Inclusive pedagogy, Belonging, Access, Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (BAJEDI), work-life balance and sustainability

This section was developed by Dr. Emily Tibbett and Dr. Anne Sledd.

 

Inclusive pedagogy

These bullet-points summarize key takeaway notes from presentations by and discussions with Dr. Quatez Scott, Inclusive Pedagogy Lead in the Center for Teaching & Learning at CU Boulder, shared during Day 3 of the Polar Postdoc Leadership Workshop. 

  • Equitable learning is good for individuals and all students as a collective
  • Inclusive instruction is equitable, welcoming, active, and feedback driven
    • Use syllabi to build inclusive relationships and accountability, including inclusive instructor’s purpose statement 
    • Send out survey at the beginning of class or introduction to a learning environment to understand how the students learn best 
    • Create opportunities for receiving feedback on instruction or informal guidance throughout the course
  • Be self-critical about reflecting on how to best integrate inclusive teaching practices, instructive practices and material
  • Understand the level of impact you can have on equity-seeking students (i.e., students who have historically been denied equal access to employment, education, and other opportunities) 
  • Be responsive to your learners’ needs
  • Each class can build opportunities or perpetuate barriers
  • Adopt anti-deficit thinking: equity-seeking students are capable of achieving success
  • Students and learners should be “co-creaters” of the education space – how can students be more involved in the learning process? 
  • Adapt instruction to the needs of learners 

 

BAJEDI (Belonging, Access, Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion)

There was conversation integrated throughout the workshop on how to center aspects of belonging accessibility, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into polar science spaces. Some of these thoughts included:

  • Be critical of your mistakes but move past guilt and shame so that you actually work on improving.
  • If you have a voice, use it to advocate for a more inclusive environment for everyone! Stick together and speak up, especially those in “privileged” situations. Think about who and what you may not have considered at every stage of the planning process 
    • Constantly ask yourself “who is being left out of this decision? How can I invite them in?”
  • How do we measure values, such as DEI? 

 

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is important! Work and personal lives will likely never be in total “balance”, so it’s important to figure out what’s sustainable for yourself. We have to acknowledge that there are “unproductive” periods in one’s work, from timescales that range hours to years in length. Here are some things that were discussed that could be useful to your own exploration of ‘work-life balance’. 

  • Time management
    • Experiment with different time management concepts, find your own way to work sustainably, find your own productivity concepts and habits
    • Time management also includes building in personal time! Allocate that. Your work life needs to be sustainable in the long run, otherwise you can burn out and that is not beneficial to you or your work. 

 

  • Parenting in academia
    • Parents have a different set of norms than people without kids, and parents are generally more understanding of other parents’ issues. Network with other parents to help each other out (inside and outside of work).
    • Use the many resources that are available, and when thinking about accepting a new position, inquire about the support for parents within the new group.
    • NSF provides career supplement grants to support someone else continuing your research for you if parental leave is needed.
    • Non-parent co-workers and especially supervisors should try to support parents by scheduling meetings according to their availability, and be understanding that they may need more flexibility.
    • On the other side, non-parents shouldn’t be delegated the responsibility of individuals with parenting responsibilities especially when it comes to expectations surrounding field work, difficult work hours, etc. 
      • This might be a ripe space for setting norms/expectations with your colleagues and conflict resolution. 
      • This is also an area where systemic solutions could be pushed for. 

 

  • Career options
    • Scientific career paths are not linear, and there’s no single “correct” trajectory. A scientific career doesn’t only mean a tenure-track professorship. Often big decisions are not as life-determining as they might seem initially. It’s also important to remember that if you do not like something, you can change it.
    • Sometimes what seems to be a “step down” is actually a step towards a more sustainable, and hence successful, work-life balance. The culture around what is considered a “failure” needs to change. This change began a bit during the COVID pandemic when the usual approaches to work were disrupted. 
    • When considering a tenure track career:
      • Gather mentors from different career tracks to hear their experiences
      • Talk to people in the department you might go to
      • Ask yourself, what gets you excited?
      • Just try! Don’t be afraid if it does not work for you, it is okay to unplug.

 

If you try teaching but decide to leave, try to ensure any graduate students you took on have the support needed to continue once you leave. 

  • Consider encouraging graduate students to earn a masters degree on the way to a PhD if it’s an option in the program. This can provide better options if a student decides to leave a PhD.
    • When considering a soft-money position:
      • Does this fit into your life?, e.g., inconsistent sources of funding which may cause financial insecurity, possible intense working periods
      • Does the thought of the tenure process stress you out?
      • Do you enjoy research and grant-writing, but not teaching?
      • Are you comfortable juggling multiple projects and proposals? Do you like hustling for grants?
      • Some positives of soft-money positions: flexibility for your time/schedule, freedom to pursue topics of interest to you
      • Being soft-money requires writing a lot of proposals. It’s also useful to gather experiences with proposal writing as non-PI (postdoc, co-PI). 

 

Build a strong network in your department/institution/organization. This can help you find collaborations and supplementary grants for when your own grants may be ending. 

  • Your employer/department will probably have a chat with you before you’re out of salary funding! If not, you can and should initiate this!
  • Pay attention to “Dear Colleague” letters. Built on community reports etc.
  • It will be stressful, both if proposals get funded or if they don’t. Try to find a long-term strategy that works for you (build a unique skill set / resource that makes you attractive for collaborators, find partners to PI / co-PI with)
  • You have choices for how to focus your work, e.g., more science or more project management. You are in charge of your time and work.

 

There are organizations that support soft money scientists that are not affiliated with an institute or university.

  • E.g., some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are research-based and rely on soft money. Their funding sources are typically more flexible than academic grants, may be more reliable (from long-term donors), and may focus more on research application/broader impacts than intellectual merit. NGOs can be good non-academic options for PhDs and postdocs. Researchers affiliated with U.S.-based NGOs can also apply to NSF funding, including the postdoc fellowship.
  • If your proposal fits two programs, it might be co-reviewed, which is not a bad thing!

 

Careers Outside Academia

  • Check out the PSECCO Polar Careers Outside Academia resources to hear from others who have moved outside of academia https://psecco.org/polar-careers-outside-academia.
  • AGU has also hosted some seminars on careers outside of academia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pgZDWoU_lI 
  • Networking is key. Reach out to individuals who are in careers that interest you to learn more and to connect with individuals who may be able to direct you to a position in the future.

 

Mental health

  • The postdoc time period comes with some unique challenges/stress related to uncertainty in funding, finding future positions, moving, and restarting networks
  • Learning how to take care of yourself is important, particularly when you go through low periods. Depending on how serious conditions are, therapy and/or medication can be helpful. Look into resources at the university/through health services.
  • Having a small supportive group “check ins” can help maintain productivity. One example is to have a weekly meeting to share what you got done in the last week, why you did (or didn’t) accomplish things, and what your goals are for the next week.
  • If you are experiencing a tough time period without much personal productivity (i.e., first author papers) collaborating with others can help maintain your productivity.
  • Sharing mental health concerns with advisors can lead to more support, sometimes even with people you do not expect to be understanding. Support can also come from outside your advisor, and they can potentially help advocate for you with your advisors if necessary.
  • Some additional resources exist for mental health during field work:

 

Navigating your career involves making a lot of decisions, sometimes saying “no” to opportunities. Some thoughts to consider during decision-making:

  • Will saying “no” close doors? Sometimes you do not have the capacity to do something, even if you really want it. Then ask yourself:
    • Can I make space for that?
    • If no, say no and new opportunities will be down the road.
    • Never say yes right away. Take 24 hours to sit with a choice.
    • If opportunities you wanted to have show up, but you have moved on and that is not your priority anymore, say no.
      • “You’re not beholden to the aspirations of your old self” 
    • “Say-no-Sandwich”: 1) Thanks; 2) I said yes to so many things already; 3) Let’s work together in future possibilities.

 

Tips and tricks

  • Remember to take the kind of breaks you need to create a sustainable work-life-style
  • Celebrate achievements no matter how big or small, e.g., keep track of your achievements in an accountability group, treat yourself to dinner for a paper. Even if you are not good at bragging about what you achieved, help others to do so!
  • If it works for you: journal daily - both for your personal well-being but also try to note down people you talked to (and maybe a paper they wrote that may be of interest to you). 
    • This can help you look back on the week and remember what you did (either for meetings with an advisor or for yourself). It might also make it easier to recall who you connected with at a conference and can reach out to for a collaboration
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more flexibility from advisors/supervisors.

 

Some additional resources that could be useful to classroom and information education spaces include: