Transforming Practice: Getting Started Guide
The Transforming Practice: Learning Equity, Learning Excellence curriculum aims to address an existing gap in professional development opportunities for faculty and student services professionals in higher education in Nova Scotia. The curriculum aims to do the following:
- introduce faculty and staff to research in areas such as anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-oppressive, universal design for learning, and culturally responsive pedagogy and practices;
- establish a shared understanding of foundational concepts and issues related to educational inequities;
- encourage self-reflection related to systems of inequity and personal privilege and bias;
- amplify the work of practitioners and scholars who are integrating inclusive and equity-centred practices; and
- provide concrete strategies for enacting equity-centred approaches in curriculum, instructional methods, assessment, and across a multitude of intersecting student services.
Equitable practices are the foundation for academic excellence at Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions. This curriculum builds on Learning Excellence, Learning Equity, a report prepared by Jodie Black, Liz Stone, and Cherylanne James for the Social Equity Working Group (SEWG) in August 2019. The report identified 10 recommendations for Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions to achieve educational equity through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP). This curriculum specifically responds to one of the recommendations: Invest in faculty as leaders in UDL and CRP.
This curriculum supports the recommendation by providing the tools and resources needed to foster inclusive, equity-centred learning environments that celebrate, recognize, adapt to, and accommodate diverse learning needs. It supports new and experienced faculty and student services professionals to enhance their professional practice by developing relevant tools, training, and resources to advance an ongoing commitment to creating equitable and innovative learning experiences for all students.
This curriculum is also a direct response to:
- Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action
- NS Human Rights Act
- NS Culture Action Plan
- NS Accessibility Act
- Post-secondary Accessibility Framework
Beyond legislation and Calls to Action, it is part of our moral responsibility as educators to rectify systemic inequity.
How are the Online Modules organized?
This curriculum is presented in a series of 10 self-paced modules in three sequential sections.
Personal and System Foundations: Understand the foundations of social inequities in post-secondary contexts, build a strong foundation of core concepts related to personal privilege and bias, systems of inequity, equity-seeking groups, and calling out racism.
Transforming Practice Foundations: Consider multiple strategies for how to address educational inequity in your practice including the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Practices (CRP) competencies, and strategies for Navigating Courageous Conversations and Student Voice & Agency.
Transforming Practice- Teaching, Learning, and Student Services: Consider promising practices and concrete examples to integrate equity-centred practices into your professional practice as faculty or student services staff.
The curriculum is self-paced and is presented in a series of self-contained modules. We recommend that you start with Module 1 and work your way sequentially through all modules, especially if you are new to social equity work. If you already have a strong grounding in foundational topics, or if you’re keen to dive into transforming your practice, you may choose to skip some of the foundational modules. However, we would still encourage you to skim through all modules, since later modules build on earlier ones and you may find new information within a familiar topic.
We have designed the curriculum so that it can be used by individuals or small groups. Working through the modules within a Professional Learning Team could be an excellent way to extend your own learning through interaction and discussion with others and to provide a measure of accountability. All faculty and student services staff can benefit from an open exchange of knowledge about what is working, or not working, for other people.
Becoming part of a community of people working toward educational equity can sustain and inspire your own journey, especially when setbacks occur. This community does not need to be limited by geography or discipline; digital learning environments have made it possible to share with and learn from a wider variety of people than ever before.
No matter where you are on your own personal and professional journey, this curriculum offers opportunities to deepen and extend your understanding of equity-centred practices:
- If you are new to educational equity work, Transforming Practice will help you build a solid foundation for future exploration.
- If you are already familiar with some of the foundational concepts covered here, Transforming Practice will refresh your prior knowledge and give you tools to translate your knowledge into improved professional practice.
- If you are already deeply familiar with issues related to race and racism, Transforming Practice can give you a starting point for discussions with colleagues who are not, and can give you additional examples of how faculty and student services staff are enacting this work.
Why does the curriculum include foundational modules?
Social and educational inequities are complex. Yet, our first reaction is often to jump straight from awareness of problems of social inequity to trying out potential solutions.
When we approach systemic inequities with this shortcut approach, often the result is that we end up doing more harm than good. Even worse, when we use a trial-and-error approach in our work with diverse students, they may disproportionately bear the weight of our mistakes.
To truly make progress toward social equity, something more than a shortcut solution is required. We view the process of social equity work not as a straight line, but as an iterative cycle.
The Transforming Practice curriculum was designed around this cyclical model. Specifically, this curriculum will require you to:
- Work to understand the foundations of social equity and your own relationship to the foundations (Modules 1 – 4)
Social and educational inequities have a long, complex history in Nova Scotia and Canada. Understanding these complexities is critical to understanding how social and educational inequities manifest in systems including post-secondary institutions as well as how they impact students from equity seeking groups. Your own identity and life experiences will impact your social equity work. It is critical that all people engaged in social equity work understand their own positions in the systems and institutions that enhance equity, and how their own identities and cultures shape the ways they view others.
- Work to understand promising practices to address educational inequities in higher education (Modules 5-8)
For as long as inequities have existed, there have been people trying, with varying levels of success, to address them. Complex problems like social and educational inequity resist simple solutions. After taking the time to understand the foundations and your own role within systems of inequity, you can begin to think about strategies to address this issue within your own local context. Each strategy should be carefully evaluated before implementation, with a focus on its potential impacts — positive and negative — on the communities you serve.
- Consider and implement strategies to build social and educational equity within your professional practice (Modules 9-10)
The modules on transforming practice also provide case studies, scenarios, and examples of promising practices to consider and implement. Of course, social equity work must be undertaken for the long haul, and no single strategy will “fix” structural inequity. With that said, all strategies we use in the classroom or in student services to try to improve our practice should be assessed in terms of their impact on the students we serve.
How long will it take to work through the entire curriculum?
It is difficult to estimate a total timespan for the entire curriculum. Many modules contain recommended action items that may take you days or even weeks to complete. You may find it useful to spend several days reflecting between modules, or, if you are working with a group, you may structure your progress through the curriculum according to your group’s meeting schedule. We do recommend that you take your time with this content, and use the provided additional resources in each section as necessary to reinforce your understanding of challenging topics before moving on.
Accessibility features of the web version of this resource
This course has been developed with accessibility in mind. Here are some important notes on the accessibility of the content within these modules.
- All videos produced have scripts and are hosted on the NSCC YouTube channel with proper closed captioning.
- The interview videos also have a picture in picture with ASL.
- SRT files are available for all videos as well as scripts for the “Module videos”.
- Third party videos referenced in these modules may or may not be captioned.
- All images and infographics have authored alternative text.
- Brightspace has an alt text character limit, so we added a link to a document with the alternative text to provide a workable solution.
- See the Image Alternative Text document for a log of all the images alternative text for development purposes.
- All authored text for the modules has been placed in HTML pages in Moodle, Brightspace and that Atlantic OER Pressbooks site. This is a very accessible format for most screen readers.
- Note, LMS CSS code will dictate font style and contrast ratios, so please ensure institutional styles are set up correctly for accessibility standards.
While we strive to ensure that this resource is as accessible and usable as possible, we might not always get it right. We have followed the Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Accessibility Framework.
Section adapted from Hughes-Hassell, S., Rawson, C. H., & Hirsh, K. (2019). Getting started: Curriculum guide. In Hughes-Hassell, S., Rawson, C. H., & Hirsh, K. (Eds.), Project READY: Reimagining equity and access to diverse youth [online curriculum]. Shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.