Case Study

Racism and Social Justice in the Classroom

The Challenge

In the wake of the violence, protests, and racial reckoning of 2020, bringing the topics of racism and inequality into the classroom has become more critical than ever in order to educate and support students. Open Educational Resources (OER) are free, customizable, openly licensed resources that educators can use to diversify their course materials and address these difficult topics with students of all ages. However, many teachers and education administrators are unaware that these resources exist.

We partnered with GMMB to conduct research on how educators utilize OER to facilitate and advance conversations about racism and racial justice, and how OER messaging can be improved to appeal to a wider range of educational communities.

Our Initial Findings

We conducted 22 in-depth interviews and 8 focus groups with K-12 and higher education administrators and teachers from across the United States. We discussed participants’ understanding of OER, their perceptions of the responsibility of educators to discuss racism and racial justice, and how OER might be useful in raising these topics. We also probed into why the topic of race is so difficult to talk about and questioned how we can position OER to help with those conversations.

We learned some important insights:

  • There is uncertainty among both OER users and non-users about what these resources are
  • Educators are enthusiastic about OER potential—they are accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds and allow for the diversification of course materials to meet all students’ cultural backgrounds
  • It is difficult to talk about race in the classroom, particularly for White teachers, but OER have the potential to facilitate these conversations

Actionable Insights

Based on our findings, we had two key recommendations:

1

Better promotion for OER such as endorsements from professional organizations and social media outreach

2

Position OER as tools to aid tough conversations in the classroom