Teaching for Equity: Fall Efforts to Advance Equity-minded Teaching and Learning

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Message from Wendi Dew, Assistant Vice President, Teaching and Learning and Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs 

This is the first in a series of communications focused on equity-minded teaching and learning at Valencia College. In late June, we concluded the “Teaching through the Coronavirus, Together” series with suggestions for using equity-minded practices this fall.

Today, we describe some of the fall term collegewide efforts associated with equity-minded teaching and learning, and make connections among them. We also include a call for participation in a focused-inquiry team on equity-minded practice, commissioned by the Learning Council, and point to the Institutional Equity Plan to be developed in the spring.

Intersecting Collegewide Equity Initiatives

One of the first opportunities made available this fall, offered in partnership by the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) and Faculty Development, was SEED: Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, an international project founded 30 years ago by Dr. Peggy McIntosh of Wellesley College. SEED utilizes a cohort-based, seminar model with the intention of creating gender fair, multiculturally equitable and globally informed educational spaces and workplaces. Through “listening to other’s voices, personal reflection, and learning experientially and collectively, SEED equips participants to connect our lives to one another and to society at large by acknowledging systems of power, oppression, and privilege.” Whereas in years past, only one section of SEED I and SEED II were offered each year; this year SEED is offering three SEED I sections and one SEED 2 section with a focus on race.

On Tuesday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 9, 2020, the Valencia African Heritage Committee organized the College’s participation in the global #ScholarStrike. Instead of proceeding with “business as usual,” the Valencia community was invited to engage in purposeful, professional and personal development, expressions of our commitment to supporting Black Lives Matter and protests against police violence, racialized violence, racism and white supremacy. The two-day protest provided a necessary pause to reflect on injustice and included the opportunity to join teach-ins. More than 400 (408) employees voluntarily signed a form in support of the #ScholarStrike and the College’s commitment to equity; and 368 of them suspended all or a portion of their normal work and engaged in professional and personal development.

Also this fall, Teaching and Learning leaders and the Assessment Coordinating Committee (ACC) convened deans by discipline to discuss their role in equity-minded assessment and support for faculty in the Learning Outcomes Assessment model. The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)’s publication “A new decade for assessment: Embedding equity into assessment praxis” has been central to these discussions. In response to this article, deans have begun making commitments to equity-minded assessment; among them, incorporating equity-minded curriculum and assessment into their goals for this year; supporting faculty in involving students throughout the assessment process; and enrolling in equity-minded faculty development offerings alongside faculty to learn about the most actionable next steps.

The Teaching and Learning Team has just announced an equity-minded practice series for the 2020-2021 academic year, building on the experiences and feedback from Destination participants in 2019. Categories of equity-minded practices to be explored are: inclusive learning environments; culturally responsive pedagogies and curricula; racialized patterns in the classroom; trauma-informed pedagogy; recognizing intersectionalities; and equity-minded assessment.

The College Curriculum Committee has committed to using this fall to explore the question: What does it mean for our students to see themselves in our curriculum? They used their initial discussion of the article “Faculty Accountability for Culturally Inclusive Pedagogy and Curricula” by Shaun Harper and Stephen John Quaye to identify steps for this inquiry, including hearing student input on how they experience the curriculum and learning from other institutions’ experiences.

Finally, the Learning Council has updated the Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-Minded Practice, charged with helping to lay the groundwork for the College’s Equity Plan by identifying evidence-based, equity-minded practices in both pedagogy and curriculum as well as data that may assist in monitoring our progress. This group will meet from mid-October to mid-January. If you are interested in serving on this team please review the full proposal, available here, and complete this form by Monday, October 5, 2020.

Laying the Groundwork for the Institutional Equity Plan

In addition to the collegewide efforts above, we are excited and humbled by the many equity-focused campus- and discipline-based strategies, convenings, and discussions. All in all, these equity-minded teaching and learning activities are not only varied and rich; they’re also timely and well aligned with our impact planning process. As President Shugart has described, Opportunity and Equity is “the binding narrative of our impact plan and all that flows from it,” and this spring, we will develop a stand-alone institutional equity plan.

He adds, “Opportunity is the promise that Valencia will include all in a chance to pursue college (access), to complete a meaningful education and credential (graduation), to earn a bachelor’s degree (transfer), and to find a career path to economic mobility (workforce). Equity in each of these areas is the test of the legitimacy of these promises and a commitment to invest in efforts to redress historic disenfranchisement and racism.”

Given the critical role that faculty play in access, graduation, transfer, workforce–and learning– let’s come together this fall to prepare to put our teaching to the test of the legitimacy of these promises and commit to redressing historic disenfranchisement and racism through our teaching.

To provide your feedback or ask questions about any of the initiatives above, or to suggest ideas for future editions of this series, please email us at wdew@valenciacollege.edu or iartzevega@valenciacollege.edu.

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