A new series of equity-centered “strategy guides” for college and university educators tries to move conversations about equity from an afterthought to an embedded part of planning digital teaching and learning.
“Sometimes equity gets sprinkled on top of conversations and planning in higher education,” says one of the co-authors of the series, Aireale Rodgers, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Center for Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“You have what is considered good pedagogy. And then you have equity-oriented pedagogy, when in fact, good pedagogy is equity oriented. With the strategy guides we asked what it would mean to center equity when we select courseware and open education resources or when we design for active learning or formative assessments.”
The series of strategy guides includes:
- An Equity-First Approach to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices, which reviews six practices proven to benefit Black, Latinx, Indigenous, poverty-affected, and first-generation students in gateway courses.
- An Equity-First Approach to Postsecondary Digital Learning, which outlines a framework for centering equity in course design using digital learning tools.
- Equity Principles for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education details the Every Learner Everywhere network’s eight equity principles and their application to equitable teaching.
As an example of the difference between “sprinkled on” and embedded equity perspectives, Rodgers describes a potential course in statistics. “Students need to know the equations and other tools of the trade,” she explains.
“But what are the examples and case studies you’re using? Is it a view of statistics that is responsive to the values of the students you are teaching? Those things change based on who it is you’re talking to, so providing students with the opportunity to co-construct why this matters provides the opportunity to imagine themselves as authentic practitioners rather than outsiders looking in.”
What’s in the digital teaching and learning strategy guides
The purpose of the strategy guides series is to highlight how equity in higher education, digital learning, and evidence-based teaching practices can be applied in higher educational courses. Rodgers says she and co-author Patricia O’Sullivan tried to balance brevity with advice that is well grounded in theory and evidence. The short sections in each guide define a concept and provide examples for applying it in a digital learning context, as well as resources for learning more.
For example, An Equity-First Approach to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices includes sections on data analytics, metacognition, and sense of belonging, among other practices. The latter section includes a short discussion about facilitating community-building activities that invite students to bring their whole selves to class.
Similarly, the advice in An Equity-First Approach to Postsecondary Digital Learning ranges from selecting and implementing digital courseware from an equity-centered perspective to analyzing and using data in ways that support equity efforts.
Promoting systemic change
Rodgers says the readers she had in mind may already be committed to centering equity in digital teaching and learning but may also be trying to advance those conversations in their institutions and looking for practical resources to share.
“We tried not to take for granted the question of ‘why equity?’” she says. “These provide a landscape not only for people who are on board but also people trying to facilitate conversations in their departments. We wanted to synthesize key insights on digital learning and evidence-based teaching practices and state clearly why they matter for equity.”
The guides, she says, “provide a few ways that you might begin to take this work up or advocate to your organization to take it up in their practice.”
That audience isn’t just faculty, though, but professionals across colleges and universities. In fact, “ecological approaches” and systemic critique imbue much of the discussion in the strategy guides.
“Our imperative crafting this series,” says Rodgers, “was a focus on affirming, transformative, and rigorous learning experiences for our target populations using digital learning and courseware.”
“Black, Brown, and Indigenous students, as well as students experiencing poverty, are at the heart of these guides,” she says. “So we tried to be intentional about how we translate to different contexts in higher education. Taking up this work to center equity in digital teaching and learning requires systemic change, and it requires teamwork.”Download the Equity-Centered Strategy Guides