Keynote Speaker Q&A


A Conversation with Jeff Duncan-Andrade: We all play a critical role in the well-being of our students.

The Center for Teaching and Learning caught up with Jeff Duncan-Andrade recently to learn more about his work and research related to community-responsive pedagogy. We asked him how his work in the K-12 space translates to higher education. Specifically, are there foundational needs and feelings that all learners share? What role do individual faculty members play in fostering equitable learning environments?

Learn more about what Jeff has to say, including his words of advice and encouragement below.

Question: What are you most excited about sharing with our faculty as our Plater-Moore Conference on Teaching and Learning keynote speaker? 

Jeff: I’m most excited about the opportunity to share our community’s work and research around equity and wellness for vulnerable and wounded communities.

Question: How has your experience in the K-12 space informed your perspective on equity and inclusion, and how do you see these principles translating to the higher education setting? 

Jeff: There are numerous structural differences between higher ed and K-12, most of which are readily and immediately obvious.  However, at the core all students and all people want to feel cared for, they want to feel a sense of belonging, they want to know how important, brilliant, and valuable their voice and perspective is to the community and the world. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved.  We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  No matter where I am teaching, that is the kind of culture, climate, and community I aim to create.  My ability to do that in higher ed has been deeply impacted by the ways I learned to do that in the K-12 environment because my sacred purpose as a person was, and is, to be the kind of teacher that relentlessly seeks to build that kind of space no matter who my students happen to be.

Question: What role do you believe faculty members play in fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning environment, and what actionable steps can they take to promote diversity in their teaching practices? 

Jeff: We all play a critical role in the well-being of our students, colleagues, and community.  All of us are equity officers. But, the will must precede the skill.  If we have the will to transform the parts of the community where we have some relative influence, then we will be humble and hungry in the pursuit of pathways that allow us to continually move closer and closer to the kinds of spaces that all our students deserve.

Question: In K-12 education, there is often a focus on reaching diverse student populations. How can this emphasis be adapted for higher education, considering the diverse backgrounds and needs of university students? 

Jeff: I do not think this emphasis needs to be adapted, but rather it needs to be committed to more profoundly in the recruitment, retention, and support for the most vulnerable and wounded students in our communities.  It has been my experience that universities generally are less committed to addressing their equity gaps, even rhetorically, and the results tend to show that lack of commitment.

Question: Are there specific teaching methods or pedagogical approaches that you have found effective in addressing disparities in educational outcomes, and how might these be applied in a university setting? 

Jeff: As a pedagogue, I was heavily influenced by Paulo Freire’s “critical pedagogy”. Over my 30 years, that has evolved into a belief in community responsive pedagogy which I hope to share more about on my visit.

Question: What advice do you have for university faculty who may face resistance or skepticism when attempting to implement changes that promote equity and inclusion in their courses or programs? 

Jeff: If you are not experiencing some resistance to your push for fundamental change, maybe you are not pushing hard enough?  If you are experiencing resistance to changes that center the voices and experiences of vulnerable and wounded people then you are likely making those that find our current systems of radical inequity acceptable feel uncomfortable…carry on.

Join us as we welcome Jeff Andrade-Duncan to IU for the Plater-Moore Conference on Teaching on Friday, April 5, 2024, at the IUPUI Campus Center.