The Teaching Diverse Students Initiative is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The goal of TDSI is to help educators enhance the learning opportunities, especially the quality of teaching, experienced by students of color. SPLC is working with professional associations (e.g., the American Association for Teacher Education and the National Education Association), prominent scholars and expert educators to develop and implement the Initiative.
The SPLC Teaching Diverse Students Initiative (TDSi) is unique in its focus on how educators can improve their professional skills, understandings, and dispositions that are especially relevant to the race and ethnicity of their students.
A Focus on Instruction and School Improvement
The Initiative has developed a suite of tools to enhance teacher effectiveness and student opportunities to learn, at the center of which are interactive multi-media professional development resources.
The Initiative places primary emphasis on practices within educators' immediate control — classroom strategies, pedagogical techniques, and school conditions. The research and theory-based strategies promoted by the Initiative will, first and foremost, support students' academic learning. Within that focus, TDSi also emphasizes strategies that have the potential to reduce bias and prejudice.
While the Initiative focuses on improving instruction and student engagement, the Initiative recognizes that the learning opportunities experienced by students of color are influenced by school structures and cultures that vary in the extent to which they are responsive to student diversity. Thus, the TDSI helps educators identify the characteristics of schools that are particularly important in maximizing the social and cognitive development of all students, especially racially and ethnically diverse students.
How the Initiative's Tools and Learning Resources Can Be Used
The Initiative's resources can be used in several ways to foster teacher expertise and school improvement. The resources developed by the Initiative are available on line at no cost. Ideally, teachers and teacher candidates and school leaders will use the resources in collaborative situations that can be face-to-face, wholly online, or a mix of on line and face-to-face learning. Among the different ways the Initiative can be implemented are:
- SPLC's Teaching Tolerance materials are read and used online by hundreds of thousands of teachers. Likewise, educators and will be able to use TDSi's online resources as individuals or with colleagues.
- TDSi can be used by colleges and universities to improve the preparation of teachers and school leaders.
- Schools and school districts can use the resources in professional development activities, including induction programs, and in school improvement efforts.
TDSi tools can be used together or separately. One or more tools might be used to address the specific goals of a workshop, teacher study group, university course, district professional development program, or individual educator.
- Understanding the Influence of Race
Organized around a brief survey, this tool examines several ways that understandings and beliefs about race and ethnicity influence teaching and learning. This tool includes an instrument for assessing one's dispositions related to race. Among the values of this tool is its potential to raise educators' awareness that race plays a role in their thinking that they may not be aware of thus motivating them to use other tools in the TDSi.
- Common Beliefs Survey
This instrument identifies beliefs about teaching commonly held by many educators that, while sensible and understandable in part, may have unintended negative consequences for students of diverse races and ethnicities. It can be used to motivate further learning and as the basis for one or more learning activities embedded in the tool. Explanations for why these beliefs are “mythtakes” are provided along with resources for further learning about the content of the issues addressed.
- Primer on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
This resource allows teachers, prospective teachers and school leaders to examine their assumptions about effective teaching of students from different races and ethnicities. It can be used by itself or as a supplement to other tools. It deals with several misconceptions about the characteristics of culturally responsive pedagogy and shows that (1) this approach to instruction is based on theory and research, and (2) can enhance the learning of all students.
- Case-based Learning Modules
The TDSi cases can be used in multiple ways and engage the learner in interactive problem solving related to improving instruction of racially and ethnically diverse students. The cases deal with different focal teachers and classroom and school characteristics. Because instructional effectiveness in related to content, these cases deal with teaching literacy. While literacy-focused, the lessons embodied in the cases are relevant to other subject areas. Learners using the cases analyze authentic challenges, engage in discussion about dilemmas raised, study learning resources provided, and develop solutions to the problems involved that they then are asked to apply to experiences they have had or will have in teaching.
- Teaching Diverse Students School Survey
Teaching and student learning can be significantly impeded or facilitated by school-level policies, processes, practices and cultures. This tool helps educators, most likely those who are--or who are preparing to be--school administrators and teacher leaders, examine whether conditions in their school support effective teaching and learning for racially and ethnically diverse students. Resources are provided to facilitate actions to improve conditions found to be less than optimal.
TDSi's learning resources provide knowledge and counsel that are embedded in the tools described above. These resources include:
- Video. This includes video of interviews with expert researchers and teachers, TDSi-produced video of expert teaching, and selected video from partnering sources.
- TDSi-developed text. Each of the various tools (e.g., cases and surveys) the TDSi staff includes brief research-based lessons that foster learning and, when appropriate, link the learner to other resources.
- Articles and reports. These resources are based on research or are issued from authoritative sources that, in turn, rely on theory and research.
- Excerpts from articles and book chapters. The TDSi has secured permission from publishers to reproduce selected resources.
- Learning activities. These include exercises, discussion frameworks, rubrics for evaluating teaching, and the like.
- References for further study. This resource will help learners pursue more in-depth study of particular topics by steering them toward seminal research and analysis.
Guides for facilitators/instructors are available for each tool. These guides focus on how best to use the TDSi tools and resources and include, when relevant, substantive discussions of the issues being addressed.
Developing the TDSI
We began by surveying leading researchers and reviewing relevant research. That led us to identify some priorities – what educators needed to know and be able to do to improve the learning opportunities of students of color. We then started an on-going process of consultation with prominent experts and formed a development team of researchers and outstanding teachers. The TDSI is the result of this collaborative process. As the elements of TDSi are created, they are continually viewed by experts and tested by users – for instance, teacher educators who use the materials in their classes. This is an ongoing process of updating and enriching.
Advisors to SPLC's Teaching Diverse Students Initiative
Willis Hawley TDSi Director, Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Maryland
Jacqueline Jordan Irvine TDSi Advisory Group Co-Chair Charles Howard Candler Professor of Urban Education Emeritus, Emory University
Sonia Nieto TDSi Advisory Group Co-Chair Professor Emeritus of Language, Literacy, & Culture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Alicia Ardila-Rey Director of Research and Dissemination at the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education
Alfredo Artiles Professor of Special Education and English Language Learning, Arizona State University.
Nilanjana Dasgupta, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Patricia Edwards Professor of Teacher Education, Michigan State University
Gloria Ladson-Billings Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education, University of Wisconsin
Luis Moll Professor of Language, Reading, & Culture, University of Arizona
Jeannie Oakes The Ford Foundation and Professor & Director Urban Schooling Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles
John O'Flahavan TDSi Development Team Leader, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Victoria Purcell-Gates Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood Literacy, University of British Columbia
Sheila Simmons Director, Human Relations Division, National Education Association
Dorothy Strickland Samuel DeWitt Proctor Professor of Education, Rutgers University
Denise Alston - Senior Policy Analyst, National Education Assoc.
Kristen A. Delikat - National Board Certified Teacher, Reading Specialist, Montgomery County Public Schools
Michelle Garcia - Special Projects Manager, Southern Poverty Law Center
Melissa Landa - Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
Talitha Simeona-Moon - National Board Certified Teacher, Prince George's County Public Schools
Jennifer Turner - Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Elizabeth Varela - English Language Learning Specialist/Professional Development Coordinator, Arlington County Public Schools