Why is she behaving this way?

 As a professor at the University of Toronto, I work with graduate and undergraduate students of different ages and religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. As such I often meet with my students in small groups to support their developing skills as researchers. I encourage them to work collaboratively and help each other in reaching their goals while sharing their concerns and questions about the research process.

Although I strongly encourage a spirit of collegiality among my students, I have observed that not everyone is equally comfortable in the context of these group meetings. In fact one day, after one of our regular meetings, one male student asked “Why is she behaving this way?” in reference to a student he perceived as particularly guarded during the meeting.

His question made me wonder about my role as the facilitator of such a diverse group. I wondered if it would be a good idea to review the norms for interaction at meetings and emphasize the group as a “safe” place for expressing diverse views as well as concerns or questions. I wondered what role culture, and gender played in this situation and how I might work with both students involved to ensure they benefitted maximally from their involvement in our regular group meetings.


To learn more about this scenario, including the author’s own response, please attend the Intersections of Diverse Teachers and Diverse Learners at CSSE 2013, or stay tuned to the DiT website because we will be posting those details in the near future.

Until then, please leave a comment so that we can read your responses to this scenario. Here is a question to consider interacting with each other and the author (Dr. Antoinette Gagne, from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, at the University of Toronto) about:

  1. How would you address such a situation? 


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