Skip to main content
  • 1
    An invitation
  • 2
    How we think about disrupting inequity through teacher education
  • 3
    Select examples
An invitation

Because racism and inequity are normative in our society, disrupting them in the teacher education classroom does not happen automatically. Just as teachers must learn to actively disrupt inequity because teaching is not neutral, teacher educators must learn to actively disrupt inequity because teacher education is not neutral. 

To support teacher educators in this work, we design materials and activities to make issues of justice very explicit, highlighting the ways in which particular teacher education activities can help novice teachers to notice and name problematic dynamics and try intervening or practicing differently. These resources offer ways to raise teacher candidates’ awareness of the genesis, impetus, and prevalence of inequities that exist in schools and how, if unchecked, they are replicated through teaching practice. 

We invite you to use the materials in the TeachingWorks resource library as a source of inspiration, to spark the imagination of what is possible in teacher education in service of advancing justice in our nation’s classrooms. In these activities, we make explicit the connections between content knowledge, teaching practice, and the advancement of equity in teacher preparation. We see these materials as unfinished and imperfect, but offer them as a starting point to be adapted to other courses and contexts, and to be iterated on and made better.

This resource is not a prescription, but an invitation to a community of committed teacher educators, who can work together to intervene on patterns of inequity within teaching. We hope this site will provide us with a platform to engage in this work together.

How we think about disrupting inequity through teacher education

At TeachingWorks, we understand disparities in educational outcomes to be the result of structural inequity. Differential access to educational opportunities is rooted in legacies of racism, sexism, ableism, and other discriminatory ideologies. These legacies contribute to broader social inequities in ways that directly impact education. In addition, the biases associated with these harmful ideologies are inscribed into our nation’s schools, structuring them in ways that maintain the social advantages of some while reproducing the social disadvantage of others. Not only are these biases reflected in the structure of schools, they also inform normalized ways of being for those who operate within them. 

While we recognize structural inequity to be the cause of many educational disparities, we believe that it is primarily through interpersonal interaction that these structures make contact with the lives of students. We believe that teachers and other educators can intervene on inequity by (1) recognizing how their own patterns of interaction are complicit in its reproduction and (2) exercising their agency to engage in new patterns that interrupt the reproduction of inequity. Our approach is to support teacher educators to help novice teachers develop this orientation towards teaching, and the repertoires of practice that enable them to enact it. 

For teacher educators, an important foundational step is noticing features of many novice teachers’ experiences that can limit the ways in which they understand inequity. First, novice teachers, who tend to be predominantly White, need support in learning to notice and name systemic injustice and the ways in which it shows up in their classrooms. Second, novice teachers were often themselves “successful” in school and enter the profession inclined to replicate the teaching they received as students (Lortie, 1975; Ball, 2018). However, the kinds of teaching they received are unlikely to disrupt inequity as they reflect the normalized ways of being that reproduce it.  

We cannot expect novice — or even experienced — teachers to learn new ways of practicing on their own. Teacher educators can support novice teachers to recognize and address the implicit biases they hold; come to terms with their own racial identities, including White Fragility (DiAngelo, 2018); and learn to see and use the resources that children and communities bring to school (Moll, et al.l, 2005; Yosso, 2005). And teacher educators can support novice teachers to develop practices that enable them to teach in culturally responsive and sustaining (Ladson-Billings, 2005; Paris, 2012) ways.

Teacher educators can help novice teachers learn to disrupt inequity by helping them to understand that there are no neutral moves in teaching. Given the structural nature of inequity, each move works in support of or in opposition to its reproduction. Teacher educators can name the ways in which teaching practices can either reproduce or interrupt inequity, raising novice teachers’ awareness of the implications of their choices. Teacher educators can create opportunities to analyze teaching through the lens of interrupting inequity and offer opportunities for trying out alternative ways of teaching.  In this way, teacher education can be used to prepare novice teachers to teach in ways that are skillful, responsible, and just–using their considerable power for good.

In our work and on this website, we offer resources that teacher educators can use to prepare teacher candidates to practice in ways that challenge inequity. To do this, we use pedagogies that set up and simulate important teaching scenarios in which patterns of inequity and racism typically show up. Within these activities, we intentionally combine considerations of content, teaching practice, and equity issues. This creates opportunities for novice teachers to practice teaching equitably, even before they enter their field placement classrooms.

Select examples

Here are selected, illustrative examples of resources on this site that work explicitly on advancing justice through teacher education. 

Ball, D.L. (2018). Just dreams and imperatives: The power of teaching in the struggle for public education. Presidential Address at 2018 American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York, NY, April 15, 2018. (video)

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press. 

González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2006). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Routledge.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. One World/Ballantine.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American educational research journal, 32(3), 465-491.

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. University of Chicago Press.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational researcher, 41(3), 93-97.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race ethnicity and education, 8(1), 69-91.