focused on a discussion about video games, but it is designed to exemplify the types of questions that could be raised to critically interrogate any dominant narrative. This activity helps students recognize the weight and power of dominant narratives and teaches students how to rigorously interrogate dominant narratives.

School You, Inc.

This activity asks students to create an imaginary school designed to maintain oppressive norms. Students will consider what institutional oppression looks like and how it is perpetuated in subtle ways. A debriefing discussion will take place after the activity, encouraging students to compare their imaginary school to their own institution. Students will also brainstorm ways in which they can resist and challenge the oppressive norms they’ve identified.

Name Story

In this activity, students share the name they will go by in class and any history or story the name has for them. They might share the meaning of their name, who they were named for, why their parents gave them that name, or why they chose that name for themselves. Instructors should give students time to write down their thoughts alone, and then students will share their name story with the class. This activity helps students learn each other’s names and recognize the diverse group of students that make up their learning environment.

Icebreaker Grab Bag

This page provides a collection of icebreakers, which are quick, low-stakes activities that encourage students to become more familiar with their peers. Frequent use of icebreakers on a daily or weekly basis can assist in building community among students. Additionally, having all students participate at the beginning of each class can positively impact overall participation in classroom discussion. Some icebreakers include Blanket Barrier, Sun & Moon, and Zip Zap Zoom.

Web of Connectedness

In this activity, the class sits in a circle while the facilitator poses a discussion question. A ball of yarn, twine, or string is passed to each person who speaks. After a participant speaks, they hold on to part of the string and pass the ball to the next speaker. By the end of the discussion, the string will form a web between the students. This can be used as an icebreaker activity with a low-stakes question like “what is your favorite hobby?” or to track the discussion of more course-centric topics. The web in this activity represents the students’ collective understanding of the topic that is derived through the sharing of everyone’s perspectives.

The Five Minute Poem

In this activity, students spend five minutes writing a brief four-stanza poem about where they are from. Poems can then be shared in a large group, in pairs or small groups, or posted to a class website. This activity can serve as a starting ground for students to reflect on how where they come from impacts their learning experience in the classroom.

Personal Identity Wheel

The Personal Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to reflect on how they identify outside of social identifiers, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. The worksheet asks students to list adjectives they would use to describe themselves, skills they have, favorite books, hobbies, etc. Unlike the Social Identity Wheel, the Personal Identity Wheel does not emphasize perception or context. The Personal Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Personal Identity Wheel and the Social Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.