Teaching like every month is Pride Month

A photo of Professor Maurice Stevens. LGBTQ+ students benefit from increased classroom support year-round. Professor Maurice Stevens from  the Department of Comparative Studies shares their strategies for creating LGBTQ+ inclusive learning spaces with the Drake Institute. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Describe your teaching approach.

I come to this topic from the perspective of Transformative Access Pedagogy. For me, this means at least 1) centering student experience and knowledge base (both in terms of previous experience and what they encounter in your course and on campus); 2) interrogating assumptions I make as a professor about student-learners in the class and about learning itself; and 3) designing experiences in relation to the class that invite critical reflection and transformation in ways that meet all student-learners where they are.

What’s the first step you recommend for instructors who want to better support their LGBTQ+ students?

First, I would recommend reflecting on your assumptions about the student populations you seek to support and about what it means to teach and learn in a classroom. Where did you get these ideas? In what ways were they communicated to you through transparent information sharing, and in what ways did you learn them through tacit socialization? When you reflect on your own process of learning about LGBTQ+ student-learner experience (both within and outside educational contexts), what do you notice about your development over time and at different stages of your life? How might you respond to the fact that students arrive in your class with levels of experience, exposure and understanding that vary greatly from one student to the next (especially as it relates to LGBTQ+ student-learners)?

Second, reflect on how your course design reflects your assumptions and beliefs, and make intentional decisions about course design (assignments, experiences, materials, etc.) that support your interest in better supporting LGBTQ+ student-learners.

What behavior do you model to your students? 

There are several ways I attempt to model behavior to students to challenge trans-, bi-, and homophobia. The first is taking an unapologetic stand for safety and mutual care in the classroom, and consistently and rigorously reinforcing and reiterating that stand through words and actions.

Another is by openly calling attention to my own actions when I do something that might directly or indirectly enact or support trans-, bi- or homophobia. More than calling attention, though, I think it is crucial for me to notice the potential injury, apologize for doing harm, and seek to repair that harm.

Similarly, I model support by calling attention to potential injury, inviting apology, and encouraging the seeking of repair if that is requested by someone who experiences harm.

How else do you support your students? 

In daily check-ins I consistently invite students to share their names and pronouns, if they would like. I model that by sharing that I use they/them pronouns and letting people know that if they make a mistake by misgendering me, that I can take responsibility for my response, (Do I correct or not? Do I ask for an apology? Do I let it go?), and that I'll expect folx in the room to do so as well, unless they feel they need support from me to do so. The key notions to model here are agency, responsibility, accountability and compassion.

How do you find that LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula supports equity in the classroom?

First, and specific content notwithstanding, it provides a validating mirror for LGBTQ+ identified students to see themselves reflected in the classroom space and to see that their experiences are also seen as legitimate sources of expertise and knowledge. Second, the material content itself often instructs LGBTQ+ students and their peers about issues that matter to them in often material ways.

How can Ohio State instructors better support LGBTQ+ students?

To my mind, OSU instructors can do what I've described above to improve their direct support for LGBTQ+ students. Perhaps even more importantly, though, I believe OSU instructors who wish to truly support LGBTQ+ students must advocate at the department, college and university levels for meaningful systemic changes that can make a difference in the experiences of LGBTQ+ students in classrooms but also, crucially, in the context of their extended campus and community experiences.

Additional Resources:

About Professor Maurice Stevens:

Maurice Stevens, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University and an adjunct faculty member for the Pacifica Graduate Institute in the department of Depth Psychology’s Community, Liberation, and Eco-Psychology Program. Dr. Stevens is also a writing coach for the NCFDD. Dr. Stevens received their BA in Religion and Anthropology from Princeton University and their MA and PhD from the interdisciplinary History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

Dr. Stevens’ research interests include the formation and representation of identity in and through visual culture and political performance, critical trauma theory, popular cultural performance, theories of affect and embodiment, and American, ethnic, and gender studies. Their first book is titled Troubling Beginnings: Trans(per)forming African-American History and Identity, and they are currently working on a second book called Catastrophe’s Glow: A Critical Trauma Theory for Chaotic Times.

Dr. Stevens brings expertise in designing interdisciplinary and engaged research methodologies, participatory leadership models, and community-driven social justice informed research.