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Equity Mindset Cards - A Coaching Tool

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Article by Chrissy Thuli; Foreword by Joseph Kanke


In the educational realm it has been commonplace to hear that COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the already inequitable systems and practices in place within the system. Coaches and educators alike are eager to engage in conversations connected to equity, but given what some would call our historical tendency towards silence on this topic, they are uncertain how to start.

Coaches who are looking for inroads to dig for details and depth, challenge assumptions and dismantle the status quo will appreciate this new tool. The Equity Mindset Cards are designed to keep equity at the center of every conversation. Set aside some time to review the cards and make a plan to infuse them into your coaching practice.

Equity Mindset Cards

Across the state of Wisconsin (and nationally), our educational system greatly disadvantages our students of color, students with IEPs, English language learners and students experiencing poverty. The Department of Public Instruction has made a commitment to address these unacceptable opportunity gaps at the systems level, knowing the inequities stem from the system, not from the students and families who have been historically marginalized. One tool that has been created by the Title I Team at DPI to address these inequities is the Mindset Cards. The Mindset Cards attempt to bridge the gap between understanding equity concepts and applying them to everyday tasks, in effort to transform how we do our work. Rather than providing a checklist, the Mindset Cards focus on a shift in mindset, knowing that we must change the way we think about what we do - personally, interpersonally, organizationally and structurally - in order to do things differently to create the change we need.

The Mindset Cards focus on nine key mindsets that distinguish real educational equity work from general continuous improvement. Alongside each mindset, there are identified resources, sample practices, and coaching questions intended to enable changes in day to day decisions and work, along with common pitfalls to be aware of that can unintentionally get in the way of each mindset. Mindset Cards are designed to be used on a daily basis, drawing from the guiding questions, sample practices and resources to create a different way of working and thinking that advances educational equity for all of our students and families. Currently there is no prescribed framework for using the cards; however below are a few examples of how coaches have used them so far:

Focusing on a “Mindset of the Month” - intentionally integrating the guiding questions, sample practices and resources from one selected Mindset Card each month in to a coach’s practice, and providing spaces to reflect on this mindset both personally and professionally - this allows grounding more deeply in one mindset at a time, rather than introducing them all at once

  • Facilitating the creation of team norms from the Mindset Cards to guide the work of the team
  • Coaching teams: Inviting each member of the team to select a different Mindset Card in a meeting where decisions are being made, and focusing on one or two guiding questions or sample practices from that card throughout the meeting
  • Using the Mindset Cards to aid in planning for coaching cycles and embedding questions as appropriate

The Wisconsin Coaching Practice Profile calls on coaches to, “support clients in a broad range of contexts to examine how their interactions and decisions perpetuate the status quo.” Sometimes these conversations can be difficult but the Equity Mindset Cards offer suggestions of where to lean in and what kinds of questions to ask. When planning for a coaching conversation, scan over the mindset cards and see if there is one you anticipate coming up in the conversation as a starting point. As with all coaching, the more you engage in the practice, the more salient and comfortable it will become.

Explore the Equity Mindset Cards

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