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Effective Teaching Is Anti-Racist Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
1812

We define “anti-racist teaching” as intentional syllabus design, class content, or pedagogy that creates or develops racial equity, with applications for face-to-face and remote/hybrid teaching environments.

Folks:

The posting below looks at five key starting points of anti-racist classrooms.  It was provided to me byMary Wright, executive director of the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning http://brown.edu/sheridan at Brown University in Providence, RI. She is also Professor of Practice in Sociology. mary_wright@brown.edu. The posting is from the newsletter. Copyright 2020 Brown University.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission. To subscribe to the Sheridan Center newsletter, please link here.

Regards, Rick Reisreis@stanford.eduUP NEXT: Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 – Part 1 of 2  Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning---------- 1,801 words ----------Effective Teaching Is Anti-Racist Teaching

 

The times may be frightening but we live in a teachable moment.

-Fox, 2017, p. xvii

 

We -- staff and faculty of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning -- begin this newsletter with the acknowledgement and juxtaposition of horror and hope. In the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted People of Color, we name the senseless yet calculated and systematic murders of Black women, men and trans* people, most recently: Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor. 

We also hold onto the “deep hope” that classrooms are sites of social transformation. Brown professor Andre Willis (Religious Studies) defines “deep hope” as a “generous present disposition toward the future...It is an outgrowth of despair, not its enemy.” While holding onto the deep hope for teaching and learning to be an agent of positive change, we also acknowledge that educational institutions have historically been sites of harm and emotional toll, particularly for students and faculty of color (Hurtado, Cuellar, Guillermo-Wan, 2011; Pittman, 2010; Smith, 2002).

 

Here, we outline five key starting points of anti-racist classrooms, designed to magnify the transformative impact of education but also to mitigate the negative harm. Borrowing from Kendi’s (2019, p. 18) definition of anti-racist policy, we define “anti-racist teaching” as intentional syllabus design, class content, or pedagogy that creates or develops racial equity, with applications for face-to-face and remote/hybrid teaching environments. We also commit to incorporating these principles into our own practice, in our work to support teaching and learning at Brown. 

In use of terms throughout this newsletter, our intent is not to be dismissive of the particular harm on Black people and communities. Therefore, we wish to note that throughout, when quoting or paraphrasing research, we use the racial/ethnic terms and stylistic conventions (e.g., capitalized or lower-case letters) that are selected by the authors.

Course goals


Learning goals are the intended purposes and desired achievements of a particular course, which generally identify the knowledge, skills, and capacities that all students in a class should achieve. Clear and well-designed course goals are one of the most important strategies for effective teaching (Hattie, 2011), and therefore, it follows that anti-racist syllabi would incorporate one or more objectives to foster equitable outcomes. 

 

For example, learning goals that help students interrogate their own biases or the biases of a discipline can support an anti-racist classroom. An example comes from Brown faculty member Robert Campbell’s (Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology) syllabus on “Precision Medicine or Privileged Medicine?”:

 

By the end of this course, you should be able to:...

·  Understand how non-inclusiveness of biomedical research may bias the distribution of benefits, harms and risks for people, stakeholders and communities.

 

·  Analyze your assumptions and beliefs when working to facilitate civic engagement that makes a difference for people from other places and experiences.

 

·  Recognize power imbalances and issues of trust that marginalize people from research.

 

-BIOL-0940E (Robert Campbell, MPPB) 

 

Learning goals -- which suggest what students should be able to do by the end of the course -- can be complemented by diversity and inclusion syllabus statements, which suggest what instructors will do to create anti-racist classrooms. 

 

Class content


In their work on culturally responsive teaching, Margery Ginsberg and Raymond Wlodkowski (2009, p. 330) note that course content is one key element, which requires a “willing[ness] to cross the border from what we know to what we need to know…and to open ourselves to the limitations of our own perspectives and the need for those of others.” It is important to locate diverse course content throughout the curriculum. Indeed, students’ openness to diversity after college is associated with the frequency that instructors include diverse perspectives in their courses (Shim & Perez, 2018). Examples of ways that Brown faculty have diversified their syllabi, in multiple disciplines, can be found here.

 

I found that it wasn't enough to perform vulnerability and empathy with my students. The course materials (and deliverables) had to also be considered within the lens of unfolding trauma. In the next term, I will be considering my course design with intent to maximize care *and* pedagogic excellence. 

-Sydney Skybetter, TAPS

In addition to the presentation of varied authors and communities, an anti-racist approach to course content will also be mindful of the balance between deficit- and asset-based depictions of communities. Sociologist Marisela Martinez-Cola (2018, p. 106) notes that while her discipline tends to “study the catastrophic,” the constant deficit depiction of People of Color can add to student despair and present a limited range of experiences. In her course planning she discusses the importance of including literature on middle- and upper-class People of Color, as well as material where “the marginalized are also the empowered, the strong, and the victorious” (p. 107). Similarly, highlighting the “cultural wealth” of Communities of Color is an approach that highlights strengths -- e.g., multiple language skills, aspirations, social networks --  rather than deficits (Yosso, 2005).

While it is important for instructors to make these adjustments, students can also support this work. For example, Brown faculty member Jeffrey Moser (History of Art and Architecture) includes a series of assignments in his Arts of Asia course (HIAA 21) that asks students to identify a piece of art that represents an artist, theme, community or tradition they felt was missing from or underrepresented in the course and develop an argument about why it should be included. With each successive iteration of the course, Professor Moser then integrates at least one of these proposals into the syllabus and lecture (with acknowledgement of the student). Additionally, asking students to write about the relevance of course concepts to their own lives has been shown to promote anti-racist outcomes.

 

Classroom discussions and problem solving


While classrooms can be sites of transformative learning, they are also situated in a broader system of White supremacy. Classrooms are “discretionary spaces” (Ball, 2018) where we (instructors) are engaged in dozens of split-second instructional decisions. As instructors, we imbue these quickly made decisions with our own biases. Additionally, White students enter college with less experience and predisposition to engage with diverse peers (Hall, Cabrera & Milem, 2011). While active learning is most likely to enhance student learning in a diverse classroom (Freeman, 2014; Gurin, 2000; Milem, 2000), discussions about race can turn silent or monological (Fox, 2017; Sue, 2013), small group work can privilege certain student voices (Eddy et al., 2015), and, at worst, these approaches can do harm to minoritized students. 

 

Anti-racist classrooms should intentionally structure classroom interactions through one or more of the following approaches:

·  Facilitation strategies such as classroom discussion guidelines, active engagement in checking microaggressions and amplifying microaffirmations, and calling students “in” to a discussion

 

·  Clear guidelines for participation that allow students the opportunity to set goals that may encompass verbal and other modalities of participation (Gillis, 2019).

 

·  Encouragement of a sense of belonging and positive classroom community, such as through writing or showing diverse images of practitioners and scholars in the field

 

·  Use of synchronous (e.g., Zoom chat or a Google Doc) or asynchronous discussions (e.g., Canvas). One study in an engineering classroom found that when teams planned design projects with written discussions, they were more likely to be equitable (Fowler, 2015).

 

·  Well-defined roles and outcomes for pair, team and group experiences, to provide equitable rotations of roles for students to speak, listen, ideate, etc. (Thompson & Sekaquaptewa, 2002). 

 

·  Equitable access to course texts and materials, by using library reserves and Open Educational Resources (OER). The presence of OER resources, in particular, has been found to be related to equitable grading systems (Colvard, Watson, & Park, 2018).  Course supplies may present another barrier (see textbox below).

 

·  Teaching students about the potential for implicit bias, such as in small-group Zoom discussions (Adams, Devos, Rivera, Smith & Vega, 2014; Goshal, Lippard, Robas, & Muir, 2012).

 

When designing assignments— particularly for remote learning— I need to ensure each of my students will have access to all the necessary tools and materials, for the sake of equity.

-VISA professor

This page from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching also offers a helpful guide for teaching about race and racial injustice (Thurber, Harbin, & Bandy, J., 2019).

 

Assessment


Grading and feedback can be two of the most critical sites of inequities because they are so deeply linked to educational outcomes and students’ sense of self. They also can be deeply imbued with implicit bias. For example, in his book Antiracist writing assessment ecologies, Asao Inoue (2015, pp. 3-4) argues, “If we are to enact helpful, educative, and fair writing assessments with our students, given the history of whiteness...we must understand our writing assessment as antiracist projects.” Similarly, criterion-referenced grading is an example of an anti-racist approach because grading systems associated with norm-referenced grading (“curving”) tend to exacerbate racial disparities (Hurtado & Sork, 2015).

 

Anti-racist approaches to assessment include:

·      Using strategies to mitigate stereotype threat, such as feedback that emphasizes an instructor’s high standards, a student’s potential to reach them, and actionable feedback to improve (Steele, 2011; Yaeger et al. 2014).

 

·      Using more frequent assignments with less weight (e.g., multiple graded drafts of a paper, practice problems, reading guide), an approach that has been found to reduce opportunity gaps (Eddy & Hogan, 2014).

 

·      Employing contract grading systems, which allow students discretion over the amount (and often type) of work they plan to complete, which corresponds with a certain grade. (See this example from Inoue, 2019).

 

·      Increasing transparency of assignments by clarifying the purpose, steps to complete the task, and criteria for success. (Examples can be found here.)

 

Knowing (and Re-Knowing) Yourself

 

Although we are not responsible for the culture-specific beliefs we grew up with, we are surely responsible for examining and questioning them as adults and as educators.
-Marchesani & Adams (1992, p. 14)

For educators, addressing components of anti-racist teaching is not a straightforward task, but a longer-term work in progress, with many iterations – and failures – along the pedagogical journey. As part of this lifelong work, we need to continually interrogate the racist systems and communities in which we live and work. Educators and students do not enter the classroom environment as blank slates devoid of identity or culture. Our beliefs and values impact the decisions we make as we teach. Brown’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) has curated resources to start this work, which are available here.

 

We look forward to working with the Brown teaching and learning communities to support this work and, for those of us who are White faculty or staff, to engage in our own self-interrogation. To signal our shared commitment to the work, we sign below.

With great care, respect, and deep hope for our teaching and learning communities,

Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning

*The asterisk is used here to note a wide spectrum of gender identities, including transgender. Please see this resource from Brown’s LGBTQ Center for a full definition.

 

Sources

Adams, V.H., Devos, T., Roversa, L.M., Smith, H., & Vega, L.A. (2014). Teaching about implicit prejudices and stereotypes: A pedagogical demonstration. Teaching of Psychology, 41(3): 204-212.

 

Ball, D. (2018). Just dreams and imperatives: The power of teaching in the struggle for public education. AERA presidential address. Available here: https://deborahloewenbergball.com/news-archive/2018/4/19/deborah-loewenberg-ball-delivers-presidential-address-at-aera-annual-meeting

 

Colvard, N.B., Watson, C.E., & Park, H. (2018). The impact of Open Educational Resources on various student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2): 262-276.

 

Eddy, S. L., & Hogan, K. A. (2014). Getting under the hood: How and for whom does increasing course structure work? CBE – Life Sciences Education, 13: 453-468. Available: http://www.lifescied.org/content/13/3/453.full

 

Eddy, S.L., Brownell, S.E., Thummaphan, P., Lan, M., Wenderoth, M.P. (2015). Caution, student experience may vary: Social identities impact a student’s experience in peer discussions. CBE- Life Sciences Education, 14: 1-17. Available: https://www.lifescied.org/doi/full/10.1187/cbe.15-05-0108

 

Fowler, R. (2015). Talking teams: Increased equity in participation in online compared to face-to-face team discussions. Computers in Education Journal, 6(1), 21-44

 

Fox, H. (2017). “When race breaks out”: Conversations about race and racism in college classrooms, 3rd ed. New York: Peter Lang. 

 

Freeman, S., Eddy, S.L., McDonough, M., Smith, M.K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M.P. (2014). Active learning boosts performance in STEM courses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (23) 8410-8415.

 

Gillis, A. (2019). Reconceptualizing participation grading as skill building. Teaching Sociology, 47(1): 10-21.

 

Ginsberg, M.B., & Wlodkowski, R.J. (2009). Diversity and motivation: Culturally responsive teaching in college, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

 

Goshal, R.A., Lippard, C., Robas, V., & Muir, K. (2012). Beyond bigotry: Teaching about unconscious prejudice. Teaching Sociology, 41(2): 130-143.

Gurin, P. (2000). Expert Report in the Matter of Gratz et al. v. Bollinger et al. No. 97-75321(E.D. Mich.) and No. 97-75928 (E.D. Mich.). Available: http://diversity.umich.edu/admissions/legal/expert/gurintoc.html

 

Hall, W.D., Cabrera, A.F., & Milem, J.F. (2011). A tale of two groups: Differences between minority students and non-minority students in their predispositions to and engagement with diverse peers at a predominantly white institution. Research in Higher Education, 52: 420-439.

 

Hattie, J. (2011). Which strategies best enhance teaching and learning in higher education? In D. Mashek and E. Y. Hammer, Eds. Empirical research in teaching and learning: Contributions from social psychology (pp. 130-142). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

 

Hurtado, S., Cuellar, M., & Guillermo-Wann, C. (2011, Summer). Quantitative measures of students’ sense of validation: Advancing the study of diverse learning environments. Enrollment Management Journal, 53-71.

 

Hurtado, S., & Sork, V. L. (2015, December). Enhancing student success and building inclusive classrooms at UCLA: Report to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. Available: http://wscuc.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/C5_16_Report_Enhancing_Student_Success-Building_Inclusive_Classrooms_at_UCLA_December_2015.pdf

Inoue, A.B. (2015). Antiracist writing assessment ecologies: Teaching and assessing writing for a socially just future. Fort Collins, CO: WAC Clearinghouse.

 

Inoue, A. B. (2019). Labor-based grading contracts: Building equity and inclusion in the compassionate writing classroom. Perspectives on Writing. The WAC Clearinghouse; University Press of Colorado. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/labor/

 

Kendi, I.X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. New York: One World.

 

Marchesani, L. S., & Adams, M. (1992). Dynamics of diversity in the teaching-learning process: A faculty development model for analysis and action.

Martinez-Cola, M., English, R., Min, J., Peraza, J., Tambah, J., & Yebuah, C. (2018). When pedagogy is painful: Teaching in tumultuous times. Teaching Sociology, 46(2): 97-111.

 

Milem, J.F. (2000). The educational benefits of diversity: Evidence from multiple sectors. In M.J. Chang, D. Witt, J. Jones, & K. Hakuta, Eds. Compelling interest: Examining the evidence on racial dynamics in colleges and universities. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

 

Pittman, C. (2010). Race and gender oppression in the classroom: The experiences of women faculty of color with white male students. Teaching Sociology, 36(3): 183-196.

 

Shim, W., & Perez, R.J. (2018). A multi-level examination of first-year students’ openness to diversity and challenge. The Journal of Higher Education, 89(4): 453-477.

 

Smith, R.A. (2002). Race, gender, and authority in the workplace: Theory and research. Annual Review of Sociology, 28: 509-52.

 

Steele, C.M. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Strange, C. C., & Stewart, D. L. (2011). Preparing diversity change leaders. In D. L. Stewart (Ed.), Multicultural student services on campus: Building bridges, re-visioning community (pp. 254­266). Sterling, VA: Stylus. 

 

Sue, D.W. (2013). Race talk: The psychology of racial dialogues. American Psychology: 663-672.

 

Taylor, K.B., & Baker, A.R. (2019). Examining the role of discomfort in collegiate learning and development. Journal of College Student Development, 60(2): 173-188.

 

Thompson, M., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2002). When being different is detrimental: Solo status and the performance of women and minorities. Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1): 183-203.

 

Thurber, A., Harbin, M.B., & Bandy, J. (2019). Teaching Race: Pedagogy and Practice. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Available: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/teaching-race/.‎

 

Willis, A. C. (2020, April 22). Corona virus and the crisis of hope. Presentation at Brown University. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVhaONe3H04

 

Yeager, D.S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W.T., & Williams, M.E. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2): 804-824.

 

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory of cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1): 69-91.