Throughout our region, in-school and out-of-school educators are working every day to make learning more engaging, relevant, and equitable. As part of a Research-Practice Partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and Remake Learning, we wanted to explore how educators understand equity in education and what influences their understanding. To do this, we spoke with 30 network members who shared their definitions of equity with us.
Remake Learning’s five equity pillars
The network defines equitable learning as learning that affords “more supports and opportunities…to those of greatest need” and is dedicated to “working alongside, as well as uplifting and supporting the voices, strength, and potential” of particular learners. These learners are reflected in the network’s five equity pillars, which include: learners in poverty; learners of color; learners in rural areas; girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math); and learners with disabilities.
In our interviews with network members, we started with a review and discussion of Remake Learning’s definition of equitable learning and equity pillars.
Geographic context and positionality
We found that the geographic context of educators (urban or rural), as well as their positionality (race and gender) and the demographics of the learners they serve (learners in poverty and learners with disabilities) often influences how educators understand equity in education.
For example, the rural educators we spoke with largely discussed equity in terms of increasing Remake Learning programming and outreach to rural learners, while the urban educators we spoke with largely discussed equity in terms of supporting urban learners.
Equity as resource redistribution
Among the educators we spoke with, we found that many understand equity as an issue of resource distribution and increasing access to educational experiences among learners with the greatest need. Specifically, educators working in nonprofit organizations indicated that promoting equitable learning in our region involves supporting and uplifting racial justice organizations:
“If you’re talking about equity it’s like, you have groups that have had access for a hundred years versus groups that have only been given access for five years. There needs to be a priority where certain groups get prioritized based on who they serve, who’s leading, and the type of work that they’re doing.”
Understanding equity across environments
Educators working in K-12 schools most often connected equity to focusing on individual needs and developing personalized learning approaches. Similarly, educators who work in museums and libraries tended to focus their definition of equity in education most on the accessibility of programs and services, specifically for learners with disabilities:
“Really thinking about designing for supporting visitors who have disabilities. Everyone comes in with a totally different set of experiences and needs, making that more of an explicit conversation.”
Within the context of higher education, the educators we spoke with emphasized the importance of disrupting inequitable systems and changing institutional structures to create a more just region:
“It is not everyone gets what they need and everyone gets what they deserve. It is not about everyone gets a fair amount of resources. Educational equity is about the systematic disruption of educational inequity that seeks to eradicate ableism, sexism, racism. It’s a redistribution of resources.”
Implications of this research
Our research finds that educators in our region are thinking deeply and critically about equitable learning in their settings. By continuing to collaborate across organizational and geographic contexts, we can support one another in developing learning practices that examine the intersections of race, gender, class, ability, and geography.
This collaboration can take many forms. In the context of the Remake Learning network, one way to collaborate with other educators is to join a working group such as CSforPGH, the Maker Learning Collaborative, Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem, or the Personalized LearningWorking Group. If there is a special topic that you would like to explore with us email firstname.lastname@example.org!