That's a wrap on this year's pre-summer Teacher PD event! Here's a round-up of our key takeaways.
On June 15th, we hosted a pre-summer education event titled Equity in Education: Pathways to Success. It gathered speakers from across the spectrum of K-12 to Higher Education, as well as experts in UDL, accessibility and assistive technology to consider how equity-informed education can set students up for success.
In his brilliant keynote, teacher and educational activist Dwayne Reed spoke (and sang!) about the importance of getting to know your students and building their trust. By listening to them and understanding their interests, learning style, strengths and needs, you can become the educator they need at that moment.
A one-size-fits-all approach to teaching can fall short of addressing individual learner needs.
A number of sessions explored Universal Design for Learning as a solution to this problem. The UDL framework begins by addressing any learning or access barriers that might be preventing students from accessing their full potential. It makes flexibility a key component of lesson design.
Emphasis is on individual strengths and offering students choice in how they demonstrate their understanding - an essay, artistic project, group drama, constructing a model, or something else entirely.
Student choice and autonomy has the added benefit of encouraging students to become independent, self-motivated learners who can focus on and articulate their strengths. Learn more about universally-designed lesson planning in this blog article.
You might be asking: how does one teacher have the time and bandwidth to facilitate so many different lesson plans?
The suggestion offered by Dr Marilyn Strutchens (Professor of Mathematics Education) was simple. You plan for difference at the outset, whether by creating work station rotations or by offering flexible assignment options. The key is that students don't have to be micro-managed or prescribed a set way of fulfilling a task.
And there are tools which can support this. In his session, Opportunity of Choice: Flexible Feedback and Agile Assessment, Texthelper Louis Shanafelt demonstrated how math and literacy tools Equatio and WriQ provide flexible means of giving and receiving feedback - including through voice notes, annotations, data metrics, or even personalized Bitmojis!
In our session on supporting English Language Learners, we heard from an ELL Coach at Perry Township about how her school district has embedded Read&Write (a literacy support tool) as a cross-curriculum learning scaffold. What's happening at Perry Township is a fantastic example of equitable access. This means that ALL learners have assistive tech tools available to them. This model makes the learning environment more streamlined and efficient, providing dynamic language support in real time.
As a learning facilitator, you can spend hours carefully putting together a lesson plan - but what use is all that effort if your students aren't able to access the material? Three of our sessions looked at the topics of techquity and accessibility in depth. Check them out below, and click here to watch them.
We heard how helping students envision themselves as math scholars is fundamental to keeping students enrolled and engaged in STEM subjects (check out the stats in Louis' session for insights into the future job market within STEM). If you're interested in more ways to engage a diverse student population in STEM subjects, don't miss Tinashe and Marilyn's session, Equity and Confidence in STEM Subjects.
We wrapped up the event with a live panel discussion on how educators can practically implement the ideas and frameworks explored throughout the day. To hear their thoughts, be sure to register and catch-up on what you missed!
To round off our event takeaways, let's hear again from Dwayne Reed, who has some motivational words for getting started on your equity roadmap.