3.2 Presentation Outline

In this outline, Open Education Instructional Designer Veronica Vold summarizes key themes and claims from the keynote presentation. It is intended to orient future participants to the presentation video recording on the next page and to capture the speaker’s major questions for the open education community in Oregon.

Outline for Designing for Equity: Moving Beyond Inclusion 101

Part 1: What is Education?

Jess begins the presentation by discussing three questions:

  1. What does it mean to design education?
  2. What makes up education?
  3. Who makes the design decisions?

Jess makes three key claims to help to define education as an “an activity that is situated in a complex place and time”:

    • Spatial design determines conditions for learning
      • Florence Nightengale, the founder of modern nursing and hospital design, recognized that indoor ventilation was a significant factor in patient recovery
      • Increasing the ventilation rate in schools can raise children’s scores on tests and speed at tasks, and reduce absences
    • Form (content and educational technology) codifies conditions for learning
      • The syllabus sets group agreement, rules, mores, rubrics, and marching orders. Jess asks: are multiple means of student expression and time flexibility built in?
      • Zoom access and layout in the LMS interface determine expectations for interaction and engagement. Jess asks: do instructors and students have choices about the platforms they use to communicate?
      • Jess points out that educators must ask a question when designing education: Who benefits and who do not?
    • Use of power determines conditions for learning
      • Teaching and learning are relational activities.
      • Designing interactions can make some people feel brave and some people feel disempowered.
      • “Wherever we have people, we have power. What we do with that power is what matters.” What do we do with power as educators? What do we tolerate?

Part 2: Backpacks and the EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

In the second part of the presentation, Jess uses the metaphor of a backpack to explain that people carry complex ancestors’ experiences, personal histories, and personal preferences and needs into the room with them.

  • Jess asks, “At what point pedagogically do we see eachother? At what point do we see what is in the backpack of others?”
  • Jess explains that all of us “contort ourselves to fit into the circles in education” and yet when are there open conversations about racial and disability-related differences between instructors and students?
  • Jess points to BC Campus’s Guiding Questions: Creating Equitable OER with Intention [Google Doc] in order to challenge participants to move away from the “tactical” approach to education and instead “step directly toward the EQ [Emotional Intelligence] in education”
    • tactical approach = noticing how your own positionality influences how you create content
    • EQ approach = noticing how you interact and relate with others

Part 3: DEI Boxes

In the third part of the presentation, Jess notes that DEI concepts are often discussed but not put into practice. Jess shares a comic strip frequently used to illustrate the differences between equality and equity: people of different heights trying to watch a baseball game through a fence. Jess is interested in focusing on who stacks the boxes that allow for all people to watch the game. Jess uses the metaphor of boxes as opportunities to become successful and receive future opportunities.

  • Educational systems assume that boxes stack up: assessments allow for demonstration of learning, which yields high grades, which will allow us access to more opportunities to demonstrate and then achieve even more. Ultimately, more boxes lead to exclusive experiences and rewards.
  • “Success begets success” applies to students as well as instructors
  • And yet the boxes aren’t evenly stacked, as the following uncontrolled factors determine how many boxes you get:
    • zip code
    • total family income
    • native speakers
    • ACEs score
    • food/clothing/home
  • There is no one best way to determine educational assessment because “not everyone is on the same track, let alone the same starting line”
  • Assuming sameness robs people of their backpacks

Part 4: How do we enact equity?

In the final part of the presentation, Jess notes that reconciling educational policies with individual realities is a big problem. Jess believes that educators can tolerate broken systems as long as they can introduce exceptions for individual students, disrupt common practices when they can, and make individual choices for specific situations.

  • Jess argues that enacting equity requires individual choice, not legislation or or mandate or policy alone
    • educators can use the power they have to humanize education and deepen their relationships with students
  • Jess advocates for an individual stance of being curious and questioning and always wondering how we’re getting it wrong
    • Ex: Content moderation on Twitter historically has relied on “an expansive, interrelated and cross company system of people, policy and practices”
    • Jess argues that “a holistic approach plus a deeply relational, humanizing of education would get us somewhere”
  • Educators must be honest about not knowing how to empower students and the limitations of scale
    • Ex: “Go to the writing center” is an insufficient direction for international students who need language support
    • Creating a community of practice is one possible step forward

Licenses and Attributions

“Outline for Designing for Equity: Moving Beyond Inclusion 101” is adapted by Veronica Vold from “Designing for Equity: Moving Beyond Inclusion 101” by Jess Mitchell and is licensed CC BY.


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Designing for Justice: An Open Education Speaker Series Copyright © by Veronica Vold is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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