Who are you as a person and an educator? How have the various facets of your cultural and social identities shaped your own experiences and views? Who are your students? How will their cultural backgrounds affect their learning, development, and motivation in your class?
These are vital questions in today’s classroom—a truth that Ellen Usher and I were reminded of while writing the 15th edition of Educational Psychology. Specifically, several educational psychology instructors at Michigan State University told us that the cluster in our book on cultural and diversity came too late for today’s realities. These instructors believed that a discussion of the many aspects of identity should be front and center, informing the study of all topics in educational psychology. So, Ellen wrote our new Cluster 2, “Who Are You? Who Are Your Students? Culture and Diversity.”
Grounded in the fact that we all are shaped by many forces and factors, Cluster 2 provides insight about why we must understand and appreciate our students’ identities, as well as our own. Throughout the cluster, we offer research and resources to help you and your students explore your identities and the role of culture and diversity in learning and teaching. In the overview, we explain that:
At Pearson, we are committed to helping students improve their life through learning and provide the instructors with the tools to help them be successful. We are devoted to creating effective, engaging solutions that create opportunities for students at every stage of the learning journey. By combining trusted author content with digital tools and a flexible platform, we personalize the learning experience and improve results for each student.
In 2022, we introduced the Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards to recognize faculty who demonstrate the essence of what it means to be an educator today. Over 200 faculty across the country were nominated by their peers and students for recognition in five categories. This year’s winners embody the values of Pearson and their outstanding achievements. The heartfelt submission stories illustrate not only their foundational values but how they translate that passion for all students.
“The Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards are peer nominated awards that represent and identify passionate and outstanding educators who have made significant impact on students and others. It has been a delight reading the hundreds of heartwarming nominations that we have received, and we’re honored to announce this year’s winners” said Brad Parkins, Pearson Director of Marketing, Brand and Thought Leadership.
Without further ado, it is with immense honor that we announce the winners for the inaugural 2022 Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards!
Outstanding Integration of DE&I: Emily Simpson, Midwestern University - “In addition to fostering a welcoming environment, Dr. Simpson is dedicated to preparing students to work with diverse populations and advocate for DE&I within their future workplaces.” – A. Kiraly-Alvarez
Outstanding Student Engagement: Professor Rachel Bailey-Wood, University of Missouri - “Professor Bailey’s instruction uniquely centers her students’ humanity while engaging them in high levels of applicable learning.” – A. Thompson
Outstanding Teaching Throughout the Pandemic: Dr. Elizabeth Dulemba, Winthrop University - "Her energies were not daunted during the pandemic. She created new course offerings... and created a new Illustration Minor.” – E. Koehler
Outstanding Use of Courseware Technology: Christine Minor, Clemson University - “Dr. Minor stays at the forefront of what is available in educational technology and often acts as a mentor in our department for others that are using technology in their classrooms.” – Dr. DeWalt
Pearson Digital Platforms: Yoelvis Rodriguez, Miami Dade College - “Yoelvis is an influencer…. He is a leader among the adjuncts, and they respect his advice and experience. In addition, college wide, Yoelvis chairs an EAP technology committee.” – C. Schuemann
In higher education, students have needs and aspirations based on the diversity of their lived experiences, and they bring their rich social and cultural backgrounds with them when they learn. To serve all students, educators need to widen their teaching methodologies and perspectives to serve varied characteristics and preferences1. They also need to consider factors such as age, learning styles, strengths, improvement areas, and more to develop inclusive and active learning strategies in their classrooms.
The ‘7 Pillars of Inclusivity’ can help educators incorporate inclusive practices that value diversity and embed equity in the classroom.
What Are the 7 Pillars of Inclusivity?
To create an inclusive classroom, educators must keep their students at the center of learning and provide an environment that enriches their learning outcomes.2 Educators can follow seven strategies to welcome all students into an inclusive classroom experience.
An accessible learning environment is one where students don’t experience any barriers to education. It’s vital that educators ensure accessibility for students with special needs, learning disabilities, and neurodivergence, and for students who come from diverse language, economic, and cultural backgrounds. If implemented well, a focus on equitable access will set up all students for successful learning outcomes.
Educators can create an accessible and accepting classroom by incorporating the following practices
Design an inclusive and high-quality curriculum targeted towards positive learning outcomes.
Provide accessible educational materials and software that meet the learning needs of students with physical and/or cognitive challenges so as to help them learn their best and feel a sense of belonging.
Make sure learning materials are representative of and relevant to all students so that those whose first language isn’t English or who come from under-resourced communities will see themselves in what they’re learning and feel like they belong.
Support all students by forming collaborative groups for projects when possible.
Build relationships with students so you understand them and learn how to differentiate instruction to meet their learning needs whenever possible.
Adopt active learning strategies that motivate students to take initiative.3 A healthy mix of reflective, movement, or discussion-based lessons and projects can be targeted toward achieving behavioral and cognitive objectives.
Providing scholarships for deserving students.
Being more approachable and responsive to students’ queries.
Making the classroom inclusive requires a growth mindset, which encourages an openness to understanding the diversity of students’ lived experiences. Implicit biases can pollute a growth mindset and cause educators to lower their expectations of students who require specific support to be successful.
According to the American Psychological Association, an implicit bias is a negative attitude toward a specific group of people of which one is not consciously aware.4 Implicit biases can include prejudices toward learners who come from low income homes, have unique cultural backgrounds, or are differently abled learners.
Educators can maintain a growth mindset by identifying their implicit biases, resolving them, and focusing on setting high expectations for all students.
Identifying implicit biases
Practicing self-reflective techniques or collecting responses/feedback from students and colleagues can be great ways for educators to identify their implicit biases.5
Self-reflection and assessment involves focusing on teaching and assessing methodologies and recognizing how those are influenced by underlying social, economic, or cultural prejudices. Educators can keep a record of their teaching methodologies, experiences, and growth through personal journals and go back to see if they have changed past behaviors or not.
Seeking responses through observation sheets filled out by students or peer reviews from trusting colleagues can provide educators with honest opinions about their behavior toward inclusion, diversity, and equity in the classroom.
Both these techniques can help educators identify areas of their teaching, curriculum, coursework, and assessing styles that are not inclusive or engaging and implement improvements.
Creating a positive and collaborative campus culture
A positive attitude6 that’s grounded in a growth mindset positions educators to express the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their words, actions, and classroom practices. Students who feel seen, heard, and welcome are more likely to succeed in class.
On a larger scale, institutions can support diversity by promoting a positive and collaborative campus culture with events that create opportunities for all students to connect and explore differences and commonalities with each other. Educators should encourage students to attend these events and be a part of the inclusive learning community.
3. Student Choice
Choosing to express themselves can help students be more involved in the learning process. Educators can give students a chance to voice their opinions through in-person conversations where they share feedback about the coursework, projects, and teaching style. By being more approachable and attentive, educators can better understand their students’ challenges and devise curriculums or solutions that enable strong performance and active learning.
Educators can promote partnerships in the classroom and school to instill inclusive learning structures and pedagogies. These can include:
Collaborative initiatives or group projects where students are not grouped per their perceived ability levels.7 This encourages students to engage with each other, exchange thoughts and ideas, value group members’ diverse perspectives, and work to achieve common goals instead of feeling left out or experiencing the stigma of being in a low-performing group.8
Guest speaker events where the institution/educator expands classroom or campus diversity by inviting guest speakers to share stories that are new and different. These stories can inspire students to enlarge their worldview.
Collaborations with other educators to provide a more enriched learning environment.
5. Explicit Communication
At the start of a course, educators can establish rules related to their coursework and class culture to set expectations for performance and collaborative behavior. They can encourage healthy communication practices by first being available to speak to all students and then organizing events or collaborative projects to ensure students learn to listen to and understand each other.
Engaging with students through in-person or email conversations can help monitor their academic development and struggles. Educators can connect with students to discuss their progress or performance and highlight achievements and areas of improvement.
Higher education institutions can advance inclusivity, diversity, and equity by establishing policies focused on supporting students based on their specific needs. For example, while affordability is important to all students, it is especially important to those without personal or family wealth. A policy of providing grants and scholarships to students with real financial need can be the difference between those students being able to enroll and learn and them not being able engage in higher education at all. A culture of equity depends on policies that consider real-world needs and ensure that inequitable barriers don’t prevent students from being part of the community.
Higher education institutions and educators need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to access and complete their education. Diverse classrooms adopt strategies that motivate, support, and enhance students’ strengths and academic performance.
Educators can support their students’ talents and potential by considering the various needs of their diverse student body and designing assessments and grading systems that are inclusive of and accessible by everyone. This can give all students the opportunity to succeed in their education.
In an inclusive higher education environment, educators model a positive growth mindset and provide opportunities for students to collaborate with and learn from one another. This is the key for supporting the success of all students, no matter their lived experiences.
What is more precious than freedom? What is more worth celebrating than the end of enslavement and the embrace of freedom? Since 1863, African Americans, as well as many other people, have enthusiastically marked the legal abolition of slavery in the United States.
On January 1, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that touched off wild rejoicing in Black communities in the North. But very few African Americans were actually freed from bondage on that remarkable day. Limited in scope, the Proclamation did not apply to enslaved people living in slave states that had not seceded from the Union such as Maryland and Kentucky, and no slave owner living in the Confederate states freed their slaves because of Lincoln’s order.
Still, many enslaved people seized the opportunity to free themselves in response to the Proclamation, and many thousands more would do so as the War dragged on into 1864 and 1865. Moreover, enslaved people had been freeing themselves long before Lincoln’s Proclamation. Since the first Africans were enslaved in the English colonies in North America in the 1600s, people gained freedom by running away and rising in rebellion. And on April 16, 1862, months before Lincoln’s Proclamation, congress had outlawed slavery in Washington, DC. Slavery did not disappear on a single day and with a single act by the U. S. President. It took time and cost thousands of lives as Black and white U. S. troops fought to win the war, preserve the Union, and end the enslavement of nearly four million people.
How then did Juneteenth come to be a day for commemorating freedom and slavery’s end? Although the Civil War essentially concluded on April 9, 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and U. S. military forces at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, a few Confederate political and military leaders continued to exercise authority in portions of the South in the vain hope that they might yet achieve victory.
On June 19, 1865, as Union armies gained control of southern Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued Order #3 in Galveston, freeing those who remained in bondage among the nearly 250,000 people who had been enslaved in the Lone Star State. Nationwide, slavery was finally eradicated with the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865.
In 1866, freed people in Texas began celebrating what they came to call “Juneteenth.” For decades thereafter, Juneteenth was mostly a Texas commemoration. In 1938, Gov. James Allred declared Juneteenth “Emancipation Day.” By then, some Black Texans had joined the Great Migration, and they took Juneteenth festivities with them as they moved to other states, mainly in the North and West.
June 19 became a state holiday in Texas in 1980 thanks largely to the efforts of Houston state legislator Al Edwards. Increasing numbers of African Americans began celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday across the nation in the 1980s and 1990s. By 2006, fifteen states recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Opal Lee, a 95-year-old Black woman from Ft. Worth — the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” — saw her persistent efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday rewarded when President Joe Biden declared on June 17, 2021, that henceforth June 19 would be a national holiday.
Yet long before Juneteenth became a national holiday, African Americans had observed January 1 as Emancipation Day. For decades after the Civil War, the first day of each year was greeted with exuberant gatherings that included parades, music, speeches, sermons, and bountiful portions of food. On the tenth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1873, “throngs of colored people” adorned in “gorgeous garments” paraded through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, accompanied by a band playing “Yankee Doodle.” Among those who participated in the festivities were Congressman Alonzo J. Ransier, the first Black member of the U. S. House of Representatives, as well as Civil War hero Robert Smalls and Major Martin R. Delany.
On January 1, 1900, Tuskegee Institute President Booker T. Washington addressed an Emancipation Day audience in Macon, Georgia, and offered — as he usually did — a message of racial uplift combined with criticism. “The Negro must have education and thrift. They must know how to apply their education. We have enough ministers and professional men for the present. We need to teach the masses how to get out of their shiftless and antiquated ways.”
Although the pageantry of the early commemorations of January 1 faded in the 20th century, Emancipation Day continued to be observed. In 1939, Mary McLeod Bethune, the President of Bethune Cookman College and a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “unofficial” Black Cabinet, delivered an inspirational message at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, as she called on Black people to unite in their quest for a better future and avoid indulging in acrimony and criticism of each other.
The centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation was widely celebrated in 1963 as the civil rights movement gained momentum across the South. Less than nine months before the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, there were a host of Emancipation Day observances across the nation. In Charleston, there was a “gala parade” featuring the contestants in the “Miss Emancipation” contest. The Burke High School and Laing High School marching bands took part. The Rev. Z. L. Grady, an AME minister, addressed a gathering at Jerusalem Baptist Church.
Our mission is simple: to help people make progress in their lives through learning. Because wherever learning flourishes, so do people. We'll only be successful when our educational materials are accessible to all users, and we’ve long been committed to providing access to learners with disabilities. That commitment is woven into the fabric of our learning materials, development processes, innovation efforts, employee culture, and partnerships.
We’re proud to have been recognized as a Benetech Global Certified Accessible™ (GCA) publisher. The first third-party EPUB certification program to verify eBook accessibility. (Learn more about this achievement, and our new partnership with Benetech.)
Accessibility in MyLab and Mastering
Pearson’s Faculty Advisors recently led best practice webinars for our two leading learning platforms, exploring accessibility features designed to help more learners succeed. (We invite you to watch the recorded webinars: MyLab or Mastering.)
“Has difficulty paying attention, lacks attention to details, loses focus quickly when doing tasks, doesn’t follow through, has difficulty staying organized.” These are some classic signs of ADHD – and people were talking about me that way. ADHD is challenging in almost any situation, but for me, it was especially hard when it came to schoolwork and studying.
Nothing could hold my attention long enough. I felt guilty and angry with myself all the time. Why wasn’t I passing the class all my friends said was just easy memorization? Why did I waste so much time on unimportant things when I could have been studying? Why were all my study guides nonsensical? How did I lose so many important assignments?
At first, college overwhelmed me
I didn’t expect college to be as hard as it was. I had been pretty good at balancing my schedule in high school, when my routine was the same every day. All my friends were always in the same place, and my parents were there to worry I was fed or getting into trouble.
In college I felt immense pressure to balance everything. Making sure I spent enough time out with my friends and enough time studying and doing homework. Making sure my room was clean enough and that I ate at least once that day. I quickly became overwhelmed. Diving into schoolwork was harder than it had ever been. It got to the point where getting ready to study often required even more effort than actually studying.
Getting ready meant creating my own flash cards and study guides, coming up with problems to quiz myself with, going back to re-read and highlight things. My list of “to-dos” spiraled out of control. It began to feel easier to just do nothing at all.
The guilt was the worst part. I knew I was capable of studying, I knew I had the ability to read and write and form cohesive thoughts, but I just didn’t. I couldn’t. I’d never felt more like a failure. Time and time again, different professors told me the same thing: If I wasn’t putting in the work outside of the classroom, how did I expect to excel?
I had more help than I ever realized
Then, one of my teachers sat down with me and finally understood what I was dealing with. Then she pulled up the MyLab platform and walked me through all the personalized study tools Pearson offered me.
She showed me practice problems and progress checks to help me figure out exactly what I needed to work on, so it was easier to set priorities and I didn’t have to worry about everything. I realized I didn’t have to come up with my own problems to answer.
I didn’t even have to create my own study guide: MyLab built one for me, and personalized it based on all the homework, quizzes, and tests I’d already done. That way, I’d spend the most time – and get the most new practice questions – exactly where I needed the most help. Even if I wasn’t struggling with ADHD, it would have taken me a very long time to build a study guide that useful – but MyLab gave it to me practically instantly.
All the extra work I felt I needed to do to succeed, even before I started to study? Pearson had already done it for me. If I couldn’t bring myself to re-read information, there were videos I could watch. Anytime I wanted, I could search for videos. If I didn’t understand why I had gotten a practice problem wrong, there were videos with step-by-step instructions explaining what to do and why I needed to do it that way. Even before I ran into a problem I couldn’t solve, there were videos for the complicated concepts I wasn’t sure of. Any time I needed help, it was like someone at Pearson had read my mind and put together a video just for me.
Most important and useful for my studying experience? MyLab’s practice quizzes. I took them over and over and over again. I especially liked the Dynamic Study Modules. Pearson found a way to gently help you get to the right answer without penalizing you for not already knowing everything.
If you’re positive you know the right answer, you double-click that option. If you’re right, Pearson will tell you, and you can move on to other content. But if you’re not sure, you can either single-click the option that might be right, or just click “I don’t know.” It’s like answering “halfway.” Then, Pearson will show you the right answer and present a bit of text from your eTextbook explaining it. It won’t cost you any points, even if you’re wrong. Later on, you’ll get a similar question, and this time, you’ll probably be more confident of the right answer. By the time I was done working with Pearson’s quizzes, I felt confident enough to tutor some of my friends.
The help just keeps on coming – and I know it’s underutilized because I certainly hadn’t realized it was all there. There’s the Homepage Calendar that tells you exactly when everything’s due, so it’s easier to plan your week. There’s the “Show Me an Example” button that walks you through an example or a process even before you encounter it in a problem.
I’m finishing my last course right now, and I’ll be graduating in May 2023. My experience with Pearson MyLab was so positive that, after I graduate, I’ll be taking a job with Pearson. I’m thrilled that, in my new role, I’ll get to help move MyLab forward, and encourage more students to take advantage of it. I have a very personal motivation. I want struggling college students to know what I discovered: with these tools, studying with ADHD doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming anymore.
For instructors and students alike, the path to success has become far more challenging. Students are arriving with different life and learning priorities, and varying levels of preparation. Everyone’s working harder, in the face of greater obstacles and deeper uncertainty. Instructors and students both need more effective support, in an era where resources are scarce. Courseware has always been a key resource, but today it needs to deliver more than ever. This makes your courseware decisions even more crucial.
Great courseware doesn’t just happen: everything about it is intentional. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how we're delivering on three of Pearson’s core priorities for building courseware that helps instructors and learners thrive – outcomes, equity, and accessibility.
Achieve the outcomes that matter
The most important outcomes are those that learners and instructors want, to help them realize the lives they imagine. Our outcome-based design processes help us understand and identify those upfront, as a “north star” to keep all of us aligned and on track.
When we say “all of us,” we’re talking about a wide array of world-class, cross-disciplinary experts all working together, including:
Learning scientists who ensure our products reflect the latest, best evidence on what helps students learn, helps instructors teach, helps people effectively use technology, and helps promote career progress
User experience and content professionals who build and evolve engaging and personalized digital learning platforms, maximize relevance, and present material in powerfully compelling ways
Assessment experts who embed opportunities for continual student progress assessment, and identify opportunities to improve our products
6,000+ trusted authors who bring their unique voices and cutting-edge knowledge -- so students never forget they’re learning from other remarkable human beings.
Responding to a goal of reducing developmental prerequisites in college-level math and statistics, UMGC faculty assessed Pearson’s MyLab® and an OER alternative through a 2.5-year pilot encompassing 12 instructors and 6,500 students. Based on the pilot’s remarkable results, UMGC has rolled out MyLab widely. That’s translated into dramatic improvements: from 60% to 80% student success in statistics and from 50% to 80% in algebra compared with OER.
Faculty evaluations have improved, too. Freed from grading, instructors had more time to guide individual students, and they also had richer data to tailor courses around their needs.
UMGC’s experience is just one example of how Pearson’s outcome-based design is rooted in superior learning science is helping real learners. Outcomes like these thrill us – they’re why we do what we do.
Extend great learning to everyone
At Pearson, the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” aren’t cliches or trendy buzzwords. They’re a way of life deeply grounded in beliefs we’ve held for generations: Every individual can benefit from learning, and learning is a powerful force for positive change. Everyone should be welcomed into learning. Everyone should have a fair opportunity to learn, and learning should work for all students.
What matters more than our beliefs is what we do about them. We’ve built, and we enforce, comprehensive policies for making sure we authentically, inclusively, and respectfully represent people of all kinds. We are committed to minimizing bias. Our content celebrates diverse identities and lived experiences (see some complimentary examples here). We draw on many best practices and frameworks to provide high-quality inclusive content. We offer practical ways to report and dialogue about potential bias in our products.We do all of this so that our products are more inclusive, more relevant, and more accurate. Our DE&I approach to content development results in better products that center learners and increase student engagement.
Finally, we understand that effectively embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work is a journey. We honor and promote DE&I internally, to ensure that our offerings are created by teams who reflect those we serve. We’re proud to have earned the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” award, inclusion in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index, and a top grade in the Disability Equality Index, the most comprehensive benchmark for disability inclusion.
By doing all this, we’re serving learners’ demands. Our 2021 Global Learner Survey found that 80% of learners were trying to educate themselves about issues related to social justice, diversity or gender equality, rising to 84% among millennials and 85% among Gen Z.
Ensure accessibility to meet everyone’s potential
For too long, people were excluded from full access to education based on disabilities that were irrelevant to their potential. We’re determined to overcome that, one individual at a time. Our commitment is woven into our learning materials, development processes, innovation efforts, employee culture, and partnerships.
More specifically: We follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 guidelines and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for products copyrighted 2022 or later. We’ve established comprehensive accessibility standards for creating products that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. We’ve built a roadmap for addressing accessibility issues in our existing MyLab and Mastering courses, and we’re doing extensive audits to remove barriers elsewhere. Our teams participate in rigorous, ongoing accessibility training. As of this writing, we offer nearly 900 accessible eTextbooks, and we’re working with T-Base Communications to accelerate delivery of top-selling Pearson titles in braille and reflowed large print.
Finally, to make sure we truly understand what learners need, we work closely on an ongoing basis with key members of the disability and advocacy community, and with organizations such as W3C, DIAGRAM Center, DAISY Consortium, Benetech, and the National Federation of the Blind.
Get what your learners deserve
Delivering on these commitments to outcomes, equity, and accessibility requires extensive resources, skills, and commitment. Not all of the world’s courseware reflects these values. But we think today’s learners should expect no less – and neither should you.
Most of us teaching college today have encountered the drives and initiatives to create inclusive classrooms. The pandemic and debates over social justice have challenged many of us to examine and re-examine how and what we teach. Safety protocols, strong debates over the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education may have left many teachers feeling burned out with adjusting.
With the enormity of changes in education, we sometimes need to take a breath and think about small changes we can make to yield big results for student success. James Lang writes in Small Teaching; we should consider taking “an approach that seeks to spark positive change in higher education through small but powerful modifications to our course design and teaching practices.”
I needed to find descriptions of what an inclusive classroom looks like or explanations of some of the terms used in these initiatives. I discovered this from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Central Florida, “In an inclusive college classroom, the participants work together to create and maintain a climate of openness and respect that encourages individuals to share their perspectives and thought for the purposes of mutual understanding, growth, and development. Inclusive classrooms are welcoming, secure, diverse, and interactive. In an inclusive college classroom, instructors strive to be responsive to students as individuals with many intersectionalities, as well as cognizant of students’ uniqueness and value in relationship to the broader classroom culture.”
Intersectionality is the interconnection of social constructs such as race, class, and gender. And this construct applies to both individuals and groups. Intersectionality creates overlapping and interdependent systems that may foster discrimination and disadvantage, or conversely, may create privilege and entitlement.
How can we help our students develop attitudes that accept our differences and allow each individual room at our tables to be who they are, feeling comfortable, accepted, and welcomed? How do we address the almost infinite differences intersectionality creates with all the diverse opinions, ages, backgrounds, races, religious, sexual identities, gender identities and educational backgrounds, abilities and capabilities?
This just seemed absolutely daunting to me when I considered the vast and varied intersectionality presented in each of my students’ lives. However, after reading Lang’s Small teaching I felt more empowered to make changes in my teaching and course-room designs.
74% of women believe all types of bias and discrimination are still making it difficult to find new career opportunities, according to the findings in our Global Learner Survey. This International Women’s Day, we envision a world without bias, one that is inclusive and equal, where differences are celebrated. Drs Lourdes Norman McKay & Lisa Urry are educators, authors, and biologists working towards equality in their fields. Below they share their experiences as women in science and their hopes for the future.
What was it like for you in the early stages of your career as a woman in science?
Lourdes: I would say early on it was it was rather challenging. I wouldn't say it was academically difficult for me so much as it was an emotional challenge. I ended up constantly having to prove myself, over and over again, much more so than a lot of my male peers. It’s a recurring theme I hear from other women scientists, so it's nice that I wasn't alone, but it's also disappointing that that's still often the case for women in STEM.
Lisa: When I was in graduate school in the nineties, it was tough for women. I remember there was a class of graduate students a few years behind me – 30 students, eight of which were women - that came to me for help. They all occupied the same office and there were four men in particular that were harassing them badly during the entire year.
They felt like they should be able to handle it themselves, but they ended up coming to us and we publicly acknowledged this and let everybody know it was not OK. I followed up with those four women, and I think only one or two of them are still in biology. And those four guys are all still in biology.
There were a lot of subtle biases against women, and even now women's voices don't get heard as often.
Are you seeing the same challenges for young women entering STEM now?
Lourdes: A big thing that still is facing women in STEM is the career or family versus career and family, which is disappointing. So many women are having to make decisions between those things rather than being given the chance to blend them successfully.
I said to one of my young coworkers, you shouldn't apologize so much for being a mother. And it's not that she was really apologizing for being a mother but that was the situation she was struggling with emotionally. She didn't want to it come across as “dropping the ball” now that she had a child.
I remind young women in the workplace not to be so apologetic. It's OK that your child is sick, and it's OK if you get sick, and it's OK if you take a day off. We're human beings, and we should not have to feel that we have to do twice as much to prove ourselves.
Lisa: There still is a lot of bias and it's still something we have to be really careful about. And not only against women but transgender and non-gender binary people. 50% of the students don't identify as binary genders at my school, and it's really important to have all these voices at the table.
There’s a study by a group of women researchers who were studying birds and birdsong. They found something no one had ever found before – female birds have their own songs. Usually, these research teams have been all men, who had found the male bird song but hadn’t identified any female birds. None. And it just goes to show science is not objective, it's subjective. And I think it's important for the progress of biology that we include all people and have a wide variety of voices and viewpoints at the table. We need Black biologists, we need women biologists, we need people that are not as represented.
What are you hopeful for?
Lourdes: I'm hopeful for a time when your gender is not important at all to the career that you choose. And I would say this for men and women. You know, a lot of men want to go into nursing and it's a feminized area, just like teaching is, and there shouldn't be any sort of perception as to who is a nurse who is a teacher. And there should also definitely not be any perception as to who is a scientist.
I look forward to the day when a young woman who says she's a scientist isn't told, “Well, you don't look like a scientist.” To be accepted in the discipline she's pursuing. To avoid harassment and all the challenges that so many women in STEM report and have experienced, myself included. So, I want that for my daughter and for all the young women out there who pursue this career path. And I think hearing those voices from women encourages more women to speak out about how we want to see our workplaces change; how we want to see STEM change. And that's important because it changes the culture, and it can change behavior.
Lisa: I'm hopeful for institutions supporting women as they're starting their careers, making them feel included, wanted, and that their contributions are valued because they have unique contributions to make. And this includes trans people, LGBTQ+, disabled people, BIPOC, and groups of people that have been marginalized, pushed aside – not made to feel welcome in biology and other sciences. It's really important to value all biologists and not just the ones who are established white men.
Introducing The Pearson Race & Ethnicity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guidelines
In February of 2021, Pearson issued additional guidance to complement our Pearson Global Editorial Policy. These guidelines serve as a resource to help content developers—including authors, reviewers, and editors—create authentic representations of the diverse communities we serve, and challenge racial and other stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments. They will be used in the process of developing new educational content as well as the review of existing content across all Pearson products, including Career & Technical Education curriculum.
The Value of Diversity in Education
When students join the workforce, they will encounter a variety of individuals with a vast range of backgrounds and abilities. To be successful, they will need to have a mindset that accepts and adapts to people of different cultures, values, backgrounds, and experiences. Further, as the global economy accelerates, sound business decision-making requires a constant awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. As these students advance in their careers, a fair, harmonized workplace will increasingly become their responsibility.
Challenges Publishers Face When Addressing Bias in CTE Programs
As a publisher we are cognizant of several challenges to ensuring diverse and equitable representation in educational programs:
Underrepresentation - People of different identities should be represented in all program components and be portrayed as equal and active participants in education and workplace settings. We choose texts and imagery that enable as many students as possible to identify with the content and feel included in the learning process.
Negative Associations - We are reviewing existing content for unintentional or nuanced stereotypes. For example, does a construction content provide adequate inclusion of workers including women and people with physical disabilities? Another example would be equitable representation of different ethnic races in health sciences programs. When developing new content, an additional level of conscious inclusion should be added to the traditional development process.
Limited Positive Associations - We strive to present an authentic and diverse representation of people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes within instructional materials. CTE programs often include career profile features that provide an excellent opportunity to depict people of all cultures and abilities as role models or highlight their accomplishments. We commit to doing the additional research necessary to help break down stereotypes and show that career opportunities and leadership roles are not limited by race, gender, gender expression, ethnicity, or age, just to name a few, to help reinforce the understanding for today’s CTE students that people of different cultures are leaders and innovators.
Impact of Pearson Global Editorial Policy and Guidelines on our CTE Product Development Process
The CTE Editorial Team at Pearson uses the guide to focus on diversity principles including:
Ensuring all team members are aware of the potential for subtle or unconscious bias in developing student content and program outcomes.
Deliberately seeking reliable sources for diverse perspectives in all authoring and research done during the development process.
Representing people of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and abilities in all student materials as equal and active participants in the learning process.
Choosing imagery that reflects the diversity of the classroom.
Presenting people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes.
Providing teachers the tools they need to understand and adapt to any classroom, regardless of student makeup. For example, many of Pearson’s programs include Teacher’s Editions with lesson plans for Advanced, Less Advanced, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students.
Making a Difference in the CTE Community
Beyond the considerations taken in content development, there are a number of other practices CTE publishers, including Pearson, integrate into their daily business that can make a further difference:
Include diversity in all initiatives and interactions with student and teacher associations.
Leverage diverse practices in developing marketing programs and highlight diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation of CTE programs.
Pearson's role is to create learning products that encourage critical thinking and help people understand the world around them. We are committed to developing products and services that represent the authentic histories and experiences of learners. Pearson is committed to creating equity and opportunity for all through education (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, geographical location, religious beliefs, and disability). We are continuously working to ensure our CTE programs reflect this.
We teamed up with researchers from Nesta and the Oxford Martin School to understand the top skills that every student will need to flourish in their careers — learning strategies, psychology, instructing, social perceptiveness, and sociology and anthropology. See how leaders throughout history have best exemplified these skills while making an impact on our lives through their actions, ideals, and messages — whether we knew it or not.
Learning Strategies: Fred Rogers
On May 9, 1969, during an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers asked black police officer, Officer Clemmons, to cool his feet in his wading pool. At first, Clemmons declined, saying he didn’t have a towel, but Rogers offered his. This small act broke the color barrier that existed at the time as racial tensions were rising. By sharing both the water and the towel, the men exposed the bigotry of not allowing black people access to pools and other establishments.
In 2018, Clemmons said, “It was a definite call to social action on Fred’s part. That was his way of speaking about race relations in America.” This small act is just one example of the messages of love, kindness, and acceptance that Rogers taught children (and adults), while at the same time sending a much larger message to the public via media. 1
Psychology: Dr. Joyce Brothers
During the 1960’s, sexual satisfaction and menopause were considered taboo subjects for television and radio, but Dr. Joyce Brothers knew they were front and center in women’s minds. As a result, she started her television show, where she gave out psychological advice on relationships, family, sexuality, and self-empowerment, while also answering audience questions.
Brothers created the “The Brothers System,” which stresses that if a woman is self-loving and takes care of her own needs, then she will be able to better care for her husband and family. She also encouraged equal relationships that allow for wives to ask their husbands for what they need to be personally satisfied in a marriage. 2
Instructing: Anne Sullivan
When Anne Sullivan was only 20 years old, she helped Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, make associations between words and physical objects. Sullivan finger-spelled the word “water” on Keller’s hand as she ran water over her other hand. Keller made a major breakthrough, connecting the concept of sign language with the objects around her. With Sullivan’s help, Keller was able to learn almost 600 words, most of the multiplication tables, and how to read Braille in only a few months. 3
Social Perceptiveness: Nelson Mandela
During the 1950s Steve Bloom’s parents, who were anti-apartheid activists, knew Nelson Mandela. They told their son the story of the time Mandela saw a white woman stranded with her broken car in Johannesburg. He stopped and offered his help. After he was able to fix her car, she thanked him by offering a sixpence. He declined, saying he was just happy to help. She asked why a black man would help her if it wasn’t for the money. “Because you were stranded at the side of the road,” he replied. Mandela’s life as an anti-apartheid activist, politician and philanthropist was full of moments of kindness, humility, and courage like this one. 4
Sociology & Anthropology: Dr. Jane Goodall
While studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, Jane Goodall saw a large male chimpanzee take a twig, bend it, strip it of its leaves, stick it into the nest, and spoon termites into his mouth. This was the first time any creature, besides a human, was seen making and using a tool.
“It was hard for me to believe,” she recalls. “At that time, it was thought that humans, and only humans, used and made tools. I had been told from school onwards that the best definition of a human being was man the tool-maker — yet I had just watched a chimp tool-maker in action.”
As her work continued, Goodall found that chimpanzees (our nearest evolutionary cousins) also embraced, hugged, and kissed each other, as well as experienced adolescence, developed powerful mother-and-child bonds, and used political chicanery to get what they wanted. It is thanks to Goodall and her work that we now know the many similarities between humans and chimps and have much greater knowledge of chimpanzee behavior. 5
Diversity, communication, and other learnings that companies and higher education can take away from the World Cup.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament is taking place in Russia from June 14 – July 15 and England is bringing the most diverse team it has ever taken. England has players ranging in age from 19-32 and nearly half of its players are black or of mixed identity.
Bringing together 32 nations with players speaking more than 20 languages, the World Cup is celebrated for its diversity and multiculturalism. While billions of people will watch the matches to see who will be declared winner, there is something else that businesses, in particular, should pay close attention to — team diversity and culture.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes that a strong culture is implicit, pervasive, and enduring. Senior executives and HR professionals know this well. According to Deloitte Insights, 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. Creating a diverse workplace with a strong shared culture is hard to build, but the rewards are far-reaching.
Avid soccer fan Ikechukwu Odum says the World Cup is his favorite sporting event. Having traveled to Brazil for the 2014 matches, he said what he enjoys most is the competition, the talent, and learning about the players’ backgrounds. “The World Cup means so much for the players and for the countries, communities, and the people they represent. Every player brings different abilities and talents, but they come together and try their best to win.”
In this way, FIFA soccer teams resemble the modern-day workplace, where different groups of people must work together to outperform the competition and reach a shared goal.
Diversity not only brings different experiences and skills to a team, but it also drives team performance. England midfielder Dele Alli said, “We’re all confident in ourselves and the team we have. We have a young, very talented squad…we just have to play as well as we know we can.” The same spirit of teamwork and collaboration should be present in the workplace.
Shideh Almasi, Director of People at Feedvisor, an algorithmic commerce company, said, “Teams at work function quite similarly to sports teams. They need to be diverse, they need to be adaptable, and they need to work together. You, of course, need the technical skills, but it’s the skills like communication, leadership, resilience, and interpersonal skills that help teams push forward to reach their goals.”
And CEOs, much like head coaches, must embrace soft skills like empathy to help guide employees to achieve success. Former Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz was well-known for his inspirational and touching messages to employees, driving big wins for the global company.
German soccer coach Joachim Low has a similar success story. During the 2014 World Cup championship, he told player Mario Götze, “Show the world you are better than Messi and can decide the World Cup.” Götze went on to score the game-winning goal for Germany.
Talent is the prerequisite, but the interpersonal skill of communication is what set Germany apart from the competition. Soft skills for both players and coaches prove to be crucial, driving results and positive outcomes.
Reflecting on the victory, Götze said, “…We can be happy that we have so many great and skillful players and a real good mixture of young guys and experienced players.” While there is no gender diversity among the all male soccer teams, the different ages, languages, and backgrounds make teams stronger, more agile, and more competitive.
The referees who govern the game are not exempt from using strong communication to work through language barriers and cultural differences. The 36 referees and 63 assistant referees were picked based on their skills and personality. Prior to refereeing the games, they were required to attend workshops and seminars.
FIFA Director of Refereeing Massimo Busacca said, “…the referee has to prepare himself in the best possible way in all areas…Knowing the different football cultures will help him in his performances.” Similarly, companies like Pearson offer employees ongoing training to help them develop a global mindset and understand cultural differences.
“It’s not always pretty if the teams aren’t organized or if there’s not a shared philosophy,” Odum says. “But you hardly see bickering or egotism, because the players know they represent more than the game.” Companies that take time to build their culture with diverse teams and shared values have employees who work effectively with others toward the mission and vision of the organization.
Almasi adds, “There’s so much you can learn by working with people who share common goals and values, but who think differently and maybe even look differently than you.” Soccer teams competing in the World Cup understand this and use diversity to their advantage. Businesses tuning into the World Cup may do the same and prioritize investing in a more diverse workforce. That’s a winning strategy — on or off field.