Learning Council Focuses on Equity During October Meeting

Equity took center stage at the Thursday, October 3, 2019, meeting of the Learning Council. In fact, more than two thirds of the meeting time was devoted to the topic of equity, centered primarily on feedback and recommendations shared by Valencia faculty during Destination 2019.

Falecia Williams, president, West and Downtown Campuses, Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, and Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, facilitated an exercise similar to one they conducted during the fourth session of Destination, asking council members to consider the term equity in relation to the terms diversity and inclusion. They then shared a few definitions and descriptions of equity from leading organizations such as the Center for Urban Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, asking their colleagues to consider how their initial impressions of the terms compared to the definitions and descriptions shared.

Nichole Jackson, director, learning assessment, and Wendi explained that during the final day of Destination 2019, faculty submitted recommendations for the College, asking that we:

  1. define equity at the College;
  2. create opportunities for orientation, discussion and professional development focused on equity;
  3. focus on inclusivity in internal structures and practices;
  4. engage disaggregated data in meaningful ways; and
  5. create and share resources openly (i.e. community agency referrals, discussion spaces, etc.).

Nichole and Wendi invited council members to work in small groups to prioritize these recommendations, keeping in mind the role of the Learning Council and our Student Outcomes goals — which led to rich, spirited discussion. Among the ideas raised, affirmation of the need to define equity and create data definitions, so that we have some consistency and shared understandings in our use of terms; that we may want to examine within-group differences, beyond the simple disaggregation of data; and the suggestion that we explicitly mention race as a variable of interest, yet not at the exclusion of others.

Nichole also described the grounded theory approach she and members of the Teaching and Learning division used to complete a qualitative analysis of faculty members’ reflective responses to open-ended questions on the Inclusive Teaching and Equity-minded Destination Track follow-up survey. Through this process, they identified five themes that can inform our collegewide efforts toward equity, including Center for Teaching/Learning Innovation (CTLI) offerings, to be discussed during the next Learning Council meeting.

The equity discussion continued with a segment facilitated by Brandon McKelvey, vice president, analytics and planning, on the Equity-Minded Practice Focused Inquiry Proposal. Here, again, council members spoke at length about the term equity and asked how we intend to use it at Valencia, equating this moment in our history to that when we articulated learning-centeredness as an institutional commitment. Several colleagues asked if/how we might consider using the learning-centered initiative as a model for advancing our commitment to equity. There was a high level of agreement that, despite the lack of a predetermined institutional definition of equity, it seems worthwhile to update the focused inquiry proposal based on the discussion and commission the team, so that we might identify and examine equity-minded practices — especially given the sense that faculty are eager for concrete strategies.

Isis provided a brief update on the Degree Pathways work team, indicating that important next steps include the development of three sample Degree Pathways to be shared with students, advisors and faculty associated with the three programs. Dr. Williams suggested that we consider sharing the samples with colleagues from UCF as well.

Council members also reflected on their goals for the Learning Council in the year ahead. Among them, enhanced communication with the broader Valencia community, increased connection and perceived relevance to day-to-day work, additional collaboration with other governing bodies and a continued action orientation.

The next Learning Council meeting will be held Thursday, November 7, 2019, at the Osceola Campus.

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