Equity of Voice, Empowering Students to Ask Questions

CTL Faculty Stories: Eileen Cashman

Dr. Eileen Cashman, Environmental Resources Engineering
One slight change in the way an instructor interacts with students can dramatically change student thinking, learning, and engagement for the better. Teaching presence can span the gap between student transformation and the often hidden or unrecognized personal transformation that we undergo as instructors.

There is a sense in which the quality of our questions reflects the quality of our thinking. One could argue that the questioning mind is an active mind, an engaged mind, a critical mind. Dr. Eileen Cashman recognized the intimate relationship between questioning and intellectual engagement. She hypothesized that if she maximizes opportunities for more students to ask questions, then more students would be explicitly engaged in the material and grades would improve. Her hypothesis has proved correct. Students of color, who’s grades had been lower on average than their non-URG peers, began to exhibit more regularly the type of thinking that she expects of a high quality engineering students. An additional pleasant consequence was a positive shift in the classroom culture.

Dr. Cashman took an informed approach to her teaching that has mounted a new pedagogical focus that she calls the “equity of voice.” It has become a new mission; a passion that acts as a lens by which she investigates her work, herself, and her students. She values the questioning mind, and figured out how to cultivate it in her daily classroom.

Another example of the excellence that characterizes educators at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Video transcript