Draw what you read

Ran across this on LinkedIn (don’t laugh; it was my once per 6mo jaunt through old messages and eyerolls because LinkedIn’s ad structure is just so …. obnoxious) and ran into Jeremy Waite’s brilliant book sketches. He reads and then draws visual notes and representations of concepts to help him remember what he read.

I like to say “All good ideas are stolen” — by that, I mean that we’re always borrowing good ideas we see out in the world, adding them to the ideas we already have, and remixing them into new things. I enjoy visual notetaking.

What I like about Jeremy’s style:
– it’s very neat and readable; he can save these and refer back to them or share them with others, and they’ll instantly be useful
– the colors truly help because the whole page isn’t color; he uses the color to draw his eye back to headings or ideas
– the mix of text and visual elements is much more text-heavy than what I usually see in people’s visual note-taking, but it’s more in line with what my visual notes look like (except mine are a hot mess compared to this)

Personal goal

I don’t think I should commit time to anything new right now, but I might try sketching a few more visual notes as I read core books and posting them here. No promises on this one; my bandwidth is mostly claimed and I’d lose myself in the joy of colored pencils rather than slaving in the salt mines of reading articles from my Zotero pile. 😀

The negative effects of poor STEM instruction on undergraduate students

An excerpt from my research writing — I don’t think this passage will make it into my actual dissertation. The primary source for this discussion is a 2019 revision of the book Talking about Leaving, a study of university students (in the U.S.) who left STEM or who considered abandoning their major but stuck it out:

Seymour, E., & Hunter, A.-B. (Eds.). (2019). Talking about Leaving Revisited: Persistence, Relocation, and Loss in Undergraduate STEM Education. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25304-2

Seymour and Hunter (2019, eds.) revisited their 1997 book Talking about Leaving to update the research after two decades of work to address weaknesses in STEM university education. Why do STEM majors fail to persist and graduate? Surveying the data, Seymour, Hunter, and Weston sound alarms about STEM teaching and learning in chapter one, “Why we are still talking about leaving” (pp. 1-53). Although factors unrelated to the classroom also have significant effects on students’ decisions whether to remain in a difficult STEM major or shift to a different program of study, the authors uncovered a number of disturbing trends tied directly to the classroom environment. “Weed-out” courses, passive teaching approaches, and overwhelming workloads drive students away, and these losses disproportionately harm women and students of color. Citing a 2016 study, the authors offer this example of the problem:

To increase the retention of able women, Ellis, Fosdick, and Rasmussen (2016) propose a strategy that focuses on the impact of a single course, Calculus 1, on STEM losses. Because of its gateway role in all or most STEM majors, they argue that, were women to proceed to Calculus 2 at the same rate as men, the number of women entering the STEM workforce would increase by 75% and thereby bring an additional 20% of new graduates into the STEM workforce. What prevents this is not, they argue, lack of ability or effort. Rather, it is the loss of incoming confidence that teaching and assessment methods designed to weed out students engender among women, especially women of color. The challenge to the professorate that the study authors present is fundamentally the same as that made by the researchers in the early 1990s; namely, that it is unacceptable to discard high proportions of students who enter with the interest and ability to undertake an undergraduate science education (as cited in Seymour & Hunter, 2019, page 4, emphasis mine).

Further, because these losses tend to disproportionately affect non-white and male students as well as first-generation students (those whose parents did not attain a college degree), a significant number of those who leave a STEM major — especially early in their college career — drop out of college entirely (p. 4). The authors note, “The more serious consequences of STEM switching evident in the TAL [Talking about Leaving] data, however, may be wastage of talent, compromise or distortion of career aspirations, time and money wasted, debts increased, [as well as] lost confidence, pride, and a sense of a direction — all of which also affect switchers’ families and communities (p. 4).

What prevents [student success] is not lack of ability or effort. Rather, it is the loss of incoming confidence that teaching and assessment methods designed to weed out students engender among women, especially women of color.

Seymour & Hunter, eds – Talking About Leaving, Revisited, 2019, page 12

Despite twenty years of efforts to change teaching practices in the sciences and related fields, students in STEM as well as those who abandon their majors find professors’ teaching practices to be significantly poor. Curriculum issues, course material organization, and other content issues emerged in both sets of data as a significant problem for students who elected to abandon their majors (p. 93-94).

Using both the 1997 and 2019 data, the authors emphasize several key conclusions related to STEM education at the undergraduate level: More than a third of students leaving STEM majors cited faculty pedagogy as a significant contributing factor, and even those students who remained in their majors tended to criticize faculty instructional techniques (p. 8, 90). Additionally, over 90% of students who change majors (in 2019) cite poor pedagogy as a major cause, and among students who persisted to graduation in a STEM major, over 70% of students complained about the instructional practices in their STEM courses (74% in 1997, 72% in 2019) (p. 8, 90).

Further, a comparison between the 1997 and 2019 data shows that students are facing a rising tide of external problems (such as financial pressures) on top of weaker overall preparation for difficult college coursework coming out of high school (in 1997, 40% of students cited this; in 2019, 64%). Students also cited “difficulties in seeking and getting appropriate timely help” in both sets of data (p. 90-91).

It is notable that poor teaching hurts STEM programs even more when students were able to experience engaging, intellectually-stimulating teaching in other fields. This “push-pull” tension led some students to change majors once they found more interesting material elsewhere (p. 8), and by 2019 had become a major factor in switching majors due to losing interest in their initial field (p. 90).

[P]oor teaching and the dullness of classes made it hard (even for students with a strong liking for science and mathematics) not to feel drawn towards disciplines where they experienced the excitement of intellectual exploration and debate. Unfortunately, students who most often reported that they were “bored out of the sciences” by the teaching in foundational courses were high-performing, multi-talented students who moved to non-STEM majors with greater intellectual appeal. … [T]his is one of the contradictory effects of “weed-out class” teaching methods that we encountered (p. 11).

To be clear, a full quarter of students leaving STEM in the 2019 TALR study are high-performing students with a GPA of 3.5 or better (p. 95). Experiencing low grades perhaps for the first time in their careers, these students already have a variety of possible career paths open to them and choose to abandon a STEM major rather than endure what they see as a competitive, hopeless, brutal environment — especially for women and students of color (p. 329-30).

High-performing students may choose to abandon a STEM major rather than endure what they see as a competitive, hopeless, brutal environment — especially for women and students of color.

Further, students (even those who remained in their STEM majors) could tell the difference between faculty who loved teaching (whom students tended to associate with non-STEM majors) and STEM faculty whose warmth and personal interest in research or lab situations seemed to evaporate when they were in the classroom (p. 11-12). Ironically, this effect could be compounded for students who had enjoyed a highly engaged high school science classroom.

The distancing behavior of STEM instructors in foundational courses had particular consequences for students who had learned their high school science and math in interactive settings that included both peer–peer and teacher–student dialogue. Learning to learn in supportive relationships left students especially vulnerable to culture shock in early STEM courses. Inability to evoke a supportive interaction from instructors prompted many students to doubt their ability and interest and undermined their confidence. These effects were particularly marked among women and first-generation students, including students of color and students from small high schools (p. 12).

Earning low-grades erodes the confidence of students and can incite them to find an easier major. Although competition was not a commonly cited factor in 1997, by 2019 over 80% of students who changed majors cited as a reason “competitive, unsupportive STEM culture makes it hard to belong” (p. 90).

How neoliberalism affects the academy

I ended up doing a side jaunt into articles / books about the effect of neoliberalism (so hard to define) on higher education in the US and worldwide.

In my context, neoliberalism refers (sometimes) to the developments in the past 50-70 years in the West which have led to an abandonment of investment in education (across all levels) as a public good using public dollars, and pushing / prodding / allowing higher education to instead adopt “business models” from competitive free-market situations.

Another way to explain neoliberalism in the higher education context: education is now a commodity rather than an intellectual habit or a public good; students are clients or consumers instead of pupils learning from a master teacher or expert; decisions at the institutional level are driven by profit motive (at worst) or monetary survival (about as bad) because the “public” (i.e. their governments at the federal or state level) no longer foot the bill.

There’s a lot of great writing on this within higher ed, though some of it is grossly elitist and out of touch. If I never read another thinkpiece by a 65 year old white male tenured professor complaining about having to actually serve students needs in the classroom, it’ll still be too soon. So that’s not the issue I’m talking about. But the really great pieces are ones which dig into the existential loss when we allow capitalism to become the master of our educational frameworks.

TL;DR: education is expensive because it is an investment in the future lives of people. By definition, education cannot be “cheap” or “easy.” Thus, it is a poor fit for a sector driven by free-market competition.

I probably won’t do more than touch on this topic in the “background to the problem” discussion of my dissertation, if at all, but I do want to link to this good short post by Leslie Gonzales from February 2016.

Transcending Macro to Micro: Lines of Research that can assist in Understanding the Manifestation of Neoliberalism in the Lives of Faculty

by Leslie D. Gonzales, Assistant Professor, College of Education, Michigan State University 


Build a better workflow for your academic writing

How I use Zotero + Scrivener to write my dissertation

I’ve had a few folks ask me about my organizational process for academic writing – specifically for the complicated, recursive writing required by a major project like writing a dissertation.

I think every doctoral student crosses this bridge eventually — and needs to cross it early — because you’re going to be swimming (drowning?) in material faster than you realize.

I’ve used two digital tools and two analog (“old-school”) tools to organize my dissertation research, and I’d like to share a few insights regarding both.

Quick Table of Contents for this Post

My current chapter 2 mess (Scrivener on the left, Zotero on the right)

First, don’t overlook the old-school standbys: sticky notes and white boards

You know what I love? Sticky notes. They’re portable, low-key wonder drugs to fuel creativity. Writing something on a sticky doesn’t stress you out. It doesn’t commit you to any particular course of action. It’s merely a point in time, an idea frozen in space for you to move around in a tableau of thought.

Sticky notes are portable, low-key wonder drugs to fuel creativity.

As a (former) writing teacher, I swear by 3″ sticky notes as a tool to unlock your brain when you’re stuck or to help you wrap your head around 284573636746367373 separate ideas. Chunking and organizing are much easier when your physical body gets in on the job.

The Design Thinking crowd has been championing sticky notes for a long time, and academics need to get on that train.

If having paper around when you’re trying to work all digital makes you twitch, there are now apps to convert your stickies to digital maps.

This is an affiliate link to buy yourself some affordable stickies on Amazon. If you click it, I’ll get a couple pennies, and you’ll get 8 packs of stickies for $9 😀

My other master tool is a 18″ x 24″ white board standing on a shelf in my home office. I use it like a more permanent place to sketch models or show relationships between ideas. I tend to let my white board get “stale” so I’m trying to commit to erasing it every couple weeks if it’s not serving me any good purpose right now.

You can take a photo of the white board and store it as a document in your citation organizer (I use Zotero, more on that in a second).

This white board has sturdy edges with hangers installed already – Amazon affiliate link Currently about $22

Second, use good digital tools

For small-scale writing like a term paper, I’ve often gotten by with outlines in Word and sticky notes. The more I used sticky notes with my own writing students, the more I used them (and white boards) in my own writing!

But a dissertation — that’s a whole other beast. You need some big guns for this job.

When I started writing chapter 1 in earnest, I made a couple YouTube videos to show what I’m doing with Zotero and Scrivener, and I’m adding videos as I have time and ideas.

I’ll explain more about Zotero and Scrivener below the video:

Zotero: Organize your articles and resources into folders, generate citations, tag and store

I had no idea a citation builder / organizer would be so handy, but Zotero has really upped my game and sped up my writing process!

So what is Zotero and how does it work? I’m driving this Zotero sportscar at only 30 mph, but here’s what I’m getting out of it:

  • organize articles into folders and subfolders, which helps me to develop a visual understanding (hierarchy) of my topic and related topics – don’t discount the value of the visual in organizing ideas
  • store actual PDFs of articles, along with all required info to cite the article – so I’m not tracking files in 10 different places
  • generate APA 7th edition citations and bibliography entries with a click of the mouse – I love this! Works for many other citations systems!
  • export bibliographies when one of my classmates asks me, “Hey, do you have any good sources on grounded theory?” Why, yes. I have 10. Here’s a bibliography.
  • tag sources with custom markers that I can search later, like “ILL” for articles I can’t access without doing an inter-library loan search
  • search a big giant pile of PDFs and citations without losing my mind
  • add notes which can include anything, including quoted chunks of articles you want to copy/paste and come back to later

The power of generated citations

The best thing? the one-click “export Bibliography for item” HAS CHANGED MY LIFE. You see, APA 7th is the fourth documentation system I’ve worked with, behind MLA, Turabian, and Chicago Manual of Style (which is akin to Turabian). If it were up to me, I’d be rocking footnotes and a witty side conversation with my sources in this dissertation, a la Turabian, my preferred style. But alas, education requires APA. (I’m bitter about this.) (I absolutely despise in-text parenthetical documentation for how it interrupts the reader’s flow through the text.)

One-click bibliography citations have changed my life as a research writer – thanks, Zotero!

Thing is, there’s an entire world of people who crowdsource the Zotero code and keep the APA details up to date. Folks also maintain the database of styles for MLA, Turabian / Chicago, the various science discipline styles, and like 5 others I’ve never heard of. (Harvard has its own? what?) One-click export means you literally right-click the article title, choose “Create Bibliography for Item….” and select from the menu. There’s a plug-in for Word too.

Where does all that citation information come from? Because my sources are journal articles with DOI numbers, Zotero will suck in information about an article or imported PDF from the DOI reference number using the power of the Internet, then spit that information out in correct APA style when requested.

Right-click any article, select “Create Bibliography from item,” and you’ll have a print-ready citation in seconds. There’s also a Microsoft Word plugin.

Zotero isn’t perfect; a few oddball journals don’t use DOI numbers (why?!) and chapters of books require some extra work to enter information properly. But at least my references list starts from something rather than from a blank page, and the Export Bibliography function has saved me hours of time.

Zotero keeps my journal articles organized, tagged, and handy

In this screenshot of one of my Zotero folders, you can see a left-hand sidebar of folders organized by topics and subtopics, as I’ve chosen to break them down …. a top area listing the articles in that folder with enough identifying information for me to find what I’m looking for (or use the Search bar) …. and on the bottom right, the specific information for the highlighted article. Notice that my two PDF files of this article are both attached to the main entry (which is highlighted in blue).

It’s pretty easy to reorganize your files and to move things from one folder to another, though you have to be your own information architect.

You have to be your own librarian and create a structure to organize the emerging pile of sources as you collect them from databases and other reading.

Three secrets to Zotero happiness

  1. Think like a librarian. I do a “bag it and tag it” read-through of search results, grabbing all useful articles (and opening dozens of tabs in Firefox– it’s bad, send help). Then I make folders and sub-folders inside Zotero to help me stay organized. Your folder organization only has to make sense to you, but make sure you’re organizing as you go.
  2. Tag it! You can use tags and “related” to link relevant items or help yourself find things later via custom tags. For example, I use the tag ILL to mean “interlibrary loan” so I can pull a list of resources to retrieve from the library next time I’m there.
  3. Use Zotero for article storage. It costs some money, but the annual fee isn’t bad for a decent chunk of storage. You could also store just the citation information and use a local folder link if you’re cheap. But I like having the whole thing in the cloud; it means I can pull down a PDF from literally anywhere without doing any additional searching.

Scrivener: A tool for non-linear writing

I did a separate YouTube video about how I used Scrivener to organize my chapter 1 writing. I need to make a few more videos about how I’m learning to get even more out of this writing tool.

*This is my affiliate link to Scrivener. I’ll get a tip if you decide to purchase through my link. Thank you if you choose to do so! 🙂

Scrivener provides a framework for text composing that doesn’t lock you into the linear thinking that’s so common when you’re writing with a word processor.

In Scrivener, you can
— break up a chapter into little snippets which each have their own page in the organizational tree,
— write chunks in any order that feels good to you,
— easily reorder sections of writing if you need to reorganize a longer chapter,
— take snapshots of whole passages before doing a heavy revision so you can roll back your edits,
— store handy information or research material (if you want), and
— create a visual representation of your sections.

Here’s what my Scrivener window looks like for part of my chapter 2 writing of my dissertation before I changed my direction a bit.

Here’s a work in progress glimpse of a section of writing in Scrivener. As I added topics and sub-topics to my literature review, I added documents (or sub-documents) to the left-hand sidebar to create those sections. On the right, I can post notes to remember while writing, section summaries, or take snapshots before revising.

You’ll notice that the software window has a toolbar along the top offering organizational tools, various views, and ways to compile and export your file for sharing or further work in Word (etc).

Below that are three vertical columns: a left-hand sidebar for organizing individual sections and sub-sections; a central text composing area (which can split in half for side-by-side comparison or working from notes); and a right-hand sidebar which offers a variety of tools.

So why use Scrivener, which costs like $60, rather than a Word or Google or Pages doc with various pages or folders?

  • I like Scrivener’s easy-to-reconfigure organizational system on the left. I can literally drag whole hunks of content around, or into new chapters. No copy and pasting! I’ve changed the organization of chapter 2 about twelve times already…..
  • I like how Scrivener handles file management for me so I’m not having to keep up with version history, a pile of drafts, or an unwieldy table-of-contents master document in a word processor. The “Snapshot” feature lets me tear things apart without worrying about rolling back changes I don’t want to keep. (But you have to remember to snapshot the section.)
  • Scrivener encourages me visually to work on whatever is on my mind rather than the next paragraph on the page. The sections will form a coherent whole once I’m done, but my brain doesn’t write linearly. I end up bouncing around as I find new articles or get stuck in one area and need to let it sit.
  • I can throw in additional sub-pages within sections to hold chunks of material from sources or ideas that aren’t yet developed, piling up content for a “zero draft” instead of starting with a blank page.
  • While there is a cost to licensing the software, you can install on multiple machines (but see my warning below) and you can try it free for 30 days to make up your mind.

The downsides to Scrivener:

  • It costs money. You probably already own MS Word or Pages, and Google Docs is free. (My response: your dissertation will take years of work – what’s $60 in light of that??)
  • Purchasing a license does allow you to install the software on as many computers as you own BUT the license is good only for either Mac or Windows. I happen to own both a Mac desktop and tablet as well as a Windows laptop, so no Scrivener for my laptop. :/
  • Compiling your material and exporting to MS Word is pretty straightforward but I wouldn’t call it obvious. You’ll need to map styles or go through and reformat once the document is in MS Word. It adds an hour or two for long documents.
  • Exporting and restyling in Word makes it harder to keep up with incremental changes. What if you caught a typo in Word during your proofread? You have to remember to go fix it in Scrivener as well, because the programs are not linked in any way.
  • Scrivener can be a little cranky if you have your document open on one machine and then open it elsewhere. I have read online (but not experienced any disasters) that you might consider making your own backup every week or month, and that you be careful about working between computer and tablet. I basically write at the same computer every day so this is no issue for me.

Those criticisms aside, I have found Scrivener to be an invaluable writing tool. I would not be nearly as well-organized or aware of the content of my chapters without this tool. It’s been worth every dollar I paid for it.

That was a lot, but perhaps some of the tools here will end up helping you tackle a major project and get through it! Keep writing!

teaching inside the box

Lessing: Teaching as indoctrination (and Lori on what that means for pedagogy)

Rios 2018* offers this stunning quote from Doris Lessing’s novel The Golden Notebook:

It may be that there is no other way of educating people. Possibly, but I don’t believe it. In the meantime, it would be a help at least to describe things properly, to call things by their right names. Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do.  What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgment. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society (p. xxi).

Rios 2018 p175

Cultural pedagogy (my definition, based on Freire etc) is a pattern of teaching which prioritizes social justice above knowledge transfer so that learners can understand the larger and often invisible systems in which they live and act. When teaching members of typically oppressed and marginalized populations (and that definition is fluid; it depends on the local and larger contexts), teachers need to surface and discuss ways in which systems and institutions can propagate discrimination, whether people mean for this to happen or not. In doing so, students can learn to navigate those systems more to their advantage, and they can also choose to try to change them.

But what Lessing says here, and I cannot escape the sense that she is right, is that teachers cannot get away from the moral and political elements of education.

Either you are complicit or resisting.

Either you acquiesce to dumping information into learner’s heads so they can show competency on some standard or end of course test, or you build educational experiences to expand the learner’s understanding of the moral, political, social, cultural, and cognitive dimensions of the universe. And that kind of learning is incredibly hard to measure.

I took a cultural diversity & awareness course in my doctoral program this summer, a remarkable experience really – one of the best courses I’ve had. Perhaps the 2020 context gave that course an unfair advantage, but I’d like to think that it was also a well-crafted course by an outstanding professor who was careful to give us opportunities to “surface the systems” while not placing us under an undue burden of “activities.” We met voluntarily for Zoom sessions every Thursday, and at least 1/3 of the class showed up every week for some of the best discussions I’ve had in a while.

This is the forum post I submitted a few days ago, my final one for the course:

After posting Lessing’s quote above, I wrote the following:

What was lost to me in many ways within my education up to this point was the realization which so many Black educators have always had (and it’s my fault for not listening, and somewhat the fault of my White professors for never telling us): all teaching is political. All education is a moral act, one which says to students, “This is how the world ought to look!”  And as soon as you make any statement about the “oughts” of the world, you are on moral ground.

I think back to the Kincheloe* reading from the very first week of this course, where he reveals the inadequacies of most attempts at multiculturalism and pluralism because they either iron out all differences in the name of unity or all differences are placed on the same moral ground and given the same weight. Kincheloe’s assertion of critical multiculturalism is a rallying call to a particular moral viewpoint: that individuals deserve freedom from oppression arising out of class, race, or other demographic markers. 

What attracts me to critical theory at least in a general sense (I don’t always like the particular applications that I read) is this emphasis on being able to stand on a box and say, “This thing about the world right now is bad, because it hurts people, and we would be better people if we changed it.”   It’s hard to find other research paradigms which not only enable but also encourage the researcher to have a moral position without also demanding that the morality be linked to a particular religious viewpoint. The readings in PLP830 have deeply expanded my understanding of the issues related to critical theory, critical race theory, culturally responsive pedagogy, and diversity in general.  If anything, I am more likely now to see lack of diversity as a moral failure (perhaps a forgivable one, depending on the situation, but still a failure).

Returning to the quote by Lessing at the top of this post, we educators would serve our students much better if, like a good qualitative researcher, we surfaced our biases at the very outset and laid them before our students for examination — at some point. (Depends on the students, the class, the level of education, the goals of the teacher.)  But if we ourselves do not take time to parse out our values, if we are not willing to discuss openly with students how the American systems uphold racism while refusing to talk about it, then we are likewise part of the problem.  If we are not actively pushing against the System, then we teachers are serving as willing agents of the behemoth American Culture which would prefer us all to quietly acquiesce to whatever makes power-holders more powerful and more wealthy and more comfortable.

To educate well is to produce students who ask uncomfortable, awkward questions that force us to see when the emperor’s clothes are missing. American Exceptionalism is a myth unless you’re talking about America’s exceptional success at brutalizing indigenous peoples, taking land from people, building wealth on the backs of slavery, and expecting everybody to just “get over it” so we can get to the NASCAR race on time.
Yeehaw! I can already hear the phone calls from angry parents once they realize the history teacher had the audacity to teach the kids actual American history and not the family-friendly, Jesus-thick, Rated-G version we were raised to love.

Every education is indoctrination into a particular way of thinking. PLP830 does not escape. It’s likely we’re blind in ways we cannot see because our group’s collective experience is limited by its membership, circumscribing the diversity we’re able to experience here. 

But I do believe that we, like good critical realists, can look at the evidence, we can surface the hidden values and biases, and we can make judgments about which values seem more in line with a moral arc of the universe that promotes health and equity and flourishing for all people, not just the people who are already lucky. 

Sources mentioned

Kincheloe, J. L., & Steinberg, S. R. (1997). Changing multiculturalism. Open University Press.

Rios, F. (2018). The legacy and trajectories of multicultural education: Recognition, refusal, and movement building in troubling times. Multicultural Education Review, 10(3), 165–183. https://doi.org/10.1080/2005615X.2018.1497876

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

A few good reads on critical race theory and culturally responsive pedagogy

These articles arise out of my current summer course in Cultural Diversity & Awareness, one of the best courses I’ve had in a long time. Shout out to Dr. Jack Knipe, whose excellent instructional leadership in this course has enabled us to read thoughtfully and discuss even at a distance (hello, Covid-19 and everything being online).

on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching in Teacher Prep

Hayes, C. & Juarez, B. 2012. “There is no culturally responsive teaching spoken here: A critical race perspective.” Democracy & Education (20)1. Article 1. https://democracyeducationjournal.org/home/vol20/iss1/1/

Hayes & Juarez tear into the way teacher education (preparation) prioritizes Whiteness as the default and continues to send many teacher candidates into the classroom without any equipment to 1) recognize the systemic and inherent racism / bias in American society and schools; 2) challenge future teachers to confront their own quiet biases; 3) identify the problem of White-as-normal and how it permeates educational spaces; 4) restructure programs within a critical theorist (critical race, critical pedagogy) frame to surface these issues.

Key quotes:
– teachers who practice Culturally Responsive Pedagogy tend to be “warm demanders” – they are adept at connecting to all kinds of students (“warm”) because they have a critical pedagogy framework to understand oppression and actively work against it, and they create a safe learning community where students are expected to rise to their full potential (“demanders”) pg 4

-“Part of this social justice commitment must include a critique of liberalism, neutrality, objectivity, color-blindness, and meritocracy as a camouflage for the self-interest of powerful entities of society (Tate, 1997).” pg 5

Page 6, under the heading “Whiteness, Power, and Knowledge Practices,” has a great explanation of what white privilege is, how Whiteness affects everyone and operates as a racial category and lens for reality.

-“The obstruction of culturally responsive teaching and social justice in teacher education requires no hate or racial conspiracy of Whites against racial minorities…. The daily business of teacher preparation and schooling is, rather, already set up to perpetuate the systemic privileging of Whiteness in U.S. society…”

Hayes & Juarez 2011, p 6

Weilbacher, G. (2012). Standardization and Whiteness: One and the Same? A Response to “There Is No Culturally Responsive Teaching Spoken Here”. Democracy and Education, 20 (2), Article 15. Available at: https://democracyeducationjournal.org/home/vol20/iss2/15

A response piece to Hayes & Juarez, Gary Weilbacher writes eloquently in this article about the undeniable and bad connection between Whiteness, systemic racism, and educational standards. He also points out that the CAEP accreditation standards for teacher education programs have commodified diversity, turning into a box students can check by spending “enough hours” visiting the margins of the Other (to echo Hayes & Juarez) and coming back with stories, but remaining essentially unchallenged and unchanged. Good read.

I believe that rich, complex notions of diversity that were being explored toward the end of the last century (Connell, 1993; Delpit, 1995; Nieto, 1999) have been gutted by the Common Core and other teacher-preparation standards, much like thick forms of democracy have been replaced by schools of choice and charters funded by some of the same conglomerates that write the standards and tests taken by all of our students. If we unquestionably accept standards, we also unquestionably accept White dominance, as the standards are the voice of White dominance. By contrast, challenging the standards calls into question White dominance by putting a target on an inequality that is very visible everywhere.

Weilbacher, 2012, p. 5

Classic foundational text: Ladson-Billings

Ladson-Billings, G. (1992). Liberatory Consequences of Literacy: A Case of Culturally Relevant Instruction for African American Students. The Journal of Negro Education, 61(3), 378. https://doi.org/10.2307/2295255

In addition to being one of the central founding articles in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, I *love* this article’s rich description of a teacher’s classroom where she moves the experiences and voices of minority children to the center of their learning experience. The teacher prioritizes Black boys, helping them see themselves as leaders and planners, not slackers or slipping under a radar with low expectations. “Anna” (her pseudonym) eschews the praxis that Ladson-Billings calls “assimilationist”: she does not reproduce the discriminatory experiences of the broader American culture within her classroom.

Instead, as Ladson-Billings enumerates in her article (starting on page 386), “Ann” practices Culturally Relevant Pedagogy by:
— making sure the students most likely to be dismissed or “lost” in the majority-White American school system are those who take leadership and get a lot of attention and value;
–forming a learning community where students learn to learn, rather than relying on simplistic and repetitive teaching (worksheets, pre-digested content);
–incorporating students’ lived experiences into the discussions and curriculum content, helping the children see that they have knowledge to offer even if it doesn’t look like “traditional” written texts of a White school;
–viewing “literacy” as both written and oral — AND literacy for liberation (see below);
–working together with students toward liberation from oppression, and making that discussion explicit;
–seeing the work of teaching as political at its core.

About Literacy — Ladson-Billings talks about the contrast between literacy education as Freire used it to empower and liberate, and American literacy education and discussion, which is fairly neutered by comparison. No one is asking “literacy for what?” Filling that blank with “job attainment” or some other simplistic, commercial, capitalist answer demeans the power of literacy education (see discussion pages 380-81).

What set these teachers apart from those I term “assimilationist” teachers was their desire to prepare students to effect change in society, not merely fit into it. They supported this attitude of change by capitalizing on their students’ home and community culture. These teachers were practicing culturally relevant teaching, that is, a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

Ladson-Billings, 1992, page 382


Weilbacher, G. (2012). Standardization and Whiteness: One and the Same? Democracy & Education, 20(2), Article 15.

Ouch. Let’s get real about how standardization, the arrival of Common Core, the push to iron out all the differences, and trying to test everything to death is just…. racism. That might sound radical, but Weilbacher builds what I consider a strong case. At least, if you’re willing to accept central tenets of critical race theory. And I do.

Smalling, S. E. (2020). Overcoming resistance, stimulating action and decentering white students through structural racism focused antiracism education. Teaching in Higher Education, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2020.1725880

Smalling’s excellent article reviews the core issue with trying to teach people “not to be racists”: it activates White defensiveness which tends to neutralize the project. Smalling argues instead that anti-racist education needs to focus on retelling the history to help White students see that they have a racial identity, and then focusing on the effects of the history (rather than the causes of racism). I thought it was a really good read.

Harbin, M., Thurber, A., & Bandy, J. (2019). Teaching Race, Racism, and Racial Justice: Pedagogical Principles and Classroom Strategies for Course Instructors. Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice, 4(1). https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/rpj/vol4/iss1/1

The layout of this file makes it look unscholarly, but the information is fantastic. Harbin et al line out a number of practical teaching techniques for those working especially in higher education to surface issues of race and counteract racism in the classroom. Very useful.