Creating an Equitable Learning Environment. One important aspect of creating an equitable learning environment highlighted by Hanover Research (2017) is to “connect the academic curriculum to what students already know” (p. 6). When teachers can understand and connect to the cultural identity of each student, they have the opportunity to be culturally responsive. This might include differentiation of instruction in the classroom or providing multiple ways to show understanding of the content. Differentiation is more than teaching something in multiple ways. Differentiation with a lens on equity means accepting student responses in multiple ways. Teachers should be ready to accept different ways of knowing as evidence of understanding the content.
One aspect of my work in education is championing personalized learning. Teachers are encouraged to allow students to present their understanding in multiple ways and students frequently differentiate their instruction. The content is often personalized – but this happens at the level of the individual (the inclusion of student choice to select a novel for study in English for example) and rarely in a way that would look like a culturally specific mode of instruction because the students are not always making selections based on culture. Sometimes, maybe often, students are selecting work that is connected to their academic goals, social pressures, or an attempt to fit into a hidden curriculum. Consequently, my school both meets and does not meet this key finding of creating an equitable learning environment.
Engaging Families. Hammond Research (2017) finds that schools “can support teachers in their initial interactions with families by focusing on parent-teacher conferences” (p. 23). This strategy includes the scripting and outline of what an effective interaction might include.
From my perspective, parents are always welcome on campus, they are partners in learning. There are multiple entry points and parents are welcome to join classrooms; part of this welcoming environment is an induction program for all teachers that helps to develop an understanding of the culture in which the school is rooted. This is a good foundation for parent-teacher conferences. The best conferences are led by the students. This creates a bridge between parent and teacher – the culture at school and the culture at home.
Supporting High-Mobility Students. “Classroom teachers, in collaboration with educators, should identify the most pressing needs of their highly mobile students” (Hammond Research, 2017, p. 27). In doing so, teachers can apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand the basic needs of students that are highly mobile. Teachers can ask about the student’s sense of self (connections and social pressures embedded), their sense of place (security and routine embedded), and their perception of basic wellbeing (assessing stressors from their economic situation).
Hanover Research, (2017, April). Best Practices in Educational Equity, Arlington, VA.