On the Methods page, you will find advice about difference stages of a lesson.
For more practice and exercise opportunities, there are continuing education programs for university teaching, as offered by SUPPORT für die Lehre at Freie Universität Berlin and by the Berlin Center for Higher Education at Technische Universität Berlin.
This situation might sound familiar:
During discussions, when you ask questions, and when handing in assignments, certain students speak up often while others speak up rarely or never.
Reserved behavior in learning environments can have various causes:
Students might still be thinking about a question. They might be thinking about something else entirely. They might be missing certain information. They might be very bored or frustrated with the situation. Perhaps the assignment’s objective does not match your students’ own learning objectives or motivations. Perhaps they do not want to speak up in front of a large group. Perhaps they think their own thoughts are incorrect or immature.
Possible solutions:Group work:
Group work counters students’ fears of speaking in front of a large group. Some students find it easier to talk in a smaller group than in front of the entire class. Also, the lecturer (you) is not always present, which students might find liberating.
Important: Make sure that everyone in the small group truly has a chance to speak, for example by assigning rotating spokespeople, by occasionally visiting each group and offering support, or by raising the issue of equal participation at the beginning of the group work section and including this as a topic when evaluating the group work. Whisper sessions:
Whisper sessions are mini-group conversations between people sitting next to each other. These often arise spontaneously and informally, so lecturers tend to perceive them as disruptive “background noise.” However, you can also employ them intentionally after presenting a topic or posing a larger question. This gives students a chance to “rehearse” their spontaneous ideas, questions, and criticisms with other students before discussing them with the class at large. Students who are generally reserved often feel more comfortable speaking in public after a whisper session. This way, all students get a chance to think through what they want to say in advance. Whisper sessions engage students and lead to more diverse and often higher-quality comments. (Whisper sessions)
Perhaps you recognize this situation as well:
During discussions, when you ask questions, and when handing out assignments, the same students always speak up. Some of them speak at great length whenever they contribute or even interrupt others. Often, ideas that other students expressed previously are ignored or paraphrased. People who are more reserved fade into the background, which can have an effect on lecturers’ impression of them and therefore the grades they assign them.
Dominant behavior in learning environments can have various causes: People who behave dominantly might perceive themselves as competing with their classmates and try to win you over by gaining the rhetorical upper hand over the others. Perhaps they want special recognition and validation for their comments. Perhaps they are used to giving lengthier contributions in other contexts, or are used to taking, or receiving, more space. Perhaps they do not notice that other students would like to speak or have already contributed to solving the problem.
To resolve everyone’s unclear expectations at the beginning of the course, it is helpful to openly discuss students’ learning expectations and set your own expectations of students’ performance as the lecturer. If you make it clear that it is important to you as a lecturer for everyone to have a chance to speak and for talking time to be divided fairly, this can help balance contributions. Talking queue:
Talking queues are a tool for structuring a discussion during frontal teaching or group discussions and for reordering the students’ comments. In this system, the lecturer writes down the name of every person who raises their hand. Contributions do not necessarily have to follow the order in which people have put their hands up. The order can be determined based on other criteria that you have explained transparently in advance. With “first-time queues,” for instance, you can give priority to the first comments from people who have not spoken yet and then call on students who are speaking for the second or third time. Another option is to use queues with quotas, in which specific diversity categories are considered in a specific ratio (such as 50:50) when deciding who to call on next. This is a form of affirmative action. A queue should always be announced and explained. Keeping a queue gives you an opportunity to talk about unequal speaking time. It is helpful if everyone knows that this is not about giving certain people preference, but about compensating for an existing imbalance in participation. Group discussions and whisper sessions are also active measures for equalizing talking time.
The Discipline-Specific Entry Points page includes specific suggestions and tips about gender- and diversity-conscious research and teaching for several disciplines.
Here are some additional databases and collections you can use:
- Gender curricula for bachelor’s and master’s programs from the Women's and Gender Research Network NRW. (link)
- Database of specialist literature about gender from the Women's and Gender Research Network NRW. (link)
- The Gender Studies Repository of the Freie Universität Berlin (link), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (link – in German), and the Technische Universität Berlin.
- List of various open-access Gender Studies databases. (link)
There is a comprehensive collection of resources regarding gender, diversity, and (anti-) discrimination at Freie Universität Berlin and elsewhere on the Resources page.
SUPPORT für die Lehre offers continuing training courses at Freie Universität Berlin for university lecturers of all disciplines. You can find additional programs at the Berlin Center for Higher Education.
The Resources page includes a collection of continuing training courses for university lecturers outside Freie Universität Berlin.
As an employee of Freie Universität Berlin, you are protected against workplace discrimination by the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG) in all categories designated in the AGG. Your point of contact for these matters is Freie Universität Berlin AGG Complaints Office:
The employee complaints office under Section 13 of the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG)
Telephone: +49 (030) 838-551 26
Fax: +49 (030) 838-455126
Students at Freie Universität may also contact the AGG Complaints Office or the Staff Representatives for any issue related to work as a student assistant. For other issues, students may solicit the advisory services of Freie Universität Student Union (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss, AStA – website in German), the Technische Universität General Students’ Committee (AStA), or the General Students' Committee of the Humboldt-Universität (Referent*innenrat – website in German).
In cases of sexualized discrimination or violence, Freie Universität Berlin Guideline on Handling Sexualized Discrimination and Violence governs the response. On its website Nein heißt Nein (No means No) Freie Universität Berlin offers extensive information on the subject (website in German). The departmental gender equality officers and the chief gender equality officer, along with the staff representatives, are your first points of contact.
Advice for students with disabilities and chronic illnesses is available from multiple sources at Freie Universität Berlin.
You can find additional advisory services and points of contact for people who have experienced discrimination under Resources.
In the course of normal university life, conflicts can emerge in various contexts, such as performance requirements and grades, communication in a seminar, good academic practice, the role of intellectual property and copyright, and power relationships in academic supervision, but also in the contexts of abuse and bullying. Advisory resources do not exist for all types of conflict and categories of employees at Freie Universität Berlin.
Employees of Freie Universität Berlin can take advantage of the programs of the Continuing Education Center (Weiterbildungszentrum - link in German) for training courses in conflict resolution.
The Dahlem Resource School offers counseling and support in addressing conflict situations in the research process, among other issues. This is primarily designed for doctoral researchers at the Dahlem Research School but is also available to other doctoral candidates at Freie Universität Berlin.
Advice and further training for professors at W2 level and above in conflict resolution and other topics is offered by the Dahlem Leadership Academy.
Students with individual questions can turn to the Center for Academic Advising and Psychological Counseling as well as the advisory resources of Freie Universität Student Union (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss, AStA – website in German).
You can find both Freie Universität internal as well as external training possibilities and advisory services under Resources.
Participating in events and activities, such as training courses, is a good way to build your network. You can also connect with people at your academic department and beyond by reaching out to your colleagues and proactively networking.
Members of the quality assurance staff in each department often create opportunities for colleagues to meet, for example by organizing local training programs, as at the Department of Political and Social Sciences. You can also approach the departmental gender equality officers if you specifically would like to address gender and diversity.
SUPPORT für die Lehre offers particular advice and support about the use of “reflection formats” among colleagues.
Gender and diversity can be seen as an asset to you and the students you work with:
Everyone benefits from an anxiety-free atmosphere in which everyone can teach and learn.
Nevertheless, coming to terms with gender and diversity in teaching takes time as well as a certain amount of perseverance and comfort with conflict. It is useful to be aware that although you have your own scope for action, you do not bear sole responsibility.
Lecturers cannot be expected to create a gender- and diversity-conscious environment on their own. This requires the support of supervisors, HR managers, and all members of the university.
Get in touch with the people involved with gender and diversity at Freie Universität Berlin, either in person or through mailing lists, social media groups, or the Margherita von Brentano Center Data Directories (in German). Engage your colleagues and supervisors in conversation and participate in initiatives aiming to raise awareness for gender and diversity at the university.