Mays Imad is an assistant professor of physiology and equity pedagogy at Connecticut College. A nationally recognized expert on trauma-informed teaching and learning, Mays works to promote inclusive, equitable, and contextual education—all rooted in the latest research on the neurobiology of learning. She is also a coauthor of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching.
Dual enrollment—also called concurrent enrollment—provides opportunities for students who may not otherwise have had access to college-level coursework. In many cases, students from low-income families, students from historically marginalized backgrounds, and first-generation students may not have the same opportunities to take advanced classes or attend college due to financial, social, or cultural barriers.
I was one of those students; I wish I had had the opportunity to participate in dual enrollment for many reasons. Today, I celebrate the fact that dual enrollment is becoming mainstream.
Rooted in the goal of increasing opportunities, dual enrollment could be a lever for good, helping smooth the pathway for students from underserved backgrounds to enroll in college, and leading to more equitable outcomes overall.
Equity, thus, is a critical cornerstone in dual enrollment courses. How we teach those courses can have a real and lasting impact on the students we are trying to empower and can bring more equity to their lives. That starts with our support for students. While teaching a general biology course on a college campus, I learned that one of my students was dually enrolled. I reached out to them to see how I could help ensure their experience was successful. It quickly occurred to me that if a high school student has an uninviting and alienating experience in what is effectively their first course in college, the project of dual enrollment could backfire in a potentially disastrous way, sending students the opposite message—that they don’t belong in college.
I am a neuroscientist. I study the brain and how learning happens—what gets in the way of learning and what facilitates it. Human beings are born with an innate propensity, desire, and passion for learning. We all have it. Learning is complex, and all sorts of things can get in the way of our learning: part- or full-time jobs, problems at home, access to financial or community resources. Equity-minded teaching means striving to ensure that things don’t get in the way of a student’s learning.
I recently coauthored the Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching, which offers teaching and learning strategies that research shows can lead to more equitable student outcomes. My coauthors and I wrote the guide envisioning our primary audience as college faculty—a group that we felt was in particular need of these research-backed tips. Nonetheless, the guide is applicable to all instructors. Many of the tips in the guide will help any dual enrollment instructor create a more inclusive learning environment, whether you’re teaching dual enrollment students in a high school or at a college .
Our immune system spends the early years of our life preparing to protect us against pathogens. In other words, the immune system doesn’t wait to encounter a pathogen to ask “what will I do?” It already has a plan to protect us. Similarly, an equity-minded teacher researches and tries to understand the system within which they operate in order to provide their students with structural immunity so the students can learn, grow, and thrive.
Equity-minded teaching entails focusing on intentionally and preemptively creating a learning environment that is radically inclusive, genuinely hospitable, supportive, elevating, and accessible to all students. I say preemptively because this approach to teaching begins with the recognition that students come from diverse backgrounds, that these differences can impact how they learn and engage with the material. As an equity-minded instructor my goal is to remove any obstacle to learning.
We have crafted The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching to support instructors in planning, teaching, and reflecting on a course that supports student success. Equity-minded teaching creates a curriculum that is relevant and responsive to students’ interests and experiences, and that allows them to see themselves in the material (see Unit 1: Relevance and Rigor). It also uses teaching strategies that are culturally responsive so that students unapologetically bring in their background and experiences to enrich the learning experience of everyone. Equity-minded teaching also encourages us to cultivate a supportive classroom culture that fosters belonging, engagement, and respect (see Unit 4: Relationships). This includes promoting positive relationships between students and teachers, creating opportunities for students to collaborate and connect with each other, and providing feedback that is timely, constructive, compassionate, and actionable (see Unit 5: Relationships and Unit 6: Structure).
The guide is not exhaustive nor does it claim that instructors need to follow every recommendation. I recognize that many of you are exhausted and already doing so much for your students. I often tell my colleagues who wish to learn more about equity and teaching to start slow and take small but consistent steps in the direction of equity. In fact, the guide is meant to meet instructors where they are: my coauthors and I offer quick tips to implement in your courses in the short term, as well as practices that can yield long-term and more significant changes.
We invite all educators, including dual enrollment instructors, to request a free copy of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching by registering here: http://seagull.wwnorton.com/equityguide.
Your input welcome!
We also want to give a particular invitation to the dual enrollment community: let us know how we can help you realize a more equitable learning environment. We invite you to fill out this survey here.