Asset-Based Pedagogies

Asset-Based Pedagogies

To be completed before Tuesday, January 8, Zoom session.

Open pedagogy is an asset-based pedagogy, as are culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed pedagogy. Asset-based practices focus on strengths of our students and their communities, rather than deficits.

Bonus listen: For more information on trauma-informed pedagogy, Tea for Teaching has a terrific interview (39 mins) with Karen Costa, an educator who’s been working in this area for several years.

After reading the information at the links above, as well as the chapter from Equity-centered Trauma-informed Education (sent by email), Respond to these spark questions in the comments below.

  • What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed practices into your course?
  • How might you apply asset-based pedagogies to the open pedagogy assignment you are developing or how might you further apply these pedagogies to other learning experiences in your courses?


  1. I find it wonderful that asset-based pedagogies are a foucs of this workshop as I always begin my ACR 200 course (the course around which I am building open pedagogical practice) focusing on asset versus deficit models of learning and assessment. Many of the students in my ACR 200 course have a desire to help a child or adolescent acquire literacy-based skills, some want to go on into education, some are parents or guardians, and some already work as tutors or nannies. Many of these same students come from communities where they are already familiar with deficit-based models of education (that is the model used in most schools–public or private–throughout the country) and come from communities they were constantly told–either directly or implicitly through invisibility–either didn’t matter or was “wrong” or in some manner inferior. And they do–rightfully–get angry about experiences that they had where they were undervalued or “written off.”

    This is particularly true when we discuss models of assessing childrens’ readiness for school, including their language and literacy skills and discuss the differences of models that focus on “deficits in the child or home” versus those that focus on “assets the child brings from the home.” Cultural relevant pedagogy is incredibly important for literacy acquisition and development as socialization into literacy practices, both at home and in school, has a tremendous impact on children’s and adolescents’ success. As the semester progresses, we are constantly reflecting on and critiquing strategies and practices that are used to develop fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension for instance, and thinking about the relationship between asset-based practice (including cultural relevance).

    I’ve also worked to include asset-based pedagogies into my classes by more actively integrating what I term, in a forthcoming article, affective inquiry. The pandemic made me far more attuned to HOW my students learn. I know all the learning theories and motivational theories, and I’ve long built practices around those that I believe in. However, for most of my students, learning is often an emotional process, something I had noticed before but not actively built my instruction around as much of educational psychology has not been attentive to the role of emotion in supporting learning (though I guess by now hot cognition has been around for over 15 years [wow, i’m getitng old].

    When student discuss concepts they’re learning in class, it is inevitable that they will connect it to emotional experiences they have had to make their learning more meaningful. I have been working to make this a much more visible part of my instruction and to use their emotional experiences as a means of learning. I have engaged in this practice over many years in my life, without having a name for it, as I endured multiple traumas, and I have found in courses like queer theory or gender and women’s studies, that students have traumas that link to the content we teach. Affective inquiry has been one tool I have been using the make the classroom not only more accessible to students but to also help students understand that their experiences and traumas, as painful as they are, are assets.

  2. I have recently begun implementing culturally sustaining pedagogy in my classes by encouraging students to select cultural works of literature for the class to study and examine together. If these works are originally written in a language other than English, I have encouraged students to read them in their original language (if it native to them or a language they speak/read) so we can compare the translation process and discuss how the differences influence the meaning of the work.

    In regards to how I would incorporate Asset-Based Pedagogies to the OER assignment, similar to my perspective above, I would encourage students to write material in their native language if that is easier for them. Having resources for future cohorts which recognize the breadth of languages being spoken in a classroom could aid access to information. The obvious issue with this would be that I couldn’t verify the information contained in the document to be correct, however, my hope would be that when the future cohorts interact with the class lessons along with the materials any inaccuracies could be updated.

    1. Your idea about encouraging students to write in languages other than English an interesting one! I think I will at least add that note to what I tell students about doing free writing in class. I don’t collect that writing and don’t need to understand it myself. I already tell them that in advance and stress that using grammar forms of standard English isn’t the point, that spelling doesn’t matter, etc., but I don’t think I have often thought to tell them that they can use other languages!

  3. I was lucky to take the Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning Online workshop run by CETLS, as well as an outside workshop that incorporated Trauma-Informed tools. Through my exposure to the concepts, I now incorporate a classroom breathing ritual; encourage learner feedback; encourage laughter and connection between learners; and point out the many things they do well in assignments.

    CSP is a newer set of concepts to me, but I have already incorporated activities that celebrate learners’ diverse cultural identities, including inviting them to read poetry in their native languages, and encouraging learners to draw on and share their own experiences in the presentations they give in class. As learners share more about themselves, the sense of community in the classroom grows stronger, and I am hoping to use more Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies to continue to build community, activate learners’ strengths, and create a brave space where learners have agency.

    The open pedagogy assignment I am developing presents a multitude of submission options that celebrate each learner’s abilities and interests. I could go further, by inviting learners to reflect within the assignment, or afterwards, on how their cultures, languages, and their place in community are all part of their submission. I could actively encourage submissions in their native languages (this could be done across the course assignments, in fact). I can also create more opportunities for cultural critique. Most importantly, I need to shift the way I run assignments, to meet disabled and neurodiverse learners where they are, to create a truly inclusive classroom space. Perhaps instead of two huge assignments and a smattering of smaller ones, we could begin work on the learning goals of learners from the beginning. I do see the importance of scaffolding assignments and providing context for what and how public speaking have changed across the millennia, but I think I am doing a disservice to learners by starting with very low stakes and building to very high stakes. It might create a less stressful environment if we move at a more even pace throughout the course, encouraging students to see every form of public speaking as a challenge they can meet.

  4. One way I currently incorporate Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in my English 101 class is by beginning each semester with a unit on multiplicities of English (and other languages, as the students see fit to include them). We read James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me What Is,” Gloria Anzaldua’s “How To Tame A Wild Tongue,” essays by Natalie Diaz on the US government’s efforts to eradicate the Mojave language and current efforts to revive it, and other related works (Zadie Smith, bell hooks, etc.). I use this unit as a chance to address directly the problematic nature of teaching one form of English as singularly “correct” or “proper.” At the same time, that particular form of English IS a very powerful one: it is the principal language of money and power, two things I would like our students to have access to. I position the work of this class as explicitly teaching the forms of that kind of English as a tool, not as the only correct or valuable form of English. For their culminating assignment in that unit, many students choose to write about a word from a non-dominant form of English — or another language they speak — using Baldwin’s concepts of the uses of languages to create and protect a given group.

    As to trauma-informed practices, I do speak openly about oppression, and some of our course content deals openly with oppression and resistance. One of the reasons I do that is hoping to give students — or help them develop — specific vocabulary and analytic frameworks to describe circumstances they have lived or experienced in real life. I also use content notes to give advance notice of aspects of course materials that are reasonably likely to be potential triggers for at least someone in the room, with the caveat that PTSD is idiosyncratic, and I am only guessing about triggers. (Sometimes students come to ask me privately about specific things they wish to know about in advance, which I take as a sign of trust and excellent self-advocacy, but of course not everyone is ready/able/willing to do that.)

    To the broader issue of schools contributing to trauma, including to people who aren’t in the room, I am reminded of my *extreme* frustration that children are not allowed in classroom buildings, as I know childcare hiccups of various sorts contribute to students missing class — especially women. In this instance I feel like the teachers in the article who see an inequity but feel powerless to make change. I’m not sure what I can do, and COVID certainly won’t have helped the matter.

    In terms of the assignment I am developing now, I can see asset-based pedagogy coming into play in the artists or social change movements that students might choose to research and add to our (?)virtual museum (or whatever this turns out to be). Given the overall umbrella of intersections of art and social change, there is ample room for students to explore topics they are already grounded in through their prior knowledge and lived experience.

  5. **What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed practices into your course?**

    I work really hard on trying to make my students feel comfortable and trying to gain their trust. This is much harder to do online than it is in the classroom. The strategy for the first few weeks is heavier on social strategy, be dorky, be goofy, be silly, be the 43 year old who shouldn’t be saying deadass, but asking the students to share their competency with the term with me. I think it’s impossible to make students care about MLA format if they don’t feel like you care about them. It definitely helps to know things about culturally sustaining, trauma-informed pedagogies because the information is just so helpful with how to react in the classroom. I’ve lost my patience in classrooms, but when I do, I always try to apologize, to hold myself accountable to my students. I’ve told other instructors this who are often surprised that I have–but it has never backfired on me to acknowledge my own missteps. The first part of the book CRT and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond discusses how trauma responses affect the physiology of learning–that when a person feels in danger they begin to produce cortisol which in turn makes it impossible for the brain to learn! It can’t when it’s in survival mode.

    *How might you apply asset-based pedagogies to the open pedagogy assignment you are developing or how might you further apply these pedagogies to other learning experiences in your courses?*

    Trusting students is the the ultimate marker of asset-based pedagogies–that faith is necessary when collaborating with students to define their own grading criteria. (Reminder, I’m thinking of creating a collaborative syllabus with my students so they can develop the criteria to help determine final semester grades–while still holding the to department outcomes. This is part of the “ungrading” I’ll be doing again this coming semester.)

  6. The Fundamentals of Public Speaking (SPE 100) within itself generates anxieties about speaking in public. I have implemented asset-based pedagogy to have students list the communication skills and show them how it ties into skills the course wants them to acquire. It becomes an eye-opener as students realize they are not operating from a deficit. Rather, they are already equipped and will only make few modifications to meet the learning outcomes.

    I will continue to add asset-based pedagogy in the course, and for the open pedagogy assignment, I am designing for SPE 100. Students will be able to reflect on their challenges and triumphs and identify a person or thing that helped them overcome the challenge or motivate them to succeed. Such practice will remind them they are not alone on their journey.

    Lastly, I will update the 4Reason Cafe that I use for students to connect and share without me interfering with the prompt, “how are you doing?”

  7. Nita Noveno

    In an interview on trauma-informed pedagogies, Alex Venet describes creating a class where the learner feels safe and affirmed, and I add welcomed. I select the texts for my English composition courses because they speak to cultural, racial, ethnic, and/or linguistic identities and histories shared by students. This past semester (inspired by an OER winter session activity), I had my students participate in creating a “Best Practices” (in learning) list for the class through a Google doc. Students wrote narratives as the first essay assignment, sharing their personal challenges, journeys, and life lessons learned. I “showed up as a witness” to student pain and challenges in one-on-one virtual meetings and thoughtful feedback on their work. These are examples of my ethos of building community for/of learners.

    I’m considering how to develop the narrative essay and/or the research essay assignment in my ENG101 course to become open pedagogy assignments that are student-driven and co-created. The narrative assignment provides an opportunity for students to claim and fine tune their personal stories while the research essay allows for further exploration of a particular topic through research. I’m wondering at the moment how to elicit and include student input and meaningful connection to their expertise/experiences to help create these assignments.

  8. The Structure of English (LIN 110) has the great potential for causing and perpetuating trauma and inequity since one of its objectives is to give students an awareness of the conventions of “standard” American English, a dialect many if not most BMCC students do not use as their primary dialect. There is great potential for students to feel other or like an outsider in college because of the English that they use and the feedback they have received on their English (primarily from their schooling). To reduce the possibility of trauma and equity, we try to spend large amounts of time describing the structure of the English students use or encounter in their day-to-day lives in addition to describing the structure of what is problematically considered the “standard” form of English. As we do this, students reflect on their language use, where it comes from, why it should be valued, and how it might be used in positive and negative ways (i.e., how it can be used to perpetuate inequity). I want them to be aware of what it is that their teachers and their grammar checkers are telling them. At the same time, I want them to understand where their English comes from and how valid it is. (Their dialect may be the “standard” of their community.) Students have a lot of choice regarding the types of language they want to look at and the topics they want to pursue in the course. However, I would like to design an open ped project that does more than just have students explore their individual English. I would like to design something that can be shared beyond the classroom, that might build from semester to semester.

  9. 1) What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed practices into your course?

    I believe teaching Ethnic Studies intersects well with culturally sustaining pedagogy. Perhaps I am overstating it but if CSP is about connecting education to the histories and lifeways of communities who are erased and damaged through schooling, then Ethnic Studies is a field that gives us a method and space to center these.

    2) How might you apply asset-based pedagogies to the open pedagogy assignment you are developing or how might you further apply these pedagogies to other learning experiences in your courses?

    Archive assignment: The assignment uses a pretty straight forward definition/container of archive. I have been wanting to use examples of alternative and “unruly” archives to expand the assignment and think through whose histories are documented and included. I am now considering working from the question whose histories are documented and how and letting the class come up with ways that this can be done outside standard forms.

    Other learning experiences: I want to rethink class participation. I don’t have anything concrete yet but perhaps just starting with students reflecting on how they participate (not just in class but in other social and relational spaces) could offer alternatives to build upon.

  10. 1. What are some ways you currently incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed practices into your course?

    The definitions that we have of trauma according to “The Body Keeps the Score” via the “Tea for Teaching” podcast describe it as “unbearable and intolerable” and the “persistent negative effects” from an experience. I also read a social media definition of trauma which, surprisingly, provided what felt like an accurate definition: Trauma isn’t just a negative experience. It’s being alone with that negative experience. Though, I don’t think that trauma can be completely eliminated by being in caring company, when the people in our lives hold space for us when we are experiencing traumatic events, they are far less devastating.

    When we think about culturally-sustaining pedagogy, what I’ve come to understand is that it is very much about building upon what students bring to the table as a result of their cultural backgrounds, as opposed to treating those qualities or learning styles as hurdles to overcome.

    So, all of that being said, in my 101 class we incorporate culturally-sustaining pedagogy by reading about current events that might be affecting students, reading about issues that affect marginalized groups and having students learn to use personal experience as a source. In my 201, students read diverse writers and have to emulate an author of their choosing while also relying on personal experience. In both classes, students are encouraged to elevate their voices which speaks to the basis of both culturally-sustaining and trauma-informed pedagogies.

    And since trauma can be alleviated a bit by having support, I think that even without formally incorporating trauma-based practices in the classroom, creating a classroom that is open and listening to students is a way to teach while considering their trauma.

    2. How might you apply asset-based pedagogies to the open pedagogy assignment you are developing or how might you further apply these pedagogies to other learning experiences in your courses?

    I think that by asking students to collaborate on the syllabus, I am asking them to rely on their own skills, knowledge and intelligence — their assets. I see that I can include more a trauma-informed techniques in the assignment by asking them to collaborate on our in-class routine, as well.

  11. The course I teach, Critical Thinking 100, offers so many amazing opportunities to incprporate culturally sustaining pedagogy and trauma-informed practices. We delve into biases, persuasive language, fallacies, arguments, and problem-solving. I start each module with asking students what they know about the given topic, and I am always impressed by how much they do know. My course assignments encourage students to use their own experience to process course materials, and then to enhance them. My students often teach me more about biases and inequity than I could ever teach them–I love our exchanges in which students provide examples from their own lives while I try to equip them with additional terminology to name what they have experienced. Also, when students share personal stories with classmates, they give a voice to all those classmates who prefer to remain silent. Then, together, we agree on language we can use to describe our world, and to improve it.

    In the open pedagogy assignment I am working on I would like to draw from asset-based pedagogy to create an invitation to students to transform into educators–they will select a topic they care about and know about, then conduct additional research on this topic, then create and present an argument on this topic, to an authentic audience, as well as to our class. In essence, students will become experts on a given topic and then teach others about this topic, in a format of their choice. I am trying to move away from the formal essay assignment here and offer students more options to complete this important course assignment. I want students to feel empowered in my class, and asking them to make important decisions about the work they present is an intergal part of this process.

  12. As it concerns trauma-informed pedagogy, I would like to become more sensitive to the ways that student perfomance can be affected by stressful and traumatic events, including Covid-19. Karen Costa discusses the effects of stress and trauma and its consequences in the classroom. She says in the Tea for Teaching podcast that with stress with trauma, students experience a kind of mental fatigue whereby they have trouble concentrating and organizing their thoughts. They also have difficulty making decisions, which presumably has detrimental affects on their ability to both learn and turn in assignments.

    I’ve been thinking about how simply making students aware of stress and trauma can go some way in helping students cope. Even after we have moved past Covid-19, I would like to spend time talking with students about the effects of stress and trauma in order open up a space for acknowledging this fact of human life. I would also like to help students devise strategies for effectively coping with stress and trauma–I can encourage them to practice their organization skills and to continue to cultivate what Costa calls a “future orientation.” While trauma informed pedagogy also involves structural change, these simple in-class strategies surely have some benefit.

  13. In my Ethnic Studies + Gender and Women’s Studies courses, much of the material we engage intentionally supports students to make sense of their lives, study and build theory from lived experience, make connections across and between cultures and histories, learn about the relationships between structural and interpersonal violence, and envision (and enact) social change. Because the courses make space for students to talk about their own lives, and assignments invite them to do so (e.g. a feminist memoir is one example), we spend a lot of time working with the concepts of consent and agency with respect to what/how to share. Many of our students have had experiences of being forced or obligated to expose private details of their lives to agents of institutions– to access resources or permissions, protect themselves from violence– so through the assignments and class discussions, I hope to support them in practicing consent, agency, boundary-setting, autonomy. I also try to ensure that students are not at all required to engage personal matters/stories/experiences if they don’t want to– so, for example, this past semester, students could opt into either writing a feminist memoir OR a feminist manifesto (which was not based in their personal experience), or some combination/alternative of the two.
    For this new assignment– a collective assemblage of Keywords in GWS– I want to support students to apply their knowledge/wisdom/experience to actively engage with GWS concepts in a multi-directional manner, in order to play, stretch, revise, remix them.

  14. I am giving students some sort of choices to do their assignments. I give them some sets of problems and ask them to solve 2/3 of the assignments. I received very positive feedbacks and feel that students feel some sort of flexibility and try to contribute more to class activities.

  15. I have made some assignments flexible in terms of students choosing the games or readings they make the assignment about as well as the medium they use for the assignment, blog posts or YouTube videos.

    One of the goals of my “open world” course design is to allow students to pursue the topics and skills that are important to them, where they may feel more comfortable, or where they want to improve, while sharing the knowledge they gain with other students/ benefitting from other students knowledge and progress.

  16. I am teaching computer courses. I made a YouTube channel and I have made and uploaded some videos there about different concepts in computer science. Each semester I upload link of these videos in the blackboard and I ask student to watch them according to the syllabus. Also, students ask me to make some videos for them if they need more explanation on any concept. Also, if we have a crowded classroom and there is not enough time in the class for their presentation, then I will ask them to record a video of their presentations and then I will chose some of the best to present for all students.

  17. Trauma-Informed Pedagogy Chapter 1 Reflection

    Action Steps
    Creating connections and expanding my understanding of trauma
    Consider working with a counselor to find out about virtual talk with a class on the first day available resources.
    Find an easier way to use the early alert system
    Develop my lens
    Transform my virtual classroom
    Part V will have some classroom approaches
    Look for trauma-informed or asset-based math lesson
    Shift the system
    Trauma-Informed practices
    Trauma-informed pedagogical tools
    Trauma-informed policy shift
    Do these prevent trauma or address the trauma experienced?
    Trauma-informed pedagogy is an asset-based pedagogy; which focuses on the strengths of students and the community

    I currently incorporate the following culturally sustaining by curating a collection of Open Education Resources for my students to use in specific math courses. I’ve developed tasks that allow students to create artifacts of their learning. They also have tasks that allow them to present their future teacher self. I’m also working with them to use culturally relevant and sustaining elementary fiction books as a tool for learning mathematical topics and hope to find ways to

    I would like to apply asset-based pedagogues with the OER text that is used in the math course. These resources include additional videos that students create for students; a student develops a glossary of the math terms that use a variety of images of the term from other cultures using hallmark 4 of the NYS Advanced literacies. This glossary will continue to grow for BMCC multilingual learners For example, various cultures use an abacus for counting and I encourage my students to look for artifacts or references of its use from their culture.
    Additionally, I would like students to begin problem-posing using certain problem-solving schema, such as part-part-total, etc. These problems will provide them with a collection of a task to use with their k-6 students when they become a teacher.

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