Skip to content

The Perusall Blog

A Look at Equity-Minded Teaching | Social Learning Amplified

In this special LIVE episode, Eric Mazur sits down with authors, Flower Darby (University of Missouri), Isis Artze-Vega (Valencia College), and Mays Imad (Connecticut College) to discuss their new book, The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching.

Episode 12 was live at Perusall Exchange® 2023, Perusall's annual community conference on trending topics in education. The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching by Isis Artze-Vega, Flower Darby, Bryan Dewsbury, and Mays Imad is available at W W Norton.

Eric Mazur:

Welcome to the Social Learning Amplified podcast, the podcast that brings us candid conversations with educators. We're finding new ways to engage and motivate their students inside and outside the classroom. Each episode of Social LearningNGEMT cover Amplified will give you real life examples and practical strategies you can put into practice in your own courses. Let's meet today's guests.

Eric Mazur:

It's great to see everyone. Welcome! Welcome to a special episode of Social Learning Amplified Live at the Perusall Exchange. I'm your host, Eric Mazur, and our guests on the episode today are Isis Artze- Vega, Flower Darby, and Mays Imad. And the topic of our conversation today is their new book, The Norton Guide to Equity Minded Teaching, which was published in February by WWE Norton and co- written with Bryan Dewsbury, who unfortunately is unable to attend today. Let me start by telling you a bit about our guest, Isis Artze-Vega is College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Valencia College in Central Florida, one of the nation's most innovative community colleges and a recently designated Hispanic-serving institution. She provides strategic leadership for the areas of curriculum assessment, faculty development, distance learning, career and workforce education, and partnerships for educational equity. Before joining Valencia, Isis served as Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning at Florida International University.

Flower Darby celebrates and promotes effective teaching in all modalities to advance equitable learning outcomes for all students. She's an associate director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Missouri, and has taught community college and university classes online and in person for over 27 years in several subjects, including English, Educational Technology, Dance, and Pilates. In our current work and publications, Darby empowers faculty to teach inclusive and equity focused classes in all disciplines and modes.

Mays Imad is an associate professor of biology and equity pedagogy at Connecticut College. Prior to that, she taught for certain years as at Pima County Community College in Tucson, Arizona, where she also founded the Teaching and Learning Center. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from the Garden Institute, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, The Mind and Life Institute and Mays' research focuses on biofeedback, emotional regulation, advocacy, and community, and how these impact student learning and success. She works with faculty across disciplines and institutions to promote inclusive, equitable, and education, all rooted in the latest research on the neurobiology of learning.

Isis, Flower, and Mays, welcome to Social Learning Amplified at the 2023 Perusall Exchange. Now, your book, the Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching, which was published by WW Norton and which is available on the WW Norton website as a free ebook or in hard copy version is really a treasure trove of actual items to help ensure that all students have an equal chance of success. And I can tell you that since I picked up the book in preparation for this podcast, that already made a lot of mental notes of what I am going to be working on over the summer to improve my course for the fall. What I particularly liked about your book is that each of the three parts of the book has a how can I get started section, and I have to say, I actually jumped to that section in order to frame the reading of the bulk of that section, because that section basically provides tips on how to apply key recommendations from that part of the book.

Now, you address your book, I think it's in the preface or in one of the, you know, first parts of the book to equity minded faculty. And I'd love to think that all of us are equity minded, but I know firsthand that there's a lot of confusion about the concepts of equity, equality, and inclusivity. So perhaps a good starting point for our conversation will be to elucidate the concept of equity for our audience. In particular, what are the implications of equity within higher education? And why is equity of particular importance right now? I don't know who of you wants to start off.

Isis Artze-Vega, Author of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching. Guest on Perusall's Social Learning Amplified podcast hosted by Eric Mazur.Isis Artze-Vega:

I'm happy to get us started, Eric and I also wanna say thank you and welcome everyone! What a treat is to be here with all of you. To the point of why equity is so important right now - I want to first say it's been important for a really long time. So we are not suggesting that it is a new idea or is now important in ways that it wasn't. But we're really lucky because right now, so many scholars from across field, so many faculty have been engaging deeply in supporting all of their students. So we've learned so much, and part of what we were able to do in this guide is to kind of bring that research together and make it pretty compact so that it is accessible. So I wanna say it's a wonderful time in higher-ed to engage in equity-minded practice. In terms of a definition, I'll start with one and welcome my colleagues to share their versions.

But in essence, an equity-minded faculty member as you acknowledge is most of us, right, who recognize we have a responsibility and we have an opportunity to support our student success. The equity-minded faculty member for instance, looks at the outcomes of their work and not simply the intentions, right? So we can say, I seek to be inclusive, or I seek to create belonging, but the equity minded practitioner takes it one step further and says, do I have evidence of it? Is it working? How can I make it even better? So I'll share that to get us started.

Eric Mazur:

Anybody else wants to jump into.

Mays Imad:

Yeah. So thank you again for having us, and I'd like to thank everyone for joining us today. So equity, equality, inclusivity, one can be inclusive and not necessarily equitable. And one can be paying attention to equality, which is treating everyone the same way and not being equitable. Equity is really about ensuring that all of the students regarding of their socioeconomic background, racial identity, gender, have access to the same resources and opportunities. And so, I, as an instructor, recognize that some of my students will come to my classes not having the same background as others. And so they'reMays Imad, Author of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching. Guest on Perusall's Social Learning Amplified podcast hosted by Eric Mazur. gonna need more support, they're gonna need more resources, and that the, if you will, will be the impetus for me to also offer different support for the student. For me, an equity-minded instructor says many of us are, and many of us to be, really comes with an ethical that the gaps in the racial gaps in education and completion and access. They're not an inherent ontological part of the system. They're there virtue of a human made system that we, a choice and an opportunity to pivot and shift that system. This is where the equity comes in.

Eric Mazur:

So what then are some of the key principles of equity minded teaching? And how would they be different from, let's say, inclusive teaching? Flower, you're smiling. Is that something you want to comment on?

Flower Darby:

I want to, and thank you Isis, if you don't mind. Let me add my thanks to you and Perusall and everyone here. I wanna answer the first part of the question because I've thought very hard about this first part, and then I'll let Isis take how it differs between inclusivity, if that's where you were going to go. But the point I want to make is key principles of equity minded teaching is, for me, it's all about intentionality. Many of us were not very well prepared before we stepped into our first college class or clicked into our first online class there. The pedagogical preparation for college faculty is sadly lacking. As you know, broadly speaking, so many of us fall back on things that we've always done or that we experienced as students without really through for ourselves what we can do in our course design and teaching practices to advance those equitable learning outcomes. So for me, my favorite word right now is intentionality. That for me is a key principle. And I'll turn to Isis.

Isis Artze-Vega:

I would say that the principles, I'm gonna use the organizing framework of the guide to share them, right? So the guide, as you referenced, Eric, is organized in three parts before a semester. Term starts during and after. And so a couple of the key principles before term is to think about course design with a high level of intentionality to refine the course design with paying attention to the relevance of the outcomes, the rigor of the course, because learning is so crucial. And that transparency and assessments and then principles in real time as it were, is that trust is not to be assumed, right? We have to work on that. So a principle is that the equity minded practitioner is working actively to earn and maintain students' trust to cultivate that sense that students not only belong, but deeply matter to you.

And then showing them that they are learning and being academically successful. And then finally, as the term winds down, using that moment where you have access to all of the data that you've collected along the way about students' learning and experiences to say, how did it go? What did I learn via this iteration of my teaching? And how can I make it even better next time? So it is principles along those along that trajectory, I wanna say with distinction to inclusion or cultural responsiveness or other, other forms of pedagogy. We're not here to compete or to say equity-minded teaching is the term or the construct. So on the contrary, we draw on all of those bodies of research and the guide. So as much as I, I know that language matters, I wanna say here we were much more focused on the outcomes of the work than on the kind of terminology that we use along the way.

Eric Mazur:

I see. Now, as I was reading your book, I noticed that there are a lot of parallels between stimulating intrinsic motivation to learn and your recommendations. Is that a coincidence?

Mays Imad:

Well, we did the research and what the research shows us, and especially now post, post well, the pandemic is still going, but especially now we're seeing more and more research come out about students disengaged or disenchanted. And so what the research shows is, is it's really crucial for students to have a sense of meaning relevant even at a subconscious level, the brain, when the brain is so taxed, so many just distracted and, and spread, if it's gonna ask implicitly, it's gonna ask the question of why should I care about this? And the motivation then becomes, when I, as the instructor help demystify why this lesson, this, this topic, this chapter, this, this assessment applies what it's in the big picture and why it's relevant, why it should matter.

Eric Mazur:

I see, well, that, that makes, that makes our our work somewhat easier, right? Because at least if you're, if you're interested in motivating intrinsic motivation, which I think is key to improving education in general and that was when I sort of came to that realization, I think, oh, I'm already, I'm already on that path. That will make my my route to more, you know, equity minded teaching a lot smoother. Now, some educators may feel overwhelmed by, you know, the prospect of tackling this big and important issue, but not know exactly what they should do to start. And I think you, you had mentioned, Flower, intentions, but ultimately we need actions too, right? So what are some some practical first steps that educators can take to apply equity-minded approaches in their courses?

Flower Darby:

May I jump in on this one and then I'll hand it to you?

Eric Mazur:

Yes, please.

Flower Darby, Author of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching. Guest on Perusall's Social Learning Amplified podcast hosted by Eric Mazur.Flower Darby:

Yes. So we did, we were very deliberate in wanting to provide that practical guidance because we know that it can feel overwhelming or it's hard to know where to start. So we took a page out of James Lang's small teaching approach, where we make small changes based on what the literature shows to have that outsized impact on student learning and those outcomes. And that is exactly why we have those sections at the end of almost all of the units about how to get started, because we know that faculty are very busy in our organizing framework that Isis referred to earlier. We center faculty wellbeing, because if we are not holistically experiencing wellbeing, we can't do any of this work effectively. So that overwhelm is not gonna be in service of our practical progress toward becoming more equitable. And I do, I think we all see this as a journey that we are all on. So the, how can I get started? Tips are, are meant to provide inspiration for small things that you can do right away with very little planning or very little grading burden. And then, you know, we also think that as people read each of these units and the research, that new ideas will emerge as well. But we, we very much advocate for taking small steps with that intentionality and the marriage of that actual action as well.

Eric Mazur:

Well, I see that my question matched one question that came from the audience here by how about Akian, who said, how can we get some ideas to get started in a college physics course, for example? But I think we're, we won't be too disciplined specific here because we're drawing people from many different fields. That reminds me, if you have a question please use the q and a button at the bottom of the screen, and then you could, if you see questions posted by others that you really like to to have answered, you can upvote the question.

Flower Darby:

Can I just provide a really practical example on that same note? And then again, I would invite Isis and Mays if you have an example that comes to mind. One thing we talk about is warming up the language within our syllabi. So many of us inherit boilerplate language. It sounds very robotic, very academic. It doesn't sound, it sounds like a policy document. And to be fair, the syllabus is an important contract between learners and educators. However, the research is very clear that that cold tone that comes through these documents are not welcoming. They're not inclusive, they don't help students see themselves in the class. They don't help students care about what they're learning to refer to. Mays' really important point earlier. So practical example this summer, read through your syllabi, look for ways to inject your own voice and show that you are a human who is there to support your students. And we have a lot of examples in the book about small changes you can make, for example, to headings in the syllabus. Instead of course learning outcomes maybe, or maybe in addition to course learning outcomes, you might also have a heading that says here's what you're gonna be able to do at the end of this course. So there's one example I'll invite if either others want to contribute as well.

Isis Artze-Vega:

I was gonna discuss the syllabus because we heard back from faculty reviewers that like, oh, this was, I could do this and I could do it quickly. the syllabus part of the guide walks you through all of the primary sections from where you describe your name and tell your students a little bit about yourself to those course learning goals and objectives, and says like, how about this? How about this? So there's something really concrete, and again, we're hearing back from faculty how much they appreciated and how quickly they could apply those. It's one concrete document. So I think that's another good, good reason to start with the syllabus, because it is it can be less overwhelming. what one other approach that just occurred to me now is maybe to kind of skim through the guide, whether the how do I get started sections or the general application activities and to kind of pick one per section.

So I might improve my course learning goals and my course design by increasing the transparency of my assignments, saying like, oh yeah, maybe it can be clear to my students why I am assigning this or how to be successful. And that that could be that one change in that section. And then maybe using some of the trust generators from the trust unit to say, okay, goodness, I don't know if my students trust me. So let me try a couple of these strategies like finding common interests or telling them a little bit about myself in ways I have never disclosed before. And then one from the final section to say what data do I have access to at the end of the term that could be meaningful in ways that I haven't engaged with? Or how might I look again at my student ratings data that we, we recommend some specific question. So maybe picking one strategy per part of the of the guide might be another way to kind of get started.

Mays Imad:

So if I may so Eric, you said that when you were reading the book, you realized that, you know, there are things that you're doing already and I think many of our colleagues are doing this work. And in fact, we say, we wrote this, this guide because our heart, listen to the echoes within your heart that this work matter. And when, you know, I say start with maybe steps remind yourself why this work matters for you personally, that it's not yes, if the department requires the, or the discipline, but beyond that, why does it matter to you as a human being, as a citizen of, of the world? I would then go, like I said, baby step. And I, I think it's really important to try to, at the very least, just have some, some, some basic understanding of, of the system of education and how historically it was designed to exclude people and what the ripple effect of that and how that ripple effect shows up in my classes, for example.

And then practically, you know, one of the things I do is, you know, I try to figure out, especially in my upper level classes or even in my intro classes, what can I do to learn more about the students and their academic background, and then what kind of support I can offer? So the students who are not at the same or at the, at the level academically, they should be, they can catch up and reach that level, right? So one of the things I do is I'm really careful who I select as my tutors for the classroom. And those tutors oftentimes are not the A students. Those are the students that really struggled in the previous classes, didn't have the academic background, didn't fit the, you know, the a, but ended up with an A with a B or sometimes, and I reach out to them and we worked together. Those are the people that become the tutors. And we work simultaneously to help, you know, cater to the students that, in this case, don't have the academic background.

Eric Mazur:

Yeah, I say, I think you mentioned something really important there, other classes, right? Unfortunately, we only control our own class, most of us. And you know, we talked earlier, briefly about intrinsic motivation and Flower put a beautiful comment there. You know, our own intrinsic motivation matters too. You know, and I've been working really hard in my class to promote intrinsic motivation to learn rather than, you know, forcing a subject that most of my students take as a requirement down their throats only to find <laugh> that, you know, the, the practice in many other classes sort of undermines that that, that, that, that push to promote intrinsic motivation. But I guess, you know, we don't live in a perfect world. We have to take small steps and hope that more and more courses will, will do the, the same thing. Now, early, early on in the book, you mentioned trust as an important aspect of equity- minded teaching. Why is trust important? Is that something you wanna address?

Isis Artze-Vega:

Yeah, I wanted Mays to get us started because I think her neuroscientific discussion of trust is just so essential to why it's featured in the guide.

Mays Imad:

Yeah. So there are a variety of reasons. Number one, when we're, when the brain is under the influence the influence of strong negative emotions, we have finite energy. And that finite energy is not gonna be, we, we, when we're exhausted, which many of our students are across the world it can be really difficult to to read the mind of the instructor or to even, you know, think that they have my back. I remember years ago I was teaching and I created a, for an exam that was comprehensive difficulty exam. I created a, what, what each call a health sheet. And I wrote everything that, you know, that would help the students, made copies, gave it to them. And then when I was grading the exam, I was seeing that the students didn't use my help or cheat sheet. I came back, I said, what's going on?

They thought I was tricking them. They said, you know, and I thought, what was what got lost in my communication where students did not think that I would them. And so the trust is really important. And again, I think about, you know, for example, that the student population that we're trying to serve, that, when it comes to equity, really important I think aboutIsis Artze-Vega, Eric Mazur, Mays Imad, and Flower Darby at Perusall Exchange 2023 Social Learning Amplified Podcast Event the history, you know, that they were excluded from the education system, and now they're coming and we're talking equity and diversity and so on. And I think, why should they trust us, right? We have to, I have to make the case for them that I have your back, that you're not just the number. And, and, and, and really to let my accent follow what I say.

So I would start with that. I, I don't make assumptions that just because I'm showing up and that the students are gonna read my mind another example, I give a, give a, you know, this small survey the beginning of the semester before the semester actually starts. And I say, how can I help you succeed in this course? And I remember one of the students said, wrote don't give us, I have two jobs, so on. And I thought, what a busy work, and how do they know that this work that I assign is busy or not? And so the whole transparency and trust go hand in hand, and they, they really connect with motivation.

Isis Artze-Vega:

I wanna extend some of that which I agree with just so wholeheartedly to say that the two additional reasons one is this one kind of is more of an extension of Mays than another one, is it is that trust is foundational to learning, right? When students trust us, they give us permission to challenge them. And that challenge is so crucial to learning. That's maybe one distinctive element of the guide that I would wanna speak to Eric, is that we're, we're not simply focused on student passing courses or progressing or earning a credential. That credential is only meaningful when students have the knowledge and ability. So because trust is a prerequisite, as it were for learning, we center it. another one is, is, is one that is heavy on my heart, which is all of the research that we found that tells us that students do not trust us.

And that increasingly levels of trust are lower in academia. And that, in particular, students from marginalized backgrounds, as Mays alluded to do not trust their faculty, who more often than not, do not share their identity. So because that trust is eroding, the research tells us, we felt it was crucial to say, okay this isn't something someone taught you to do in grad school. But this is yet another tool in the toolkit, and it isn't a matter of whether they, you know, it isn't. It is something that is malleable. And so we, we felt really honored to bring to faculty a set of strategies to say, yep, on the, on the sad side levels of trust are low, but here, all of the ways that you can show your students why you're there, why you are invested in their success, and over time earn that trust and, and that it pays dividends.

Flower Darby:

And if I could, I know we've already been talking about this for a few minutes, but it's such a critical concept. I would love to add just two quick things. First, I want to draw attention to Mays' excellent modeling of critical self-reflection and critical examination of our own thoughts, beliefs, values, and actions. And this is a key component of the book as well. She said when she realized that her students didn't trust that the help sheet was really well intended, that she took a step back and asked herself, where did my communication breakdown? So thank you for that lovely example Mays, and let us all be willing to demonstrate that humility and that vulnerability and that willingness to learn from our students in these ways. The other thing I just wanna add quickly, 'cause we haven't really touched on this yet, is we talk a lot in the book about how to do all of these things in online courses as well.

And I would argue that trust is critically important, even more important to focus on and build intentionally in our online learning environments, because these spaces can be, they don't have to be, but they can feel more distanced. Students can feel more isolated. We may even struggle to connect with our online students in the same ways that we do in person, and yet, online education is 100% the way of the future. It makes it possible for students to earn their college credential when they may not otherwise have any other options in terms of full-time school attendance or, you know, with other competing demands on their time, including work and family obligations. So online is really centrally discussed and very practically kind of addressed in the guide. And again, I'm just gonna say trust in online spaces is, if anything, almost more important in my mind. Maybe I'm biased than in person.

Eric Mazur:

This is very interesting. And this discussion about trust that we're having here right now reminds me of a talk I heard by Brendan busteed, who used to work for Gallup and who was in charge of the higher education develop section of Gallup, and who ran something, which I think is colloquially known as the Happiness Survey, where they actually the people at Gallup looked at the correlation between people's education and life satisfaction and success. And they looked for what in people's education correlates with future life satisfaction and self-reported success. They found very little difference between private versus public, small versus large. essentially it's kind of almost shocking how little correlation there is between future life satisfaction and, and, you know, college education in general, except for when people could check off two experiences in the experiences in two different categories. The first one was to have some form of experiential learning during their college years. And the other, and I think this is perhaps loosely related to trust, having had someone, some instructor who caress about you as an individual, and maybe that the trust is somehow related to this caring and that we as faculty should care more about the individual students in our class.

Isis Artze-Vega:

Eric, if I may. Yes, absolutely. Just to extend that last point you made, I think it's less to actually care, right? And I don't think that was your point, but that students don't always see it or know it, right? So it, so I believe that I see con faculty everywhere I go and at my institution and others who care so deeply, but that, that isn't always perceptible by our students. So how do we, how are we we more overt in communicating that care? I think that that, that's one of my major takeaways from from that study. And absolutely I would say connects to the, the unit on trust, but also on belonging, right? On that, on cultivating that sense that students belong matter and that you believe in their and in their intellectual abilities. That is one really interesting finding that was new to me, excuse me, which is the, this mega construct of belonging that we've all been talking about for so long. Some of the more recent studies by Lisa Nunn arrived at a sub construct called academic belonging. And so as a faculty member they're looking to us to say not only, hey, you belong here in general, but that I know that you belong intellectually and cognitively and that you can succeed. So validating their intellectual abilities is interestingly another way that we can communicate to them our care and run our respect. I would say,

Flower Darby:

And I would love to add this phrase that we talk about called pedagogical caring. Every once in a while I hear from faculty who are like, I, it's just a little outside my comfort zone. Yes, I want my students to succeed. But I do believe this idea of pedagogical caring can help us all find our way into this. And it can be in terms of that warm tone that we talked about in the syllabus, or even in your written communications in your online course, it can be in terms of adding more structured elements that we know will help students succeed. These are ways of demonstrating pedagogical caring, and 100% that is going to build the trust of your students in you as well.

Eric Mazur:

Yeah, I mean, Ken Bain, you know, the author of What the Best Teachers Do, I mean, I think makes a very strong case for the syllabus to be, to move from being demands on the students to promise from us faculty to, you know, what the course can be for the students. And I've definitely tried to make that transition in my in my own course. I wanna remind people about the q and a box. We have two questions there already. You can upvote questions and it'd be great to have some more questions as as I wrap up my last few questions here. The first thing is that we, we already spoke about the three parts of your book, you know, planning before your teaching, the actual teaching, and then reflection at the end. And I would love to hear a little bit more about, you know, what you would recommend we all do in each of these phases to have a more equity-based teaching or equity-minded teaching, as you call it. So maybe each of you can take one phase, and that way we distribute the voices and have each of the three parts.

Isis Artze-Vega:

I'll start with the first part of the guide, which as we know, not every faculty member will have weeks or months before term begins. So we absolutely take that into account. But this is looking at the, the outline of your course design, those fundamental features of your course learning goals, your assessments, and how students will use their time and how you will use yours. We know from all of the bodies of research that that alignment among the course objectives, the assessments and the activities, is really the integrity of the course and kind of the foundation upon which all of the other strategies can build. So that, that's part of what is described in there. The two particular bodies of research that we synthesize and we try to be really brief to I think that's one of the gifts of the guide is a really good lit review for you to use.

However you deem fit is the distillation of the research on relevance and motivation, and then a distillation of the research on rigor, which is such a contested term. so attending to your course design and saying, how can I enhance rigor if necessary? How can I make the relevance more overt to my students if necessary? How can I be more transparent about why the class is gonna look like this, why your assessments are gonna look this way? And then that syllabus, that is that kind of first impression in many cases. that, that, that is the essence of part one.

Flower Darby:

I'll jump in and build on your comment there about relevance and rigor Isis, and then I will turn to the part two during what do we do during the term? And that is to say that we did have robust debates as an author team about using the word rigor, because we know it is somewhat controversial. And the way we framed it and the way that we argue for its use is that it is appropriate challenge, and we provide that with appropriate support. So we do not do our students any service if we lower our standards in the name of being more inclusive or equity focused, but we maintain our standards and we provide supporting structures in class and learning activities and our own availability for our students, and be intentional about building trust and extending belonging in all of these ways to help provide that support for students.

Now, in section two, we go through what happens on a day-to-day basis when I'm teaching my class. And one reason we did that is all of us in, you know, on the author team have heard from faculty, fine, this all sounds good in theory, but what do I do on Tuesday morning at 9:30? And so in section two, we have a whole unit on trust, another whole unit on belonging. We have a third unit in that section on that structure that I was just alluding to. And what this does is it sort of provides a counter example to a very traditional and not very equitable class where students come to a large lecture, there's no other requirements except for two major exams, and that is very low structure. So we talk about ways of building in learning activities and structures to help.

And then one of the really, I think, unique elements of this guide is unit seven. And what we have there is a case study of my own asynchronous online class and literally what I do every day and every week, and a walkthrough of what the modules look like. And then we have a contrasting and complimentary case study of Brian's large enrollment introductory biology class. So we have two very different examples, and we talk about what do we do during week three? And I think that can be a very practical unit to read, even if you just read one of the studies to get some very concrete examples of what to do.

Mays Imad:

Awesome. So I'll jump in and talk about the third part, which is about reflection. So Bell Hook talks about let the classroom be a place of liberating mutuality, where both the instructor and the students are liberated. And so for me, I wanna, I aspire, I dream, I I wanna be different. I wanna be changed by the end of each classroom. And some of the reflections that I go through is how has this journey that I just took with my students changed me? Now I wanna talk about reflection and feedback and how they go hand in hand. And feedback is not just waiting for the end of the semester to see what worked and what didn't. It's important to feedback from the students throughout. So what I do is I tell the students that teaching is an art and it's work in progress, and I'm work in progress.

And sometimes I'll have, I'll, I'll have, I'll bring my own biases, or I'll have subconsciously do something that doesn't sit well with me, and I look for you to give feedback. So one of the things that I write that we write about in the book is how I send a one item anonymous survey where I ask, this is three or four weeks into the semester, and I ask the students, is there anything I'm doing or not doing that's making you, or a class may feel excluded, or you could do that online, you could do it in, and the feedback, I take the feedback, I take it to heart, I bring it back to the classroom, and I talk about it and how I'm gonna either explain why I've been doing this so I wasn't fully transparent or how I'm gonna modify to my teaching.

So seeking feedback is really critical. And then the feedback that we get at the end, despite, there's so much problem with student evaluation of, of teaching, nonetheless, it's the best set of data that we have that tells us how are student experience, how my student experience, my thoughts, I read through and I try to find the truth. What's, what are the students trying to tell me? And, and, and I also pay attention to that, to the review, that really harsh. And again, I try to, you know, dissect and look and dive in, try to find what is that, where is the proof from there? And so the reflection is always, how has this course changed me as a person, as a teacher, and how will it impact the next, the next the next journey that I take with students?

Eric Mazur: I see. So -

Mays Imad: at the end of the core.

Eric Mazur: Yeah.

Mays Imad: Yeah.

Eric Mazur: no, go ahead.

Mays Imad: Sorry. I was gonna say, at the end of the core, I'm already planning my next journey.

Eric Mazur:

Yes, I find myself exactly in that situation right now. <laugh> I still have many questions, but I see that there are a couple of questions in the q and a, and I think I will I will take some of those questions. So Jessica Bickle says, one thing I've been moving towards is flexibility on due dates whenever I can. However, I find that often whatever flexibility I give gets eaten up by other classes that did, did not give that flexibility. Are there any suggestions of high impact practices that might not be undermined by other classes in this way or in terms of the motivation as you were just discussing?

Mays Imad:

So if I may, so structure matters and we write about it in the class. And also when I give, when a student asks me for extend the deadline to be flexible with, with the assigning I used to say, yes, of course, tell me when, you know, turn it in when you can. And I realized, and actually with feedback from the students, they actually want structure that this, okay, fine can be, can be overwhelming. And so now whenever I'm flexible and I give an extension, especially with, with a student that's really struggling, we actually sit down and talk about what are you gonna do to meet this extended bedroom? So it's not just, you know, a free end and you go and because, because sometimes students are having a very hard time navigating other classes. As Jessica said question, and I'll, I'd love to hear from my, you know, if I missed anything from my colleagues.

Flower Darby:

I do just want to reinforce this idea that too much flexibility does not actually ha we have found in the literature it does not actually necessarily support student success. And I think many of us lived that experience during and after the really difficult years of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, where we wanted to be very empathetic and supportive of our students, and we got rid of too many deadlines. Perhaps, I'm thinking of my own example, and many of my colleagues sharing these things as well, where then our students were not able to make effective progress. So for me, it is about providing that structure and those deadlines or those kinds of accountability structures and recognizing that life happens for our students. And building in a way to be flexible. I love MA's approach on asking the students, okay, what are you going to do?

The approach that I have taken is right out of Linda Nelson's book, specifications Grading. She calls them, oops, tokens. I know other faculty call them, no questions asked, tokens or passes. And essentially I offer my students three of those per semester. And you do not need to explain to me what's going on. You can just turn one in. I don't need to know the details. it, it does provide, you know, more respect for students' privacy and such. And then, yes, we mutually agree on a particular date that this will be you know, this will be in. Now, I also incentivize if students never need to use an oops token, they, they actually get a little bit of extra credit, which aligns with migrating philosophy. May, may or may not with yours, but I do try to incentivize still remaining on time. I, I just wanna touch, and then I'll, I'll be done here in a moment.

I want to touch on the initial question about strategies that don't get eaten up by other classes. I don't know that we do have a good answer for that. I think in the book, we, we advocate for two things, for what we can control within our own classes. And that may vary depending on our faculty status, depending on whether we're teaching a coordinated course, these kinds of things. But what you can't control is your friendliness and your efforts to build rapport with your students, even if you're teaching a, you know, an already built course. But we also talk about advocating for systemic change and across departments and across silos. And so if you are finding that your students are struggling because of the other classes that they're in, we do write in the guide about ways to begin to build some bridges and lead from where you are to start some conversations on your campus. But essentially the question refers to sometimes things that we can't control. And I know we've all experienced that. So we do what we can and advocate for change as well.

Eric Mazur:

Let me turn to another question here in the Q and A. This one is by Pablo Valdivia. I'm very curious to know more about your perspectives on the use of generative AI to foster equity and academic belonging in a class. Do you see generative AI as an opportunity or a threat to promote a more inclusive social learning experience? And before I turn it over to you another attendee, Michael Riter added to that question. Question for Mays, what does self-regulation and mitigating stress have to do with equity pedagogy? Oh, that's actually a totally different subject. This is not on the, so let's separate those two.

Let's first have Pablo Valdivia's question on generative AI threat or opportunity.

Isis Artze-Vega:

Probably a little of each. I would say, and I'm learning so much as is the true for our field. I'll say one, one fear that I have that I've begun to notice that I noticed during the pandemic actually with remote proctoring solutions is the erosion of trust between faculty and students. And it was just so heartbreaking to see faculty spending so much of their time policing students and watching videos and rewatching videos. So this suspicion, it enters the classroom with us. It's a toxin I would say. And so I am deeply worried about that. And of course, the optimistic part of me does believe that there is a kind of sweet spot as it were, where we can leverage the power of technology to advance learning without having it do the things that we need to do in order to learn. And, I say we're not there yet, but I read that in a article I believe earlier this week, late last week. And I am optimistic that we're going to find the ways to use all of these extraordinary advances, but right now that that threat that I'm seeing, or the risk of the relationship being damaged, which again as, as we've said at length today, I see as crucial to learning and to student success.

Flower Darby:

May I add on this topic of generative AI? And then we can certainly turn to the next question for Mays. Because I wanna hear that answer too. I have been thinking deeply. I've been absorbing, I've been researching, I've been synthesizing my own you know, expert opinion here. Sorry, that sounded weird. But <laugh>, here's, here's the way I see it. And I actually took some of this away from a keynote that I attended that was being given by Vinton Cerf, who's one of the founding fathers of the internet and a chief internet evangelist at Google. He compared the advent of these generative AI like ChatGPT and other tools as he compared. He made two comparisons, and that's really helped me, so I'll share them quickly. One was kind of the advent of the internet in general, and another one was when we all began to carry around smartphones. These two technological advances literally changed the way we do everything.

I've been thinking about in my undergraduate days when I would go to the library and dig out a microfiche and feed it into the machine. And we can do so many things so much more quickly and efficiently. And while we are right to have concerns about Generative AI, I'm encouraging us to see it as this work in progress - as Isis just mentioned. I remember when I hardly knew how to search anything online in Netscape as it was back then. So let's give ourselves permission to process. Let's not police and surveil our students, and let's start playing with it. If we're not doing that already, I would certainly encourage folks to start playing with Gen AI in their own personal professional lives, to get familiar with what can happen. So one quick thing that I say is, "Hey, let's Google that", or let's ask Google Bard just as a way to try to develop some new habits of mind.

Eric Mazur:

Now, interestingly enough, it has taken a long time and it's still not completely accepted, you know to adapt, to adopt, pardon me, the perhaps biggest IT invention of all time. And I'm not referring to computers or internet here, I'm referring to the printing of books. Gutenberg you know, even though that invention is almost exactly 600 years ago, two years from now, it will be you know, it, it's taken a long time to people or it's still not, not happened completely to abandon lectures and rely more on other forms of transferring information. So as educators, we don't have a really good track record in adopting technology in a good way. There was something else that came to mind that I wanted to say regarding regarding ChatGPT. Perhaps one reason why this may actually be a good threat is because it may force us, and this is one of the questions I wanted to bring up earlier.

So maybe I'll do it now. It may be a threat that forces us to reconsider our assessment practices. And I think that a lot of a lot of how shall I put this? You know, a lot of problems with equity are grounded in assessment because I think that was plenty of research to show that people who grew up, you know, who are, you know, first time college students, people who grow up in underprivileged parts of society, struggle a lot more with high stakes assessment in particular one of the things I've given up over the past you know, five or so years is I, I have no more exams, no lectures, no exams. In fact, this year I abandoned the classroom and I abandoned the start and end time too. So my class is pretty wild right now, but I think that, that we should see chatGPT as, or the availability of chatGPT as a impetus to really completely rethink our assessment practices. And I see that actually as a good threat because I think, you know, many of our assessment practices are outdated and, and do not help with equity. I don't know if, if you agree with my statement, I'd like to hear your absolutely. Your views there.

Mays Imad:

Yeah, absolutely. They don't help with equity. They don't assess learning. They assess how well a student can me can regurgitate when they memorize or how well they've learned to take exams. But these meaningful learning, they don't assess. They bring so much stress to the student who is working through jobs. Third generation, so much was at stake with this one exam, and quite frankly, I think they contribute to inequities. So I think definitely as many as you all said, for me, I'm stepping back and learning about, about generative AI learning. How can I use it to help with that, with equity and not to fear the technology and yes, to reexamine that assessment.

Eric Mazur:

So let's turn to that question that I had tacked onto the chatG T, which is really a separate question by Michael Rader directed at Mays. What does self-regulation and mitigating stress have to do with equity pedagogy?

Mays Imad:

So, learning is social and emotional. And right now, globally, students are I mean, the mental health crisis is real, and it really requires our attention. And while mental health affects everyone, and while, and the, the chronic stress affects everyone, it affects students who are on the margin, racialized students, differentially, those are the students that continue to deal on a day-to-day basis with, with racism, with, I mean, you turn on the tv, you look at social media in the classroom, that brings enormous amount of stress. Sometimes the way the brain works, because it wants to keep us alive. It's about our survivability. It'll do, like, move us away from the learning to keep us so we could survive. And when that happens, and it's my experience interviewing students across the country, what students would often say, what happened to me? Why am I unable to learn or why?

I wrote a group of students in inside higher ed, and there was a quote from a student who says, did I lose my cognitive function? Have I always been a bad student? And I didn't know. So it's really imperative that not only how can I support students with their wellbeing but I also, how can I empower them with knowledge about their own physiology about how learning works? So when they do the experience, express the anxiety, they don't automatically say, it must be me. I'm not capable. But rather that, what can I do? What support can I seek to help me regulate my response to the external stressor so I could continue to learn? This is huge. We, we can't talk about equity and justice without talking about wellbeing and, and justice for, for emotional wellbeing of our students.

Eric Mazur:

In that respect, I think there's a wonderful overlap between this podcast and the next one, which will be devoted to mental health. And I'm really starting to see a lot of connections between, you know, mental health, equity, and intrinsic motivation to learn. I mean, all of these, these issues are intertwined. Well, we have only three minutes left, but there's one question that has been voted five times, and I'm afraid we'll leave an open question at the end. But given that this is recorded, that it will put online and there'll be opportunity to interact asynchronously online, I hope that the question can be answered there. So the, the last question, and really we, we just should just have a very short answer to end on time, is from Chuck Gobin, who, and I'm gonna paraphrase this question because it's right along. He teaches literature courses, both to English major and as part of the general education core curriculum, but Chuck is struck by the disparity in reading levels among students.

Some, you know, the ability to read more deeply, in other case just basic comprehension issues. And, you know, I'm sure that you can transfer this to another field, my own, for example, you know, expecting students to have had already some you know, proficiency in mass and then coming to my class without being able to solve the most simple algebra equations. And he states, perhaps we assume students who have been admitted, all operated on at least a baseline level of literacy or mass knowledge or whatever, or we think it's not our job at the university to teach somebody to read. So the question is, how do you blend help in competency with more abstract philosophical goals in a subject area? Short answer.

Isis Artze-Vega:

I will say briefly that I do believe that once a student has been admitted to our institutions, we have a responsibility to support them. And so using their, their how much or how little they know it's not an excuse, right? We have a responsibility to each of them, and they always came to our courses with varying levels of knowledge and abilities. And so learning about that, assessing it, and providing those extra supports where appropriate to the specific question about moving toward philosophical critical thinking type work, when that basic competency or knowledge isn't there I would suggest constructing an opportunity in the class to share some basic conceptual knowledge and then to ask students to use it so you don't have to hope that they have a foundational concept, durability. You can either help students retrieve it or teach it, and then give them that validating, empowering recognition that their intellectual abilities are absolutely capable of that high level philosophical, abstract, critical thinking. Create creative work that is a key part of validating them and of advancing more equitable outcomes.

Eric Mazur:

So maybe actually you, you're triggering a thought. You know, we sort of tend to reward the absolute level at which students exit the course, not realizing that they enter at many different levels. Some may already be at the level that you expect and others, maybe at the level you expect at the end of the course. And others may be, maybe we should reward the delta rather than the absolute value where they come out and have some sort of a, you know, ranking, which is we don't know. We know that doesn't work anyway. But anyway, I need to think about that over the summer, if I can sort of think of an assessment scheme where reward delta - the growth rather than the absolute value where the student exits the course. Anyway, I really would like to conclude now by thanking you for listening and, and thanking our guest, Isis Artze-Vega, Flower Darby, Mays Imad. The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching is available as a free ebook to all instructors. You can access the ebook or order hard copy online @wwnorton.com. You can find our Social Learning Amplified podcast and more on perusall.com/SocialLearningAmplified all one word. Subscribe to join us on our next episode. Thank you again. Thank you.

Eric Mazur:

Social Learning Amplified is sponsored by Perusall, the social learning platform that motivates students by increasing engagement, driving, collaboration, and building community through your favorite course content. To learn more, join us at one of our introductory webinars. Visit perusall.com to learn more and register.

 

 

Listen to the Social Learning Amplified Podcast

 

Try it today with your class.

Setting up your course is fast, easy, and free.