Appendix A: The Values That Guide Us: Faculty, Staff, & Students Talk About What Drives PSU

This document was created by CoLab Student Affiliates Natalie Smith & Rhiannon Black. They sorted and compiled information generated from several values- focused activities undertaken in the summer and fall of 2021 by the Cluster Pedagogy Learning Community.


Description: Accessibility is all about making things usable by all. In the classroom this can include the layout of the physical space, using resources that are easy and less expensive to acquire, and understanding that everybody’s needs in the classroom will be different and being willing and able to help them. Accessibility is important because eliminating barriers to students’ education and knowledge will allow them to excel and thrive.

Additional reading:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “My ultimate goal in the work I do with the CPLC, my doctoral work, and my primary role of Accessibility Specialist, is to simply make the world softer, more yielding and gentle and on a micro level, help PSU become a more equitable place to learn, work, and live.” (Hannah Davidson)


Description: Community is crucial to making our students feel comfortable and successful at our university. In classrooms, inauthentic ice-breaking activities can make students feel uncomfortable and bored. However, with a consistent centering of community-building throughout a course, this could be entirely different. Students at PSU chose this school because of its amazing sense of community, but when they get her, they need help accessing it. Healthy communities in classrooms could make it more likely for students to participate, ask questions, and put real effort into their learning.

Additional readings:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “This fall one of my core goals I identified for my TWP course is to help build intentional community through the lens of “checking in” and being a part of helping students belong at PSU. During each of my class times, I’ve allocated time at the beginning to do intentional check in’s through a discussion, activity or reflection. My hope is this will shift how we can reduce encouraging students to find “their place” and rather help guide, support and proactively check in.” (Leslie Blakney)
  • “I want to do more to help the students in our newly merged program feel cohesive as a community, help each other, form bonds within and across classes. This means prioritizing spaces, team-building, cross-class relationships, maybe hiring one or two as student workers to do some of this work, and making sure we have merch and memorable activities.” (Rebecca Noel)


Description: Empathy is crucial to every person’s life. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another is what allows us to understand each other and communicate productively. Teachers need to exercise empathy, for example allowing students extra time or a break when it seems they need it. Both faculty and students are human and there will always be days where somebody isn’t doing well. Having empathy for each other and knowing the stress we are all under can be so helpful in caring for students. This empathy will help students realize they are valued and can help encourage healthy connections with their teachers, and can also model for them how to approach their peers with an open mind and heart.

Additional readings:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “I do an appreciative inquiry activity in my class each semester. I have them partner up, then have one student talk for 3 minutes about a time they felt uncomfortable or out of place. Their partner is not allowed to talk or ask questions. They are only allowed to listen intently and respond with facial expressions. After the 3 minutes is up, the other partner does the same. After both have gone they then can talk about their experiences together. At first students do not like the sound of this activity, but when they reflect on it after, it ends up being one of their favorite exercises. It really helps practice the HoM and integrates empathy nicely.” (Kelsey Donnelly)
  • “Empathy, vulnerability, and care are values that can and should guide teaching, advising, and collaborating.” (Hannah Hounsell)


Description: Being equitable revolves around creating conditions for fairness. In the classroom and around the university this can be shown through embracing the diversity in backgrounds, identities, and experiences students havemand aiming for equitable rather than equivalent experiences. It is important to support academic fairness and inclusion not by maintaining a rigid and impossible standard of impartiality, but by breaking down implicit bias and responding to each learner’s needs.

Additional readings:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “At this moment, that role demands the courage of our convictions for equity. Part of that involves advocating for our students, our colleagues, ourselves, and our shared work. We must pay attention to what is going wrong and speak truthfully about that, however uncomfortable that may be. Avoiding public spaces to do this work is ineffectual, undemocratic, and, particularly in a community so well informed, patently irresponsible.” (Elliott Gruner)
  • “I am planning to build a syllabus that highlights the diversity of design practitioners and helps students recognize the ways in which the form and content of design can foster equity and inclusion.” (Sarah Parrish)


Description: Inclusion in education means allowing for and providing all students the opportunity to participate fully in all activities and experiences at PSU. This can be shown through OERs, making classrooms and course formats accessible to those with disabilities, and building safe and welcoming environments. Inclusion can boost student morale, self-image, and skill. Inclusion is about setting up conditions for a welcoming and just climate so that all students feel that PSU is their home.

Additional readings:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “I have students fill out a notecard on the first day of class with their preferred name, pronouns, and anything else they would like me to know. I’m the only one who sees them. I lay out the course via a calendar so students can plan. While it is helpful if students complete the class homework, called entry tickets, before class time, they can miss three without penalty and choose to skip some. They have flexibility in how they turn in these small assignments. They can create a video, short paragraph, submit questions they have, etc. I’m looking for them to engage, and they can choose how they would like to do that. I give multiple drafts before I grade our more formal assignments, like the project proposal. Most students need a lot of help learning to cite sources and create a bibliography. I work with each project group in class, helping them find sources, cite them in the paper and get the bibliography set up.” (Megan Heidenreich)
  • “The article is not necessarily the best I could find to support my thoughts, but it does touch upon the important values of inclusion and equity and how the pandemic flexibility should continue “post COVID”. I keep coming back to the analogy ‘the horse is out of the barn.’ The shift during the pandemic has demonstrated that the level of access required by some students is in fact reasonable (in most cases, not all) and that hybrid and/or remote learning should be offered as an accommodation.” (Lindsay Page)


Description: Respect is the thought and understanding of somebody’s feelings or rights. It is crucial in the classroom because the basis of every human connection is respect. Faculty and students are not well-oiled machines that will always perform perfectly; as humans, we need to respect each other’s humanity. Students deserve to feel respected even when they may be falling behind in courses or struggling in other ways. Respect can help students seek help and persist through challenges, and can contribute to a climate of inclusion and equity.

Additional readings:

Faculty/Staff Perspective:

  • “My goal in each of my fall classes is to encourage students to think about the perspectives of people other than themselves and outside of their regular social group. There tends to be a lot of ‘othering’ in criminal justice, particularly with the use of labels (e.g., criminal, offender, felon, etc.) and I will consistently encourage students to avoid using these labels by providing alternative terminology. In addition, I will make conscious and consistent efforts to encourage perspective-taking as it relates to people who have been accused and/or convicted of a crime and the circumstances that may have contributed to a violation of the law.” (Jennifer Kamorowski)
  • “Living (and teaching) through the pandemic has been marked by a resurgence in attention to care, to flexibility, and to the daily needs of students, faculty, and staff. But attention to one another’s needs isn’t new, it’s eternal: that’s what Disability Justice (which is also always already Racial Justice) and Mutual Aid are all about, putting our bodyminds at the forefront of the way we design and live our classes and our campus. We have an opportunity right now to redefine the ‘normal’ as interdependent communities of care. Or we can slip back into capitalism and go back to calling care an ‘emergency resource’ rather than an everyday reality…” (Nic Helms)


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Cluster Learning at Plymouth State: A Community-Based Approach to Pedagogy by The Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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