2016 Program Grant Winner

Katherine Batchelor, Roland Sintos Coloma, Sheri Leafgren, Barbara Rose, and Scott Sander

Teacher Education


Toward Curricular Transformation: Using Writing about Educational Equity in Teacher Education Courses to Empower Future Teachers for Change

Need and Impact

Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Curricula in teacher education programs emphasize what is said and done through content, methods and skills of classroom teaching. How students are treated and how they feel is not often addressed in ways that explore complexities and impact of inequity. Curricula do not typically include concepts such as unconscious bias, dominant privilege, and deficit thinking as essential and infused throughout programs, even though the impact of those concepts is dramatically illustrated in school dropout (or pushout) rates, in defining and measuring “achievement” levels of students, and in other individual and societal aspects of schooling.

Teacher education curricula often include include a single (or a few) diversity or multicultural course(s) addressing equity, often outsourced to departments outside of teacher education; such courses may or may not be writing-intensive. The lack of equity as a centerpiece of teacher education curricula leads to a perception by teacher education students (preservice teachers) that educational equity is not important or central to their education. Programs that do not integrate equity in meaningful ways do a disservice to preservice teachers, who complete their degrees unequipped to meet the needs of all students. More importantly, such programs are complicit in harming children, youth, families and communities that teachers serve.

Challenges

Several structural challenges in teacher education programs contribute to the lack of curricular attention to educational equity. First, national accreditation organizations and state requirements drive teacher education curricula. What is externally mandated for content and methods leaves little room for anything else. Further, when new requirements are added to tight curricula, it is the “low hanging fruit”—courses offered by other departments, such as courses that emphasize equity—that are the first to be cut.

A second challenge is related to how work is done within departments. The Department of Teacher Education (EDT) at Miami, for example, includes licensure programs for Early Childhood Education (ECE), Middle Childhood Education (MCE), and Adolescent and Young Adult Education (AYA). Much of the work, including curriculum decisions, has historically been done within licensure areas, creating a “silo effect” that can limit holistic examination.

A third challenge is the demographic composition of students in predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Miami University is a PWI that is not only relatively affluent, but also a residential campus, which decreases both socioeconomic and age diversity. There are at least three dimensions to this challenge. First, the majority of preservice teachers do not demographically represent the students they will be teaching in race, socioeconomic status, or geographic diversity. Second, preservice teachers are predisposed to replicate the ways in which they have been taught; since the majority of our students are from affluent, suburban, high resource and predominantly White schools, they do not have experience or understanding of the needs of urban schools or marginalized students. Third, while students expect to receive certain content in teacher education (e.g., teaching methods courses), the absence of educational equity content is likely to be unnoticed, especially by students who experience privilege or have not been marginalized. It is therefore the responsibility of the program to make this content visible.

The Importance of Writing

The inclusion of writing to address societal aspects of schooling is much-needed to allow students to reflect on the experiences of themselves and others in schooling and educational equity. There is considerable writing that focuses on writing for social justice (e.g., Christensen, 2000; New York Collective of Radical Educators, 2012), writing processes (e.g., Lamott, 1995; Romano, 2015; Murray-see Newkirk and Miller, 2009), and methodologies such as scholarly personal narrative (SPN) (e.g., Nash, 2004) and autoethnography (e.g., Ellis, Adams, and Bochner, 2010). One approach to articulating the value of the writing process borrows from the work of Sondra Perl (1990), who believes that meaning is crafted in writing through a process of “coming-into-being” (p. 145). This process she refers to as "felt sense" draws from one’s inner reflections and bodily sensations and is internalized during the writing process. Perl notes that the process is cyclical, where composing and recomposing includes a back-and-forth movement from “sense to words and from words to sense, from inner experience to outer judgment and from judgment back to experience” (p. 147).

Assumptions

This project seeks to address the need and challenges in infusing educational equity into teacher education. There are four assumptions guiding the work of the proposed project.

  1. Many students will enter and experience our department and classes without previous awareness or understanding of educational equity.
  2. Students must have exposure to equity in education early and often throughout their curriculum for it to become a salient issue for them.
  3. Students must have scaffolded experiences that build depth of understanding of equity from the first year through the senior year.
  4. Writing-intensive courses enhance depth of learning in ways that are not possible otherwise. Writing is essential.

Purpose and Objectives of the Project

The purpose of this project is to contribute to undergraduate curricular transformation in the Department of Teacher Education, specifically by infusing educational equity to align curriculum to the mission statement of the department, which emphasizes culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy and the importance of positioning teachers to confront social injustice. The project we are proposing is a mid-level step in the process of curricular transformation, building on the trajectory described in the next section.

Specific objectives for the project are to (a) create, implement, and evaluate writing assignments focusing on educational equity in targeted courses in the Department of Teacher Education; (b) include courses that cross licensure areas (ECE, MCE, and AYA) and levels (first year, sophomore, junior, and senior); (c) work collectively to build across the programs to maximize student depth of understanding of educational equity; (d) include student voices in the project process; (e) work with CWE staff and students to improve student writing; and (f) use our learning to support next steps in curricular transformation in EDT.

Departmental Work to Date

There is a trajectory of previous work that brings us to the place of being ready to implement this project. There are both long-term and new EDT faculty whose work has centered on equity and social justice issues, creating a critical mass of people with deep levels of commitment. Several curricular initiatives contributing to momentum have occurred in the last two years; each included team members for the proposed project. First, in addition to existing courses, new equity-based courses were developed and approved: EDT 205 Race, Cultural Diversity, and Equity in Education; EDT 457/557 Culturally Relevant Teaching Across the Curriculum; and EDT 483/583 Educators as Activists. In addition, a new Global Miami Plan (GMP) Advanced Writing course, EDT 284 Writing for Educators, provides another opportunity for equity-based writing. Second, several faculty-created projects focusing on equity in curriculum are part of current work in a grant awarded in spring 2015 from Race to the Top federal funds, and in a 2015-16 faculty learning community focusing on deep impact equity projects. Also, beginning in Fall 2016, there will be a course coordinator (Scott Sander) for the many sections of EDT 190 Introduction to Education, which provides new opportunities for the course instructors to work together to infuse equity content. In addition, numerous informal conversations have taken place between project team members about scaffolding equity concepts in multiple ways—across the curriculum, “bookending” specific first and senior year courses, and within blocked cohort semesters in specific licensure programs.

The momentum has taken us to this place, where we can systematically and effectively work together to infuse equity and deep impact writing assignments in target courses across the EDT curriculum. We are ready, committed, and eager.

Benefits of the Project and Numbers of Students Impacted

This project will provide students in teacher education with multiple experiences in educational equity across their curriculum. In our work to date, we are seeing promising impact on students and an increase in student voices advocating for more emphasis on equity in their programs. For example, in Spring 2016, two student-led presentations were made as part of an EDT teaching ideas seminar series. Each group presented to EDT faculty, with a core message that students want and need more grounding in equity issues. Within that core message, there were clear themes—educational equity and social justice is important to students; learning about educational equity is essential to being an effective teacher; classes emphasizing equity help them to feel empowered and ready to teach; and their peers deserve that same empowerment.

Writing strategies used in this project will amplify depth of learning. Revision, for example, offers reflective moments in understanding one’s own thinking about a subject or event (Haar, 2006). In a recent interview, Danling Fu (2012) stated, “Revision is the core of writing. That’s what separates it from speaking, because revision is rethinking, reorganizing our thoughts, re- reviewing our presentation, and rewording or re-finding our expressions” (p. 427). Additionally, Welch (1997) found that teachers may not be asking the right questions to assist students during the writing process. Specifically, Welch suggested questions, such as “something missing, something else?” to promote revision in a non-restrictive sense, to encourage students to write in more challenging and unique ways rather than “what’s comfortable and familiar” (p. 234). By engaging students in the writing process and allowing revision to occur, students will be able to think about socially-just issues in a deeper way.

There are currently 959 undergraduate students in EDT (419 in Early Childhood Education, 241 in Middle Childhood Education, and 299 in Adolescent and Young Adult Education). Each of the five target courses in this project enroll between 20 and 30 students per section; four of the five courses have multiple sections offered each year (24 sections total for the five courses). Using data from the Miami University “Course List” from Spring 2016 and Fall 2016, it is projected that around 525 students will enroll in one or more of the target courses in 2016-17.

Plan of Work

Individual Work

Individual work by team members will focus on content and writing assignments in the five target courses. The following are brief descriptions of work planned by each team member.

EDT 190 Introduction to Education (Sander, Course Coordinator). This course is the first opportunity for students to participate in ongoing professional conversations about teaching, to clarify their thinking about what teachers do, to test their thinking against others’ views, and to assess their seriousness about preparing to teach. Writing assignments, both big and small, must be used to capture and enhance student thinking and re-think about creating classrooms for equity and social justice. Through this CWE project, I will work with other EDT 190 instructors to develop consistent writing assignments that allow students to reflect on the role of a teacher and the purpose of school for a more just society. (Eleven sections of this course are planned for 2016-17. The course is required for all EDT majors, and is typically taken in the first year.)

EDT 205 Race, Cultural Diversity, and Equity in Education (Coloma). This course explores the complex relationship between race, diversity and inequity and examines how racial inequities are produced, maintained, and resisted in educational institutions. It analyzes the historical and ongoing exclusion and marginalization of minority groups, and the hegemonic dominance and normalization of whiteness in education policies, curriculum and pedagogy, assessment and achievement, teacher and student identities, school and classroom spaces, and family and community engagements. It employs various conceptual frameworks to look inside educational structures and cultures that sustain inequities and that challenge and remedy them. The course provides students with opportunities to investigate these issues as they relate to their own experiences and communities. Writing assignments, such as racial autobiographies, mapping community assets, curriculum analysis, and cultural or media artifact fact, are included. (One section of this course is planned for 2016-17. The course meets the Intercultural requirement for the GMP. It is a new elective that can be taken any time throughout the program.)

EDT 284 Writing for Educators (Rose). The focus of this course emphasizes writing process, revision, peer and instructor review, finding one’s own voice in writing, and experimenting with multiple genres. Student writing includes keeping a writer’s notebook, quick-writes, one-pagers, and longer assignments with multiple drafts. In the inaugural offering this semester, I used equity concepts to frame much of the work in the last half of the course. My work in 2016-17 will continue to explore writing strategies, including the genre/methodology Scholarly Personal Narrative (SPN). SPN blends scholarship and personal voice, and is often used in social justice writing. A course goal is to have students see themselves as both writers and scholars who can use writing to extend the power of their voices and intellect for equity and change. (Four sections of this course are planned for 2016-17. The course meets a GMP Advanced Writing requirement. It is a new elective that can be taken any time throughout the program.)

EDT 423/523 Teaching Young Adult Literature and Other Forms of Media (Batchelor). I plan to have students create a thematic-based Linked Text Set (a collection of 5-15 various texts, including print and nonprint). The theme must center on social justice issues at a national or global scale. Students will collect these texts in a visual media format, share them with peers, and write a summary of how the text set addresses their chosen social justice issue in an impactful, artful way to their future students. I will also have students critically and semiotically analyze a picture book of their choosing and write a reaction paper based on the book’s display of gender, race and ethnicity, culture, age, body image, socio-economic status, and sexuality. (Three sections of this course are planned for 2016-17. The course is required for MCE Language Arts and AYA English, and is typically taken in the junior or senior year.)

EDT 473 Early Childhood Synthesis (Leafgren, ECE Program Co-Coordinator). In this course, the efforts to engage in the complexities of deeply considering the role that equity awareness and action must play in teaching involve articulating tensions and growing awarenesses of personal fragilities and biases. In EDT 473, we are developing a project involving Dutro’s Critical Witnessing that involves examining documented impressions of children and families and applying strategies in witnessing critically that require the teacher candidates to identify essentializing and deficit languages used that explicitly and implicitly denigrate based on difference. (Five sections of this course are planned for 2016-17. The course is required for ECE majors, and is typically taken in the junior or senior year.)

Group Work

Group work by team members will include monthly meetings to discuss individual course materials; individual and shared learning outcome, pedagogies, and assessment strategies; and “scaffolding” needs and strategies across courses and programs. The team will explore ways to include student voices and perspectives in our planning and activities.

Work with Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HCWE) Staff

Collaboration with HCWE staff will include (a) use of the service of student consultants to review assignments; (b) one meeting per semester with HCWE staff (if agreeable to HCWE) to review progress, solicit feedback, and discuss specific writing strategies; and (c) exploration of additional collaboration, such as assisting HCWE staff in design and implement of program area or department-wide writing workshop(s) for infusing equity concepts across the curriculum.

Work with EDT Colleagues and Leadership

Work within EDT will include (a) sharing information with faculty who teach other sections of target courses; (b) sharing across licensure program areas and within the “blocked semester” structure of the program; (c) including EDT students in project work; and (d) working directly with departmental leadership (detailed in the following paragraph).

The support of departmental leadership is important to both maximize the impact of our individual and group work in this project in 2016-17, and to plan for how to continue the work beyond our project to meet Departmental goals. This proposal was developed with the support of Dr. Raymond Terrell, who will be the Acting Chair of EDT in 2016-17. Dr. Terrell will assist the team through participation in activities as his schedule permits. His participation is welcome; he has a long and notable career as an educator and advocate for equity. He has been a secondary English teacher; an elementary school principal; professor of educational administration; Dean of the School of Education at California State University, Los Angeles; and, most recently, an Assistant Dean for Diversity in the School of Education, Health and Society at Miami University before his retirement several years ago. He is a life-long writer and the author of many books (along with writing partner Randall Lindsey) on cultural proficiency.

Assessment Strategies

Specific assessment strategies for the individual work in the five target courses will be discussed by the group but determined by the individual team members. Each course assessment will include both instructor reflections and student feedback. Ideally, there will be at least one shared assessment tool across the five courses. It is likely that the range of assessments (e.g., pre- and post-tests, quantitative and qualitative, the “Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) model) will provide a robust and informative account of the success of the courses.

Assessments of the work (a) in the group/team, (b) with students, (c) with HCWE staff, and (d) with EDT colleagues and leadership, will include team member reflections about process, products, and impact of the work, which will be shared in the final project report to HCWE.

Team Members

To meet the project goal of maximizing equity understanding of students in all licensure programs and across the four-year curriculum, our team was selected based on five criteria: (a) experience in teaching about educational equity; (b) experience in teaching writing-intensive courses; (c) team representation across licensure programs (ECE, MCE, AYA); (d) team representation across years (first year, sophomore, junior, senior) of courses; and (e) willingness to participate. What each person teaches, and a statement of their beliefs about writing, follows.

Katherine Batchelor teaches EDT 246A Foundations of Literacy and EDT 423 Teaching Young Adult Literature and Other Forms of Media (AYA English Language Arts requirements), EDT 448M Reading Practicum for Middle Grades (MCE requirement), and EDT 632 Literacy Assessment and Instruction (required for M.Ed. in Literacy; Reading Endorsement). I believe writing empowers, nurtures the soul, sparks creativity, can be a safety net for students who seek comfort in their own words and ideas, and most importantly, writing makes us think… deeply! I believe writing should no longer be neglected, overlooked, and pushed aside in today’s schools. We must find time to write for ourselves and for each other.

Roland Sintos Coloma teaches EDT 190 Introduction to Education (required for all EDT majors) and EDT 205 Race, Cultural Diversity, and Equity Education (Miami Plan Intercultural Requirement, elective). Writing offers invaluable time and space for meaningful contemplation not only about the complex self, but also about one’s relationship with others and one’s place within and responsibility to the society. The act of writing turns thoughts and feelings into material reality through words that, when shared, can significantly impact and transform other people’s beliefs and actions. Hence, writing, especially about equity and justice, needs to regarded as indelibly about individual and collective praxis.

Sheri Leafgren teaches EDT 473 Early Childhood Synthesis (ECE requirement); EDT 457/557 Culturally Responsive Teaching Across the Curriculum (elective); and EDT 452/552 Teaching Social Studies, 4th/5th Grade (ECE/MCE endorsement requirement). Teaching and writing both involve using voice to connect, to share. In using our voices—honoring oral traditions and developing experience and energies in writing—we teachers (and teacher candidates) speak our experience, animate possibilities, engage in radical imaginary, and allow the art of human language to frame our meaningful relationships with children, families, and colleagues. Parker Palmer (1998) wrote (see? writing does cool stuff!) about "listening to the inner teacher" to artfully consider a common question that teachers face: "How can I develop the authority to teach, the capacity to stand my ground in the midst of the complex forces of both the classroom and my own life? The clue is in the word itself, which has ''author' at its core. Authority is granted to people who are perceived as 'authoring' their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts.” (p. 32-33) I suggest that authoring our own narratives as teachers, collaborating with others, and using oral and written words to disrupt traditional views on education that actively exclude those "other" who do not follow the script (these "other" are those who suffer cultural, economic, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual violence in school) requires a deep state of open-mindedness and open-heartedness enjoyed and enjoined in the process of writing the shared narratives inherent in teaching and learning.

Barbara Rose teaches EDT 284 Writing for Educators (Miami Plan Advanced Writing Course, elective), EDT 422 Studies in Liberal Education (Miami Plan Capstone), and EDT 483/583 Educators as Activists (elective). I believe that writing is the path to deep understanding of equity for those without the lived experience of inequity. There are many directions that can be taken, some arriving at the same place and others not, but, without the journey of writing—the process, the challenges, and the choices inherent in self-reflection—there will likely be superficial knowledge and unexamined beliefs that assault, consciously or unconsciously, the spirits and lives of others.

Scott Sander teaches EDT 181/182 Physical Science (Miami Plan Course comprised of both education and business majors) and EDT 190 Introduction to Education (Required first course for all education majors). I believe that writing is a way for students to make their thinking visible. Provided with a language that promotes engagement, independence, and understanding I believe students can expand their current conceptions of the role of a teacher and the purpose of school toward more equitable notions of education.

Schedule

Spring and Summer 2016

The project team will meet in late April or early May to plan the team structure (e.g., shared learning goals, assessment strategies, individual plans of work) and logistic work of the project. Members will work on their individual courses throughout the summer, and will meet as a group in August to share plans and coordinate and link courses where appropriate.

Fall 2016

Target courses scheduled to be taught in Fall 2016 include EDT 190 (six sections), EDT 284 (two sections), EDT 423 (one section), and EDT 473 (three sections). Monthly meetings of the project team will be held September-December. A meeting with HCWE staff will be scheduled for late November. Conversations within EDT, including with the Acting Chair, will be ongoing.

Spring 2017

Target courses (and number of sections) tentatively scheduled for Spring 2017 (based on Spring 2016 course schedule) include EDT 190 (five sections), EDT 284 (two sections), EDT 423 (two sections, EDT 205 (one section), and EDT 473 (two sections). Monthly meetings of the project team will be held January-May. A meeting with HCWE staff will be scheduled for April or early May. Conversations within EDT, including with the Acting Chair, will continue.

Summer 2017

The final report to the HCWE will be prepared and submitted.

Budget

$1000 will be allocated as professional development funds for each of the five participants of the project, totaling $5000. The funds will compensate team members for time spent in the summer and throughout the year on project activities.

References

Christensen, L. (2000). Reading, writing, and rising up: Teaching about social justice and the power of the written word. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2010). Autoethnography: An overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114- fqs1101108.

Fu, D., & Hansen, J. (2012). Writing: A mode of thinking. Language Arts, 89(6), 426-431.

Haar, C. (2006). Definitions and distinctions. In A. Horning & A. Becker (Eds.), Revision: History, theory, and practice (pp. 10-24). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Lamott, A. (1995). Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Nash, R. (2004). Liberating scholarly writing: The power of personal narrative. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Newkirk, T., & Miller, L. C. (2009). The essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s greatest writing teacher. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

New York Collective of Radical Educators. (2012). Write on! Writing for social justice. Retrieved from http://www.nycore.org/wp-content/uploads/Write-On.Rise-Up.Book_.Sp_.2012.pdf

Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Perl, S. (1979). The composing process of unskilled college writers. Research in the Teaching of English, 13(4), 317-336.

Perl, S. (1990). Understanding composing. In T. R. Johnson (Ed.), Teaching composition (3rd ed.) (pp. 140-148). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Professional Resources.

Romano, T. (2015). Write what matters: For yourself, for others. Oxford, OH: Tom Romano.

Welch, N. (1997). Toward an excess-ive theory of revision. In T. R. Johnson (Ed.), Teaching composition (3rd ed.) (pp. 207-246). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Professional Resources.