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This communication discusses how an online extension course can promote education for racial equity, creating a community of learning even in a context affected by Covid-19. The global pandemic has changed teaching and required a transformation in pedagogical practices. The experience with teaching in the synchronous model at the Unisinos University since March 2020 facilitated to create an online extension course called “How to Educate for Racial Equity?”. This summary presents the experience with the course and shares learnings obtained with multicultural education in a pandemic context.
The course was held by two specialists in multicultural education, with different gender and racial perspective, and from different fields. Working with the education of race relations in different settings made it possible to realize how many difficulties and resistance teachers and school managers have when the topics are multicultural education and racial equity. In Brazil, the law that requires the teaching of afro-descendants and indigenous’ history and culture (Art. 26A, Law 9.394/1996) is still not properly complied (Coelho e Coelho, 2013; Silva, 2015; Silvério, 2015). There are even fewer initiatives at private schools than in public schools, and these are places where students are primarily White so they do not have many opportunities to face racial inequality. In addition, teachers many times feel uncomfortable teaching about racism, human rights, and differences in general (Grisa e Caregnato, 2016). The extension course was born as an initiative to change this perspective.
Before the pandemic, the goal was to offer a presential extension course, at the Unisinos University, in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul State-Brazil. After one semester of teaching remotely, we decided to move forward even during the pandemic and develop an online course. The objective was to build knowledge on multicultural education and racial equity with teachers and school managers, producing pedagogical practices that might impact the participants' schools.
In November of 2019, a meeting was organized to listen to the needs about multicultural education from teachers and school managers. This movement was relevant to create the curriculum of the course. The syllabus would need to bring data and knowledge related to racial inequalities and law enforcement, as well as creating pedagogical practices to develop at schools. The challenge was to define a course’s structure as attractive in terms of length and price, considering both the teacher’s reality and the context caused by Covid-19.
The course proposal received support from the Institute for Innovation in Education of the Unisinos University. It warranted a fair cost and two scholarships for teachers from public schools. The course lasted 20 hours, with 12 hours of synchronous classes and 8 hours for readings and development of the final project. This project was an assignment that every participant needed to submit in order to receive the certificate. With a basic project structure, the final project asked for a plan to work with the topic and develop racial equity in the own educational setting.
The first edition occurred during the second semester of 2020, with 22 teachers and activists from different cities. Classes had two hours in length and were conducted synchronically by web conference, on Thursday evenings. There were six meetings, with one of them being public, with an invited professor in a webinar format. In the last class, participants had a seminar where they could present the final project. Materials were available on Moodle (e-learning platform). During the course, participants could interact while in classes, sharing perspectives and experiences with everyone or small groups, and also by a WhatsApp group, created especially for this interaction. The course coordinators reviewed projects that returned with feedback and suggestions.
The methods applied in the course were successful in terms of teaching and very well evaluated by participants. In the evaluation realized after the last class meeting, 95% answered that they would recommend the course, and 100% answered that the course added several new insights into the topic. Another question was, “At the end of the extension course ‘How to Educate for Racial Equity?’, what do you take to your personal and professional life?” Bellow, it is possible to see some answers:
I take “Lessons for life; I became aware of situations that would have gone unnoticed before, as well as ideas on how to work the theme with students and teachers.”
“Debates, materials, experiences, even at a distance, between colleagues and teachers.”
“The learning I had with this course was immense! We had many exchanges, and for me, it was super important to think about the issue of racial equity in education.”
“Lots of meaningful and inspiring speeches, excellent exchanges of ideas and experiences!”
“I feel more ready and able to discuss, dialogue, and fight for racial equity, anti-racism, and everything that encompasses them.”
Finally, the evaluation asked for suggestions to qualify the subsequent editions of the course. 30% of the participants suggested extending the number of classes, considering the relevance of the topics covered. They also proposed to maintain the WhatsApp group and other possibilities to interact with participants. Another recommendation was related to the schedule of classes that could be held at night. These suggestions have been considered for the 2nd edition that will be conducted in August and September of 2021.
Learnings from the 1st edition course
Educating for racial equity through an online course is not a simple task. At the same time, it was a challenge to develop a course that would be significant for teachers, school managers, and educations for racial justice in general. Specialists in multicultural education know that it is impossible to teach everything about the topic, but create spaces where people can learn, discuss and share experiences is an important beginning. Working with sensitive themes like racism requires “safe spaces” (Collins, 2002) where people can freely express their concerns and doubts.
The experience has shown that online courses like that can develop education for racial equity. It provides learning about the topic and strengthens those who already fight for racial justice. The evaluation has shown the high level of engagement and the relevance of interactions among participants. This course probably will continue to be offered in the online model after the pandemic, mainly because it is possible to connect participants from different places. As a result, “How to Educate for Racial Equity?” is an opportunity to generate research data, discuss and apply findings related to multicultural education and racial equity. These movements can bring innovative educational practices and produce other subjectivities in a racialized society (Gomes, 2012).
Coelho, W. de N. B.; Coelho, M. C. (2013) Os conteúdos étnico-raciais na educação brasileira: práticas em curso. Educar em Revista, Curitiba, 47, 67-84, jan./mar.
Collins, P. H. (2002) Black feminist thought: knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. 2. ed. New York: Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Gomes, N. L. (2012) Relações étnico-raciais, educação e descolonização dos currículos. Currículo sem Fronteiras, 12 (1), 98-109, Jan/Abr.
Grisa, G. D.; Caregnato, C. E. (2016). Educação escolar e relações étnico-raciais a partir de representações dos professores. Revista de Educação PUC, Campinas, 21, (3), 271-279, set./dez.
Silva, P. B. G. (2015). Crianças negras entre a assimilação e a negritude. Revista Eletrônica de Educação, 9(2), 161-187.
Silvério, V. R. (2015). Relações étnico-raciais e educação: entre a política de satisfação de necessidades e a política de transfiguração. Revista Eletrônica de Educação, 9(2), 35-65.
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