| By Lindsey Gervais, Digital Learning Manager, Gale |
In this digital age, we’re never at a loss for content. It’s delivered to us on demand, as soon as we choose to engage. And more often than we realize, we engage with content passively, like with Facebook ads or articles of interest that “magically” show up on our Amazon Echo Show. This content is innocuous. But what about content that’s harmful? Content that’s divisive, unfounded, or not properly contextualized.
When it comes to teaching and learning about critical issues relevant to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), this is a severe problem. Over the course of what we call the information era, we went from having limited access to an instant stream of diverse content to the polar opposite—content customized through algorithms to match our personal opinions, needs, behaviors, and biases. What we’re now lacking is content that offers us depth and breadth of both context and multiple perspectives.
Taking a step back, consider the result from typing this statement into Google: “systemic racism does not exist.” You’d be presented with a flurry of articles, blog posts, videos, and so on, from individuals who share the belief that systemic racism does not exist in America.
It’s important to point out the keyword “systemic.” Many people identify that racism, in one way or time, existed (past tense). However, the fact that racism—which by definition is the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another—exists (present tense), and is demonstrated daily by acts of violence and injustice, is one of the major arguments dividing people today.1
Now, let’s revisit the problem at hand:
Lack of content that provides depth and breadth of both context and multiple perspectives because current access and delivery mechanisms only meet personal opinions, needs, behaviors, and biases.
Why is this problematic for the teaching and learning of EDI?
Because content and context matter. A certain amount of criticality and empathy are necessary to understand how racism and hate crimes against groups and individuals have come to be systemic. This, for instance, is seen throughout history in the socioeconomic marginalization of groups by other groups within the same society.
It’s essential to note that content alone, even if it has the necessary depth and breadth, can’t be the sole source of teaching. This is a true and defining misconception in teaching and learning. What is missing is criticality. Author and master teacher, Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, defined criticality as:
the capacity to read, write, and think in ways of understanding power, privilege, social justice, and oppression . . . in order to make sense of injustice towards achieving social transformation.2
From 1837 to 1842, The Colored American newspaper published how this should be done through engaging in literary pursuits, reading, thinking, writing, speaking, and debating. This newspaper shared how secret literary groups were formed by Black leaders to provide opportunities for Black kids and young men to take part in literacy practices they were not provided or able to attend in school.
What does this look like in pedagogical practice?
By creating inquiry-based, meaning-making learning environments that evaluate critical issues with critical-thinking and digital-literacy skills that make use of access to a depth and breadth of content with multiple perspectives. In this environment, we’re putting personal, individual, and group identities first in order for learners to place value and purpose in the dialogue they’re to take part in. By leading with inquiry or questions and critical conversations, we allow learners to own their understanding rather than it being delivered to them. Some questions instructors can ask themselves are:
- Am I representing all sides of history in the content I’m providing?
- What’s the critical issue we’re covering so that my students can make meaning?
- Do I give this content to my students or do I let them discover it?
The answer: Both! Orient and model with content, then students take a deeper dive through discovery.
- Am I allowing my students to be heard?
- Is my role being perceived as leading with or leading over my students?
- Am I creating a safe environment for vulnerability with these critical conversations?
To take part and grow in a community of learners, we must leave behind the notion that personal logic supersedes social-emotional, lived experiences. It’s when learners come together to make sense of the multiple perspectives and opinions to determine best approaches for the future with these critical issues that make for a more equitable and inclusive learning experience.
How can Gale help you?
Step 1: Check and see what resources are available at your institution here: https://link.gale.com/apps/commonmenu.do?userGroupName
Step 2: For depth and breadth of content providing multiple perspectives for equity, diversity, and inclusion, keep an eye out for the following resource databases:
Step 3: For platforms and tools that help facilitate teaching and learning with our content:
Contact us! Our instructional design experts will help you integrate these practices into any learning modality.
1. racism. 2021. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism
2. Muhammad & Love, 2020