Talk Matters: Investigating the Nature of Non-Content Classroom Language - Instructor Talk - that May Mediate Student Inclusion, Engagement, and Learning

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Dr. Kimberly Tanner, Professor of Biology, San Francisco State University
Tuesday, September 27, 2022 · 12:30 pm

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Note: We will also be hosting two 1-hour small group discussions with Kimberly Tanner that morning. If you are interested in attending one of these small group discussions, you can indicate this in the pre-registration and we will follow up with you.

Abstract: Through the language they use, instructors create classroom environments that have the potential to impact learning by affecting student motivation, resistance, belonging, and self-efficacy. However, despite the critical importance of instructor language to the student experience, little research has investigated what instructors are saying in undergraduate classrooms. We systematically investigated instructor language that was not directly related to content and defined this as Instructor Talk. We identified five robust categories of Instructor Talk that can characterize ~90% of non-content language found in over 60 courses: 1) Building Instructor/Student Relationships, 2) Establishing Classroom Culture, 3) Explaining Pedagogical Choices, 4) Sharing Personal Experience, and 5) Unmasking Science. The remaining ~10% of instances of Instructor Talk in these settings were categorized as negatively phrased or potentially discouraging in nature. Attention to Instructor Talk in undergraduate classrooms may be key for instructors to create inclusive learning environments and promote student learning. 

Speaker's Bio: 

Dr. Kimberly Tanner is a rotating Program Officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) at the National Science Foundation, on leave from her position as a tenured Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University. Her laboratory – SEPAL: the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – investigates what is challenging to learn in biology, how biologists choose to teach, and how to make equity, diversity, and inclusion central in science education efforts. As a Science Faculty with an Education Specialty (SFES), she is engaged in discipline-based education research, directs multiple K-16+ biology education reform efforts, and is deeply engaged in faculty professional development. She is a founding editorial board member and current Co-Editor-in-Chief of the leading journal in her field, CBE–Life Sciences Education (LSE). Trained as a neurobiologist with postdoctoral studies in science education, Dr. Tanner is a proud first-generation college-going student, accustomed to she/her pronouns, and proud mom of a jazz/rock drummer and an aspiring robotics engineer, both produced in partnership with her college sweetheart and biochemistry lab partner.