Course Redesign: An Inclusive Approach to Economics

Abstract

Economics courses are very challenging in general. The students who finish the course are usually the most prepared. Minorities usually drop out of the class when they face such challenges. The purpose of this project is to diminish such issues with a more inclusive approach. This study utilizes del Carmen Salazar, Norton, & Tuitt (2009) practices for inclusive excellence. The main research question: What kind of inclusive excellence practices can I apply in Economics courses in order to diminish the challenges above? The endarkened feminist epistemology approach highlights good insights of how to implement good practices in area of study.

Introduction

I became an instructor at Front Range Community College in 2010 and, since then, I’ve faced several challenges. One of those challenges comes from a specific course I‘ve been teaching over the last few years- The Economics of Social Issues and Policy. The course name defines its complexity – the economics of social issues, especially in America. The social issues addressed in this class include race, discrimination, gender, poverty, and many others. It’s been a challenge to teach a course with such topics in a community college where the majority of the students are white and minorities represented in the class feel awkward when these issues are discussed. Challenges addressed in the course are not limited to race and ethnicity; they also encompass other high stakes categories, such as gender, class, sexual orientation, and disability (Levine,1996).

Given the aforementioned reasons, the purpose of this project is to develop a more inclusive course according to Chang (2005) through redesigning the Economics of Social Issues and Policy (i.e. ECO101) course in order to diminish such challenges, prepare students for an increasing diverse world, develop their cultural competencies, and also equally important maintain retention of the minorities in the classroom.

Research Questions

  • What kind of inclusive excellence practices can I apply in economics courses in order to diminish the underrepresentation of minorities in the classroom setting?
  • What methodologies can I apply to reach such goals?

 

Materials & Methods

Approach

  • After reading the materials from the CSU Faculty Excellence Initiative, the study was based on the work of Del Carmen Salazar, Norton, & Tuitt (2009) using their practices for inclusive excellence with five main purposes:
  • Intrapersonal Awareness practices
  • Interpersonal Awareness practices
  • Curricular transformation
  • Inclusive pedagogy
  • Inclusive learning environment

Methods

  • For each purpose based on the works of Del Carmen Salazar, Norton, & Tuitt (2009), a matrix of five possible practices was developed to be tested the next time this course is taught.

method

Results

Intrapersonal Awareness Practices

  • Most readings were based on Bostic and Manning (2015), Hurtado (2003), Martin (2014), Okpalaoka and Dillar (2011), and Wright (2003) using the endarkened feminist epistemology approach.
  • Key ideas from the readings to help me think about inclusiveness:
  • Theory should come from the collective experience of the oppressed; multiple ways of knowing such as poetry, biography, visual representations, etc; holistic understanding of human beings at all levels; social identity in the learning process (Hurtado, 2003)
  • Feminist epistemology (feminist ways of knowing); the concept of identity in the learning process (Wright, 2003)
  • The importance of naming, telling healing stories, listening and connecting to spirit, and relating within and beyond the cultural community (Okpalaoka and Dillard, 2011)
  • Autoethnographies; interviews; journals; critical self-reflection (Martin, 2014)

Interpersonal Awareness Practices

  • The process of the syllabus redesigning is not finished yet. One of the results was to include on the first day of class the co-creation of course expectations and classroom norms so that everyone can have a voice to say what they consider important for classroom and course management (Hurtado, 2003)

Interpersonal Awareness Practices

I thought for this purpose to think about something that students could work in groups developing their identity and at the same time study each other’s cultural community (Wright, 2003; Hurtado, 2003; Okpalaoka and Dillard, 2011).

The assignment developed is in group of two or three. It’s about Gross Domestic Product – GDP (a key concept in economics) and cultural identity. They have each student think about his cultural heritage and where most of his family comes from in terms of a country up to three generations back. The purpose is to choose one of the countries your family comes from for the assignment. Once you choose the country, then: 1) Introduce your family background, 2) Justify the choice of the country, 3) Compare its GDP to the US GDP using the Gapminder website (gapminder.org). Choose on the Y axis the total GDP (PPP$, inflation-adjusted) and on the X axis the time variable (more details on how to use the link in a different file) and show your results 4) Discuss the cultural differences from the country of your family heritage and the US and how that impacts their GDPs and then discuss your results with the ones of your peers in the group  5) How the results prove the theories we ‘ve studied in the course? If not, what is different from the theories?

results2

Inclusive Pedagogy

I have developed a journaling assignment with an economic topic: the choice of their own (a chapter from the textbook)

The assignment is made of five parts: 1) Naming the student’s reality with a well-articulated thesis statement. 2) Telling their own story related to the economic topic of their choice with evidence of introspection into own life. 3) How your reality and the economic concept connect with each other and your soul/whole being with critically discussed arguments. 4) How they compare their reality to what the textbook says about the topic , and 5) How you differ your reality with others around your community experience.

results 1

Inclusive learning environment

This class is usually a small class with a low number of students so that it is easier to schedule a meeting with each student individually outside of class time. This time will be graded as an incentive for students to come see me.

Discussion

Economics courses are very challenging in general. The students who finish the course are usually the most prepared. Minorities usually drop out of the class when they face such challenges. The purpose of this project is to diminish such issues with a more inclusive approach. This study utilizes del Carmen Salazar, Norton, & Tuitt (2009) practices for inclusive excellence. The main research question: What kind of inclusive excellence practices can I apply in Economics courses in order to diminish the challenges above? The endarkened feminist epistemology approach highlights good insights of how to implement good practices in area of study.

References
Bostic, P., & Manning, K. (2015). Learning to (re) member the things we’ve learned to forget: endarkened feminisms, spirituality, & the sacred nature of research & teaching. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education,28(1), 131-136.
Chang, Mitchell J.(2005). Reconsidering the Diversity Rationale. Liberal Education Journal: Washignton DC.
Del Carmen Salazar, M., Norton, A. S., & Tuitt, F. A.(2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. To improve the academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development140, 208.
Hurtado, A. (2003). Theory in the flesh: Toward an endarkened epistemology.International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education16(2), 215-225.
Levine, L. W. (1996). The opening of the American mind. Boston: Beacon Press.
Martin, M. (2014). A witness of whiteness: An autoethnographic examination of a white teacher’s own inherent prejudice. Education as Change18(2), 237-254
Okpalaoka, C. L., & Dillard, C. B. (2011). Our healing is next to the wound: Endarkened feminisms, spirituality, and wisdom for teaching, learning, and research. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education2011(131), 65-74.
Wright, H. K. (2003). An endarkened feminist epistemology? Identity, difference and the politics of representation in educational research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education16(2), 197-214.

 

Paulo Roberto Borges de Brito (PauloBritoPoster)