Advancing Culturally Responsive and Social Justice Education: An Equity Minded Approach to Digital Teaching and Learning
This session examines how digital learning aligned with culturally responsive and social justice teaching strategies can address disparities within higher education. We will explore how digital tools and courseware features grounded in culturally affirming and sustaining pedagogy can be operationalized to dismantle persistent inequities inherent in traditional teaching practices.
To transform teaching, instructors need to be supported to learn how to leverage cultural knowledge in their pedagogy in ways that not only engage their students but also strengthen their discipline-based learning. The role culture plays in cognitive development is a significant element that continues to be dismissed or overlooked in the analysis of instructional disparities in college classrooms. When our instructional practices acknowledge, invite, and integrate nondominant cultural norms, practices, assumptions, priorities, and beliefs we can disrupt and dismantle persistent and profound inequities. This session will identify how digital instructional technologies can be employed to support equity-minded teaching and learning approaches, such as culturally responsive, anti-racist teaching, and open pedagogy. By breaking down specific instructional strategies within each pedagogical approach we provide targeted guidance on which digital learning tools, courseware and LMS features can be employed to build on students’ sociocultural identities, culturally-bound prior knowledge and lived experiences. Our societies learnings from the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism forced academia to rely on digital tools to address the gross inequities that could no longer be ignored. Much has been revealed and recognized since March 2020 that changed the way the academia views the role that our structures, policies and practices serve the inequitable status quo of institutions of higher education. During the rapid transition to remote instruction, many faculty were afforded an opportunity to build different relationships with not only technology and their disciplinary content, but also with the students and the communities they serve. At the same time our community of leaders and innovators struggled to keep up with the demands from faculty to bridge the gap between theory and practice with equity-minded teaching and learning practices that serve the students that were disproportionately impacted by the interaction of the public health crisis and systemic racism. This session will provide actionable guidance for culturally responsive, impactful, and equity-minded digital teaching and learning strategies that facilitate student engagement and equitable learning outcomes.
As higher education continues to grapple with diversity, inclusion, and persistent inequitable outcomes, we must be committed to asset-based, student-centered, and equity-minded approaches to learning. Culturally responsive teaching is a multidimensional equitable approach that encompasses discipline-based content, learning environment, student-faculty relationships, and assessment. It requires upholding and embracing a wide range of cultural knowledge, experiences, contributions, and perspectives within educational experiences. Through culturally responsive teaching there are direct connections made to discipline-based academic content, students' culture, and their lived individual and communal experiences. Through culturally responsive teaching students are empowered intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by the instructor’s use of cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This approach provides college students with relevant and liberating educational experiences that impact learning and performance. Culturally responsive instructional strategies include:
- Assess and activate prior knowledge
- Create opportunities for students to analyze and research topics from a social-cultural perspective
- Differentiate instruction
There are a wide array of interactive web-based polling or game-based assessment tools, LMS blog and discussion board features that assess and activate prior knowledge. The more flexible tools allow instructors to add or revise question items in ways that provide opportunities for culturally-bound and general prior knowledge to be engaged. Faculty can align their culturally responsive teaching practices with digital tools like Voki and VoiceThread in ways that illuminate the global connections revealed in their research of course content from diverse context and culturally informed points of view. Adaptive courseware’s use of personalized learning pathways and individualized feedback loops provide a comprehensive mechanism to efficiently facilitate a key culturally responsive teaching strategy: differentiated instruction.
Digital learning technologies can also be used to enable social justice education strategies like anti-racist teaching. Borrowing from Kendi’s (2019, p. 18) definition of anti-racist policy, the staff and faculty engaged in this work at Brown University 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. Digital learning tools can be used to enact anti-racist strategies including confronting racist perspectives in discipline, authentically representing history, incorporating conversations about race in relation to course content and developing service-learning projects to connect student learning to transformative social action.
Open pedagogy’s use of learner-generated content and participatory technologies afford many opportunities to invite and center cultural knowledge. Through socially constructed media such as blogs, wikis students engage in reflective practice and work collectively to produce artifacts that they share, reconfigure, and redeploy. Open pedagogy is a form of experiential learning that can be intentionally designed to increase equitable access to education by reducing economic, technical, social, cultural, and political barriers to education. To some, open pedagogy, is a movement to promote social justice. It entails far more than the types or cost of instructional materials. Open pedagogy encourages a connected community with enhanced access to high-quality, peer-reviewed online resources, with the ability to participate in the technology. Open pedagogy supports faculty-student collaboration, adding voices and perspectives that are reflective of the diverse student body in college courses. Open pedagogy is based on the belief that academic progress is generated by collaboration, that the playing field for empirical research should be leveled globally, and that work conducted in a democratic environment, with the use of innovative technologies, should be made available to every student.
During the session, attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the intersection of equity-minded practice and digital learning by working together in triads to discuss how to center cultural knowledge and students’ lived experiences. Each triad will be given a specific instructional strategy and the name and description of a digital tool, LMS or courseware feature to consider. Together they will identify how the digital and instructional element can be aligned to invite, validate, and/or affirm students’ cultural knowledge.
Participants will be able to:
- Identify digital tools that integrate with equity-minded instructional approaches: culturally responsive teaching, anti-racist teaching and open pedagogy.
- Recognize the benefits of culturally responsive teaching and social justice education and identify potential digital teaching and learning strategies that support the equity-minded approaches.
- Take steps to create course elements that validate, affirm, and embrace the diverse perspectives, lived experiences, and cultures of the student they serve.
- Engage in culturally responsive practice to advance equity minded teaching and learning.
The call for educators to examine equity requires implementing inclusive, innovative, and student-centered instructional approaches that require the thoughtful and purposeful use of digital technologies. This session not only amplifies an equity-minded approach to teaching and learning but offers actionable steps to operationalize the equitable use of digital learning technologies.