Inclusion for Sexual and Gender Diversity
A professional competency for educators and teacher educators
If it is our responsibility as educators and teacher educators to teach inclusively, then shouldn’t inclusive practices for LGBTQ2+ students be a professional competency? This article outlines work undertaken in one faculty of education (UBC) to enhance its language, curriculum, and practices regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
If we believe it is our responsibility as educators and teacher educators to teach inclusively across all areas pertaining to human rights, including those related to sexual and gender diversity, then should this not be a professional competency? If so, how do faculties of education integrate this into their programs and cultures? This article outlines some of the work undertaken in one faculty of education to enhance its language, curriculum and practices regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and some of the lessons learned.
University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Faculty of Education has implemented an ambitious campaign since 2016 to raise awareness and build capacity and culture related to SOGI inclusion for its students, faculty and staff. This came about in part because of significant changes to federal and provincial human rights legislation, in part because recent studies (e.g. the 2015 Every Teacher Project1) show that many teachers feel their university education did not prepare them for the SOGI diversity they encountered in schools, and in part because it was simply the right thing to do. The goal was and is to prepare knowledgeable, inclusive educators and improve the experience of those who may be marginalized because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in our programs, classrooms and workplaces.
None of this work has taken place in a vacuum. Our work augments earlier work within the Faculty of Education and complements the work of others, such as the UBC Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and the Office of Equity and Inclusion, to name a few.
The Faculty of Education embarked on an initial two-year project funded by Dr. Robert Quartermain2 through the ARC Foundation. It was focused largely on the Teacher Education Program’s approximately 800 teacher candidates and also on growing awareness and understanding among faculty, graduate students and staff. Donor funding supplemented Dean Blye Frank’s support and allowed for the secondment of a school district-based SOGI-inclusion educator, Steve Mulligan, to coordinate the project and augment the work of faculty in teaching about and modeling inclusive practices.
Education and support for teacher candidates
All teacher candidates take an ensemble of required courses to prepare them as future educators. We worked with course instructors to integrate various aspects of sexual and gender diversity and inclusion into six of these courses, through lectures and/or seminars:
- “SOGI 101” in the Preparation for Practicum series
- SOGI inclusion in Human Development, Learning, & Diversity
- LGBTQ2+ student support in Supportive School & Classroom Environments
- Diversity and inclusion in Education, Schools and Social Institutions
- Trans literacies3 in Literacy Practices and Assessment
- Gender identity support and teaching practices in Development & Exceptionality
We also offer presentations, panels and workshops for teacher candidates, faculty, graduate students, and others; they have addressed SOGI-inclusive curricula and resources, sexual health education for all students and all bodies, working with trans and non-binary students, and faith, family and SOGI-inclusion, among many other topics.
We host bi-weekly SOGI Alliance meetings for teacher candidates, similar to school-based Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs). The group engages in various activities, such as event planning, resource sharing, practicum-related discussions and a professional book club as well as just coming together in a safe, welcoming space for LBGTQ2+ students and allies.
Engagement of faculty and faculty advisors
UBC faculty members and faculty advisors (adjunct faculty who supervise practicum placements) are invited to all seminars and some of the course-based presentations. As part of the faculty advisor orientation days in August, Steve Mulligan delivers a SOGI 101 workshop, similar to one for teacher candidates in September. The project coordinator also meets with faculty advisors prior to the long practicum to discuss issues related to teaching SOGI content and supporting LGBTQ2+ teacher candidates in their school placements.
A working group that includes faculty members, staff members, graduate students and the project director and coordinator meets regularly to plan and review events, resources and strategies. It oversaw the development of a number of resources for faculty, such as inclusion statements4 for course outlines, planning for guest presenters and panelists, development of a podcast and online resource based on faculty interviews about inclusive practices, and an online collection of SOGI-inclusive resources.
Professional development of staff
We have held a series of staff workshops that focus on inclusive language and practices, policies and procedures for interacting with LGBTQ2+ students, staff and members of the public, and learning about the university processes and systems related to chosen names and pronouns, facilities and other areas where binaried, heteronormative practices may contribute to marginalization.
Engagement of local K-12 teachers and alumni
We linked with the UBC Alumni Engagement Office to offer two workshops for alumni in local community locations, which were very well attended: Rethinking Gender: How do we break free from stereotypes? and The Power of Teaching for Diversity and Inclusion. We also offer two-day summer professional learning institutes for in-service educators and leaders. In 2017 and 2018, our topic was Safe is Not Enough: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity education and leadership, attended by educators from across B.C. In July 2019, there were three institutes on each of the UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan and UBC West Kootenay campuses.5
Outreach beyond the faculty
Since 2018 the project has expanded into a much broader initiative called SOGI UBC (again funded generously by Dr. Robert Quartermain) extending in outreach to other faculties and units on UBC campuses and in other universities, including work with Canadian faculties of medicine. In addition, we have created an online Inclusion for Gender and Sexuality Diversity: Professional competency module6 that complements a recently developed free, massive open online course (MOOC) called Gender and Sexuality: Applications in society.7 SOGI UBC parallels the provincial SOGI 1 2 3 network,8 a Ministry of Education-supported initiative offering freely available online resources to support professional learning for educators and parents. Given that most of our graduating candidates will be teaching in B.C. schools, this connection is key to bridging what is learned at UBC and their future practice as educators.
Some lessons learned
The work to date has been enlightening in ways that show where we’ve grown and also where continued work is needed. Teacher candidates have been extremely open to learning how to be inclusive educators. Some of their feedback:
“This project has been a valuable asset to me during my experience as a teacher candidate. Through meetings, seminars, and events, my knowledge on a once-unknown topic is now much greater, and I feel much more prepared and knowledgeable moving forward as a new teacher.”
“Being part of the SOGI Alliance has provided me with a space to chat, voice concerns and get expert advice.”
“While I am no expert on the subject, I feel as though I have gained an interest and understanding in the topic.”
The curriculum mapping process taught us that, while there are many embedded instances of inclusive practice in our courses, these often depend on the instructor delivering the course or section. We also learned that course syllabi tell only a small part of what is taught and learned in courses. We still wonder: Is SOGI-inclusion supported across all courses? How are binaried or heteronormative perspectives taken up or challenged? Are LGBTQ2+ authors part of course reading lists? etc. Similarly, we wonder how sexual and gender minority candidates and their perspectives are and are not included, and how instructors and mentors confront or condone ongoing discrimination encountered in classrooms and/or on practicum.
We have endeavoured to use an intersectional lens in our work in order to ensure that the notion of identity is understood in multi-faceted ways. An upcoming project9 supports teacher educators in building inclusive pedagogical practices to effectively and respectfully engage with Indigenous- and/or SOGI-inclusive perspectives, content and learning approaches. Using coaching, modeling, reflection and collaborative inquiry, we hope to enhance anti-oppressive teaching practices.
Mirroring the Faculty’s work in mental health literacy,10 we know there is a literacy to be developed around SOGI inclusion that involves enhancing knowledge and understanding, reducing stigma and shifting language and attitudes. We also know that this work takes time and a desire to be part of these changes, so we continue to employ an invitational, educative approach to engage more and more of our community. There is definitely more work to do.
Provincial standards of teaching practice speak generally about student diversity, equitable treatment, and emotional and physical safety. The Association of Canadian Deans of Education Accord on Teacher Education11 underscores social justice, equity and inclusion and the importance of challenging all forms of oppression and violence. As professional competencies are defined and refined, we believe that education faculties, teacher regulators and other education stakeholders need to integrate inclusive language and practices relative to gender and sexual diversity in order to ensure socially just environments for students and educators at all levels. Our hope is that the work at UBC can inspire and also be informed by what is happening on other campuses across Canada.
Photo: Courtesy Wendy Carr
First published in Education Canada, September 2019
1 C. Taylor, T. Peter, C. Campbell, et al. (2015). The Every Teacher Project: On LBGTQ-inclusive education in Canada’s K-12 schools – Final report, The Manitoba Teacher’s Society (Winnipeg, MB: 2015). https://egale.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Every-Teacher-Project-Final-Report-WEB.pdf
2 SOGI UBC is funded by the Jane Rule Initiative at UBC established by Dr. Robert Quartermain.
3 Trans Literacies workshops are offered by the UBC Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.
4 Course syllabus inclusion statements: http://teach-educ.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2018/07/Possible-Inclusion-Statements-for-Course-Outlines.pdf
5 UBC summer institutes: http://pdce.educ.ubc.ca/sogi-vancouver
6 Inclusion for Gender and Sexuality Diversity: Professional competency module. http://educ.ubc.ca/faculty-units/office-of-the-dean/initiatives/sogiubc
7 Gender and Sexuality MOOC by Dr. Janice Stewart: www.class-central.com/course/edx-gender-and-sexuality-applications-in-society-12333
8 SOGI 1 2 3: www.sogieducation.org
9 UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement project led by Dr. Jan Hare & Dr. Wendy Carr.
10 Mental health literacy as conceptualized by Dr. Stan Kutcher and Dr. Yifeng Wei (Dalhousie): http://teenmentalhealth.org
11 ACDE Accord on Teacher Education: http://csse-scee.ca/acde/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2018/05/Accord-on-Teacher-Education_Summary.pdf