Equity: Moving Beyond Alienation and Isolation
Because the great book on equity pedagogy has yet to be written, I have found myself exploring lots of resources on related topics and ideas. Two that have drawn my attention over the past year (Sentipensante and Teaching Men of Color in the Community College) come from very different perspectives but keep returning to one idea: the alienation and isolation felt by many community college students fuels the equity gap.
I want to thank my colleagues at Student Equity for introducing me to Teaching Men of Color in the Community College and my Letters colleague Maria Figueroa for introducing me to Sentipensante.
From the Institutional Level to the Individual Class Level
I believe addressing these feellings and experiences of alienation and isolation is one of the best goals of Guided Pathways, but our work there so far has focused primarily on the institutional level -- as it should -- via ideas like the intended focus of our fifth Friday in March when we will work on building community and connection at the college around academic and career clusters.
As promising as that start is, I believe we can do much more on this question by moving from that broader institutional conversation to a discussion about how faculty can work on the individual class level to minimize feelings of alienation and isolation and to promote a sense of community and connection among our students (and ourselves).
Although they operate from different ideological and cultural frames, both Sentipensante and Teaching Men of Color in the Community College prioritize four kinds of connection for us to help our students with in our classes: connections to course material, connections to each other, connections to communities, and connections to instructors.
Struck by the confluence of ideas between the two texts, I have assembled a possibilities list (not a requirements list!): things we can think about or explore to help students feel more connected and less alienated in each of these areas based on the suggestions made by Rendon in Sentipensante and Wood, Harris and White in Teaching Men of Color in the Community College. I have limited myself (and this already long email!) to three points in each of these four areas.
Perhaps this list will spark some ideas for you. Perhaps you already do many of these things and could share your thoughts by emailing me or responding to this message inside our canvas discussion zone.
Here are some things it seems to me both texts are suggesting faculty can do to bridge the alienation gap:
To Help Students Connect to Material We Can
Set high standards and create rigorous course content while helping students connect this material to their lives and the issues they face individually and collectively.
Historicize subjects to help students see the connection between ideas and culture and how different cultural groups have contributed to or been excluded from the development of the ideas and skills taught in the course.
Include differing views and cultural perspectives on the content ideas presented in a course. This can be done through learning activities ranging from readings, panels and discussions to bringing in speakers from a range of cultural backgrounds and experiences.
To Help Students Connect to Fellow Students We Can
Employ pedagogies that encourage small group interaction such as collaborative learning, project based learning, and team based learning.
Invest classroom time in activities that help students connect with each other as humans not just students -- conversations and interactions that emphasize care, compassion, empathy, and respect for diverse perspectives and experiences.
Reorganize the physical arrangment of the specific learning spaces in which we teach and learn to facilitate these kinds of connections between students (this may include advocating for different classroom structures and resources at the institutional level).
To Help Students Connect to Community We Can
Use experiential learning, field research, service learning and other "participatory epistemologies," pedagogies, and activities to help students connect their work in the class to the world around them.
Help create links between our classes and campus life and activities such as speakers, cultural events, and performances.
Link course content and refective assignments and activities to questions and issues emerging in the campus, local, national, and international communities our students are or wish to be part of.
To Help Students Connect to the Instructor We Can
Consider ways to expand the role of the professor beyond teacher and learner to include roles such as mentor, advocate, agent of change, humanitarian...
Proactively reach out to students to see if they need help rather than waiting for them to come to us or find their way to support services on their own
Invest in some one-to-one and/or small group time with students outside of class -- conferencing, mandatory office hour visits, informal cafeteria gatherings, trips to performances and other cultural events...
What I have shared here is by no means comprehensive and does nothing close to justice to the complex discussions and ideas presented in both of these books. Instead, I am trying to construct some launch pads based on places where I found the two texts intersecting.
I would appreciate any thoughts you wish to share via email or by joining the discussion about this message in our PDP Canvas page.
And I invite you again, to join PDP at its meting tomorrow, Friday March 9 where we will discuss equity pedagogy at the beginning of our meeting, which runs from 11:30-1:30 in the TIC (second floor of the library).