Apr 27, 2021

Creating Learning Opportunities for Diverse Classrooms

Nonye Alozie
D4D framework image

Additional contributors to this blog: Kori Hamilton-Biagas, Laura Kassner, and Carrie Parker

Traditionally, students sit and learn side-by-side in the classroom, bringing with them elements of diverse identities, including beliefs, values, ethnicities, genders, religions, learning abilities, and physical abilities. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic limited students from engaging in learning experiences that could leverage the diverse identities of the students through engaging interpersonal interactions.  Effective curriculum materials make use of these interactions by giving students opportunities to not only learn from classroom instruction but also through the lived experiences and learning that each student brings to the classroom. As educators work to ensure that students, regardless of their identities, receive a quality, meaningful, and relevant education, they must consider how curriculum materials can create learning opportunities for all students across learning environments (in-person, remote, hybrid). Designing for Diversity in STEM+CS (D4D) is an approach that systemically integrates diversity, equity, and inclusion at the foundation of STEM+ CS curriculum design and development.  If education stakeholders come together to make this happen, then all students can have enriched, relevant, and personally meaningful learning experiences and increased opportunities to succeed in STEM+CS academic and career trajectories.  

Why does this matter?
Often, in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we talk about giving everyone a seat at the table. But that isn’t enough.  Think about it this way:

Diversity is being asked to sit at the dinner table; equity is making sure you have a chair to sit in; and inclusion ensures that you can invite your friends, contribute to the meal, have tasty food to eat, and a voice in the dinner conversation. Imagine inviting people to the dinner table without giving them any food to eat nor opportunities to speak and contribute to the dinner atmosphere. The guests at your dinner party would most likely feel unwelcomed and wonder why you invited them in the first place. To ensure that your dinner guests not only enjoy the food, but also feel like they belong, you have to move beyond just having people sit at the table (which is equity). The people invited to the table must also feel welcomed, valued, respected, and empowered to contribute to the design of the meal and, in turn, invite others (which is inclusion). 

What can we do?
This is where D4D comes in.  D4D brings pre-established theoretical frameworks together to create an approach to curriculum development that integrates equity and inclusion at the onset of design. D4D seeks to bring stakeholders together to engage in the Equity and Inclusion Curriculum Framework for Curriculum Design (EI-CD) approach to meet students’ needs, which is cyclical and dynamic
The 2020 pandemic illuminated layers of inequities in the educational system resulting in disproportionate learning interruptions for marginalized communities. More than ever, there is urgency to ensure that students have access to relevant, meaningful, and personal curriculum materials that can support their progress in STEM+CS and rebuild their learning to make gains towards learning standards and goals. 

As students, educators, and families look toward building quality education in STEM+CS, whether in-person, hybrid, or remote, D4D can provide equity and inclusion principles and guidelines to support long-term, sustainable change that will invite students into their own learning.

To learn more about how state, local, and tribal leaders can enact meaningful change in curriculum design and support implementation, consider reaching out for technical assistance.