Learner-centered design (LCD) has become a key component of digital products and platforms; curriculum and lesson planning; and non-didactic pedagogical approaches. This paradigm foregrounds the needs of learners by meeting learners where they are. LCD proposes that all designed environments should be built around the goals, needs, activities and educational contexts of users. In essence, LCDs allow for the incorporation of the whole learner by using their preferences, strengths, weaknesses and interests as assets that can be leveraged to strengthen learning experiences.
While educators have understood, accepted and utilized learner-centered approaches in order to enhance student achievement, our educational system has not yet leveraged learner-centered approaches in the design of our institutions. Specifically, educator training and workforce development have continued to operate based on one-size-fits-all approaches. These methods have proven to be successful at supporting and developing certain types of educators, but have been proven to be largely ineffective for diverse educators like Black males. Black males represent only 2% of educators nationally. The lack of mechanisms to retain and support Black male educators that are embodied in the design of our institutions are partly to blame for the dearth of this critical cohort. Their absence affects all students because we know that Black male educators increase performance and learning for every student.
As educational stakeholders continue to search for solutions that allow for the expansion of the educator pipeline, we should think about how to incorporate LCD into the structure of our educator preparation programs and the structures that support our educator workforce. Stated simply, it is insufficient for educational institutions to continue to employ approaches that do not privilege the perspectives of diverse educators if we are truly serious about expanding the pipeline to reflect our rapidly diversifying student population and to improve learning outcomes for all students. Like student-centered approaches, educational institutions must seriously engage with, and center their designs on, the needs and goals of diverse educators — especially Black male educators, if real progress is to be made.
In May, ETS hosted a webinar on the inclusion of Black male educators in the teaching workforce. The conversation focused on the structures that promote success for Black male educators including the support, development and retention designs necessary to successfully engage and include Black male educators in preparation programs, and in the educator workforce. We are proud to take part in the work of foregrounding important perspectives and incorporating those perspectives into the design of educational institutions and work.
Dr. E. Wyatt Gordon is the Associate VP of Operational Business Services at ETS.