The Open for Antiracism program — known as OFAR — is beginning its third year of training faculty members in California on Open Educational Resources (OER), open pedagogy and anti-racist teaching practices.
With funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, leaders from the Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources (CCCOER) at Open Education Global and College of the Canyons created a year-long online program. It includes a 6-week course, followed by technical support as participants weave what they learned into their classrooms.
The idea for the training emerged in 2020 when the country was facing a racial reckoning and colleges were grappling with how to respond. Many institutions posted compelling statements on their websites and revised their strategic plans to address structural racism.
But James Glapa-Grossklag, dean at College of the Canyons, said more needed to be done. He saw the opportunity to take action and leverage OER with antiracism content. “We have faith in the transformative power of education,” he said. “We want our institutions, our classrooms, and our systems to be more welcoming to all people.”
As the largest community college system in the country (serving 2.1 million students at 116 colleges), California was positioned well to pilot the OFAR program, said Una Daly, director of CCCOER, who leads the program along with Glapa-Grossklag “CCCOER is in a position to share the program design and outcomes widely through its North American membership of community and technical colleges,” added Daly.
Faculty members are responding enthusiastically to the professional development opportunity.
In the first year, 330 individuals applied for 17 slots in the program. In years two and three organizers expanded the training to serve 40+ faculty members in teams from eight colleges. As an openly licensed curriculum, the project has the potential to influence many more who are interested in downloading the freely available materials.
The inaugural courses were designed and facilitated by Kim Grewe, instructional designer at Northern Virginia Community College and Joy Shoemate, educational administrator and director of online education at College of the Canyons. Shoemate said participants come with varying levels of experience with OER and open pedagogy, but leave inspired to incorporate what they learned into their teaching.
“The whole purpose of the course is to explore these concepts, but what’s really meaningful is, by the end of the course, our participants are developing an action plan where they’re identifying what changes they are going to make in the immediate next semester,” Shoemate said. “We are trying to create this space where we can encourage our faculty participants to commit themselves to something actionable.”
Early evaluations of the project demonstrate it is valuable to both faculty and students.
For faculty, about 90% indicated the OFAR resources and training improved their teaching. In the first cohort, 88% incorporated student voices from non-mainstream perspectives into their classrooms; 81% co-created materials for antiracism with students; and 69% reported adding inclusive images, data, and video, as well as having explicit conversations about racism, oppression and healing.
Similar positive feedback continued into the second year of the project, with 82% also moving away from traditional assignments to develop more meaningful renewable ones that are learner-centered, antiracist, and culturally responsive.
The efforts paid off for students too, even as classes covered sensitive issues around social justice and antiracism. In the first year, 80% reported feeling more active and engaged in the classes. Surveys in year two revealed that 96% of students said there were more chances for them to express opinions in class and 95% believed class discussions were valuable in helping them appreciate different perspectives.
Ana Garcia-Garcia, a chemistry faculty member at Monterey Peninsula College who participated in the program, said she’s been excited to see how the open pedagogy increased student engagement. For example, she asks students to pick a scientist each week who they can relate to and reflect on why—often prompting the selection of women and scientists of color who are then integrated into her course material the next semester.
“Instead of deciding, ‘This is your task, you do this for me.’ It’s more like, ‘Help me create the class. Be part of the class. Be connected to me and know that you matter. You matter enough that I’m going to use your example,’” Garcia-Garcia said.
With many of his students being first generation immigrants who come from underserved and marginalized communities, Oliver Rosales, a history professor at Bakersfield College, said he knew that antiracist pedagogy would only make his teaching better.
“There’s a kind of misnomer about antiracist pedagogy and what it really is. Sometimes that’s controlled by people who are not interested in antiracist pedagogy,” Rosales said. “Coming out of this program, I have the tools and the skill sets to engage in productive conversations around those issues, and to show faculty what it really is and how it can make a difference in the lives of students.”
The OFAR training encourages faculty to review their content, modifying and adding where necessary.
“I didn’t realize when I pulled together the readings that were all about these negative stereotypes for people of color, that only one of the articles was written by a person of color,” said Jackie Williams, an English instructor at Fresno City College. “I was looking for the credibility of the publication and then as a news outlet, but it wasn’t really looking at the individuals and so that’s one of the steps that I’ve added.”
With OFAR entering its third year, Daly and Glapa-Grossklag are optimistic that the program is bringing more diversity to the field of open education, while also helping faculty enact real change in their classrooms.
For more information about OFAR, see https://www.cccoer.org/ofar/.