Benefits of including equity data in teachers’ professional development

Teachers’ participation in a data-driven professional development model aimed at building more equitable classrooms increased their likelihood of discussing race, gender and other social markers, according to the recent UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools brief, “Using Equity Data from Classrooms to Support Teacher Learning for Racial Equity.”

Educators play a critical role in supporting racial equity within educational systems, but teachers, particularly white teachers, are rarely given a chance to learn how to teach for racial equity, the brief states.

“One way that racial inequity persists at the classroom level is through teachers’ in-the-moment decision making about how to fairly distribute opportunities to participate in the learning process. This matters because when students participate, they are more engaged; and when they are more engaged in the learning process, they are more likely to learn and show progress on high-stakes performance indicators like standardized tests,” the brief explains. “In short, when racially minoritized students have access to learning opportunities and quality instruction, we can predict higher engagement and fewer discipline issues.”

With support, teachers can become more comfortable confronting the topic of racial inequity and learn to teach for racial equity instead of trying to avoid the subject of race altogether.

The brief describes findings from a study involving five veteran math teachers (four of whom identify as white women and one white male) who took part in an intensive professional development experience that consisted of four EQUIP cycles over the course of an academic year. The cycles included observation, reflection and action planning stages. Participating educators were all interested in improving their teaching but had never participated in professional development that centered on equity in teaching before.

EQUIP, which stands for Equity Quantified In Participation, is “a customizable observation tool for tracking patterns in student participation with the goal to empower teachers in building more equitable classrooms. EQUIP can be used in real time or with videos of classroom teaching. After completing an observation, EQUIP generates instant analytics that teachers can use to improve their practice,” according to its website. The web app is free to use.

Following a cycle, UCLA researchers would meet with the educators to make sense of the data, which was disaggregated by social markers, and plan how they would adapt their teaching practices. The brief is based on group discussions that happened at the meetings.

Among the study’s findings was that “teachers were more likely to engage in social marker talk when engaging with EQUIP data, as opposed to only watching and discussing video of lessons they had taught,” the brief states. “This is significant because if teachers are not comfortable with naming how race matters in their classrooms, they will be unlikely to change how they teach to address racial inequity.”

The study also found that teachers talked about race more following the first EQUIP cycle.

Researchers presented two recommendations for policymakers and school site leaders for establishing racial equity-focused professional development for educators, including:

  • Supporting long-term teacher professional development as opposed to short-term.
  • Designing and implementing professional development that is explicit about social markers such as race instead of being generic about equity.