• 2021-2022 Faculty Spotlight

    September 2021: Maggie Struck

    Headshot_Maggie Struck

    About Maggie Struck

    Dr. Maggie Struck earned a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota in 2016. That same year she accepted a position as assistant professor of Hamline’s School of Education & Leadership (HSEL). She brings a history of community activism, youth work, and public elementary school teaching to her current academic work. In Spring 2018, Dr. Struck was awarded HSEL’s Education Inclusion and Equity Award for her curricular work within the department and role as a community research advisor for youth. 

    HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR INTERVIEW WITH MAGGIE:

    What was your path toward becoming a professor here at Hamline?

    As a child growing up in a large Irish-Catholic family, two literacy practices that I engaged in regularly were storytelling and “visiting.” I often felt irritated when my Dad made me sit and listen to the (re)telling of my grandparents’ stories or had me visit with my aunts before going to play with cousins. However, it is the lessons learned from these practices that drive who I am as a teacher. My teaching begins with listening to the stories of my students and it evolves through the relationships I build with them. Further, over the course of my experiences as a community organizer, youth worker, and elementary educator, I found myself primarily working in urban communities of color. As a white woman, I have had to think critically about my role as an outsider and the implications of my power in the classroom. Reverberations of my time as a community organizer and elementary teacher continue to inform my approaches to teaching and building relationships with students at Hamline University.  I continue to reflect on my own social and cultural assumptions. I aim to enact critical culturally sustaining pedagogies that allow for the power dynamics of teacher-student to be fluid amongst myself and my students.

    What are some of your main goals as an instructor related to student learning?

    Critical sociocultural theory asks us to pay attention to issues of power, identity and agency that are central to learning and practice. Through this lens, I acknowledge that learning for my students at Hamline is not separate from their past experiences, values and beliefs, and that, in order for learning and growth to occur, there must be room for spontaneity, vulnerability, and failure---not only for the students but for me as the instructor as well. Centering anti-racist practices is at the core of my pedagogical practices. Two learning outcomes I embed into in every course I teach are:  

    • To become familiar with the latest theories related to culturally sustaining and antiracist practices in K-12 school settings.
    • To examine what it means to be a teacher who acknowledges that systemic inequities exist and work to close the opportunity gap in MN between BIPOC and white students in both online and face to face learning contexts.

    This past year teaching during the pandemic involved shifting my courses to an online format all the while balancing taking care of my three-year old. It was no small feat. Multiple times, my students witnessed me fumbling--they observed moments where I felt stuck in an instructional choice or saw me get confused about the ways in which I choose to modify assignments, activities, and the overall design of the course. Although this was a humbling experience, what grew out of this struggle is the ways I was able to adapt my communication and teaching to meet the needs of my students. I leaned on my strengths of being an effective communicator and relationship builder. I realized in new ways how vital it is for me to continually strive to enact pedagogies that allow for the power dynamics of teacher-student to be fluid amongst myself and my students and that these commitments are what drive the outcomes and goals I have for my students and myself.

    A PARTICULAR TEACHING OR RESEARCH PRACTICE TO HIGHLIGHT: 

    I aspire to co-create with my students a classroom community framed by learning that is inclusive, inquiry based, interest driven, academic oriented, and full of playfulness and care. I work hard to provide multiple opportunities for students to bring forth their knowledge and insight into the work we do in class. One way I do this is through dialogic teaching and formative assessment.

    Dialogic Teaching is an instructional practice that provides students with frequent and sustained opportunities to engage in talking to learn (Nystrand, 1997). I use a variety of formative assessments as tools to evaluate students’ talk, give feedback, and guide their instruction moment to moment. Below are a few instructional/curricular design practices that I find to be effective. 

    • I provide multiple opportunities for students to bring forth their knowledge and insight into the work we do in class. At the beginning of each semester students respond to THIS prompt (on slide 26). This past year, it was clear that many of my students were carrying heavy loads--impacted immensely by the pandemic and social/racial uprising in our communities. Knowing this information up front helped me frame and plan for each semester.
    • The first few weeks of class, the exit ticket questions in my courses are questions or prompts directed towards students’ learning experiences in the course, they are not content related.  
    • After the first few weeks of class, I shift to asking questions about their understanding of the content (see HERE and HERE).
    • I use multiple modes and digital tools such as Padlet, Flipgrid, and video/audio recording softwares to elicit discussion, feedback and assess student comprehension of content. These tools promote student discussion during and outside of class.


    ADVICE ABOUT TEACHING:

    Utilize the resources that the university has to offer. I have learned to utilize the resources that Hamline has to offer--whether that be through professional development, guest lecturers, CTL faculty development days, library resources, colleagues, students, data from climate surveys, etc. For example, my second year on campus, I attended a workshop for faculty and staff put on by the Office of Sustainability entitled, Anti-Oppressive Meeting Facilitation: Making Meetings Awesome for Everyone! The workshop was facilitated by a local organization, AORTA. Last year, at Camp Design Online, I shared a set of norms I adopted for my courses from this training. Resources like these not only influence the effectiveness of my instruction but also provide coherence across coursework. I have learned to adopt practices, teach concepts, and make connections that I know are prominent in other coursework across campus. I believe when instructors across an institution strive for coherence within pedagogical practices we communicate to students the importance of the values and mission of the University and illustrate how to live those values out daily.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help and feedback from colleagues. As referenced above, I had bumpy moments modifying my courses to be asynchronous and fully online last year. I worked with Nicole Nelson to reorganize my canvas site, not just once, but multiple times! As a professor of Education, I have been teaching for many years. Asking for feedback from students can feel second nature to me, but I still hesitate asking colleagues for feedback/help. I think an element of the hidden curriculum for instructors at higher education institutions is the belief that effective teaching solely grows out of individual practice and reflection. From my experience, teaching typically happens behind closed doors (or closed virtual sessions). This not only impacts the effectiveness of an instructor’s craft, but it can also be damaging in regards to creating equitable and inclusive learning spaces for students, specifically BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students. Although it has felt intimate and vulnerable at times to share struggles or challenges with colleagues, I have found it to be instrumental to my success as a faculty member here at Hamline. Whether it’s been running ideas or challenges by a colleague in HSEL, David Everett, aaron T. Hans or Nicole Nelson, I have come to believe that my success as an instructor is not mine alone and asking for help actually makes me grow and get better.

    What resources would you recommend to colleagues for teaching or research? A few resources that have been helpful for me are:

    • Hamline’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Start here! Lists of helpful resources that are linked to the inclusive work we are doing here on campus.
    • Cult of Pedagogy. This site offers a plethora of strategies, perspectives, analysis, and critique on teaching and learning. The founder, Jennifer Gonzalez, is a former middle school teacher and teacher educator in higher education. I find her resources to be accessible and adaptable to fit the needs of undergraduate and graduate students.
    • Center for Educational Innovation at the University of Minnesota. Check out their list of resources in the Create Inclusive Learning Environments.
    • Educator Innovator. This site is an online hub for educators (K-16) who value open learning and whose interests and spirits exemplify creative and Connected Learning: an approach that sees learning as interest-driven, peer supported, and oriented toward powerful outcomes. Lots of helpful information can be found in the blog posts, programs, and the opening publishing site, The Current, where educators across the world share lesson plan ideas.

    I am also available to chat about the art and craft of teaching in general, teaching in inclusive ways as a white faculty member at Hamline, and/or share about effective teaching practices that have worked for me. Feel free to reach out at any time (mstruck01@hamline.edu)!

    References

    Lewis, C., Enciso, P. and Moje, E. (2007), Reframing Sociocultural Research on Literacy Identity, Agency & Power, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, London.
    Nystrand, M. (1997), Opening Dialogue: Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom, Language and Literacy Series, Teachers College Press, Williston, VT.
    Street, B. (1984), Literacy in Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY
    Freire, P. and Macedo, D. (1987), Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, Routledge, New York, NY.