Equity means to provide students what they need, according to their social positions in an unjust world (Banks & Banks, 1995). Meaningful classrooms for students from minoritized communities foster regular conversations about issues of fairness, bias, and justice (Salazar, 2013). This way, teachers help students merge their cultural and academic identities rather than think of them as somehow separate or incompatible (Varelas, Martin & Kane, 2012). Openly discussing equity issues in society and in their personal lives helps all students from all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging at school and to prepare for civic engagement in a plural society.
As educators, we can take it upon ourselves to be socially aware and analyze how race, status, social class, and other positions shape our perspective of the world and our classroom learning activities. This will require that we step out of our comfort zone, recognize our privileges, and learn and act on the information we receive. Encountering hard questions will be what promotes growth within you and your classroom.
Hard questions can include:
- In what ways do I uphold systemic racism in my classroom?
- What am I doing to work around the discrepancies found in the education system?
- Am I actively working on making my curriculum more inclusive?
- Am I researching history to teach it accurately?
- Am I including marginalized communities in U.S History?
- Are my projects accessible to all students?
Equity as a social topic incorporates in-school and out-of-school experiences for both teachers and students. To promote social equity, it is important to critically examine unfair treatment as it is manifested in day-to-day interactions. As teachers pursuing equity in our classrooms, we should ensure that each student knows the value of their own experience. This means having discussions on topics of equity and inequity, and allowing space for students to share their ideas and solutions. Students should be able to explore current issues in their personal lives, communities, or on a national/global scale. As a class, they commit to examine, discuss, and resolve the equity problems they discover. Classroom habits and activities like these are the focus of the Equity Discussions dimension.
As a teacher, equity discussions entail both designing lessons around topics that spark discussion of inequity and building on student comments and questions that arise every day. Although it may cause discomfort, teachers should not be afraid to have these essential discussions with their students. Occasionally that may mean a long, uncomfortable pause or setting aside time later in the day or week to address student questions, but this dialogue is important for both the students and the teachers. Students are capable of meeting the gravity of these types of discourse.
Pursuing equity is not always easy. Students need to feel encouraged to share their experiences and support in their efforts to create change, and as teachers we must not be afraid to have hard discussions with our students about privilege and bias, especially when the students are the ones who broach the topics. An equitable teacher welcomes these discussions during all lessons and plans to facilitate them when the standards lends themselves to equity topics. As with other CASI dimensions, making these connections requires balance to maintain a positive environment and avoid insincere/less meaningful discussions of equity.
How can I address fairness, bias, and justice within my classroom as well as in wider society?
Some issues regarding equity require systemic change. More information about our role in advocating and speaking up about the pressing issues in the system we work for can be found at the end of the chapter.
What do you think equity will look like in classroom practice?
- Researching and teaching equity
- Students and teachers becoming informed on their social position
- Only focusing on 1 point of view (wrong answer)
- Active unlearning of biases
- Finding solutions to societal issues
- Creating a safe classroom environment
Why Equity Discussions Matter
Our lives are filled with judgments made in an instant. Whether or not to hold the door open for someone, help a neighbor with their groceries, or walk faster when we think the male behind us looks suspicious. These are snap judgements. Snap judgments in and of themselves are not bad, they are merely the result of our experiences and subconscious biases. If just yesterday my milk carton exploded when I accidentally dropped it taking it out of my trunk, I am more likely to offer assistance to my neighbor. If I have not interacted with people of diverse backgrounds, I am more likely to make assumptions about their intentions and who they are. The people we are judging do not change, we do. We cannot stop making snap judgments, but one of the ways we can influence them is through proximity. The more we spend time with and get to know people and cultures, the greater our proximity and therefore probability our snap judgments will be positive. Equity pushes both student and teacher to open their minds and hearts to experiences and people. It encourages discussion of privilege and bias, the sharing of individual experiences with inequity, and admiration of heroes from every race, background, and identity. It challenges teachers and students to approximate unfamiliarity and therefore change.
Discussions of social equity in the classroom allow students to become better informed on social issues that continue to exist in our society. This opens up the conversation in a way that teaches students how to discuss topics that may be controversial. It also helps students take ownership of problems they see in society and find solutions. These motivations for learning can transform students’ participation in day-to-day activities in the classroom (McInerney, Roche, McInerney & Marsh, 1997; Sleeter & Zavala, 2020).
When fostering equity discussions, students have the opportunity to open up and share their personal experiences with inequity and inform others of injustices they have seen or experienced. Teaching equity in the classroom allows students to single out discimination, unfairness, and biases. It also gives students the opportunity to identify their own biases towards others allowing them to become more proximate to others. When discussed in an open and safe classroom environment, it allows students to become empathetic towards others (race, ability, gender, SES etc.). Then, being aware of these realities helps them to make more socially-conscious decisions in their personal lives as well as when taking action in their communities.
Starting the conversation about equity in our classrooms allows students to share their experiences and validates them as well. It teaches students to act on their ideas and gives them the confidence to share their voice with the intent on making a difference. Equity is about giving each person what they need. Students need to be able to discuss biases, justice, and privilege or they will not receive an encouraging message to create change in these matters.
Equity is not only important for students, but benefits us as teachers as well. Teachers have the opportunity to deeply reflect on their own privileges, biases and experiences. If we have experienced inequity in our life, we can start the conversation by sharing. Through a meaningful effort to incorporate these topics, teachers can become proximate to our students. Furthermore, we will be better positioned to encourage and support all those in our classroom. If we have not experienced inequity, it can be an opportunity to educate ourselves on the experience of others and seek to understand how it shapes their perspective.
The 5 Indicators of Equity Discussions
To what extent do you discuss fairness and bias, consequences of inequity, and acknowledge multiple perspectives with your students? What kinds of personal experiences and roles models do you share with your class?
- Although it is important to make personal connections to students by sharing experiences that connect with curriculum subjects, this indicator measures how well teachers focus these experiences on inequity and seeing multiple perspectives
- Teachers are encouraged to help students recognize fairness, bias, and inequity in everyday circumstances
- Multiple perspectives can, but do not have to, disagree with one another.
|Disconnected (1)||Somewhat Connected (3)||Well-Connected (5)|
||The teacher does not examine inequity.||The teacher sometimes examines inequity.||The teacher often examines inequity.|
Standard: Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.6).
Context: Mr. Miller teaches a 2nd grade class in Indianapolis, Indiana. His classroom consists of a mix of White, Black, and Asian students. He is reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl with his class. Harriet A. Jacobs was born into slavery. She was sexually harassed and physically abused by her owner. She eventually escaped to the North where she shared her story and became an abolitionist. He wants to discuss with his class the message about slavery the author is trying to convey.
Examination (1): Mr. Miller informs his class that today they will be discussing slavery. He gives his students a few minutes to read over excerpts from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl that share the feelings Harriet had as a slave. He asks his students how the author feels about slavery and has them share with their elbow partner. He brings the class back together and calls on a few students to share using popsicle sticks. He reminds them to identify specific details in the text that supports their view of what the author thinks about slavery.
- Mr. Miller shares with his students a role model in the form of Harriet Jacobs and her story. The consequences of slavery are part of the book, but Mr. Miller does not extend the discussion. He only provides the perspective of Harriet Jacobs in this discussion.
Examination (3): Mr. Miller gives his students a few minutes to read over excerpts from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. He asks them if Harriet thinks slavery is fair and calls on some students to share their opinion, with contextual evidence. Mr. Miller shares an experience of when he was walking down the street and was called a racial slur that originated from slavery. Then he asks his students if they think slavery is fair and gives them sufficient wait time to gather their thoughts. While they are discussing, he reminds his students the southern farmers thought slavery was fair because of the free labor and asks them to argue against that point.
- On top of what Mr. Miller did for the first scenario, he has his students discuss fairness and bias. He also shares a personal experience with inequity from his life and provides the perspective of a slave owner to contrast Harriet Jacobs’ perspective.
Examination (5): Mr. Miller has his students read over excerpts from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. They discuss their findings with partners. He asks them if Harriet thinks slavery is fair and calls on some students to share their opinion, with contextual evidence. Mr. Miller reminds his students the southern farmers thought slavery was fair because of the free labor. However, he informs them there were serious repercussions of slavery, one of which was racism. He also shares a personal experiences of being called racial slur that originated from slavery. Then he asks his students if they think slavery is fair and gives them sufficient wait time to gather their thoughts. Twenty minutes pass and Mr. Miller knows his class has to get to their specialty. He asks his students to write down their thoughts and plans time to continue the discussion the next day.
- On top of what he shared in the first two examples, Mr. Miller discusses the consequences of inequity by speaking about the repercussions of slavery.
To what extent do you acknowledge the emotions of those unfairly treated, encourage students to stand up against and resolve inequity, and allow space for students to create and reinforce rules for equity? How do you discourage inequity in students’ relationships?
- There are many ways students can get involved in their community; this indicator is not only about encouraging students to become involved, but providing them with the social resources to be able to do so.
- Rules for equity can be created for the classroom as well as for interactions outside of the classroom environment
|Disconnected (1)||Somewhat Connected (3)||Well-Connected (5)|
||The teacher does not explore resolutions to inequity with students.||The teacher sometimes explores resolutions to inequity with students.||The teacher regularly explores resolutions to inequity with students|
Context: Mrs.Tryon teaches 6th grade in Billings, Montana. Her students are mostly White with some Native American and Black students. She is teaching a lesson on statistics specifically on immigration push and pull factors. Mrs.Tryon starts by showing students a bar graph on Immigration to her students. She asks students to observe the data then asks students to come up with push and pull factors that might have led these immigrants to the U.S.
Resolution (1): Students begin observing data on Immigration. Several students notice that the majority of Immigrants that arrive in the U.S are those from Mexico. Mrs. Tryon then has students share different ideas (push and pull factors) as to why these individuals immigrate to the U.S. Several students mention that individuals move due to war, poverty, and lack of opportunity. Pull factors include freedom, better jobs, and a better quality of life. Mrs. Tyon closes by stating that push and pull factors play a big role in the data set.
- Mrs.Tryon teaches a lesson on immigration, but doesn’t extend the conversation or point out any inequities immigrants face. In doing so, Mrs. Tyron fails to discourage and find resolutions to inequities.
Resolution (3): While looking at data on Immigration a student says, “my dad told me immigrants take our jobs.” Mrs.Tryon then says jobs are a pull factor that lead immigrants to the U.S. She then shares that many of them aren't treated equally, and most work under unsafe conditions with low pay. Mrs.Tryon says that immigrants who do work under these conditions are exhausted. She has students think of other words that might describe the way immigrants feel and tells students that regardless of where we come from we need to treat others the way we want to be treated.
- Mrs.Tryon has students acknowledge the emotions immigrants might be feeling and reminds students to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Students do not find a resolution on inequities.
Resolution (5): While looking at data a student asks why all immigrants come to the U.S and if there is even enough space for so many people. Space or not, Mrs. Tryon mentions that we should treat others equally. She then has students think of factors that drive immigrants to the U.S. Several students mention that individuals move due to war, poverty, or lack of opportunity. Pull factors include freedom, better jobs, and a better quality of life. Mrs. Tyron states that many immigrants are mistreated and seen as less of a priority than native born citizens. She encourages her students to come up with solutions to be more equitable. A student mentions writing welcome letters to immigrants in detention centers.
- Mrs. Tryon reminds her class that we need to treat others equally and shares how immigrants feel less than native born citizens. Students are encouraged to write welcome letters to immigrants in detention centers to find a resolution to inequities.
In what ways can students be encouraged towards identifying solutions?
Commitment to Equity
To what extent do your students ask questions about privilege and bias? Share concerns about inequity? Commit to resolving inequity?
Students are much more likely to commit to resolution if we as teachers encourage it and create space in our curriculum for them to do so.
|Disconnected (1)||Somewhat Connected (3)||Well-Connected (5)|
|3c. Commitment to Equity
||Students rarely, if ever, commit to resolving inequity..||Students occasionally commit to resolving inequity, or commit in shallow ways.||Students often and emphatically commit to resolving inequity.|
Commitment to Equity Examples
Standard: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.7).
Context: Miss Peterson teaches 4th grade at a Title I school in Atlanta, Georgia. Her students are mostly African American with some White and Asian students. She is having her students do a research project in class. She wants it to be about something that will interest her students so they are more likely to work hard and stay engaged in the process.
Commitment to Equity (1): Miss Peterson has her students pick a question to research that is important to their lives. They have to interview at least three people and use at least two books or articles for their research. Based on their research, the students must set a goal for their personal lives and describe how they will achieve it.
- Students do not ask questions about privilege and bias. They do not share concerns about inequity or commit to resolution.
Commitment to Equity (3): Miss Peterson gives her students the assignment to answer the question, “Does racism still exist in the United States?” They need to interview at least three people with varying backgrounds and use at least two books or articles for their research. Based on their research, the students must set a goal for their personal lives and describe how they will achieve it.
- Although this indicator rates the actions of the students, the way the teacher sets up the classroom can influence the behaviors of the students. The students will ask the interviewees questions about privilege and bias. They will also make a commitment to resolution after finishing their project. They do not share concerns about inequity.
Commitment to Equity (5): Miss Peterson gives her students the assignment to answer the question, “Does racism still exist in the United States?” They need to interview at least three people (one must be a Person of Color) and use at least two books or articles for their research. After conducting some interviews, a few students share their concern about negative experiences their interviewees shared with them. Miss Peterson conducts a discussion about what her students can do about their findings. The students decide they will create a website on the forms and harms of racism.
- The students will ask questions about privilege and bias in the interviews. The students share their concern about racism in the country. They commit to resolution when they decide to create a website to educate people about racism.
While Commitment to Equity is an indicator that measures student behavior, what are some ways you could create the environment in which students would commit to resolving issues of inequity in your community? Can you think of any standards that support projects involving community outreach?
Experiences with Inequity
To what extent do your students discuss their personal experiences with unfair treatment or generate examples of equity/inequity? Do they acknowledge the emotions of those who have been unfairly treated?
Although this indicator measures student behavior, it is important for teachers to lead by example with these behaviors and encourage them from their students.
|Disconnected (1)||Somewhat Connected (3)||Well-Connected (5)|
|3d. Experiences with Inequity
||Students do not share personal examples or experiences with inequity.||Students sometimes share personal examples or experiences with inequity.||Students often share personal examples or experiences with inequity.|
Experiences with Inequity Examples
Standard: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4)
Context: Ms. Cooper is a 3rd grade teacher in Birmingham, Alabama. Her students are mostly African American and White with some Latino students. Ms.Cooper is having her students share a story to the class based on the topic she has selected. Students share their favorite fairytale, a time in which they were encouraged, and gender equality issues.
Experiences with inequity (1): Mrs. Cooper calls on one of her students to share his favorite fairytale. He states that his favorite fairytale is Jack and the Beanstalk because he was strong enough to defeat a giant. Ms.Cooper thanks her student for sharing his fairytale and proceeds to call the next student.
- Mrs. Cooper does not invite students to share personal stories or create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing personal experiences with inequity.
Experiences with inequity (3): Mrs. Cooper calls on one of her students to share a story that was meaningful to them. Kalynn shares her story about a time another student made fun of her braids but felt better after talking with her mom about how different people can have different kinds of hair but the boy that made fun of her might not have known that. She thanks Kalynn and proceeds to the next student.
- Mrs. Cooper creates an assignment where students have the opportunity to share personal experiences.
Experiences with inequity (5): Mrs. Cooper calls on one of her students to share a meaningful story of a time they were treated unfairly. Morgan shares a story about playing basketball at recess. She wasn’t picked to play because the boys said it wasn’t a girls’ sport. Mrs. Cooper thanks Morgan for sharing her story and asks other students if they have felt similar feelings from Morgan’s story. Conner comments to the class about how he was teased about loving to bake, thinking it was too girly. Stacy said she didn’t think that was fair and shared that anyone can bake, boys and girls. She then shared a story about others saying she wasn’t good at her favorite video game because she was a girl and that was a boy activity. Mrs. Cooper facilitated the conversation.
- Students are acknowledging emotions of those unfairly treated, sharing personal experiences with inequality, and unfair treatment.
What is the best example of acknowledging the emotions of those unfairly treated?
- A student says, “I felt the same way when my brother was mean to me.”
- A student calls out, “That’s too bad! I’m sorry.”
- A student comments, “I don’t think I know what that’s like, but I hear you.”
To what extent does the curricular content address equity issues? What kinds of equity issues arise in the classroom relationships?
- This indicator refers to topics that arise naturally as well as ones that are brought up by teachers.
- Not all standards will lend themselves to Equity Discussions, try to find topics that fit well.
|Disconnected (1)||Somewhat Connected (3)||Well-Connected (5)|
|3e. Equity Topics
||Equity topics do not arise out of classroom content or interactions.||Equity topics sometimes arise out of classroom content or interactions.||Equity topics often arise out of classroom content or interactions..|
Equity Topics Examples
Standard: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion) (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.1.1.A).
Context: Mrs. Landry teaches in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her 1st grade class consists of Black, White, Asian, and Pacific Islander students. She begins by reading “The proudest blue” to her classroom, a book about a girl who wears a hijab to school. Students will then share and discuss what they learned from this story.
Equity Topics (1): After reading “The proudest blue” Mrs. Landry asks students to share what they learned. Students share that a hijab is worn around the head. A student interrupts and shares that it is Asiya’s first day wearing her hijab. Mrs. Landry reminds students to wait their turn and raise their hand.
- After reading “The proudes bleue” Mrs.Landry does not bring up any equity issues that arise in the book.
Equity Topics (3): Mrs. Landry shares that Asyia was made fun of for wearing a hijab to school. Several students say they feel sad, angry or embarrassed when they are made of. Mrs. Landry discourages inequity by having students share ideas on how to be more inclusive. Several students mention mixing up desk groups, and others mention doing getting to know you games.
- Mrs. Landry addresses equity issues found in “The proudest blue” and encourages students to share ideas on how to become more inclusive.
Equity Topics (5): Mrs. Landry has students share a part of the story that stood out to them, one student shares that Asiya was made fun of for wearing her Hijab. A student shares a personal experience, and says that her mom has been made fun of for wearing a Bindi. Mrs. Landry acknowledges the emotions by asking her student how she and her mom felt. She then asks her class to share how Asiya might have also felt. Mrs.Landry’s students share ideas on how to be more inclusive of other cultures. Several students mention reading authentic multicultural books, and inviting multicultural speakers to the classroom.
- Equity topics arise from content, “The proudest blue”. When a student shares a personal experience related to an inequity students share ideas on how to be more inclusive.
Based on what you have learned so far, how should you handle a student making an unkind comment about the LGBTQ+ community?
- Make note of it to address later.
- Tell your students that is not how we talk.
- Ignore it and monitor for future incidents.
- Address the issue with the class immediately.
Equity Scenario: Mrs. Sánchez and Statistics
Each chapter in this book includes three versions of a teaching scenario to illustrate the dimension and its indicators. In this chapter, we enter our classroom with Mrs. Sánchez in Prince George’s County, Washington, D.C. Here is some context for her background, classroom, and setting:
Mrs. Ana Laura Sánchez is a 57-year-old Puerto Rican teacher at a Title 1 elementary school in Washington, D.C. She teaches third grade to a class of mostly Black and Central American students with a few Asian and white students. She has been teaching for over 30 years at various schools since earning her degree in Education. It is important to her that each of her students is prepared for life outside the classroom by learning how to be a good citizen, have conversations with people who have different opinions, and enact change in their community.
Since moving to the contiguous United States for college, Mrs. Sánchez has faced barriers of language, perceived immigration status, as well as gender discrimination. Discussing with her students the inequities she has seen in the classroom, community, and world is something she wants to incorporate into her curriculum. She firmly believes each of her students has the power to remove such inequities in their circle of influence.
Mrs. Sánchez is teaching a unit on graphs. She has been reviewing bar graphs with her students and plans to learn about scaled bar graphs today. Because she wants to expose her students to some of the inequities she has seen in the education system, she pulls information from the National Center for Education Statistics about graduation rates based on race. She plans to analyze this information with her students while fulfilling this Common Core state standard:
Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar graph in which each square in the bar graph might represent 5 pets.
Version 1: Disconnected
Mrs. Sánchez has modeled for her students how to create a scaled bar graph. Now she displays the data set on the whiteboard for her students to observe and says, “Now that I have shown you how to create a graph from some given data, let’s make one together.”
She gestures to the whiteboard and asks, “Looking at this data set, what do you notice?” She waits a few seconds, giving the students time to look over the data.
“It looks like a lot more white students graduate college than other races,” calls out one student.
“That is correct,” replies Mrs. Sánchez, “What else do we learn from this data set?”
“Hispanic and American Indian students graduate from college the least?”
Mrs. Sánchez draws an empty x- and y-axis on the whiteboard, “Let’s create a scaled bar graph together that illustrates this data. What label should we use for the x-axis?”
A few students raise their hands and Mrs. Sánchez calls on one student. He excitedly says, “The different races and ethnicities!”
“What about the y-axis?” she asks next, waiting a few seconds to let the students think before calling on one.
“The number of students that graduated college?” the student replies a little hesitantly.
“Great!” says Mrs. Sánchez, “Okay everyone, how many white students graduated college?”
“35!” the class calls out together.
Mrs. Sánchez smiles as she fills in the graph according to the information the students gave her. Then she asks, “How many more white students graduated college than Latino students?” She has the students turn to share the answer with a partner before calling on a student to answer.
“20 students,” says one of the students.
“How many more white students graduated college than Black students?” asks Mrs. Sánchez, giving the students time to share with a partner before calling on someone to answer.
Another student answers, “14 students!”
“Great job class!” says Mrs. Sánchez, “Now I’m going to show you another set of data and we are going to create another graph.”
Version 1 Explanation
Why do we say this example is “disconnected”?
Examination: No role models or personal experiences are shared with inequity. Mrs. Sánchez does not examine inequities regarding the data set. (1)
Resolution: Mrs. Sánchez does not encourage or provide opportunities for students to resolve inequities within the education system. (1)
Commitment to Equity: Although students acknowledge that more white students graduate from school, students do not share their concerns or initiate a solution to resolving inequity. (1)
Experiences with Inequity: Students do not draw from their own personal experiences, and fail to acknowledge the emotions of those who are unfairly treated. (1)
Equity Topics: Although equity topics arise from content, they are not addressed. No interactions on inequity are made. (3)
Version 2: Somewhat Connected
Mrs. Sánchez has taught her students how to create a scaled bar graph. Now she displays the data set on the whiteboard for her students to observe and says, “Now that we’ve done our own graph, what can you tell me about this data set?”
She gives the students a couple minutes to look at the data before calling on a student who says, “It kinda looks like there are more white students who graduate college….”
“Great observation, can anyone think of why this is happening?”
One girl raises her hand and shares, “Well, my older brother wanted to go to college, but my parents couldn’t afford it even when working two jobs.
“Thank you for sharing,” says Mrs. Sánchez with a smile, “Money is an issue that holds back many students from graduating college. Some students have the privilege to attend college while others don’t. Have you noticed that more white students graduate high school than other races?”
One student calls out, “Why is that Mrs. Sánchez?”
She reminds the student not to call out in class and then shares, “School culture often favors students from white, middle-class backgrounds. This is called privilege. Privilege is an advantage given to a particular person or group. It makes it harder for people from other groups to be successful. For example, students who are unfamiliar with the college admission process and strategies for doing well in college may not graduate college very often.”
She smiles at the students and says, “Thank you for sharing your questions today, we had a wonderful discussion. Now, let’s create a graph to represent the information we just discussed.”
Version 2 Explanation
Why do we say this example is “somewhat connected”?
Examination: Mrs. Sánchez discusses fairness and bias by sharing how schools favor white, middle-class students. She does not share a personal experience, role models, or the consequences of inequity. (2)
Resolution: Mrs. Sánchez acknowledges the feelings of her students who experience inequity. However, she does not discourage inequity or encourage her students to stand up against and resolve inequity. (2)
Commitment to Equity: The students ask questions about inequity based on their observations. They also share some concerns about inequity. However, the students do not commit to resolving inequities. (4)
Experiences with Inequity: A student shares a personal experience with inequity by sharing how money has impacted his brother's education. This in a way also generates an example of inequity. The students do not acknowledge the emotions of those experiencing inequity. (3)
Equity Topics: Although equity topics arise, both Mrs.Sánchez and her students fail to further extend the discussion on inequity. They could have spent more time discussing other inequities encountered on the path to higher education and working to change that. (3)
Version 3: Well-Connected
Mrs. Sánchez has taught her students about scaled bar graphs. She wants to discuss the meaning of the data set before creating a graph for it so she projects the data on the whiteboard and asks, “Okay students, what stands out to you about this data set?”
She waits a few minutes until a few students show they have an idea, then calls on a student who asks, “Mrs. Sánchez, why do more white kids graduate college than Black or Latino kids?”
“That’s a really good question,” says Mrs. Sánchez, “Why do you think that is, class?”
“Money?” asks one student.
“Money and the language barrier could definitely be factors preventing students from graduating,” Mrs. Sánchez shares, “As for documentation, undocumented students can attend college and get a degree.”
“Growing up,” she shares, “I had friends who had tutors to help them do well in school, but I couldn’t afford them. This made me worry about graduating from high school and getting into college. Is there anything that worries you guys about college?
“Well I don’t really know much about how to get into college or how much it costs,” calls out one student.
“I worried they don’t understand me or help me because my English not perfect,” shares a student quietly.
Another student says to the last student, “My cousin said it’s hard to understand the teachers.”
“I’m worried there won’t be many people like me or I won’t belong,” shares a different student.
“Yeah!” says a student to the other, “Someone called my sister a mean name and she came home crying.”
The students continue to share their experiences and fears with each other, calling out as they hear something they identify with.
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns,” says Mrs. Sánchez with a smile, “I understand this can be hard when there is inequity in the school, but I believe that you are capable of finishing college. Maybe we can do some research as a class to combat the challenges that come with finishing school. What do you think?”
A few students call out, “Yeah!”
“I want to be able to go to college,” another student shares with a smile.
Version 3 Explanation
Why do we say this example is “well-connected”?
Mrs. Sánchez examines inequity by sharing her experience of being nervous about getting into college because she couldn’t afford a tutor. She also discusses fairness and bias by allowing her students to share ideas that prevent Blacks and Latinos from graduating. She also discusses the consequences of inequity. However, she does not describe role models or acknowledge multiple perspectives. (4)
Mrs. Sánchez acknowledges the feelings of her students that experience inequity. She encourages her students to stand up against inequity by conducting research as a class on what is needed to attend college. She does not discourage inequity in student relationships or allow her students to create and reinforce rules for equity. (3)
Commitment to Equity
Students ask questions about privilege and bias when they see the data set. They also share their concerns about inequities in college graduation and admission and commit to resolving inequity through research. (5)
Experiences with Inequity
Multiple students generate examples of inequity as well as share personal examples with inequity that might prevent them from attending college. However, they do not acknowledge the emotions of others who were unfairly treated. (4)
A conversation on equity arose in the classroom from content. Mrs. Sánchez made an effort to extend the conversation and hear the concerns and experiences of her students. The discussion was not over at the end of the comic but could be continued and expanded upon at a later time. Equity issues did not arise in classroom relationships. (4)
Practicing Equity Discussions: PDAR
Now that you have reviewed the theory, indicators, and examples of Equity Discussions, it’s time to practice in your own classroom.
Below you will find PDAR guides to help you integrate what you’ve learned into practice, either by yourself or with other teachers.
If you have a Hypothesis account (or create one), you can sign in at the top right corner of this page. This will enable you to annotate and make notes for your PDAR plan. We have also included worksheets below that you can download, fill in, and share. Do what works best for you!
(Note: Our full explanation of PDAR is in the Introduction chapter. Click here to view it.)
- Download PDAR Worksheet - Version A (Google Doc)
- Download PDAR Worksheet - Version B (pdf) | Version B (Google Doc)
- Open Language Use CASI rubric (Google Doc)
- Download Self/Peer Observation document (Google Doc) (PDF)
- Identify the upcoming lesson or unit you’d like to work on
- Review the Equity Discussions indicators with your lesson(s) in mind
- Identify your “look fors”—what you expect and hope to see
- Plan your observations, alone or with others
- Work from your plan (try to reach your goals, but be flexible)
- Consider recording multiple observations and multiple forms of data (scores, field notes, etc.)
- Record and review what happened, either solo or with your observers
- Analyze how each indicator showed up in your lesson
- Compare to your goals and predictions
- Reflect on your overall experience
- Revise your process (observations, data gathering)
- Revise your direction (new goals? new lesson? new indicator?)
- Identify your gaps (skills, knowledge, outside help)
Use the reflective questions below to guide you. You don’t have to answer all of them—they are there to give you ideas and help you reflect.
(Take notes in the book or download one of the worksheets above.)
- Identify lessons/unit you would like to apply equity discussions to
- What are your upcoming lessons?
- What standards fit naturally with equity discussions?
- If you need inspiration, jump to our “Lesson Ideas” section below.
- Review equity discussions with your lesson(s) in mind. Ask yourself:
- What are some topics we can discuss as a class?
- Do I have any personal experiences with inequity?
- Who are some role models I can share with my students?
- What resolutions can I and my students make that will create change?
- How do I discourage inequity in my students’ relationships?
- How can I encourage my students to commit to equity?
- How can I invite my students to share their experiences with unfair treatment?
- How do I help my students acknowledge others’ emotions?
- What equity issues have I noticed in my classroom?
- Identify your “look fors”— what you expect and hope to see.
- How would you like to change?
- What do you want students to experience?
- What do you expect to happen?
- How do you think the students will react?
- How do you think you will react?
- Plan your observations
- Would you like a video or observation notes?
- Do you need any tools?
- When will you observe yourself/be observed?
- Will you do this study solo or with colleagues?
- Work from the plan
- Do you need to improve?
- What kind of notes should observers take?
- How long will your observations be? (15-20 minutes)
- How many observations before analyzing? (We recommend 3)
- Record/review what happened
- If using video, take detailed notes: what did students say and do? What did you say and do?
- If using colleague feedback, what did they observe students/you say and do?
- Analyze each indicator (click here to see the Equity Discussions CASI rubric)
- How did I examine inequity in my classroom?
- How did I explore resolutions to inequity with my class?
- Commitment to Equity
- How did my students commit to resolving inequity?
- Experiences with Inequity
- What did my students share about their experiences with inequity?
- Equity Topics
- How did I build on equity issues that arose in classroom topics and relationships?
- Compare to your goals and speculations
- Did you meet the goals you set?
- Can you justify your interpretation with evidence?
- Were your predictions correct?
- Can you justify with evidence?
- Reflect on your experience
- What changes did you notice in yourself or your students?
- Which indicators came naturally? Which were challenging?
- What happened that you were not expecting?
- Revise your process
- Do you need to change your observation method? Did your video work?
- Were you able to gather good insights from the process?
- Revise your direction
- Would you like to continue or stop CASI use for this dimension? Is it time to move to a new dimension?
- Would you like to continue with the same goals or revise them?
- What can you revise in your lesson plan to better incorporate equity discussions?
- Examine your gaps
- What skill or knowledge gaps keep you from applying equity discussions in your classroom (e.g., do you know what cultures your students come from, or what their life outside of the classroom is like?)
- Who could you work or discuss with to improve?
Social and institutional inequities exist in our classrooms, communities, and country. They are additional invisible hurdles that must also be overcome by underprivileged groups. We cannot take the necessary steps to resolve these issues without having hard conversations with our students first. Many of them may be navigating through the barriers caused by inequity on a daily basis. We can create change in our classrooms and communities by having these discussions and learning from one another and the different experiences we have. As teachers, we must be prepared to create a safe space for our underprivileged students when it comes to having conversations about equity. We must also be willing to acquire the knowledge we do not already have to respond to our students’ questions.
Our goal in this chapter was to help show you the importance of Equity Discussions in your classroom. While we understand there are many time constraints and pressures as teachers, making time for the five dimensions—Examination, Resolution, Commitment to Equity, Experiences with Inequity, and Equity Topics—will help your students to realize life is not separate from school and to care more about the subjects you are teaching.
Through Equity Discussions we can educate and unify our classrooms. The goal is that solidarity can be built by your students and you as their teacher through the sharing and discussion of experiences.
Banks, C. A. M., & Banks, J. A. (1995). Equity pedagogy: An essential component of multicultural education. Theory Into Practice, 34(3), 152-158.
Salazar, M. D. C. (2013). A humanizing pedagogy: Reinventing the principles and practice of education as a journey toward liberation. Review of Research in Education, 37(1), 121-148.
Varelas, M., Martin, D. B., & Kane, J. M. (2012). Content learning and identity construction: A framework to strengthen African American students’ mathematics and science learning in urban elementary schools. Human Development, 55(5-6), 319-339.
Suggested Citation, , , & (2021). Equity Discussions. In & (Eds.), Making Meaning in My Classroom. Equity Press. https://equitypress.org/making_meaning/equity
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