Regardless of disciplinary expertise, how can we create a more just society in our capacities as educators? Dr. Bryan Dewsbury, scientist and innovative scholar focused on inclusive teaching, discussed a few responses to this question at the Learning, Equity, Access, and Pedagogy Initiative’s event this spring, “Beyond Inclusion: The Tethering of the College Classroom to a Socially Just Society.”
Dr. Dewsbury is the principal investigator of the Science Education and Society Research Program at Florida International University, a fellow at the John N. Gardner Institute, and a co-PI of the Deep Teaching Residency at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research and work is focused on broader social and equity questions related to discipline-based education research.
In Dewsbury’s words, reflective, curricular work such as LEAP allows us to not just hear messages about the importance of inclusivity in higher education, but turn those ideas into campus change. The work of education is work that is outward-facing. With this idea in mind, he pointed out how inclusive teaching discussions often pigeon-hole on specific course outcomes rather than envision broader, more holistic understandings of what it means to educate toward the goal of reaching a more socially just society.
To this end, Dewsbury discussed the role of equity-minded teaching on preparing students for shaping society, giving examples of formative practices that can be enacted toward this goal, regardless of the course’s disciplinary focus. He drew a parallel between fundamental principles found in community organizing during the civil rights movement and effective approaches to teaching students:
- Understand the relationship between families and organizing: Just as civil rights leaders garnered buy-in for movements by first building trust with those they hoped to serve, as educators and staff members, we must first build trust with the students we serve by truly getting to know them and modeling transparency.
- Uplift grassroots people and leaders: To empower students means to believe that every student in your class can be a leader and achieve success in your course; this belief is the differentiator between potential and readiness.
- Cast your bucket where you are: Understanding the past and current social circumstances of where we work and learn helps us act and implement solutions in a way that meets the specific needs of our learning community. In other words, know your context.
In addition to offering an engaging, thoughtful talk to the broader Georgetown community, Dr. Dewsbury offered small-scale, engaged conversation with several departments participating in LEAP this semester, undergraduate students, and graduate students over the course of his two-day visit. Among all of this, his new book Norton Guide to Equity Minded Teaching was released during his visit, as well, which you can read for free.
Learn more about Learning, Equity, Access, and Pedagogy Initiative events by connecting with the team at LEAPInitiative@georgetown.edu or visiting our website. And register for Georgetown’s annual Teaching, learning & Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) to see keynote speakers Dr. Mays Imad, (Toward Reparative Humanism in Higher Education: Recasting Teaching and Learning Agreements) and Dr. Catherine Knight Steele (Care as Praxis and Method in Digital Research and the Classroom) both of whom are being brought to the conference with LEAP support.