Equity-oriented instructor perspectives on teaching developmental English in the community college

As a result of AB705 mandates, which reforms placement practices and reduces developmental pathways in Math and English in an effort to improve educational inequity, the majority of incoming students in California community colleges will now be placed directly into the college-level composition course. Understanding the perspective of developmental English instructors who intentionally attend to equity issues can be a vital resource for instructors of freshman composition. This study sought to understand how equity-oriented developmental English instructors conceptualize equity and describe their equity-oriented teaching practices. Data sources include two interviews, instructor-generated course materials (e.g. syllabi, essay prompts, and grading rubrics), as well as researcher field notes and data memos. The study followed an embedded case study research design, using a “ground-up,” constant comparative analytical methodology. Three major findings emerged from the data analysis: 1) participants conceptualized equity-oriented pedagogy in terms of student empowerment; 2) participants perceived equity-oriented pedagogy as being enmeshed with - and often in opposition to - departmental discussions of rigor; and 3) participants described the integration of equity- oriented pedagogy within the context of the department as being contentious. The findings of this study reveal that meaningfully promoting equity-oriented practices requires acknowledgment of how equity plays out both in classroom instruction and in departmental discourse.