Training Professors and Fostering Equity in Remote Learning

One of our Humanities Out There (H.O.T.) Fellows reflects on their experience promoting pedagogical equity last year.

Miguel Ramón, A UCI Humanities Out There (H.O.T.) Fellow, worked during the summer as the Remote Learning Summer Fellows Coordinator, collaborating with a team of graduate students to help professors meet the unprecedented move to remote learning. Miguel will be completing his Ph.D. in English this Spring and is interested in all areas of English Education, from secondary teacher training to the first-year composition.

The move to remote learning provided an opportunity to address how pedagogy can promote equity by applying active learning strategies.  Pedagogical training for professors has been historically underdeveloped.  Because teachers were changing how they delivered instruction, we had the opportunity to address a fundamental deficiency common in college education: lesson planning that made student engagement structural. The move to Zoom prompted many professors to move away from the lecture; professors were eager to find approaches that placed the student at the center of their lessons.

We developed a lesson plan module that included an "into" activity that was brief but reflective.  Using polls or three-slide presentations, video clips, or quotes that lead zoom chat discussion, professors started lessons by building student schema or accessing student knowledge about a topic. This activity primed the students for the lesson's main activity that would center around student participation—from discussion boards to breakout rooms and presentations to active-chatting.  The leading 20-30 minute activity provided professors peace of mind: students were learning behind their darkened zoom screens because they demonstrated and expressed their learning in real-time through in-class exercises. The lesson plan finished with an asynchronous application activity that encouraged students to build on the learning the lesson produced.  The inherent scaffolding in this lesson design helps level the playing field for all students because it makes active learning explicit in connecting the three activities.  Our work with faculty was not about training them to use Yuja, or creating a Kahoot to help engage students, although we did that.  It was about using these new tools to design a lesson that makes equity possible through active learning.    

We learned to differentiate our work with our professors to start where they felt comfortable.  Structural change, when the structure is a person, like the professor, requires support and understanding.  The one-on-one meetings with the School of Humanities professors permitted our team to help professors grow organically.  Our approach started on the concrete, developing one specific lesson.  After our second meeting, the professors created a lesson with a structure that provided the foundation for more than a transition to remote learning, but a flow to lesson design that put students in motion to learn.