Each year, AVID has the opportunity to provide professional learning for over 70,000 educators. Nearly four decades of training experience have taught us that the most impactful learning occurs when we help educators understand the WHY?
At AVID our foundational WHY is equity: ensuring that all students have the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to maximize their potential, to realize their dreams, and to feel connected to and responsible for others. Equity is not something we DO; it is an outcome of what we do and our most powerful levers are our mindsets, beliefs, and our instructional decisions and actions.
The hallmark of AVID’s professional learning is immersing educators into rigorous learning experiences examine their mindsets, challenge their beliefs, and experience instructional practices that scaffold learning to meet high expectations. The goal: equip educators to close opportunity and achievement gaps by ensuring equitable access to rigorous learning for students.
The Head: Aligning Mindset
Creating equitable classrooms requires a particular mindset. An educators mindset communicates how we expect students to show up in the classroom – whether we invite them to make the space their own or require them to comply to a pre-established environment. Mindset also drives expectations – do we evaluate a student’s chance of success based on perceived talent or on their willingness to work hard? These expectations determine whether or not students receive access to opportunities and support necessary to achieve at high levels.
Therefore, we encourage our educators to examine their “heads” or mindsets, reflecting honestly on how they impact students’ agency and ownership for their learning and how mindsets can set the stage for how hopeful and committed students feel to their success.
We challenge our educators to monitor responses to students’ attempts at learning for language like “Why do you think you got those results? What can you learn from them?” or “I wonder what other options your group can try?” We want them to be able to indicated whether the messaging growth-oriented.
We also invite our educators to evaluate to what degree the classroom is student-centered vs. teacher-centered – what is on the walls, who does the most talking during a class period, and if lesson plans include more authentic student-driven activities or teacher lecture – and we ask them to consider the implications.
If equity is about creating opportunities for all students, educators must exercise mindsets that promote opportunity, hope, growth, and support.
The Heart: Building Relationships
Building relationships is a vital skill set for teachers. If educators are unable to connect with our colleagues, students, families, and community, then we cannot be successful in the classroom. Having capacity to build relationships – especially with students – is what makes it possible to do the hard work of remedying inequities in the classroom. Authentic relationships are built from beliefs that everyone deserves respect and that learning about others enhances our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Teaching students how to build relationships is also paramount–it enables students to collaborate in meaningful ways, to leverage others’ strengths and knowledge to learn, and to feel comfortable trying new things and potentially failing. What the teacher models and holds students accountable for in the classroom sets the stage for how well students build relationships elsewhere.
We encourage our teachers to create opportunities – including through learning experiences and the physical space – that allows students to authentically engage with one another.
A classroom where students are actively engaged in the learning because they care about living up to the teacher’s expectations, they care about what their peers think and say, and they take risks because relationships make it safe – here you have an equitable playing field.
The Hands: Leveraging Strategies
This is where the rubber meets the road: using instructional strategies that will challenge students and will also scaffold their learning to reach the high expectations bar. This is also about equipping students with an arsenal of strategies that are portable, so they can learn anything anywhere–that’s maximizing potential and driving equity.
AVID’s WICOR framework provides a way to ensure rigorous teaching and student access. When students are Writing, Inquiring, Collaborating, Organizing and Reading every day, they improve their communication skills, critical thinking, and sense of ownership and efficacy. When educators are facilitating learning by leveraging these strategies to encourage learning, they are helping students tackle challenging content. Students learn how to write like a scientist, for example, and how to write focused notes; how to inquire like a designer; how to collaborate like a project team; and how to organize their thinking, time, and things.
Equitable teaching is accomplished when educators have high expectations for their students and they establish productive mindsets, build authentic relationships, and leverage intentional instructional strategies so students can meet those expectations.
Michelle Mullen oversees learning programs, products, and services, including K–12 and higher education curriculum, English learner and STEM support, publications, professional learning, leadership development, and AVID National Demonstration Schools. These teams support schools and districts with program resources and learning experiences to ensure quality AVID implementation, educator engagement, and student achievement. Ms. Mullen believes passionately in the potential of our young people and she is energized by work that builds student and educator capacity, opportunity, and hope.