Illinois State University launched the GROWTH Initiative in fall 2019 to provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff across the entire University that are customized and relevant to the discipline of each college and department.
The College of Education GROWTH (COE GROWTH) initiative started in summer 2020 as a coordinated and sustainable professional development program for all COE faculty and staff. The COE GROWTH team is led by faculty representatives from each department and the Dean’s Office. After completing the team training, analyzing recent college climate survey results, and witnessing the murders of Black Americans in summer 2020, the team knew that professional development in the college needed to be developed with an anti-racist lens.
“This work is centered on disrupting the current system of education to create learning environments that are culturally responsive and that promote anti-racist thinking,” said Dr. Shamaine Bertrand, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning and COE GROWTH team member.
The goals for the COE GROWTH team were to focus this past academic year on professional development for faculty that gives them the space and resources to critically examine their courses so that they center on equity. Through this work, faculty can create or continue to build spaces in their classrooms for students and future teachers to have critical conversations, evaluate their work and learn how to create their own equitable classrooms.
“We have to sit here in this space, evaluate ourselves, and do this work together so that we can start to disrupt systems of oppression,” said Bertrand. “Then we can start to expand that work to staff, students, and our communities.”
Throughout the past academic year over 50 faculty and staff members participated in the GROWTH sessions that focused on critically examining course materials, design and instruction. The series concluded with a two-part workshop with Dr. Kisha Porcher, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware who teaches English education and specializes in centering Blackness in community-engaged learning and teaching. Porcher’s workshops focused on the four C’s for Teaching Liberation: Building Community, Centering Blackness, Cultivating Creativity, and Collaboration.
“I see Dr. Porcher’s work as pragmatic for our culture and climate work in the COE. It is a crucial and necessary step to advance our commitment to anti-racism as we actively challenge anti-Blackness in the classroom,” said Dr. Linsay DeMartino, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations and COE GROWTH team member.
As the premier institution in the Midwest for preparing teachers, the college is committed to leading the way forward for ongoing and sustainable change so that all children can learn in safe spaces with teachers who reflect and understand their culture and values.
Over the summer 2021, a cohort of faculty is participating in an intensive session to redesign their courses that will build off the work done throughout the past academic year. The work across the college will continue in the fall semester 2021, focusing on implementing changes in classes and evaluating the impact of those changes. The goal is that this ongoing work will be woven into the fabric of the COE and part of everything that we do.
“This is a paradigm shift. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work is where excellence and innovation come from and unless you are doing this work, your teaching cannot be excellent,” said Dr. Dakesa Piña, DEI Officer in the COE and COE GROWTH team member. “We have to shift this paradigm from DEI work being this thing on the side to it being THE work.”
WHAT ARE WE READING, LISTENING TO, OR WATCHING?
The COE GROWTH team is constantly reading, listening to, and watching media that helps them grow in their own DEI work. Check out their current top interests in DEI media.
DR. SHAMAINE BERTRAND
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
Reading: Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
DR. LINSAY DEMARTINO
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND FOUNDATIONS
Watching: Abolitionist Teaching Network (ABN) webinars
DR. STACEY JONES BOCK
Listening to: Black Gaze podcast; Code Switch podcast
DR. TARA KACZOROWSKI
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL EDUCATION
Reading: 10th anniversary edition of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
DR. DAKESA PIÑA
COE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION OFFICER
Listening to: Future Insight podcast; Coffee and Books podcast