February 2022 Educator|Resource of the Month
The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.
Equity in the Classroom:
A Template for Co-Creating a Course With Our Students
When we think about promoting equity in our teaching, one of our major concerns is providing students with the right content. Will we do what they expect, will they be satisfied with our choices of learning materials, will everyone feel included, and so on? To make room for diverse student interests and backgrounds we need to provide content in which students can see themselves. “We must provide,” as one of my favorite education newsletters puts it, “curriculum that steps away from the dusty textbooks of the past and into a relevant, global conversation filled with diverse narratives” (The Faculty Lounge, February 1, 2022). Approaching it from this perspective suggests that it does not need to be all up to us as educators to figure out what is meaningful and important to our students and provide it to them—nor is it the best approach to teaching. To provide students with content they can truly relate to, we need to involve them in the co-creation of their learning.
In this Educator|Resource we share a course template for engaging students as partners in their education. Although based on recent research on effective teaching practices, this pedagogical approach draws from a long tradition in education for social transformation. According to Jarvis R. Givens, author of our featured book this month, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, in the Black tradition of education as an act of political resistance, “more than empty vessels to be filled, black students are discovered to be conscious participants, dissident learners” (p. 24). It was as part of helping educators connect “the political mission of black education to classroom content” (p. 17) that, in 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the subject of Given’s book, founded Black History Month, which we celebrate this month. Givens expands on the lessons we can learn from this history in the context of today’s attention to antiracist pedagogy and practice in his essay, Fugitive Pedagogy: The Longer Roots of Antiracist Teaching.
By affirming students’ worth, agency, and development of counternarratives, pedagogical partnerships, according to Promoting equity and justice through pedagogical partnership, help provide the context for greater equity and inclusion in our classrooms and curricula. We illustrate here what a whole-class co-creation model may look like by providing course materials, including a syllabus and learning plan, readings, and teaching activities. Prior to the semester start, in deciding the general direction of the course, a first step is to gather information from each student on their expectations for the course, career goals, and social issues of concern as well as what they would like from a course that would make it a good experience for them personally. See the textbox below for an introduction to a co-created course for students.
How I Introduce My Co-created Course to My Students
In this course we form a community of learners. We co-create the course. Others can provide us with facts and concepts, but we alone can imagine things for ourselves through critical thinking and empathy. Some of what we learn will be mirrors of our lives and some, windows into the lives of others. As such, learning needs to be anchored in our lives. I invite you to bring your identity and values, background and wisdom, your sense of wonder. Use them to enrich your learning. We start by learning about people’s own stories—their wisdom, cultural worldviews, hardships and hopes. I will provide instructional scaffolding by introducing foundational concepts in social work related to the course objectives. Based on the social issues you identified as areas of interest, I have carefully curated 30 books that provide an in-depth look at the lived experiences of people affected by incarceration, immigration, displacement, illness and disability, and poverty and how they reveal injustices that deeply disrupt communities. (We always bear in mind that injustices don’t define people, that people are not just a reaction to their oppression.) Each of you will choose which book you want to read and use it as your case study for the semester. I will reduce the scaffolding as you move into learning communities of your choice, which are organized by fields of practice in the five areas listed above. In your learning communities, you will pursue areas relevant to your field of practice that you want to learn more about, identify and collect knowledge materials, and design and plan learning activities and an assessment plan. Within and across the learning communities, the case studies will add unique perspectives and enrich your learning of social work. Studying social work through specific cases deepens our understanding, and learning from each other multiplies our exposure. My role will be to provide facilitation and consultation as well as mentoring and other learning support.
—Dr. Yolanda C. Padilla, professor of social work at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the CSWE Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice
- Presemester Student Survey: Questionnaire on student interests, expectations/wishes for this course, career goals, social issues of concern, and personal views on what makes a good course experience
- Syllabus: Includes assigned readings, case study readings, and a week-by-week course schedule.
- Learning Course Plan: Explains the purpose of scaffolding, the structure of learning communities (individual and group roles, intragroup and intergroup tasks, and instructor facilitation), the use case studies and related skills development, the role of self-awareness, and the “reading-as-a-transaction” active reading approach.
- Case Study Notes: Student note-taking template on assigned core reading(s) associated with each course objective provided by the instructor as a foundation for student co-creation of the course.
- Prompts for Critical Thinking: A tool for relevant conversations.
Selected Instructional Resources
- “Co-creation in learning and teaching: The case for a whole-class approach in higher education”
- “Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: Benefits and challenges – What do we know?"
- Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (The Higher Education Academy)
- Pedagogical partnerships: A how-to guide for faculty, students, and academic developers in higher education (Elon University)
- Promoting equity and justice through pedagogical partnership
- Students as Partners Initiative, Faculty Innovation Center, University of Texas at Austin
- “Classrooms as learning communities”
- “Instructional scaffolding to improve learning”
The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.
Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].