Mar 4, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
In June 2018, Ayo Aladesanmi, the newly elected executive vice president of the undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA), began drafting a Classroom Best Practices Sheet. One outcome of the “Committed to Mental Wellness” platform that he and Evan Gillon, the undergraduate SGA president, ran on last year, the document was aimed at helping to improve learning environments at Georgia Tech — focusing primarily on mental health and inclusivity.
This fall, SGA collaborated with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the Mental Health Student Coalition, the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance, and other student groups to ensure a wide variety of input on the project. Following months of feedback and fine-tuning, SGA announced the release of the Best Practices Sheet on Instagram Feb. 9. The best practices are designed “to ensure that our academic environments promote the comprehensive health, well-being, and intellectual vitality of all Georgia Tech students.”
Joyce Weinsheimer, director of CTL, worked closely with SGA on the Best Practices Sheet, gathering feedback from 40 tenured faculty members on an early draft.
According to Aladesanmi, much of their feedback was incorporated into the final version. At Weinsheimer’s suggestion, Aladesanmi built the document around the student-professor relationship and knows it won’t be nearly as effective without emphasizing that dynamic.
“It’s kind of at the heart of this document that this is from students to professors and faculty,” he said. “If professors are the ones controlling learning environments, then these are the things they should take into consideration to make sure that their learning environments are promoting healthy behaviors.”
Aladesanmi encourages students to give the sheet to their professors and administrators to demonstrate that they believe in the importance of these best practices.
However, the work doesn’t stop there, as both CTL and SGA agree that the Best Practices Sheet, once disseminated, should open up a dialogue between students and faculty to be truly effective.
“We need the students to be visible partners in this process — and the worksheet is a good tool to start the discussion,” said Weinsheimer. She says that CTL hopes to work with SGA on other projects to further engage faculty members with what’s expressed in the Best Practices Sheet, including videos where students discuss what it would mean to them if these practices were actively implemented in classrooms. Weinsheimer wants to use these kinds of resources in workshops, meetings, and on the CTL website to communicate to faculty members why these best practices are important to Tech students.
Aladesanmi said that by the end of the semester, he wants to have placed copies of the sheet in every school and major building, as well as in the hands of a wide variety of faculty and administrators. Therefore, as students start to see the Best Practices Sheet around campus, they should make sure to take a look at what it has to say. It was built on and will continue to evolve based on student feedback, and while Aladesanmi emphasizes that the sheet should by no means stay with students, there is no better place to start.