Why We CLICK
Reflections from the Teaching Team Behind “Let’s Talk: When Psychology Goes Wrong”
by Grace East
Following the end of their CLICK project, I was able to catch up with first-time virtual
exchange teaching team Khyana Pumphrey at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) in the United States and María Fernanda Sánchez Sánchez at Prepa UDEM (Universidad de Monterrey) in Mexico to reflect on their recent virtual exchange experience. They created and co-taught their project “Let’s Talk: When Psychology Goes Wrong” during Fall 2021. Their collaborative project centered around student research on classic psychology case studies which international student teams from both classes transformed into podcast episodes.
Khyana and Fernanda first traced common intellectual threads between their Intro to Psychology and Theory of Knowledge courses, which led them to create a project based on the history and ethics of psychology. They assigned international student teams specific psychological case studies to investigate, including the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment, and allowed them to creatively interpret and produce podcast episodes based on their findings. Among their core learning objectives were encouraging cross-cultural competency, intercultural collaboration, communication skills, and self management skills. To achieve this virtual exchange experience, Khyana, Fernanda, and their students used Zoom, Google Meet, and WhatsApp to remain connected throughout the semester.
When asked why they got involved with CLICK, both instructors thought of it as a creative way to engage students with a world outside their own. Khyana had taken students to Guatemala in past years, but had been unable to recently because of the pandemic. For her, it provided an alternative way to give her students an internationalization experience without leaving their own Wisconsin classroom. A self-described life-long learner who loves to try new things in the classroom, Khyana also saw it as an opportunity for her own growth and professional development. Many of her students are in their twenties with full time jobs, families, and the commitments that come with adulthood. Since study abroad isn’t often a realistic opportunity for them, she envisioned CLICK as “a way to bring study abroad to them.” Fernanda dove into CLICK without really knowing what to expect after being encouraged by institutional leadership to integrate a virtual exchange program into her classes. What began as a way for Fernanda to pursue a professional development opportunity, quickly became a passion project and having such a wonderful collaborator in Khyana made the experience an unexpected joy.
Because I met this dynamic duo in the midst of their CLICK project, I wanted to hear how it all began and asked them both to tell me about how they came to work with one another. Khyana and Fernanda first met in Gazelle International’s CLICK training workshops in Fall 2020. As Khyana explains, “Fernanda and I just literally clicked.” As with most of our instructors, the origins of a great CLICK project lie in an initial connection between teachers as people first. To foster this collaborative relationship, Khyana explained that she and Fernanda met each Friday to do their own team building and notes that, “in building our course and learning from one another about the technology, we learned about each other as well.” They knew it was a good match because they both noted a shared sense of responsibility, a similar work ethic, and trust in the other person to get the work done.
Fernanda shared one particular interaction with Khyana from the beginning of the year that sticks with her. She remembers logging onto one of their Friday meetings after a rough week, feeling burned out from the demands of remote education, and explaining to Khyana that she just hadn’t gotten the chance to get done what she had promised. Fernanda recalls Khyana’s gracious response, disclosing her own hard week and reassuring her that they could take the next step together and accomplish the next task as a team. “For me, that was the foundation of our teamwork. The honesty and the empathy we had with each other,” Fernanda explained.
Both Khyana and Fernanda noted that many of their students came in with expectations or assumptions that were eventually dispelled after working with their international partners over eight weeks together. Khyana recalls hearing her students’ surprise at how fluent the Prepa UDEM students were in English and that the expected language barrier presented almost no issue at all. She explains, “Language was like the least of their concerns once the project got going. It was really more about coordinating schedules.” In turn, Fernanda noted that her students were able to build confidence in their own English language skills. She shared sentiments from students like, “Having an accent is not as important as I thought,” “It’s not a small thing that I can communicate myself in a second language,” and “I can actually do it even if I stumble sometimes, I will get my message across.” She even saw evidence of this confidence and collaborative spirit in the production of the podcast final projects, noting that, “if one student forgot how to say a word or express something in English, another team member would just give them that safe space for them to express themselves.” Because Fernanda’s students are high school age, she explained that Khyana’s students were surprised by how insightful and committed they were to their projects at such a young age. In turn, Fernanda’s students admired Khyana’s for balancing commitments to their family, jobs, and education.
Now that Khyana and Fernanda have successfully completed their first CLICK project together, I asked what advice they would give to faculty considering doing a virtual exchange project. “Just jump in!” Khyana advised, explaining that, while there will always be bumps in the road, the rewards far outweigh the complications. She also mentioned how much she got out of the CLICK Explore, Connect, and Design workshops, noting, “Any faculty member can take away something from the workshops to use for themselves even if they wait or decide not to actually do a project.” Fernanda shared Khyana’s sentiments about diving in and added that “honesty to yourself and your fellow teacher is very important.” She also explained that coming in with an open mind and an optimistic attitude was key and might even allow skeptical faculty to look past disciplinary differences for unexpected opportunities. “If you have that, the courses will match.”
Khyana explained that for both the instructors and students, “experience over content was really the goal.” In just eight weeks, former strangers developed close working relationships and became invested in each other’s lives. “Recognizing the relationship building from start to finish was the best thing that could have happened,” she noted. Fernanda echoed these sentiments, recognizing growth not only in her students, but in herself as well. For her, the most rewarding aspect of CLICK was getting the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with a teaching partner. As she explained, “The highlight would be being able to co-teach: planning together, teaching together, grading together. It was great.”
16 January 2022