top of page

4.2 Equity and Diversity in Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills

Transforming Good Intentions Into Effective Actions

Most of us believe ourselves to be good people and good citizens of planet Earth. We believe in social justice or at least in doing no harm to “others.” My question to myself as an educator and privileged Canadian citizen is, in the face of blatant evidence of systemic racism, how can I comfortably suppose that my belief is sufficient to produce change? I live in a small town in BC, which I know doesn’t represent the diversity in cities across our country, but I would be reckless to think that changes in the urban landscape (Lopez, 2013, p. 1) don’t affect my life and practice. I had a sense that the population was increasingly diverse in my town, and it was very easy to confirm that about 8% represent visible minorities and 24% identify as Indigenous (Townfolio, Statistics Canada, 2022). If the school population is similarly composed, I can assume that approximately 1 in 3 students have been impacted by disparities inherent to education. They deserve to see themselves in the curriculum and not feel like interlopers in their own school (Campbell & Watson, 2021, p. 1).

The Impact of Teacher Vision

“One of the most powerful foundations for educational reform is having a personal vision” (Hammerness, 2001, p. 143). Ethical teaching, then, involves not only belief and personal commitment, but action that transforms ignorance and apathy.

My vision is constantly being refined and enriched but has always contained an assertion that all students are capable of learning and come to school with both strengths and challenges. What I’m learning is that, because I am so keen to help students overcome barriers to learning, I may have unrecognized biases and a tendency to resort to “deficit thinking” (Campbell & Watson, 2021, p.17). To avoid this pitfall, I must be intentional in reflecting on how power is shared in my classroom (Lopez, 2013, p. 8.) I can also look for “cultural capital” (Campbell, 2021, citing Howard, 2003, 7:10) that is not based on colonialism. Just as “moving towards decolonization requires...[not treating Indigenous knowledges] an ‘add-on’ or ‘other’ way of knowing “(Munroe et al., 2013, p. 320), equity education can’t be seen as separate from commonly accepted components of teaching and learning (Lopez, 2013, p. 6). Moreover, we are responsible for guiding our students toward cultural competence (Campbell, 2021, 4:15) and this can only happen by shifting our practice toward student-centered, inquiry and problem-based practices.

Contemporary and reconceptualist pedagogy is necessarily culturally responsive because curriculum is a vehicle of societal change (Sowell, 2005). Reform is needed and many Canadian educators are at least philosophically ready for it. Putting that transformation into practice will require risk, action and reward, for the “messy, non-linear, highly organic process of learning...seems to be at the core of what it takes to be a successful citizen of the 21st century. (Munroe et al., 2013, p. 95).


Campbell, A.B. & Watson, K. (2021). From Awareness to Action. The Register. vol 23 (2).

Campbell, A.B. (2021, March 9). LEADERSHIP IN EQUITY SERIES: the culturally relevant and responsive educator [Video]. YouTube.

Hammerness, K. (2001). Teachers’ Visions: The Role of Personal Ideals in School Reform. Journal of Educational Change, 2(2), 143–.

Lopez, A. E. (2013). Embedding and Sustaining Equitable Practices in Teachers’ Everyday Work: A Framework for Critical Action. Teaching & Learning (Welland), 7(3).

Munroe, E. A., Borden, L. L., Murray Orr, A., Toney, D., & Meader, J. (2013). Decolonizing Aboriginal Education in the 21st Century. McGill Journal of Education, 48(2), 317–337.

Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: an integrative introduction (3rd ed.). Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Demographics | Townfolio. (n.d.). Townfolio. To protect my privacy online, I've omitted any reference that could identify my hometown.


bottom of page