Opportunity and Equity Update: Equity-minded Practice

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Opportunity and equity is the central focus of the 2030 Strategic Impact Plan and the lens through which the College will examine its success in all areas. In October 2020, former Valencia College President Sandy Shugart commissioned equity initiatives in four key areas to evaluate our current processes and develop recommendations for equity-minded practices. In an effort to ensure you have the most updated information on the progress, findings and recommendations of the teams involved in this work, this new Opportunity and Equity series is published in The Grove on a bi-weekly basis. This week’s update highlights the work of the Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice. 

After months of research, discussion and synthesis, the Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice has completed a full draft of its primary deliverable: a research brief that will inform many of our collegewide equity efforts, particularly in teaching and learning.

Context for the Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice
The Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice originated in the Learning Council, and is co-chaired by Shara Lee, campus director, faculty and instructional development, and Marsha Butler, faculty, New Student Experience. In 2019, the Learning Council facilitated the development of six hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and outcomes at Valencia College. Three of the six hypotheses were developed enough to assign to work teams or divisions for additional work. The other three hypotheses were thought to require additional study, such that the Council devised a new kind of team: the Focused Inquiry Team (FIT). Focused Inquiry Teams are charged with further analyzing a hypothesis to identify concrete work that can be commissioned to support the College’s student learning and outcomes goals.  

The Focus Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice (Equity FIT) was charged with identifying evidence-based equity-minded practices in both pedagogy and curriculum. The team was also asked to help us better understand what data may assist in monitoring our progress by identifying measurable indicators of equitable student outcomes and experiences. Findings from the team will inform a number of our equity efforts, notably institutional plan strategies such as the updating of the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator, as well as the planning and programming of the Teaching and Learning Division.

What did the team do and produce?
More than 30 team members from across the College conducted extensive research in each of its three sub-areas: curriculum, pedagogy and indicators. The main product of this Equity FIT is a Research Brief, a draft of which was shared and discussed with the Learning Council during its meeting on Tuesday, July 1, 2021. The brief is organized thematically based on three overarching themes: 

  1. Holistic student support
  2. Inclusivity and cultural responsiveness
  3. High-impact practices

The brief is currently a 53-page document that describes:

  1. Recommendations for our current practice;
  2. Areas that would be helpful for future research and focus;
  3. Suggestions for how we might scale the proposed strategies; and
  4. Insights regrading the Equity FIT design process.

As the published research on equity-minded practices in higher education is emergent and growing, every effort was made to include empirical evidence, as well as concepts that are merited by other ways of knowing. Specific attention was directed toward strategies shown to support students who identify as Black, indigenous and/or people of color, among others who have been historically excludedIn this way, the Equity FIT leaders intended to align this work with our Impact Planning process, where we explicitly emphasize improving outcomes of our Black and Hispanic students.

Pedagogy Sub-team Co-chair Meg Curtiss, professor, graphic design, shared her vision for this work: “If Valencia College is in fact collectively and authentically interested in responding to the clear and present need for equity in learning, we ought to move as boldly as we did in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in meaningful and truly committed ways.” 

Sample Recommendations and Indicators
Recommendations and indicators are currently being refined and finalized with feedback collected from the Learning Council. The plan is to distribute the full Research Brief in The Grove in September 2021.

Sample recommendations:

  • Recognize differences in students — including but not limited to culture, ability/disability, socio-economic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion — and build on students’ experiences and strengths through transparency, invited partnership and cooperation.
  • Instructions, activities, outcomes, assessments, language choice, grading and feedback should incorporate transparency in learning and teaching.
  • Create a sense of belonging by promoting and advancing pedagogy that is asset-based and validating.

Next steps
The final Equity FIT Research Brief will be shared with the College community in The Grove in September 2021. We anticipate the following next steps:

  • Learning Council, Faculty Council and other governance structures will be able to review the draft to pair recommendations with current or emerging work. The Learning Council will explore the brief for aspects that are ready for a work plan.
  • Institutional Planning Teams will be able to integrate the brief or individual recommendations within institutional plan strategies such as the updating of the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator.
  • The Teaching and Learning Division will begin to implement elements of the brief in annual planning and programming, including the new Equity-minded Practice Certificate, which will be launched by the Spring 2022 term.
  • You will be invited to attend virtual Conversation Sessions where we will discuss the brief, implications for our practice, areas of further inquiry and next steps toward implementation. Days and times of these virtual sessions will be shared along with the brief in September.

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