Faculty Newsletter


ACTL – Augustana Center for Teaching and Learning (formerly CSTL, Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning)


Faculty Narrative – Aimee Miller, Department of Speech Communication

In light of the faculty retreat and discussions of both culture and reflection, I would like to share an assignment I believe works well to push students to reflect on issues of culture, diversity, and communication. I require students in most of my communication courses – interpersonal communication, gender communication, small group communication, business communication) – to examine a prominent stereotype they hold of others. Although students often find this assignment difficult because it requires them to call to mind something about themselves they may find uncomfortable and even embarrassing to admit, let alone discuss in an essay, students often remark that they learned from it because it pushes them out of their comfort zones and requires they look deep into how their experiences affect their communication with others.

I frame this as a writing assignment, followed by a small group discussion on the origins and harms of stereotypes that lead to prejudice. Specifically, I first tell students that all people use stereotypes to categorize others in hopes to gain understanding of them. All of us have stereotypes, some to more of an extreme than others. Then I ask students to 1) select a stereotype they hold of another group of people, 2) why they think they developed this stereotype (as in depth as possible on the personal historical background of its development in their lives), 3) how interactions with others have “caused” them to create this stereotype, and 4) if any interactions have made them rethink (either make more extreme or change) this stereotype and how these interactions unfolded and impacted them. Finally, I ask students to 5) reflect on how this stereotype has ever influenced a) their decisions to communicate with others from this group, b) their reactions to the group’s members, and c) their specific communication (both verbal and nonverbal) with people in this group. These essays spark discussion on how we develop stereotypes and most often students realize that they have learned most stereotypes from their parents, peers, media, etc. and not from direct contact with the groups against which they are prejudiced.



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