Connections Made Around Equity and Engagement
Jennifer Pearce (PhD Student)
On Thursday March 1, 2012, international scholars Christine Sleeter (Professor Emerita, California State University Monterey Bay) and Rodney Hopson (Duquesne University) visited Western’s Faculty of Education to explore equity in education with faculty, students, and the community.
The morning began with a small working group of 12 members from the Thames Valley District School Board. Teachers, administrators, and support staff met with Hopson and Sleeter to discuss problems of practice that they had encountered surrounding equity in Thames Valley Schools.
Later that morning, over 60 people attended Hopson and Sleeter’s public talk, “Making Connections: Exploring Equity and Engagement in Education.” In her presentation, Sleeter shared stories of her research, such as her work with Maori children in the New Zealand education system. She described strategies to improve indigenous student achievement and reduce dropout rates, and she emphasized the need for maintaining strong university and community partnerships.
Hopson shared his research surrounding The Hazelwood Partnership, a relationship between the students of Duquesne University and members of a poverty-stricken community in Pittsburgh. Hopson noted the need to consider not only how we teach disadvantaged youth but also the respectful ways by which educations need to enter and leave the communities where they teach. The audience had a number of interesting and challenging questions, particularly related to importance of teacher activism and the need to recognize the complexity and multiplicity of indigenous student identities.
After lunch, some of the participants from the morning session gathered together to reflect further on what they had heard throughout the day. Challenges unique to the London and Ontario context were discussed, including how to increase student, teacher, and administrator engagement in equity issues, as well as how to improve the connection between schools, universities, and local communities. A significant portion of the conversation centred on practical ways to establish and support relationships between local school boards and First Nation communities. The group agreed to stay connected after the day in order to follow up on the issues discussed.