From class project to social dialogue

Closeup of Annabelle Petty, Thomas Duncan, and Jamie Rollerson
Annabelle Petty, Thomas Duncan, and Jamie Rollerson

Three Washington State University Vancouver students decided to transform a College of Education class assessment into an impactful educational tool for students, teachers, and parents. 

Thomas Duncan, Annabelle Petty, and Jamie Rollerson developed a podcast surrounding the topic of culturally- and linguistically-responsive pedagogy (CLR) as an alternative to a conventional class assessment or test. 

The podcast examines the topic of CLR, a theoretical method of teaching in which the home language and culture of the student is validated and met with equitable practice to ensure academic success.

The practice of CLR also invites students to be equal citizens in the classroom community through recognition of age, orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, religion, gender, and ethnicity. In one of the early podcasts, the hosts discussed the topic of racial injustice, unconscious bias, and white privilege and did so with a disclaimer to the listener that some conversations might make people feel uncomfortable or defensive.

Three microphones

Duncan, Petty and Rollerson met in their junior year at WSU Vancouver, each seeking their bachelor’s degree in education. 

Jessica Masterson, assistant professor of teacher preparation, extended an alternative testing opportunity to students in her instructional fundamentals course, during which the trio created their first podcast together. It was called “Insight into Instruction.”

Rollerson said she had researched podcasts and their characteristics for two years prior to joining Masterson’s course and was eager to create a multi-person version. All three students said they find conversation to be a beneficial learning tool, thus inspiring the partnership. 

Rollerson has the role of editing the episodes after filming, a task she said can take 7-10 hours per week.

“The assignment was only worth five points and I could’ve written a paper, but it was something I was passionate about, and something that I thought would be good for the world in the case that it went anywhere,” she said. “It became a passion project and the one thing I looked forward to every week.”

A five-episode series of “Insight into Instruction” began, far exceeding the designed scope of the assessment. 

“I learned 10 times more than what I typically learn from a class writing a paper,” Duncan said. 

CLR-forward conversations

Masterson introduced CLR to her students with the use of Sharroky Hollie’s textbook, “Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning.” Hollie’s book builds upon Gloria Ladson-Billings’ culturally responsive teaching methods by implementing a focus on linguistics. 

The team initially envisioned their podcast reaching their classmates and professors, but soon caught the attention of those who were eager to learn more about CLR and its application in the classroom.

So, rather than stop at five episodes, satisfying the demands of the course assessment, the group decided to just keep going.

Petty said the podcast was transformed into a larger tool for others. 

After the group hosted Hollie on its ninth episode, the author posted on social media, which elevated the podcast’s listeners to more than 100. 

“If I can put my voice out there and it somehow gives a teacher the ability to think a bit differently about something they do for their student, I have then indirectly helped that child have a better education,” Duncan said. “That’s really what I want to do: helping teachers and students become the best versions of themselves through giving them the tools to do so.”

Advocating for alternative assessments

The students have utilized the podcast as a medium for alternative assessment in their other courses as well. 

Duncan said the support of Masterson and Shameem Rakha, an associate professor within the college, has been a meaningful catalyst in expanding the podcast. 

Several faculty members intend on assigning the podcast for other students to listen to so they can gain an understanding of CLR in a peer-to-peer style. 

“It really supports us in the continuity of what we do and what we’ve been creating,” Duncan said. 

The threesome will attend the Lilly Conference in Asheville, N.C. this August to share their experiences with multi-modal formative assessment with a foundation in CLR. 

Episodes of “Insight into Instruction” can be found online.

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