Every Learner Everywhere

What Are Evidence-Based Teaching Practices (EBT) and How Do They Support Equity in Higher Ed?

Higher education professionals often refer to evidence-based teaching practices, and the term appears frequently in Every Learner Everywhere resources. But what do we mean by evidence-based teaching (EBT), and what makes those practices inclusive and equitable?

An overview of evidence-based teaching practices

An evidence-based teaching practice is an instructional strategy that research demonstrates is effective for student learning. In the past decade, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Every Learner, identified several evidence-based teaching practices for use with adaptive courseware, particularly in gateway courses. Those EBTs were subsequently expanded to address equity and diversity in face-to-face, hybrid, and online modalities.

From Equity-First Approach to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices Strategy Guide

 

The six evidence-based teaching practices are:

  1. Transparency
  2. Active learning
  3. Formative practice
  4. Data analytics
  5. Metacognition
  6. Sense of belonging

The research supporting EBTs is outlined in detail in the Equity-First Approach to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices Strategy Guide.

1. Transparency

Transparency is including students in the learning process by letting them see how activities are connected to learning objectives and how learning objectives are assessed. Transparency allows for organization and alignment in the design of a course, a particularly important consideration for minoritized, poverty-affected, and first-generation students.

Consider an instruction that reads “Write a paper on . . . .” That’s a vague direction with many possible interpretations. If students are reluctant to ask for clarification, they will struggle. More transparent instruction might be sharing the rubric of how the paper will be graded, or explaining how the paper will help them practice a skill listed in the course objectives.

2. Active learning

Active learning is learning by doing. Just like people learning to drive a car both study a manual with the rules of the road and practice under the supervision of an experienced driver, college students need to practice what they are studying. Active learning puts the emphasis of a course on a skill or set of skills rather than on the content. Although content is important, research shows students will forget a lot of course content but are more likely to retain skills and methods.

Related viewing — Webinar on active and adaptive learning  

3. Formative practice

Formative practice allows students to learn from timely feedback on low-stakes assessment. Not only is this a natural way to learn, but formative practice supports equity by allowing learners who are new to a topic to build their knowledge and skills in steps. Frequent low-stakes formative assessment also opens more opportunities for students to reflect on their own goals and progress and to approach the instructor with questions.

Related reading — Using Formative Assessment in Supporting Student Directed Learning

4. Data analytics

Data analytics is using real-time data to improve teaching and learning as the course is ongoing. Faculty might monitor attendance, assignment progress, and test scores to identify students who need a check-in or additional help. Learning management system or courseware data can shed light on students’ engagement with and understanding of course content. Data analytics can support equity by revealing inequities in the learning experience that can be addressed in the course design.

Related reading — Learning Analytics Strategy Toolkit 

5. Metacognition

Metacognition is the process of learners being aware and in control of their own thinking processes. Metacognitive strategies provide students with opportunities to practice self-assessment, self regulation, and agency. These might be as simple as helping students learn to navigate an online learning system, understand the process of starting and completing an assignment, or reflecting on what they have learned once an assignment is complete.

Related reading — Using Reflection and Metacognition to Create Equitable Learning Environments

6. Sense of belonging

A sense of belonging involves designing a learning space where all students, regardless of background, feel they have a place in the classroom and discipline. Students who feel emotionally supported by their teachers are more likely to stay engaged in class and accept feedback. Students who hear messages of encouragement from teachers and feel their identity is affirmed by teachers are more likely to participate, persist, and succeed academically.

Minoritized students may struggle to find the help and resources they need to succeed. Creating a welcoming and supportive classroom as well as developing meaningful connections with students can go a long way to mitigate those barriers.

Related reading — How Faculty Are Using Reflection Activities To Improve Student Engagement in Intro Courses

EBTs support equity

Several evidence-based teaching practices have been shown to benefit student populations through research studies that are not disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Every Learner takes a different approach. In Getting Started with Equity: A Guide for Academic Department Leaders, Every Learner specifically gathered data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to identify practices that benefit racially and ethnically minoritized students.

Every Learner and its network partners believe good teaching practices proactively identify and address barriers to equity. Any teaching approach that is not intentionally equity-centered cannot be universally “good” but only good for the particular student demographic around which it is designed. Just as inclusive design features like closed captioning potentially benefit all students, effective learning experiences designed for equity aid every learner.

Download An Equity-First Approach to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices

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