Episode 1: Challenge Your Students and Meet Them Halfway

Guest: Dean Eric Wilcots

In this first episode, Eric Wilcots, Dean of the College of Letters and Science and the Mary C. Jacoby Professor of Astronomy in the Department of Astronomy at UW Madison, discusses his passion for teaching and philosophy on education. Interviewed by Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning, Shirin Malekpour, Dean Wilcots discusses the diverse student body at UW-Madison and the need to adopt inclusive teaching principles to ensure student success.

See the transcript of this episode.

The L&S Exchange Podcast is brought to you by L&S Teaching & Learning Administration and produced by the Instructional Design Collaborative. This podcast is recorded on ancestral Ho-Chunk land, a place their nation has called Teejop (day-JOPE) since time immemorial.

Join the Conversation

How did this episode make you think? What’s on your mind about inclusive teaching? Leave us a message on Spotify for Podcasters, respond to a poll using the Spotify app on your mobile device, reply with a comment at the bottom of this post, or send us an email. We may ask to feature your contribution in this or a future episode.

Conversation Starters

  1. Dean Wilcots described wanting to challenge students and also meet them halfway. What are ways you meet your students halfway?
  2. For many learners, the humility to know what you don’t know and the curiosity and confidence to ask questions are essential parts of learning. How do you help your students feel comfortable asking questions?
  3. Dean Wilcots spoke about acknowledging students’ lives outside the classroom. What are ways you get to know your students or bring their lives into the classroom?
  4. Teaching is a practice that we develop over time and that continually evolves. What is one key moment in your teaching experience where the way you thought about teaching, learning, or your students changed?

Further Reading

In this episode we mentioned, were inspired by, or wondered about the following resources and topics.

  • In the year since publishing this episode, resources surrounding AI in the classroom have grown. Our 2024 article Revising Assignments in Response to Generative AI provides examples from L&S instructors and perspectives from L&S students on using generative AI in assignments. In addition, Locally Sourced from Writing Across the Curriculum contains a section on Teaching Writing in an Age of AI. Find upcoming events on campus related to AI and teaching through the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentorship.
  • The Wisconsin Experience, four pillars that guide our campus in thinking about student experience.
  • Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning, 2010, Available by request through the UW Libraries, defines threshold concepts as “core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain.”
  • How Praise Became a Consolation Prize, a 2016 interview with Carol Dweck in The Atlantic, because explaining concepts with a growth mindset may help us avoid minimizing language.
  • L&S Elevate, a podcast by our partners in L&S Administration, highlights DEI champions creating change in the college.
  • Curling, from Wikipedia, and the Madison Curling Club, in case curling is on your mind.


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