A Critical-Diversity, Belongingness, Inclusion, and Equity SEL Framework

Jeanny Marroquin, Claremont Graduate University

The Covid-19 pandemic and civil unrest have fueled a national conversation encouraging a deeper understanding of the opportunity to learn (OTL; McDonnell, 1995) social and emotional learning (SEL) for marginalized students of color. In this article, I draw on critical race theory and epistemology, as well as Indigenous pedagogy and epistemology to redefine the terms diversity, belongingness, inclusion, and equity (DBIE). I do this to reimagine the Collaborative for Advancing Social and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) transformative SEL, a framework that recognizes the role oppression and racism have on marginalized students’ social and emotional learning in the context of the U.S. (Jagers., 2018, 2019).

Critical race theory and epistemology acknowledge a need to center race and racism in conversations that include historically marginalized racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. (Crenshaw et al., 1996; Delgado & Stefancic, 2017; Du Bois, 1903; Ladson-Billings, 1998; Love 2019). Indigenous epistemology and pedagogy focus on the importance of decolonizing systems and structures which inhibit individuals from connecting with each other and their environment, and ultimately healing from experiences that might prevent them from reaching their fullest potential (Absolon, 2010; Esposito, 2012; Villanueva, 2018).

In a critical-DBIE SEL framework, diversity empowers individuals to understand themselves through depth in identity. Du Bois’ “double consciousness” (1903) captures this need to acknowledge one’s engrained ancestral wisdom and trauma as part of one’s identity. In this way, students could coexist in environments where they understand each other as individuals whose current state is directly tied to their ancestor’s trajectory.

Belongingness encourages individuals to go beyond surface-level membership in a group (Goodenow, 1993). It requires intentional collaboration and integration of marginalized voices when building physical and social structures (Villanueva, 2018). Synonymous with mattering (Love’s, 2019), belongingness embraces marginalized students as essential contributors in all spaces, knowing that emotional and psychological safety (Madrazo et al., 2015) is essential to building safer learning spaces for students of color.

Inclusion acknowledges who is not present in a space, questioning why, and taking steps towards building spaces where diverse voices and experiences are included. Delgado and Stefancic (2017) use the Black-White binary paradigm to highlight the exclusion of the Latinx experience. Crenshaw et al. (1996) stress the importance of intersectionality, emphasizing the need to view inclusivity through a lens of complexity.

Equity requires inequity: differentiated approaches to address inequities caused by privilege and barriers (Kim et al., 2021). Equity is having high expectations and providing high support (Cohen, 2000, p.276) but also calls for dismantling traditional ways of engaging in education practices by decentralizing power in the classroom and using culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1998).

A critical-DBIE SEL framework takes CASEL’s transformative SEL framework one step further to address the opportunity to learn SEL that marginalized students of color experience in traditional forms of SEL. This framework produces SEL competencies that enable minoritized students to be the agents of change we know they can be.

The Critical-DBIE SEL competencies I have developed are in this document.

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