Open pedagogy is an asset or asset-based pedagogy, as are culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy (and applied in a global health crisis). (These last two links will download documents from Columbia School of Social Work.) Asset pedagogies focus on strengths of our students and their communities, rather than deficits.
After reading the information at the links above, write a reflection in response to the following questions:
- What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy into your course?
- In what other ways might you apply asset pedagogies in your teaching and your students’ learning?
- How do culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy complement or relate to open pedagogy?
You are encouraged to share your responses to the reflection questions in the comments below so that your colleagues may learn from you and you may learn from your colleagues.
Bonus listen: For more information on trauma-informed pedagogy, Tea for Teaching has a helpful interview (48 mins) with Karen Costa, an educator who’s been working in this area for several years.
Note: Your name, but not your email, will appear with your comment. Feel free to use only a first name or a pseudonym if you prefer. You may also want to include your college after your name so that colleagues looking for compatriots can connect with you. The first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation.
19 thoughts on “Asset Pedagogies”
Students that I teach have many life experiences that they connect the theory if the coursework to. We discuss microaggressions, institutional racism, inequalities within the communities of undeserved populations. They can relate, they share the pain. I encourage a safe environment to allow a process of the experiences.
I also ensure that they always create a realistic resolution plan of action. I don’t want them to feel defeated or hopeless. We build a community that creates an ideology of survival and strength. We become the resolution instead of the victim.
Open Pedagogy is getting students not to just be recipients of OER but having them contribute to it through openly licensing their work. My teaching philosophy has always consisted of creating opportunities for students to actively learn (individually or collaboratively, with or without technology), doing mathematics, and not exclusively being the receiver of information being taught. Implementing Open Pedagogy will enhance the student experience in my courses in that they will be able to see themselves as contributing to the mathematics community and not just taking a course to earn their degree.
Actually, I’m very interested in hearing more about the concept of culturally sustaining pedagogy, especially when it comes to language. I’m very curious as to how that would work. In terms of trauma-informed pedagogy, vis-à-vis the pandemic, I endeavored to be as empathic, flexible and supportive as possible. For starters, many students were anxious and distressed about having to transition to remote learning; I tried to make the transition as fluid and easy as possible. I was in constant contact with my students, as a class and individually, even following up when I’d learned a parent had been ill, or someone had been feeling overwhelmed. I generally, when I teach, try to insert humor wherever possible and appropriate. It’s important for me to show appreciation of the diverse cultural identities of my students. Going forward, I intend to incorporate even more culturally supportive lessons. I see a relationship between open pedagogy and culturally sustaining and trauma-informed pedagogy in that all look to enhance learning by putting the focus on the students themselves.
Last year, I started printing a content warning notice on the first page of my syllabus. I used to be incredibly resistant to content warnings, but I learned recognize that providing such warnings recognizes that students have different backgrounds and different ways of responding to trauma. I also started collaborating with my students in creating classroom discussion guidelines.
I am thinking of using labor-based grading contracts (informed by Asao Inoue) to move away from evaluating student writing according to Standard American English. I also hope to co-design assignments with students so they can participate in the learning process, assess themselves, and highlight their (unique) assets.
Asset-based, culturally sensitive, and trauma-informed pedagogies honor pluralities, highlight collaboration, approach students as active agents, and support student self-determination. They disrupt hierarchies and decenter authority (of White patriarchal knowledges/perspectives and the instructor).As such, these pedagogies align with open pedagogy.
1. I use culturally sustaining pedagogy by involving veterans or members of the armed forces in defining the military terms in Literature of the Vietnam War. I also engage students in discussion of the components of the PTSD suffered by many of the characters we encounter.
2. In my general education classes, I could encourage students to connect the skills and knowledge gained through their majors at this criminal justice-themed institution to the literature we read; the most popular major at our college is criminology, and many criminal justice students feel resentful that they have to take any classes in the arts and sciences. I could put students in groups based on their majors and ask what insights they could provide based on their knowledge of their chosen field of study.
3. Culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy related to Open Pedagogy in that they remind educators to provide learners with opportunities to use knowledge and skills they already have in pursuing real-world research.
I really like the way the podcast emphasized empathy, which has always been at the center of my approach to students. I don’t approach them from an authoritarian perspective, which I have seen too many of colleagues adopt. If a student has a medical issue, I don’t demand a doctor’s note or a note from a funeral home if a loved one has died. This feels like criminalization to me, a continuation of the school to prison pipeline treatment so many encountered in high school. (I certainly never had a professor refuse to believe me at the elite college I attended.) I am also flexible about due dates, and almost none of my students take advantage of this flexibility. In fact, they tend to open up more, express their gratitude for the extra time, and do a much better job on the assignment. I hate hearing about the 11:59 cut off that turns student’s work into a zero at 12:01. Where’s the learning in that?
I love the concept of culturally sustaining pedagogy. In fact, I tried to access the book at the library, only to find it’s not available as an e-book in the CUNY system. I try to follow many of the practices outlined in the discussion with the authors, particularly historicizing content and encouraging student and community input. I would like, however, to do this in a much more mindful way, and to invite the students to become part of the effort.
Culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy relate to open pedagogy because they seek to open up pedagogy to the experiences of people often marginalized and excluded in education. This openness invites such a wonderful range of possibilities. It’s exciting.
Hi, Anne. I am moved by your comments here. I also try to avoid policing dimensions of teaching and attendance but it is a much bigger question about how we teach our students within a space of empathy but also empowerment. I would like to talk to you more about work we could do together WITH our students as collaborators.
I found “The trauma-informed teaching and learning online: Principles & practice during a global health crisis” document to be very helpful and insightful. During spring semester I tried to incorporate trauma-informed pedagogy into my course by creating clear class routines, balancing course content with the challenges of health crisis, regularly checking on students and providing some space for time-off.
According to the article, an asset-based approach to education is really a key to equity in teaching – which is also one of the main factors in open pedagogy. One way to incorporate asset-based approach is by focusing on students’ strengths (and for example, grading that is based on adding rather than deducting points).
After reading the information at the links above, write a reflection in response to the following questions:
What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy into your course?
In my literature classes (mainly about Medieval, Early Modern Spanish Literature and Culture), the cohort of students is always overwhelmingly composed of Hispanic Heritage Speakers.. While their personal situation/immigration status is in flux, most of them are well aware of the difficulty and contradictions raised by negotiating their linguistic and cultural heritage. For that reason, I use Medieval Spain’s hybrid culture to talk about contemporary cultural hybridity that pervades NYC, or the Bronx, most locally. Other ways I make classes culturally relevant is by addressing some of the topics that permeate the textual tradition before c.1700: Spanish IMperialism, political power thorough plundering, racial discrimination or the need to fit in by erasing your own cultural identity and so (as evinced by covert jews in late 15th century in Spain). Other aspects I touched upon are: male desire, violence towards women (medieval works are not shy on representing rape, women’s mistreatment or the violence towards independent women) and violence towards minorities (especially as seen in 17th century works that deal with Spaniards having been expelled because not being “Spanish enough”). All of this, resonates powerfully with the class.
In what other ways might you apply asset pedagogies in your teaching and your students’ learning?
In Spanish Language classes, I always do a survey on sociolinguistic context of the students, using their incredible rich tapestry of multilingualism to my advantage (many students do not have English as native language). In Spanish Language classes for Heritage Speakers, I use their competence of colloquial Spanish to build other registers. Taking it as an asset rather than dismissing it. Also, in literature classes, I use their own experience with Spanglish to talk about the linguistic hybridity of texts (some of them mix colloquial Castilian with Learned Arabic, for example)
How do culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy complement or relate to open pedagogy?
It both complements and relates since open pedagogy places learners in the center of the act of learning. A crucial point is to use learner’s experiences as a springboard to enrich the discussion and make connections.
Cultural sustaining and trauma-informed pedagogy consider students’ needs, predisposition, and experiences, which I believe is also the aim of open pedagogy. When students are supported in this way, they become more intent on learning, and learning becomes less of a challenge and more meaningful to them. As asset pedagogy, these instructional practices seek to empower students by removing barriers to their success.
I have many students, who already work in health care. I have found that they have rich experiences to share. I welcome comments and encourage students to provide work experiences that, in some way relate to the material we are discussing. During the first face to face class, I always indicate that the course is a journey, we are taking together and that I hope to act as a facilitator along the way. Clearly this kind of interaction will be harder to have in an online experience. I will have to think about how to intentionally design this experience into an online format.
I enjoyed listening to the podcast Trauma-informed Pedagogy. I had made a decision to have all of my classes at Lehman be asynchronous. My reasoning comes from my knowledge of the student population. I know many of my students will be single parents and front line workers. With this is mind, I thought it would be unreasonable to expect a student to show up at a particular time every week. Given the current circumstances, I figured it would only produce more stress, in this incredibly stressful environment. My plan is to offer virtual office hours, through Zoom, so I can check in on each students. In terms of assignments, I have always tended to be very flexible. I know that there were always some students who took advantage of this. But, that said most students don’t take advantage and will provide reasons for submitting work late. I think that I feel that I need to keep being flexible during these times, especially. I am sure that I will hope for students being understanding of my short comings, as this is the first time I will be teaching online.
I teach a curriculum and pedagogy course for future secondary Social Studies Teachers. This is one school subject that must practice democratic pedagogy to be true to its goals and objectives. To model such a goal, every assignment is preceded by two or three drafts, that speaks to the “trauma informed pedagogy”. My formative comments appear on a single column rubric that contains the objectives. On this rubric I add a column on the left and column on the right. On one column I discuss what in the submission enhanced each of the objectives, and on the other, column I make suggestions as to revisions, to address the objectives more effectively. These drafts are low-key, and gives me a chance to highlight strengths and not only weaknesses.
One of my assignments is based on the theory of Place Based Education . Students choose a community location, research its history , and present status and create a teacher guide for a field trip to that place for students. I encourage them to choose a culturally relevant place, one that speaks to their culture.
In the not too distant past, American education was engaged in defining the nation as a “melting pot” – everyone was to be an American (it was not clearly defined what that was ). Presently, the metaphor has changed to “the salad bowl”, in which the variety of color in the bowl made the salad richer. This is a definite improvement. I tend to like the metaphor the Canadians use – that of a “mosaic”. If any part of the mosaic ir removed the picture is flawed.
Pedagogy must ensure that no part of the mosaic is ignored, downgraded, or not fully made vibrant.
In my classes there is always a space for talking about ourselves, how do we feel, what do we need, what do we think about the future. Some students are willingly open to talk about this, some other prefer just to listen. Whatever they choose, from the beginning of the semester I let them know that my class is a safe space to share and respect the self and others. This technique has been useful to build a honest group and horizontal relationships, where all of us learn and teach each other.
I could apply asset pedagogies in the designing of final projects, invite them to think what could show the best way what they learned and how this project could have an impact in their future professional formation.
Both culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy put the student in the center of the process of learning and teaching.
As I read through the links and the framework that encapsulates culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy, the prepared rubrics for various assignments came to mind.
How limiting, exclusive and anxiety-prone for students? A few criteria pop out
– Low contributor or high participator and the point value attributed to their contribution that often ignores or minimizes how students occupy that space of learning.
-Credit given only if students make connections to the required materials, readings and discounting for example, their family narratives.
I find it more beneficial and engaging to the student and to me as an educator to focus less on checking off the boxes of a rubric, and clarify course expectations that invite students to share what they know, contrasted with what we are learning and collectively broaden our understanding. It is also useful to recognize students’ efforts when they demonstrate compassion, empathy and understanding. Our students hold so much in! I have found that when one student articulates some difficulty they are experiencing and another student acknowledges that response, the sharing that occurs enhances the discussion rather than serve as distraction.
I once gave an assignment that offered a different take on the self-evaluation- it did not focus on a specific assignment and how a student felt they accomplished the task, rather it asked the student to reflect on “How would you describe yourself?”
One student wrote this about how they move through the world: “I am hateful, can be mean, impatient and short but I am also kind and helpful”
Imagine the contradictions and what this insight about the student brings to the learning dynamic of the classroom. Let’s think about what this can teach us as educator, what it can teach me!
An illuminating question that adds value when planning coursework is repeatedly asking – Who are you and what are your individual strengths? Does our learning community comprise primarily of the classroom?
I applaud the ideas expressed on how to make learning less of a punitive experiment, moves away from denying students’ visibility and employing approaches that examine how students feel, what they know and what do they need from me. This year school administrators have offered a rallying cry, asked educators to be more compassionate with our students; the links reiterate that we should not wait for a pandemic to amplify the need for culturally-sustaining/trauma-informed pedagogy.
After reviewing the two charts from Columbia, I feel that I am on the right track in terms of creating a respectful and safe place for my learners. I really liked each category and reading the examples made me feel good because I’m doing at least one of the examples from each category. For example, I start synchronous sessions off with a check-in in breakout groups. I offer students flexibility when handing in assignments, because most of them are unemployed, looking for jobs as teachers, and are very stressed about this. I offered to review their resumes and cover letters, and many of them took advantage of this. One thing I would like to do next semester is involve students more in the creation of the syllabus.
Even before the pandemic I was always understanding of students situations. As a result I accepted their excuses for late assignment submission or absences, without demanding other documentation to support their excuses. This created an atmosphere of trust where students confided in me and requested my opinion on various issues. During the pandemic, I called each student to find out how they were managing. As instructors we must have empathy for our students and allow them to see that we care about them. I am always checking up on them because I care and I believe it is the right thing to do.
In the pluralistic society in which we live it is important to use culturally sustaining pedagogy in our classes. In my Children’s Literature class students are required to share a story from their culture. The content is then used to discuss differences in cultures and explain certain cultural behaviors. The aim is to create an atmosphere that is respectful to all and sustain rather than try to eradicate or ignore cultural differences. This also incorporates asset-based pedagogy because it allows me to identify and focus on students’ strength and provide equal opportunity for students to educate their peers about their culture. Therefore, we are able to reduce bias in the classroom and celebrate differences.
Culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma informed pedagogy complement open pedagogy because they include the education of all students and respect for diversity. They emphasize the importance of providing educational opportunities to all students, allowing students to use their skills and knowledge effectively, and understanding the challenges they are facing.
I think culturally sustaining pedagogy matches open pedagogy practices in that both recognize the importance of individual strengths different people bring to learning and both contains that regenerative component of knowledge building.
Pat Haggler, Medgar Evers College
We view the recorded histories and discuss the the tactics and forms of protests during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Then, we view and discuss the tactics and forms of protests that are taking place presently. As we compare those two time periods, students write, pointing out the forms of protests that have sustained themselves over decades and how new forms of protests have been added generationally. Students have the option to offer new forms of protests in their writings, as well. In terms of trauma-informed pedagogy, there are always complete instructions for assignments, I answer e-mail in less than 24 hours, and I discuss situations with students and make exceptions based on the situation. In class discussions, I enforce the “I” statement rule. Each student has different experiences, etc. so I have students start their statements with this has been my experience so as not to alienate another student who has had a different experience. Finally, I would say that most of the items in trauma-informed pedagogy are based on the fundamental principle of treating people the way you want to be treated.
In all the qualitative methods courses I have taught, I focus at least two weeks on participatory methods. These methodologies are close to open pedagogy and asset pedagogy because a subject-subject relationship is established as the basis of the research. The academic and the research subjects are in the same position, allowing a mutual production of knowledge. There is no expert interpretation of meanings, but a shared construction. Most of the research I have done is related to social inequalities, subjects at risk, or vulnerability. This approach allows us to explore new and more accurate meanings of the constructions of social reality and promote the agency and empowerment process. As a sociologist, my aim is not only to understand social reality but also to change it, fighting against inequality from the social sciences. I always try to pass this aim on to my students.