February 2021 Advocate: Exploring Equitable Teaching and Learning


AFT members share their classroom practices at Flex Day workshop to explore conditions for equitable teaching and learning

By Rika Yonemura-Fabian and Doniella Maher 

Over 100 faculty and staff members attended the Flex workshop organized by the Anti-Oppression Committee of the AFT on January 14. The workshop was organized with the aim of engaging faculty members in reflection and conversation about the connection between anti-oppression pedagogy and institutional conditions, including smaller class sizes. The breadth of unique programs across our district is inspiring. The workshop was a chance for faculty to come together to see work that is already being done and the possibilities of what anti-racist pedagogy and student support can look like in the classroom.

Jeramy Wallace, District Academic Senate President and CSM UMOJA instructor, shared a framework for thinking about anti-racist pedagogy in the classroom, and Anne Stafford and Teeka James from CSM Writing in the End Zone (WEZ), Liza Erpelo and Jayde Nieve from Kababayan Learning Community at Skyline College, and Michael Hoffman from the Math department at Cañada College presented successful classroom practices for equity. The presentations highlighted the common themes and principles of equitable teaching and learning that panelists have been practicing in various disciplines including anti-racist curriculum, humanization of the teacher-student relationship, active community building to create trust to allow students to feel connected through their common identity and history, targeted and frequent check-in, and the central role of student-centered learning. The workshop also featured a student presentation that shared a student perspective on class size and learning experiences based on the District-wide survey they conducted with 350 student responses. The students shared some key findings including that class size seems to have an impact on students’ sense of belonging to a class and their access to faculty.

Should faculty be included in the process to determine class size? We believe so. We are not proposing a one-size-fits-all solution to a pedagogically-sound class size.  However, right now, decisions about class size are made without faculty input on best practices. Many of the successful practices highlighted in the flex day session would be impossible to implement in a large sized class. It is also difficult to implement anti-racist curriculum, which requires a thoughtful approach to teaching and discussion of materials, in a larger class. We believe that faculty and departments should have a voice in determining the best pedagogical approaches to support equity in the classroom and to implement anti-racist pedagogy. The workshop inspired the attending faculty to think about how faculty input to our class caps could facilitate our ability to implement the pedagogy that we want to apply to increase success, retention, and completion for all students.

The Anti-Oppression Committee will continue the work on this issue with local Senates and AFT. If you are interested in getting involved, please email Doniella Maher at maher@aft1493.org or Rika Yonemura-Fabian at fabian@1493.org.