Equitable education is centered around the belief that everyone deserves the same access to learning opportunities, says Professor Giordana Basta.
Now in her third year as director of Curry’s Graduate Programs in Education, Dr. Basta set in motion a path for her students to understand what that means as they consider careers in the field. With the help of colleagues, Dr. Basta has now established a chance for students to earn an M.Ed. in Diverse and Equitable Instruction (DEI) at Curry.
Aimed at “creating inclusive learning communities,” the DEI master’s is an interdisciplinary program that includes classes such as Fundamentals of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL); Diverse Perspectives in Mathematics; Neurodiversity and Neuroeducational Assessments; Equity, Ethics, and Educational Law; and Social Justice and Educational Advocacy. The 31-credit course of study culminates with a master’s thesis.
“Equitable education means many different things,” says Dr. Basta, an SEL expert who has consulted for school districts across the U.S., including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “It means the resources that are available to students; it means how instruction is delivered to students; it means thoughtful consideration to the modalities in which learning is presented. It boils down to a belief system that all people deserve the same access to education, that there are multiple entry points for all learners.”
Equity is what provides the framework for coursework design in the DEI master’s program, grounded in the idea that educators are charged with providing an environment that promotes that inclusivity. In planning for this track, Dr. Basta convened a DEI committee and solicited multiple perspectives, while also committing to hiring faculty with diverse perspectives to deliver the education.
“The program is interdisciplinary and can be applicable in different educational and organizational settings,” says Janet Ferone, an associate lecturer in Curry’s Education Department, who teaches Culturally Responsive Educational Practices. “So you can have a kindergarten teacher and a nonprofit CEO both benefitting from the program.”
In addition to her leadership within Curry, Dr. Basta also has established outside partnerships with the Plymouth and Weymouth School Districts in Massachusetts to offer courses in equitable education and inclusive practices to local public-school teachers. While 12 graduate students are currently enrolled in the DEI program, and multiple Curry grad students are taking the DEI classes as electives, Dr. Basta shares that 50 educators from Weymouth have begun the coursework as part of a district-wide initiative.
“The school districts we’re partnering with are customizing their needs around DEI,” Dr. Basta explains. “And Curry is offering an on-site course to the educators based on those needs. So, the district is getting high-quality professional development from Curry faculty members and the teachers may choose to start the program by getting three credits toward a certificate or degree.”
Curry is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in its DEI work, Basta says, because of the inclusive environment the College promotes on its own campus. “Curry is known for supporting diverse learners, so to have a program that supports other organizations striving to these same goals makes sense,” she says.
Dr. Basta is an active educator herself. Highlighting her expertise in SEL, she teaches the Fundamentals of Social-Emotional Learning course, among others. The professor also has redesigned the literacy courses within Curry’s graduate preparation program to ensure that students have access to current research around the science of reading and equitable practices in literacy.
Involved in education for more than two decades, Dr. Basta says she has seen a shift since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered a teacher shortage and also offered a glimpse into the pressures of being an educator. Still, she remains optimistic.
“I’m hopeful for the students I see coming into our programs with the excitement, anticipation, and desire to make a difference,” Dr. Basta says. “That keeps me going because it tells me we’re still on the right track.”