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How to Promote Inclusion and Equity in the Classroom

The rub-a-dub produced by the drums of educational and classroom inequity grows louder. A new report by Schott Foundation for Public Education titled, A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City exposes how students are affected by state policies that allocate fewer resources and least experienced teachers to schools in regions where the minorities (Hispanic and Blacks) reside.

This is in direct contrast with the presence of high-performing schools located in regions inhabited by the economically privileged.

Schott's report describes how Black and Hispanic students are four times more likely to receive their classroom education in the poorest academic locations within the state. Students from impoverished regions have fewer chances of ever trying out their abilities in a gifted/talented program.

Jonathan Kozol also exemplifies this point in his book titled Savage Inequalities challenging the status-quo of racial-based educational inequality.

Noteworthy is that this intertwining trend of economic disadvantage and educational inequality goes beyond the borders of New York City. Countries with a diverse populace like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, etc. experience the clutches of educational inequity.

Perhaps the best way to begin this conversation is by expanding on exactly what we mean by equity in the classroom and why classroom equity is important.

Understanding Classroom Equity

Equity in the classroom is simply taking steps to ensure every student (or participant) is provided with the support and the resources they need to become successful in their learning.

Individuals are not hindered from exploring their potentials and possibilities based on discriminative factors like colour, ethnicity, socio-economic status (SES), sexual orientation and others. It provides a space where unique ideas (from these students) will receive equal attention and opportunity to flourish.

In a multi-racial classroom setting, equity (not equality) means understanding the life experiences of students of colour and organizing classroom activities to show this understanding. It is holding the knowledge that culture and environments have an impact on education, and allowing that knowledge to reflect in learning activities. There’s no magic pill that will automatically heal the issues of inequity and the non-inclusive environment experienced in the classroom. Yet, by introducing relatable ideas (not dominated by Eurocentric perspectives) into the redesigning of curriculum, using anti-racist pedagogy and more pronounced activities like diverse teaching styles, and intentionally hiring a diverse teaching workforce to promote broader representations, etc. classroom equity is achievable.

Achieving such a feat is a challenge without the unintentional effect of creating a divide. That is why we need a decolonized educational curricula to support this move towards an antiracist education system. Also providing DEI training to educators such as unconscious bias training, culturally relevant pedagogical practices, how to create and use anti-racist curriculua, etc. will improve teachers’ ability to pass knowledge to a multi-racial group.

One major importance of classroom equity is its potency to create a motivated “student force” that absorbs new ideas and makes learning easier with more measurable results. This creates the long-term effect of improved employability and a more unified society without the dreadful effects of racism in the workplace or social systems.

What is Anti-Racist Pedagogy and How Can it Promote Classroom Equity?

Anti-Racist Pedagogy is a powerful idea that stems from the principles of Critical Race Theory (CRT). It says, because racism is structural, we should actively empower campaigns that speak up against racism. From adding course content that explicitly fights racism, and normalizes inclusive learning to reforming other educational areas like research, and even community work.

How Can Anti-Racist Educators Help?

Teachers are at the forefront of promoting equity in the classroom. Some of the things you could do as an anti-racist educator are:

  • Use inclusive teaching approaches to engage students in meaningful learning that is relevant and accessible to them irrespective of their demographics. An inclusive environment gives students opportunities to express their views comfortably without the pressure of being discriminated against.

  • Explicitly mention issues that relate to racism and how it negatively affects society, and the benefits of anti-racism in order to provide relatable context. Address issues of racism in your classroom as they arise.

  • Recognize individuality, and use the school curricula as a framework to engage students with an inclusive teaching approach so that each participant benefits from the opportunities others have.

Your role as an anti-racist educator rests on your approach to issues relating to racism. Do you speak out on these issues, and create a space for your students to understand this as well? Or are your methods subtle, and ineffective?

Let’s Try a Different Approach

Here’s one of the most popular quotes from John Dewey (the Educator and originator of experimentalism philosophy):

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved”

With the assumption that Dewey's quote is the gospel, have we failed to clearly state the obvious problem of inequity in our classrooms? When challenges like unequal access to high-quality educational resources, school funding, technologies to assist learning, etc. are still the problems for schools in socially excluded communities, then we are probably not stating the problem of educational/classroom inequity clearly/well enough.

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify it and describe it–and then dismantle it.” – Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (2019).

Find out how Tough Convos can help your classroom, school or team embrace diversity and inclusion using a custom approach. You can simply book a call with us or sign up to attend our next monthly tough convo event.

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