Thirsty for Strong Instructional Practice?
“Equity” is a word that seems to be tossed around a lot in higher education these days. But what does it mean? And how can we promote equity in the classroom or in our student services interactions? MSU Denver prides itself on being very diverse—doesn’t that mean we already practice equity? It is safe to assume that people on campus want to do the right thing, but sometimes the “how” of equity work eludes us all.
Take a SIP of This: Equity
When approaching equity in our practice on campus, it is fundamental to remember two things. First of all, equity has multiple manifestations in higher ed, and each will have a different implication on your practice. Equity is identified in five general areas: access, transfer, retention, completion, and outcomes. If you are a professor, for example, access equity may mean that you provide differentiated means and ways for students from all races and ethnicities to learn the content in your class. From an institutional standpoint, outcomes equity means that students of color will graduate at the same percentage rate as their white peers. Whatever your role on campus, think about how the five areas of equity come into play in your daily practice and interaction with students.
Second of all, it is important to remember that diversity does not mean equity, and that “equality” is not the goal. To engage in equitable practice, we must all meet students where they are and identify the support that they need to get where we want them to be. This does not imply “lowering the bar”—instead, it means putting practical and institutional procedures and policies in place that will let all students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the desired outcomes of the class or of the university.
But how do we do this? Each one of us must identify the steps we can take in our own practice to promote equity in our area. Use these five guidelines for equitable practice to help decide what’s best for you:
- Clarity in language, goals and measures is the cornerstone for equitable practice.
- ”Equity-mindedness” should be the guiding paradigm for language and action.
- Equitable practices and policies are designed to accommodate differences in the context of students’ learning—not to treat all students the same.
- Enacting Equity requires a continual process of learning, disaggregating data, and questioning assumptions about relevance and effectiveness.
- Equity must be enacted as a pervasive institution- and system-wide principle.*
*From: America’s Unmet Promise: The Imperative for Equity in Higher Education
Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Equity
For more information on equity on campus, check out the Equity in Excellence website: http://www.msudenver.edu/equityinexcellence. If you would like specific tips or ideas to promote equity in your practice, please contact one of the committee members directly (members are listed on the website) and they will be happy to brainstorm with you! And professors, don’t forget that Universal Design for Learning can be a helpful tool for differentiating instruction in the classroom to better support equity!
For other resources on equity in the classroom and in higher ed practice, check out these links:
- Witham, K., Malcolm-Piqueux, L. E., Dowd, A. C., Bensimon, E. M. (2015). America’s Unmet Promise: The Imperative for Equity in Higher Education. Washington D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities. https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/publications/americas-unmet-promise-imperative-equity-higher-education
- Geared toward STEM, but excellent suggestions for all: “Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity.” http://www.lifescied.org/content/12/3/322.full
- An article from today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed—search the Chronicle for other articles on equity in practice, there have been so many lately: “’A Little More Every Day’: How You Can Eliminate Bias in Your Classroom” by Kathleen Tarr. http://chronicle.com/article/A-Little-More-Every-Day-/233303/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
- National Association of Secondary School Principals. For K-12 but very good. Equity in the Classroom. https://www.nassp.org/portals/0/content/48814.pdf