Definition of teaching for inclusion
The University’s Pathways to Equity Plan defines inclusion as “actively and intentionally creating a welcoming campus where all individuals feel they have a supportive and affirming space to learn, grow and engage.” Teaching for inclusion, then, is about developing effective teaching practices where students see their classrooms as spaces where they are welcomed and supported in learning, growing, and engaging the community.
We stand at a moment of profound change and a growing awareness of systemic inequities. Two thirds of adults support the Black Lives Matter movement, record numbers of women are running for public office, and one hundred years after winning the right to vote, women vote at higher rates than men. In addition, in the last year, more state bills have been passed that expand and protect the rights of LGBTQ persons than to oppose them.
However, we still have a long way to go in achieving an equitable society. Education has long been the vehicle to social mobility in the United States, but the poverty millions seek to escape is the most significant barrier to educational attainment.
The history of American education is rife with the same racism, segregation, and inequities that have marred our country since its founding. These factors, along with disproportionate resource allocation at the local and state levels, often lead to “opportunity gaps” where students in some schools do not have access to the same advantages present at other schools. When these students move on to college, they are often mischaracterized as underprepared or disengaged, when in reality they have been failed by our nation’s educational systems.
In higher education settings, under-resourced students additionally face curricula that do not represent them or their history, faculty who may be unaware of their own implicit bias, and a gate-keeper culture baked into colleges and universities that has led us to normalize disproportionate rates of progression and degree completion amongst different demographic populations of students. Moreover, as an institution with a marked history of struggle with racial diversity, the University of Mississippi today realizes its unique obligation to educate and lead the state with unquestionable and unwavering commitment toward the goal of embracing all aspects of diversity.
- Recognizing the ways in which systematic inequities disadvantage minoritized people in a range of social institutions or contexts (education, employment, healthcare, the criminal justice system, etc.).
- Reframing outcomes disparities as an indication of institutional underperformance rather than students’ underperformance.
- Not attributing outcomes disparities exclusively to students or perceived deficits in students’ identities, life circumstances, or capabilities.
- Critically reflecting upon one’s role and responsibilities (as a faculty member, student affairs staff, administrator, counselor, institutional researcher, etc.)
- Not comparing the performance of minoritized and poverty-impacted students to a false standard set by resourced students, thus other-izing the former group.
Drs. J. Luke Wood and Frank Harris; “Employing Equity Minded & Culturally Affirming Teaching Practices in Virtual Learning Communities” and quoting from Bensimon, E. M., Harris III, F., & Rueda, R. (2007). “The meditational means of enacting equity mindedness among community college practitioners”. Diversity Research, 7(1,2), 14-15.
The benefits of teaching with equity
Many disciplines in higher education underrepresent the population at large. By closing opportunity gaps, we invite a more diverse cohort of students into our disciplines.
Teaching with equity supports both critical thinking skills, and skills in cultural competence.
Teaching with equity will not right all of the wrongs in higher education, but if we don’t teach with equity, especially during this time of national and international crisis, we support the status quo of an institution that was originally designed for the benefit of the few over the many.