Meet Them Where They Are: Furthering Your Own Cultural Humility and Responsive Teaching

Hispanic and African American students stand with masks and arms crossed

Hispanic | Latinx community college students, especially those attending Hispanic Serving Institutions, deserve to see themselves in their course content. Improving the process of online course design, including the implementation of best practices specifically created for this marginalized group’s academic success, will allow faculty to meet their students where they are. Examining the best practices for online course design so this student demographic sees themselves in their course content is something any faculty has the potential to achieve.

Curriculum and pedagogical approaches to online course design must include institutionally backed academic professional development (PD), can occur in small or peer mentoring situations/conditions, and should continue (synchronously or asynchronously) even during a pandemic. The three concepts described below examine curriculum and pedagogical approaches to online course design that allows a HIS’s institutional mission to flow to and from the teaching and learning experiences—striving to better serve the Hispanic | Latinx students’ success.

1. Cultural humility and responsive teaching through professional development (pd)

We live in a time ripe for engaging the process of cultural humility. We all need to practice making space that allows for ongoing awareness of and sensitivity to others’ cultural values and beliefs. Raising awareness of our own values and beliefs gives practice to better comprehend another’s own background and situation. A tenant of cultural humility is realizing this awareness is a skill that requires continual reflection and self-awareness essential to flexing and building one’s humility muscles.  

Stronger cultural humility skills nurture new paths toward culturally responsive teaching (CRT) strategies that can be woven into faculty professional development opportunities. CRT focuses as much with using multicultural instructional strategies as with adding multicultural content to an online curriculum. It is important that students see themselves in the curriculum and that the curriculum in turn renders them visible. If your students see readings by Hispanic authors or you invite Latinx community leaders as guest speakers into your online classroom, Hispanic | Latinx students start to see themselves and their culture in your curriculum. Joining collegial conversations allows space for discussions in supporting and guiding HSI’s overarching mission to bring these concepts into online course design, classroom experience, and reality.

2. Book clubs

Book clubs are easy entry points, offering informal relationship-building opportunities with and for faculty interacting with the texts. Distribute texts and coordinate regular meetings for exchanging ideas, tips, and approaches. Here are some texts to consider in expanding best practices for equitable teaching approaches in a broader sense and online course design specifically.

  • Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby and James Lang is a great starting point for easy, applicable best practices for designing and teaching online.
  • White Fragility. Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. She has a great downloadable Reading Guide on her website.
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi is a foundational text to support the transformation of antiracism concepts.
  • Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges & Universities by Gina Ann Garcia. Garcia’s approaches reframe what it means to serve Hispanic | Latinx college students.
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad. This text speaks to uncovering the necessary awareness that leads to action and change.
  • Bandwidth Recover: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization by Cia Verschelden. This text offers strategies for promoting a growth mindset and self-efficacy, developing supports that build upon students’ values and prior knowledge. Great ideas for any classroom.
  • Peggy McIntosh’s 1989, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. This piece allows the reader to uncover systemic dominance that racism creates.

Another approach is to do research on any of the subjects, find articles or books, then meet to make choices as a group on readings and timeframes for each book club. The most important task is showing up and participating. Unpacking cultural humility, responsive teaching strategies, racism and equity challenges, and investigating best practices for online teaching and learning will nourish your humanity and online facilitation skills.

3. One-to-one support

As participants begin recognizing the need for cultural humility and inclusion of responsive teaching concepts, ideas can begin to fold into best practices for teaching online courses. But don’t do it alone. Partner up or form small pods or study groups. Continuously work with faculty partners, mentors, or departmental colleagues to set goals, exchange ideas, and support one another. Accountability is key when learning. Make the commitment to show up and have an agenda or list of questions that will guide the discussions. Here are some general ideas to get you started:

  • What is everyone learning from the book club readings?
  • What challenges are we all facing with where we each are in our process of practicing cultural humility?
  • How can we change our online curriculum so our students see themselves in the content?
  • How can we design opportunities for our students to be visible in our online courses so they have space to share and discuss their own cultural humility processes?

We learn better together. Practicing—first with our colleagues and then with our students—acts as a metacognitive approach to curriculum design by offering a process and voice to the faculty learners working with a colleague or in small groups. As you practice, you will get better. When you find your voice in these ideas and content, you will better comprehend what it is like for your marginalized students and build empathy.

Designing an online course takes time, effort, deep thought, and requires the realization that one needs to keep working on course design and its facilitation. We are all human, and we won’t get it 100% right the first time. All online faculty, and especially those working at Hispanic Serving Institutions, may want to consider the above three strategies when designing and facilitating their online courses. Following best practices for Hispanic | Latinx students, such as including course content that speaks to this demographic, allows those students a voice and agency in learning your subject matter.

Furthering your own cultural humility and responsive teaching will encourage inclusive teaching methods and best practices for designing online courses, which will help all of your students succeed. Working one-on-one with colleagues, sharing ideas, and sharing struggles requires vulnerability. The process pays off in practicing and modeling with each other and finding our humanity. These ideas will prepare you to design online courses that enable you to meet your students where they are, offer equitable learning approaches, foster inclusion, and support them on their academic journey.    


Mary Wiseman, MA,MS, and EdD, doctoral student is an instructional designer at Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, Massachusetts. Mary’s research involves exploring trends for higher education with a focus in both online curriculum and pedagogy.  How are HSIs serving and supporting students? What are the trends for the near and far future? What are community colleges doing now to support students learning online, what could be improved, and how might they prepare for the next generation of students learning online? Social justice is a fundamental component of her dissertation work.

References:

Doyle, Walter, and Kathy Carter. “Academic tasks in classrooms.” Curriculum inquiry 14, no. 2 (1984): 129-149.

Garcia, Gina Ann. Becoming Hispanic-serving institutions: Opportunities for colleges and universities. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.