Active Teaching Lab Recap: Build equity and belonging into your course

Wed May 5, 2021


The May 5, 2021 Active Teaching Lab focused on ways instructors are implementing structures to promote a welcoming and antiracist learning environment.


  1. Get comfortable with discomfort: Improvement can feel overwhelming. Effective physical workouts, good learning exercises — these are difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable, but they’re important to do. (See also: Purposeful Action – Wisconsin Experience).
  2. Enlist a friend; journey together: Because it can feel overwhelming, it will help to find someone else who is struggling with the same problem to work with (this is a good teaching practice, but we often forget to use it ourselves!)
  3. Be Aware: We cannot address what we don’t notice. We tend to prefer things 
    • Acknowledge Structural Racism: “You can be someone who has no intention to be racist, but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-Black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas.” — Ibram X. Kendi. See American society teaches everyone to be racist – but you can rewrite subconscious stereotypes
    • Unpack White Supremacy Culture: With an open mind, read and reflect on the provocative white supremacy culture essay by Tema Okun (from dR workBook). Notice and set aside any feelings of defensiveness that the language triggers, and try to focus on the concepts as they are explained.
    • Research: Rather than asking POC who are friends and colleagues to do the work of teaching you and explaining what to do, dig in with your own research. It may feel overwhelming, it may not be efficient, but there’s just too much work. We’re all smart enough to do much of this journey ourselves. See Dear White People: Reimagining Whiteness In the Struggle for Racial Equity.
  4. Do Something: Being non-racist (trying to avoid racist behavior) is a start, but it’s not enough. Instead, be anti-racist and employ strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter racism, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on race. (from Anti-Racism – Anti-Oppression)
  5. Systematize/Normalize Inclusive Practices: Individual efforts here and there cannot overcome institutional norms and practices. Instead, bake inclusive and anti-racist practices into your everyday course routines.
  6. Use Liberatory Design Thinking to structure projects: Letting students use an equity-based framework to design and guide projects offloads crucial, critical thinking so they don’t miss it, but it also normalizes and reinforces the value of equitable design (in any discipline). See Design for Equity in Higher Education – Pullias Center.

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.