The ASPIRE Racial Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series continued in September and October with a two-part workshop led by Dr. Paul Gorski, the Founder, Lead Equity Specialist, & Research Director of The Equity Literacy Institute. Dr. Gorski’s two-part presentation on Embracing and Enacting a Transformative Vision for Equity started in September by laying the groundwork for recognizing systems of advantage and disadvantage, equity and inequity. The presentation then continued in October by moving into conversations about the deep application of equity in antiracism work within classrooms and on campuses.
Dr. Gorski’s workshop prioritized participant reflection throughout, inviting educators to consider the ways in which their campus or classroom cultures and practices might sustain systems of advantage and disadvantage. In addition to identifying these moments of inequity that occurred at participants’ institutions or in their classrooms, Dr. Gorski’s approach on individuals’ spheres of influence and control to remind participants that we all have roles and the ability to apply anti-racist and equity frameworks within our roles. Through the utilization of breakout rooms, Dr. Gorski created opportunities for more intimate conversations among other educators for participants to share and reflect on the instances of inequity, welcoming vulnerability, and critical reflection.
The resulting conversations about instances of inequity at higher education highlighted that decisions or initiatives that are well-intentioned can also result in inequitable outcomes. For example, one educator shared that to support a food drive at their college, they had considered offering extra credit to anyone who brought in food for the drive but decided not to after a colleague helped them consider that they were unintentionally punishing the students who couldn’t afford to bring in food. Dr. Gorski continued the conversation by interrogating systems within classrooms that may also have unintentional inequities, such as syllabus policies that do not offer flexibility to account for additional challenges some students may face. Past examining individual biases and blind spots, Dr. Gorski encouraged participants to engage with a sense of curiosity and create processes that incorporated student voices into decisions.
Dr. Paul Gorski is the founder of the Equity Literacy Institute and EdChange. He has 25 years of experience helping educators, nonprofit workers, and others strengthen their equity efforts. He has worked with educators in 48 states and a dozen countries. He is also the research director of the Equity Literacy Institute, conducting and collaborating on research and other scholarship related to maximizing the transformative potential of equity efforts. Paul has published more than 70 articles and has written educational equity including Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap and Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education (with Seema Pothini). Paul spent nine years on the board of directors of the National Association for Multicultural Education and five years on the board of the International Association for Intercultural Education. He earned a PhD in Educational Evaluation at the University of Virginia. He was a teacher educator at several universities for 15 years.
Learn more about Dr. Gorski and the Equity Literacy Institute here!
The creation of the Accelerating Student Progress and Increasing Racial Equity (ASPIRE) project was in response to the Developmental Education Reform Act (DERA) which aims to address inequities in college completion among students of color and first-generation students. Passed in March 2021, the act requires public colleges in Illinois to reform their developmental education (dev ed) programs — the introductory math and English classes students may need to improve their skills, before they can take a college-level math or English class — so that students can enter a credit-bearing, college-level math or English course by their second semester.
To read our refresher on the ASPIRE Project, click here.