Fostering Educational Equity

Laurie Toro gave a presentation addressing six different types of knowledge and the importance of using them in unity, especially in classroom settings.  Photo by Shantelle Erskine.

As an addition to The Roots of Knowledge Speaker Series at Utah Valley University, Laurie Toro, director of faculty development, gave a presentation titled “Fostering Educational Equity by Sustaining Roots of Knowing and Culture.” In this presentation she addressed six different types of knowledge and the importance of using them in unity. 

Toro utilized the stained-glass artwork in the Bingham Gallery to represent the six different types of knowledge, defined by Toro as:

  • Experiential knowledge: “Experiential knowledge is gained through our experiences”
  • Indigenous knowledge: “Indigenous knowledge is possessed through ancestral ties”
  • Spiritual knowledge: “Spiritual knowledge is what we gain to help us understand our connection to Earth and ourselves”
  • Artistic knowledge: “Artistic knowledge brings people together through shared challenges”
  • Generalized knowledge: “Generalized knowledge is most commonly used in a classroom setting, it includes academic theories”
  • Practical Knowledge: “Practical knowledge refers to concepts such as human and equal rights”

“You can see on the mural that the focus over time has shifted from the use of foundational and indigenous knowledge to practical and general knowledge,” said Toro. “Ways of knowing should not be isolated, they work together simultaneously and are all equally important.” 

Toro explained concepts known as “code-switching” and “code-meshing,” and defined code-switching as, “The ability to modify behaviors in specific situations to accommodate varying cultural norms,” according to Andrew Molinsky, a professor of international management and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School.

“Code-meshing” was defined as a process where “students are able to mesh their literacies in ways that are meaningful to them,” according to Toro. “Code-meshing treats students as whole, not broken.”

“It is important we start viewing all ways of knowing as assets in the classroom,” said Toro, emphasizing the importance of allowing space for students. “There are plenty of different ways to understand and engage with the world and privileging one way of knowing over others marginalizes other ways of knowing as less important.”

Toro introduced another concept known as “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy,” which she defined as a method that, “perpetuates and fosters to sustain linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism.” 

“CSP seeks out non-traditional texts, it asks students where they feel like a cultural insider and incorporates those communities,” said Toro. “This practice helps students and instructors understand complexities and multiple affiliations.”

Toro explained both students and professors alike can promote CSP. “As educators, it is our responsibility to create space for code-meshing in our classrooms,” she said. “Students can tell professors what kind of material they’d like to see more of.”

The Roots of Knowledge speaker series has six more speakers lined up for the spring semester, all presenting on Thursdays at 1 p.m. in the Bingham Gallery. More information regarding the speakers and their topics can be found on UVU’s Roots of Knowledge events website.

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