Discussion for Ch 5: Building Capacity for Equity-Mindedness Among First-Generation Equity Practitioners

Chapter five of From Equity Talk to Equity Walk (FET2EW) begins with a reminder of the goals of equity work. McNair, Bensimon, and Malcom-Piqueux remind us that we practice racial equity to correct injustices as well as acknowledge and seek to change the racist systems underlying higher education. In chapter 5, we move from a discussion of how institutions can assess and apply teaching about equity to improve our systems for the benefit of minoritized people to the consideration of how individuals within an institution can build a professional practice in “pursuit of racial equity” (p. 102).

A key point of chapter five is that professional practice is developed over time, based on values, and sometimes what informs our practice is hidden to us because it has become subconscious and automatic. That is how whiteness and centering whiteness has become central to the way that many educators do our jobs. No one ever plans to center whiteness in our practice, but we end up doing it because the academies surrounding us were built on foundations that prioritized Western culture and whiteness. In order to overcome our historically biased histories, we must examine and change our personal professional practice even as we seek to help reshape the institutions that we work within.

However, how do we begin to change ourselves if we cannot recognize the changes that we need to make. The authors quote Ruth Frankenberg (1993) to remind us that one of the reasons our professional practices center whiteness so much is that whiteness includes culture, positionality, and advantages that have been largely unexamined and unrecognized. Our work is in recognizing when whiteness has invaded our professional practice and undoing the harmful systems that we help to uphold.

This chapter has many ideas for both recognizing racially discriminating practices, but it also has some ideas for how to both recognize and correct practices that are inequitable. Here are some questions that we seek to explore in our discussion of chapter five of FET2EW:

What are some course policies that reflect a possible inequitable professional practice?

James Gray, who coined the term “First-Generation Equity Practitioners” (FGEP) writes that the idea was born out of a desire to demonstrate some ideas about what it means to be “first generation.” What are the allowances that we can/should make for ourselves as FGEPs? Does that term really work, considering that many FGEPs won’t be stigmatized or suffer institutional remediation as a result of what they don’t know?

What does accountability look like for a FGEP?

What underlying values and beliefs inform your current professional practice and how might that change based on your reading of this chapter?

The chapter includes a section on designing syllabi and materials. How can we revise the questions on page 116 to help us examine the creation and sharing of open education resources?

Please join us on Thursday, August 5 to discuss chapter 5 of FET2EW. This is our next-to-last summer book group meeting. We will meet one final time after this on August 12 to discuss the overarching messages of FET2EW and how they apply to our work in the open education field.

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Chapter 5 includes a section on designing syllabi and materials. How can we revise the questions on page 116 to help us examine the creation and sharing of open education resources?

Apply the questions below to assess ways in which your OER communicate the value of students’ racial/ethnic backgrounds as sources of learning and language:

  • Does your syllabus acknowledge that student learning benefits from deep and rich engagement of students’ racial or ethnic backgrounds and experiences?

  • Does it include a statement that recognizes the value of the racial or ethnic backgrounds and experiences that all students bring into the learning environment?

  • Does it include readings, activities, and assignments that are culturally relevant and inclusive (e.g., those that incorporate issues of race or ethnicity, gender, language, sexuality, and disability to show a diversity of perspectives and lived experiences)?

  • Does it include multiple assignments or discussion topics that allow students to share and draw on their experiential knowledge and/or the knowledge of their communities?

  • Does it include multiple topics and assignments on the real-world problems and issues facing the communities or cultural groups from which students come?

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