The concept of equity can hold different meaning for different people depending on the context but, at its core, the concept in educational settings involves giving everyone the opportunity, support and specific tools that they need to be successful. Promoting equity is about educators choosing to embrace rather than shy away from the unique backgrounds, identities, and experiences that their individual students bring to the table.
In recent years there has been a growing desire among students, teachers, and leaders alike, in all areas of our education system, to embrace diversity and create equity in the classroom.
When expanding the location of learning to include the homes of learners/ākonga however, the experiences of remote and hybrid learning during the lockdown period dramatically highlighted existing inequalities among students when it comes to internet access, food security, family situations and more.
Two areas identified in the COVID research highlighting issues of equity are:
- Digital divide, including:
- Internet connectivity
- Access to devices
- Level of digital literacy
- Home environment for learning, including:
- Learning support
- Place(s) to study
- Demands from family
- Access to resources
- Impacts of poverty vs privilege
Within the constructed environments of our schools/kura we can address at least some of these issues by ensuring equitable access to programmes, technology and resources for example. However, when designing for learning in a hybrid environment, the challenges grow. Ignoring or overlooking some of the fundamental issues that drive inequity will simply exacerbate existing problems of engagement and participation.
In our thinking here, we must also be mindful of the broader issues that contribute to inequity; such as racism, cultural or gender bias, failure to accommodate disabilities of all kinds etc.
Some actions educators can take to be more intentional about addressing equity include:
- Reflecting on personal beliefs (and how these influence personal attitudes)
- Addressing racial and cultural barriers to learning
- Hold high expectations for every student
- Avoid assumptions about students’ backgrounds
- Understanding and accommodating disabilities
- Being mindful about the use of technology.
Questions you could use to help identify the practices in your context that address equity include:
- How do you ensure all learners/ākonga have access to the digital tools they require to participate online?
- How are learners/ākonga from different cultural backgrounds, beliefs and disabilities catered for? What steps are taken to address any barriers here when they are identified?
- What expectations are made of learners/ākonga in terms of their learning from home (support, environment etc.) How do you address areas of inequity here?
- How is a commitment to Te Tirit o Waitangi demonstrated in programme design and delivery across your organisation?
- Are the same expectations held for every learner? How is this demonstrated in practice?
This post is one of a series of ten being published on this blog that are taken from the document “Codifying Teacher Practice”. This document has been written to provide educators with some guidance on how to approach the challenge of shifting their pedagogical approach as they embrace hybrid learning and includes templates and activity to help educators and leaders explore this in their own context. This paper follows two previous thought pieces relating to hybrid learning, both of which can be found on the FutureMakers website. If you’d like to receive an advance copy of this paper please email derek@futuremakers to have one emailed to you.