Critical Race Design: An Emerging Methodological Approach to Anti-Racist Design and Implementation Research

Critical Race Design: An Emerging Methodological Approach to Anti-Racist Design and Implementation Research

Deena Khalil (Howard University, Washington, D.C., USA) and Meredith Kier (College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2017040105
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This article is about introducing Critical Race Design (CRD), a research methodology that centers race and equity at the nucleus of educational opportunities by design. First, the authors define design-based implementation research (DBIR; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng, & Sabelli, 2011) as an equity-oriented education research methodology where teaching and learning is informed by robust, iterative, evidence-based research conducted by multiple stakeholders. Next, they provide a brief overview of Critical Race Theory in Education (CRT; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995) as a theoretical and methodological approach that aims to unpack and disrupt the structural inequities experienced by disenfranchised racial groups. They then describe how both education methodologies informed CRD, our emerging anti-racist critical design methodology. Finally, they provide an example where they used CRD to design an online service-learning course that aimed to situate the narratives of underrepresented STEM professionals as a curricular resource for nondominant adolescents.
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In the United States, careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are notoriously criticized for lacking diversity and the perspectives of professionals of color (Tsui, 2007). With the STEM workforce not reflecting the nation’s demographics (and certainly not the demographics of the nation’s public schools), it is argued that traditional mathematics and science instruction is neither accessible nor equitable to marginalized students (Tate, 1997; 2001). At the postsecondary level, there have been a number of commonly used strategies to recruit and retain underrepresented students in STEM courses and careers including summer bridge programs, mentoring, development of research internships, college-level tutoring, career counseling, academic centers, advising, and learning centers (Tsui, 2007). Evidence of this is seen in higher and adult education when pre- and post-graduates participate in service-learning experiences as both a means for continuing their education while simultaneously influencing and engaging with the community (Gasman & Commodore, 2014; Stanton, Giles, & Cruz, 1999). Since open access to higher education, career and technical education (CTE) programs funded under Title VII have sought to provide similar opportunities to youth and young adults seeking to pursue alternate pathways to careers (Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA], 1965). More recently with globalization’s service-oriented economy (Leonardo, 2002; Sassen, 1991), the goals of CTE have been introduced to the mainstream K-12 setting through College and Career Ready Standards, more specifically in the Common Core State Standards of Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010; Darling-Hammond, Wilhoit, & Pittenger, 2014).

The need to translate College and Career Ready Standards into practice provides a unique opportunity to design K-12 education settings that centers careers at the heart of the learning context (Herrington & Daubenmire, 2016; Stage, Asturias, Cheuk, Daro, & Hampton, 2013). However, this opportunity can be problematic as such policies often reinforce a system of education based on advantage (Tatum, 2003); thus, it is imperative for educators who are committed to equity to critically develop programs for nondominant students and communities of color (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). In the United States, where White Supremacy has historically marginalized Black students and continues to disenfranchise other students of color, we argue that programmatic interventions connecting education to careers should be designed by integrating the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995) with the principles of Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng & Sabelli, 2011). As both educational research methodologies stem from equity-oriented paradigms that position marginalized learners as key foci for developing equitable learning ecologies, our emerging research methodology unifies CRT and DBIR in an approach that we have coined Critical Race Design (CRD). CRD centers on equity with tenets of CRT explaining why we take this approach to inquiry and action, and DBIR informing how we are designing education programs.

The following sections provide an overview of DBIR and CRT and a brief discussion on how they have informed research across the P-20 education pipeline. We then describe how both education methodologies informed CRD, our emerging, anti-racist research methodology, and how principles of CRD may be utilized to interpret, disrupt, and reconstruct education systems to serve historically disenfranchised learners. Finally, we provide an example from our own project, E-Communities, to illustrate how our conceptualization of CRD originated and emerged during our design of a blended community of practice (Wenger, 2006); specifically, we show how CRD informed our research, design, and implementation of a service learning course for engineers of color who partnered with us to inspire teachers and students in one of the largest Black majority school districts in the country.

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