International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Warren, S. (Organizer), David Pace (Participant), Jolanta Mickute (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganisation and participation in conference


Decoding Diversity: Overcoming Bottlenecks to Embracing Difference Across the Disciplines Workshop No challenge in education is more pressing than helping students learn to gain the cognitive tools they will need to deal effectively with those who differ from them in culture, ethnicity, race, class, gender, and class. In this workshop, we will explore how the Decoding the Disciplines model can be used in numerous disciplines to provide students with the cognitive and emotional skills needed to bridge these forms of cultural difference. To help participants who are unfamiliar with Decoding, the session will begin with a brief introduction to the ways in which the Decoding process has been used in the past to identify bottlenecks to learning and help students get past these obstacles through iterations of modeling disciplinary practice, practicing these skills, and formative feedback. The session will explore how Decoding is being expanded to include emotional bottlenecks, such as the reluctance of students to seek to understand the perspectives of people who are different from themselves. And it will consider some conceptual and methodological challenges faced by the Decoding process when applied to inter- and cross-disciplinary issues, such as diversity and intercultural understanding: How do we define diversity bottlenecks? What kind of mental operations are appropriate? How do we model and practice these? How do we assess them? Then the presenters will describe two efforts to use this approach to increase students’ ability to deal with diversity. In the first case, a historian will show how the identification of crucial mental operations required to understand different cultural perspectives led to the creation of a course that modeled these processes, gave students a chance to practice them through Just-in-Time-Teaching exercises, and assessed the results. A second presentation, done by two collaborating scholars, will share how the Decoding paradigm was systematically employed in four European higher-education institutions to increase understanding of diversity in relation to curriculum content, student and faculty diversity, and institution/community partner relationships (see Note 2). The final third of the workshop will be devoted to brainstorming in small groups about how the Decoding process can be applied to issues of diversity in a variety of situations. References 1. Middendorf, J., Mickutė, J., Saunders, T., Najar, J., Clark-Huckstep, A. E., Pace, D., & with Keith Eberly and Nicole McGrath. (2015). What’s feeling got to do with it? Decoding emotional bottlenecks in the history classroom. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 14(2), 166-180. 2. ERASMUS+ project “Decoding the Disciplines in European Institutions of Higher Education: Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Approach to Teaching and Learning,” involving a partnership of four European higher-education institutions: 3. MacDonald, R. (2017). 5 Deciphering teachers’ paths to their disciplinary professional explicit and available to their students. Using the Decoding The Disciplines Framework for Learning Across the Disciplines: New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 150, (150), 63. 4. Middendorf, J., & Shopkow, L. (2017). Overcoming student learning bottlenecks: Decode the critical thinking of your discipline. Stylus Publishing, LLC. 5. Pace, D. (2017) The Decoding the Disciplines Paradigm. Indiana University Press 6. Díaz, A., Middendorf, J., Pace, D., & Leah Shopkow (2008). The history learning project: A department "decodes" its students. Journal of American History 94(4). 7. Shopkow, L., Diaz, A., Middendorf, J., & Pace, D. (2013). The History Learning Project “Decodes” a Discipline: The Marriage of Research and Teaching. In Kathleen McKinney (ed.) SoTL in and Across the Disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 8. Bauer, A., & Haynie, A. (2017). How Do You Foster Deeper Disciplinary Learning with the “Flipped” Classroom?. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2017(151), 31-44. 9. Tamsin Haggis (2007) Pedagogies for diversity: retaining critical challenge amidst fears of ‘dumbing down’, Studies in Higher Education, 31:5, 521-535, DOI: 10.1080/03075070600922709 10. McCoy, D. L., & Rodricks, D. J. (2015). Critical race theory in higher education: 20 years of theoretical and research innovations. ASHE higher education report, 41(3), 1-117. An Outline of the Session This workshop will be devoted to an exploration of how the Decoding the Disciplines paradigm can be used to increase the ability of individuals and institutions to deal productively with diversity. • Brief overview of the Decoding the Disciplines model, with special emphasis on its use to help students overcome emotional bottlenecks to learning and the complexities of putting it to other uses • An example from a history course in which some of the cognitive processes necessary for successfully dealing with cultural difference were identified and modeled for students. Participants will see examples of the modeling process and of the Just-in-Time Teaching strategies used to give students practice and the instructor feedback and will view short video-taped interviews with students in the course. • Participants will gather in groups to brainstorm the kinds of mental operations that are required for a successful encounter with cultural or ethnic difference. • A presentation of the ERASMUS+ project which used Decoding to facilitate diversity in terms of curriculum, students and faculty attitudes, and community relationships in four European countries. Illustrative examples will be provided, including supporting the access of economically disadvantaged students (often migrants) to learning; structuring students’ analytical reading to think ethnographically through the lens of critical theories of risk, environment, and intersectional difference, including gender, colonialism, and race; etc. We discuss these in terms of translating a methodology designed to enhance disciplinary thinking to the inter- and cross-disciplinary issues of diversity in higher education. We look at how pedagogic strategies, such as using virtual learning environments and reading rubrics, can be used within the Decoding approach to support inclusion and critical thinking related to diversity. • Participants will work in groups to explore how Decoding can be used in their own institutions to support relations between diverse groups.
Period26 Oct 2018
Event typeConference
LocationBergen, Norway


  • Diversity
  • Higher Education Teaching and Learning
  • Decoding the Disciplines