How can coaches support educators in recognizing their implicit bias, addressing equity gaps, and fostering trusting relationships, to deliver culturally responsive teaching in digital learning environments?
While educators plan and prepare for learning in the fall, many of whom already know or are anticipating that this learning will happen virtually, there are many questions weighing on their minds. Questions about learning management systems, distribution and access to devices, assessment of student progress, and building classroom communities just to name a few. While all of these questions are valid and important to answer, a question I feel is essential to student success (and what led me to my inquiry question for this module), is how to deliver culturally responsive teaching in digital learning environments. In my research for this module, I am reflecting on my dual role as both a coach and educator, and the context of how my inquiry question relates to both my own students and also the support I provide to my colleagues. For the inquiry question I am researching for module 3, my exploration is focused on investigating the second indicator from ISTE Coaching Standard 3:
3b. Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and aligned to content standards.
As learning coaches address how to support educators in culturally responsive teaching online, and educators look to strengthen their own practices, I think it is important to remind ourselves what culturally responsive teaching is, how it looks in practice, and how it fits into equity work. Figure 1 below is a Distinctions of Equity chart developed by Zaretta Hammond that I have found to be a beneficial guide when reflecting on my own teaching in relation to equity, and also useful in helping me to refocus my practices when necessary. It may be helpful to reference this chart as I share more about my findings related to culturally responsive teaching online. I know I will be returning to this chart, and many of the resources I have gathered in my research, throughout this school year.DistinctionsofEquityChart1_Hammond_updated
Figure 1.0 Distinctions of Equity, Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://crtandthebrain.lpages.co/differences/
Fostering Trusting Relationships
Educators work extremely hard to build their classroom communities and make connections with students, and developing a space where students feel safe, supported, and engaged presents new challenges when done at a distance. For coaches, a foundational place to begin supporting educators in culturally responsive teaching digitally is by supporting them in fostering trusting relationships with their students, so that educators can lead students into their learning zone with confidence. One of the ways educators can foster trusting relationships with their students and develop a digital learning environment that is culturally responsive is by using identity charts with their students. The organization Facing History and Ourselves (2020) recommends that educators, “Use identity charts to deepen students’ understanding of themselves, groups, nations, and historical and literary figures. Sharing their own identity charts with peers can help students build relationships and break down stereotypes” (n.p.). Figure 2 below shows an example of what a student’s identity chart could look like. Through the use of identity charts, coaches can help educators create intentional opportunities for students to share their experiences, learn more about their peers, and begin to build community.
Taking even more time in remote learning than we might have in face-to-face to share about happenings about our lives can also be an effective way for educators to foster trusting relationships with their students. Teachers can also build in time at the beginning of each meeting to check-in with students about how they are feeling and do some social-emotional practice as a class community. In remote learning in the spring, I tried to end every morning meeting by doing a fun activity or team-building exercise with my class to continue to strengthen our connection as a class. According to Dr. Rachael Mahmood (2020), “Zaretta Hammond explains that high-trust, low-stress environments can help marginalized students effectively process and retain learned information” (n.p.). Providing fun, engaging community connection opportunities like this for students creates a safe, supportive space, and fosters trusting relationships.
Addressing Equity Gaps
Learning coaches can also support teachers in culturally responsive teaching by helping teachers to address equity gaps in remote learning. One approach to addressing equity gaps in remote learning is for teachers to utilize asset-based feedback with their students. Julie Kennedy and MaryElise Nolan (2020) explain that the core components behind Zaretta Hammond’s asset-based feedback framework are, “…make a positive connection with the student, acknowledge the difficulty of the task and affirm the student’s ability to succeed, and provide specific feedback that advances learning” (n.p.). This feedback framework can only be effective once teachers have built connections and developed a trusting relationship with their students, which is why that is such an essential foundation for culturally responsive teaching. Through trusting relationships and the use of this framework, teachers are then able to engage with students in intentionally structured conversations that support equity gaps and are critical to student growth.
In the Teaching Tolerance article, Online Teaching Can Be Culturally Responsive, Dr. Rachel Mahmood also discusses the importance of centering students online to amplify student voice and address issues of inequity. “When teachers act more as facilitators than lecturers, Gloria Ladson-Billings explains, students from marginalized groups are more likely to participate and succeed” (Mahmood, 2020, n.p.). Learning coaches can help educators to create online learning spaces that provide students, especially those from marginalized communities, with the opportunity to drive the learning. One of the ways my colleagues and I practiced centering students in remote learning last spring was in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Immediately following this event and the ensuing protests around racial injustice, our students were wanting to connect with their classroom community. By creating this Padlet, we redirected the learning and centered students in the conversation, allowing them to feel seen and heard in our learning partnership, and share the thoughts, feelings, and questions that were culturally and socially relevant to them.
Another way coaches can help educators address equity gaps in remote learning is by actively reflecting on and evaluating the practices and systems the school and/or district has in place to support student learning. Gene Batiste (2020), Chief Diversity Officer at St. John School in Houston, Texas, recommends school leaders ask four reconstructing questions when addressing equity gaps in remote learning. “What are we doing now that we can do more of that promotes D.E.I.B. (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging) in our school given this new reality? What are we doing now that we should do less of what we are doing? What aren’t we doing that we should be doing? What are we doing that we need to stop doing in order to, you know, not just maintain but thrive in community and inclusion in D.E.I.B. with this new space?” (n.p.). These reflective, reconstructing questions are guiding posts to help us evaluate equity issues. Knowing that a digital learning environment is a potential reality for the foreseeable future for many of us and our students, it is vital for school leaders, coaches, and educators to all use evaluative, reflective systems like these questions to address equity gaps in remote learning.
Recognizing Implicit Bias
In the work to strengthen our practice of culturally responsive teaching during remote learning, also comes the importance of recognizing the implicit bias we have and actively interrupting them. A resource that I have found to be profoundly helpful in recognizing my own implicit bias is Project Implicit’s Implicit Association Test, which tests for unconscious or hidden bias. In order for us to work to actively interrupt our implicit bias, we must first build a deeper understanding of where this unconscious bias stems from and how it shows up into the spaces we occupy. After we have recognized our implicit bias and how it impacts our perceptions, actions, and decisions, we must then work to address them. In Vernā Myers’ (2014) TED Talk, How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them, she discusses three calls to action that we can all take to disrupt our implicit bias. I found her words to be incredibly powerful in helping us to think about how we can actively interrupt implicit bias and become a better ally to those who experience bias in our schools. Vernā Myers’ call for us to focus on strategies and steps that challenge and interrupt implicit bias was really impactful for me. I think at times the work of addressing our implicit bias can feel overwhelming, but her strategy of how to approach this work makes it seem attainable.
As learning coaches, we must also create conversations with educators about how our own implicit bias can impact our instruction. Our implicit bias impacts the materials we select, the digital content we create, and the student interactions we design. Nikki Rucker (2019) urges educators to, “Identify those places in your instructional planning where you might have allowed your implicit biases to prevent you from pushing your students to achieve at optimal levels. Answering questions like these might be hard, but in order to create change, you have to identify and unearth the roots of your teaching practice” (n.p.). Figure 3 below outlines nine questions for creating conversations addressing unconscious bias. As learning coaches, this question guide can be a helpful resource in having a discussion about the implicit bias we possess.
In a remote learning environment, one of the common places implicit bias can show up is in the live virtual meeting spaces we hold with our students. Taharee Jackson (2020) states that, “As a diversity consultant who teaches and trains others about implicit bias—and specifically the negative ideas we espouse about people who are experiencing poverty—I worry about the psychological effects and downright trauma of having those who learn and work alongside us having a requisite glimpse into our homes, making inferences about our social class, and subsequently judging us for it” (n.p.). It is important for the social and emotional well being of our students that we recognize how implicit bias is present in our virtual meetings. We can support our students in feeling comfortable in these digital environments and interrupt this implicit bias by fostering trusting relationships with our students. We can also set norms with our classroom community around taking care of ourselves and our social-emotional well being by affirming that it is okay for students to have their cameras and/ or microphones off if necessary. Additionally, by holding virtual meetings in different spaces of our homes we can demonstrate vulnerability and trust with our students by showing that we all have different home learning environments we work in.
Teaching Tolerance offers an abundant amount of resources for learning coaches and educators to grow in Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education. These resources are a useful next step in providing educators with strategies and tools for interrupting implicit bias.
As many schools and districts move into the start of the school year in remote learning, the necessity for culturally responsive teaching becomes even more vital for our students’ success. Learning coaches can support educators in this teaching by helping them to recognize implicit bias, addressing equity gaps, and fostering trusting relationships with their students. What are some ways you practice culturally responsive teaching? How do you support other educators in this work? Please share your thoughts and experiences, as well as any feedback or questions you have, in the comment section below.
Charter Growth Fund. (2020, April 24). “I See You. I Care. How Can I Help You Grow?” Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://stories.chartergrowthfund.org/i-see-you-i-care-how-can-i-help-you-grow-d1380e0ca879
Facing History. (2020). Sample Identity Chart. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/image/sample-identity-chart?backlink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facinghistory.org%2Fresource-library%2Fteaching-strategies%2Fidentity-charts
Jackson, T. (2020, March 27). COVID-19 and Videoclassism: Implicit Bias, Videojudgment, and Why I’m Terrified to Have You Look Over My Shoulder. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-19-videoclassism-implicit-bias-videojudgment-why-jackson/
Mahmood, R., Dr. (2020, March 31). Online Teaching Can Be Culturally Responsive. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/online-teaching-can-be-culturally-responsive
One Schoolhouse. (2020, April 22). Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging in Distance Learning Classrooms. [Video]. oneschoolhouse.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDjKbkGXLIs
Re:Work. (2020). Re:Work – Guide: Hold everyone accountable. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/unbiasing-hold-everyone-accountable/steps/use-the-discussion-guide-to-start-a-conversation/
Rucker, N. (2019, December 10). Getting Started With Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/getting-started-culturally-responsive-teaching
UCSF Office of Diversity and Outreach. (2020). Strategies to Address Unconscious Bias. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://diversity.ucsf.edu/resources/strategies-address-unconscious-bias