Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 12/12.1.2

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Creating Equity in the Classroom
By: Courtney Hardee

Learning Targets[edit]

  1. The Reader will understand the concept of equity and its role in the classroom.
  2. The Reader will be able to understand the influence of teachers' roles in the classroom.
  3. The Reader will be able to assess an inequitable situation and determine the best course of action.

Introduction[edit]

It is the first day of class and you tell your students to divide up into groups and get to know their classmates. You tell them they will be introducing each other to their classmates. You examine the steps they take to make a group and soon realize they have separated themselves based on gender and race. What steps do you take to prevent something like this from happening and to help your students become diverse within their classroom?

There are many challenges today that face equity in the classroom. Gender, race, socioeconomic status, and learning style are just naming a few. Even though this isn't an easy task to handle, there are ways to help control the situation at hand. There are measures teachers can take to help with the equity in the classroom. Knowing how to handle different situations can help the student feel more at ease when they walk into the classroom. We will discuss the difficulties and ways to help solve the problem of the classrooms, the main way being by teacher influence.


"A growing consensus is that the chorus of voices is calling 'in different words'”for the same thing:

  1. high, equitable expectations for all students, and
  2. a new approach to improving student performance in school" (Education Development Center).

Defining Equity[edit]

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, equity is defined as "justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism." Also, according to "An Equation for Equity," equity is "the equal understanding and appreciation of the various cultures from which the students come (by both the students and the teachers), the development of knowledge within those cultural frameworks, and an understanding of mathematics within varying cultural frameworks. Achievement is, thus, a measure of the mastery of mathematics within the student's own culture and an understanding of mathematics within cultures outside of the student's culture." Equity in schools is not meant to be defined as treating everyone the same, but rather making sure every mean possible of equality in the classroom is obtained (School Supervision, 1). No matter the teaching method, students should feel equal. Some examples listed have been retrieved from the Education Development Center article:

  1. "A sixth grade girl in an urban technical school feels pressure from her parents and teachers to excel in school. But when she does well, her peers call her a 'nerd'. She starts to participate less often in class discussions and doesn't study as much as she used to study."
  2. "When two second grade girls want to join the football game at recess, the boys ignore them and continue the game."
  3. "A high school girl resists higher level math courses, saying she doesn't think she is smart enough to master the material."

Teacher Influences[edit]

The amount of pressure on teachers is strong when it comes to equity. Some key components that relate to equity in the classroom are forming the classroom for full participation, making sure all of the students are represented, acknowledging each students needs for learning and their expectations, and considering the perception of fairness ( School Supervision,1-2). These components help balance out the classroom. Full participation in the classroom can be critical. You want each student to feel as if their opinion counts fully and no question nor answer is stupid. It can be a challenging task to attempt full class participation, but when creative ideas are implemented, it can work. There are different ways to ask questions. By using declarative statements, it can help a student to understand the statement first. Also, asking authentic questions can help a student to participate, not a right or wrong answer. Letting a student explain their thoughts behind a question can help them to express themselves in a better way. Some teachers use the "card sort call on strategy." This involves students being able to pass the question to someone else, but having to try to answer the best they can and then passing it onto someone else with their hand raised who can add more of an explanation to the question asked. Mapping out lesson plans for each day can also contribute to the management of the class. If the students know exactly what is being accomplished that day, it can help them to figure out what they need to work on. Having clear expectations and reminders about what tasks need to be done can also help. The physical layout can be appropriate too, because you can determine where each child needs to sit in conjunction with their learning abilities. Knowing each students strengths and weaknesses is one of the best assets a teacher can have. Working individually can attribute to their learning abilities(School Supervision 2).

Classroom Examples of Strategies[edit]

1. Learning Each Student's Name: This can help to enhance participation within the class, engage the students, help them interact, and attendance can rise because of the interaction. Some of the techniques are:

  • (a) in the beginning of the semester: divide the class into small groups using the list and balance out race and gender, each student must learn something else about each person in their group and when you bring them into a group discussion, have each person in the small group introduce one of their group members to the class. This will develop a sense of a fresh and comfortable atmosphere among the students.
  • (b) in the middle of the semester, set up appointments for conferences with each student, only about ten minutes each and discuss the progress of each student and let them tell you any concerns they have. This can help them to feel more comfortable with the teacher and also less embarrassed in class. They will have one on one time with the teacher.
  • (c) One of the most important strategies is remembering your student's name. Helping to do this can help them feel more comfortable and at home and ease with the class and you, as the teacher (Faculty Development Program, 1).

2. Creating a Safe Environment for Students: This ultimately results in a relaxed, comfortable, non-judgemental place for students. They can respond and react to material in their own ways, having student-centered learning. Some techniques are: (a) Teachers are advised to not answer their own questions, but instead have a discussion with your students about the question, this way they feel apart of the discussion and you are learning together. (b) group work and presentations can influence working together with classmates that are attached with clear guidelines and discussions, and (c) Some teachers say participation skills, such as listening skills, spoken contributions, and written material can help students respond in a reflective, and less pressured way. In all, having different aspects of participation will contribute to the dynamics of the classroom (Faculty Development Program, 1).

3. Being Conscious of Your Audience: It is imperative to accommodate your students needs, expectations, and levels of understanding. Following these strategies can help: being aware of assumptions you have about roles/responsibilities, exploring ways to communicate through visual activities, noticing the status, gender, public and private discussions you are having to avoid misunderstandings, and avoiding slang, jargon, and colloquial expressions. Your expectations have to be clearly stated in the topic you are discussing (Faculty Development Program, 1).

Conclusion[edit]

Creating equity in the classroom is something we are always going to be improving upon. There are many ways to help, but no real answers. Every teacher must do the strategy that works best for them. Each school district is different and have to take different approaches to achieving equity. Even though there is not one set answer, there are many ways to contribute to the problem we are facing today in our schools. Working together and understanding each other can greatly increase the effectiveness teachers has upon students. Students feel more comfortable in a classroom setting knowing their questions will be answered and discussions will take place with the teacher interacting fully and not asking a simple right or wrong answer. Students can engage more in daily discussions no matter what race or gender they may be.

Questions[edit]

1. Which of the following is not a good way to create equity in a classroom?

A) Learning students names B) Knowing your audience C) Separating students based upon gender D) Group discussions and projects

2. In separating students, which is a good technique to use to help with the issue of equity?

A) dividing students based on race and gender, and having the same amount in each group B) picking names out of a hat C) alphabetical order D) separating the boys from the girls

3. Who is the main group responsible for creating equity in the classroom?

A) Parents B) Teachers C) Students D) Guidance Counselors

4. Ms. Hardee is trying to integrate students by engaging them in activities in which they can interact with their classmates. Which of the following will work best?

A) Having the students write their own papers B) Making students give oral presentations themselves C) Having one person in the group speak for the entire group D) Having the students get to know each other and tell the class one thing about each person in their group

Answers[edit]

1) C 2) A 3) B 4) D

References[edit]

Daphne Northrop, Education Development Center, Inc. "Equity Resource Center Digest." April 2003.

Faculty Development Program. "Equity in the Classroom" http://www.tag.ubc.ca/resources/tapestry/archive/96/equity.html

Hill, Jay. July 1, 1998. "An Equation for Equity." Journal Excerpt. http://www.mste.uiuc.edu/hill/papers/equation.html

Merriam's Websters Online Dictionary. Retrieved February 5, 2009 at http://www.merriam-webster.com/

"School Supervision Fall 2005. Retrieved February 5, 2009 from principals.berkeley.edu/students/documents/262B_05/Observing_for_Equity.doc

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