September 21, 2022

Effective pedagogical practice to foster intellectual engagement centered on educational equity

University-level instructors need strategies to help intellectually engage students in the critical work of centering classroom thinking and scholarship on equity and social justice. In my case, the students in my courses are full-time teachers enrolled in a graduate Transformational Leadership (ESG) program. As an instructor, my goal is twofold: (1) to teach and model a strategy that will engage my adult graduate students, and (2) to inspire the application of the strategy to students in their own PK-12 classrooms.

In the example that follows, the instructional goal of my lesson was to gain the ESG’s understanding of “achievement gaps” and “teaching root causes” for perceived student underachievement. In the lesson described below, I adapted the Eisenhower matrix and Stephen Covey’s version (1989) of Matrix to facilitate cognitive brainstorming and to capture student thinking.

The lesson description from “University Instructor Moves” combines adaptations of the Matrix as well as that of Frank Lyman (1981, 2016) Think about sharing and Idea example strategy of Consider Trix. This combination served the GSTs well as they were committed to content, process and product. Note: This idea can be adapted for in-person or virtual teaching.

The adaptation of Eisenhower Matrix Covey:
Horizontal axis label: sense of urgency
Label of the vertical axis: scale from low to high

HIGH urgent and important Not urgent but important
LOW Urgent but not important Not urgent and not important
Figure 1. The adaptation of the Eisenhower Matrix to Covey

A university professor moves

University Instructor Movement 1: Create and Explain the Matrix model

I created a four quadrant blank Matrix with only the HIGH and LOW labels on the physical (or virtual) board and shared with students that it fit Matrix would serve as a structure for class discussion.

Fig. 2 Empty Matrix

College Instructor Movement 2: Provide a central question for brainstorming

I asked the ESG: “What types of educational courses are prepared, taught and assessed for all learners? Reflect on typical instructional strategies used daily in classrooms and provide specific examples. The students received Waiting time reflect, then they were asked to independently write specific activities and brief descriptions on sticky cards (if in person) or on their own paper (if virtual).

Example: “What types of instructional lessons are prepared, taught and assessed for all learners? Reflect on typical instructional strategies used daily in classrooms and provide specific examples.

Fig. 3 Empty Matrix with focused, instructor-led question

College Instructor Movement 3: Discuss key terms and concepts

I engaged the TSGs in a discussion and review of key concepts that supported or informed their thinking in this lesson. I also gave students time to prepare additional notes (examples of themes brought up by the instructor and students included: equity, access, rigorous content).

University instructor movement 4: Facilitate a discussion on the themes identified by the group

I used Think about sharing facilitate small group discussions on the concepts provided, such as commitment and rigor. For virtual teaching, I used breakout rooms for pair discussions.

College Instructor Movement 5: Place Note Cards and/or Ideas in Quadrants

Based on the ideas from the GSTs, I created (internally) an initial label for each axis as an organizational tool to collect student ideas. Although not shared with students, an example of each axis label may include:

Horizontal axis label: Level of engagement encouraged for all learners
Vertical axis label: Level of rigor taught and assessed to all learners

HIGH RIGOR High commitment and great rigor Low commitment and high rigor
LOW RIGOR High commitment but low rigor Low commitment and low rigor
Figure 4. Sample Matrix use ideas generated by students

University Instructor Additional Moves:

I asked a student, or a pair of students, to bring me their note card, to share it verbally or to share it in writing in a virtual space. I then placed the idea in one of the quadrants without commenting and without labeling the quadrants for the students – or explaining why the activity was placed in a specific quadrant.

  • For example, a group can provide a note card or verbal idea that says, “STEM-based experience.” Another may say, “Use markers to create posters, then share the posters with the class.” Without explaining Why at TPS for now I have placed student note cards in specific quadrants – this is based on the student description and where I initially think the idea belongs.
  • NOTE: I may consider something to have low rigor and low commitment, but I give no feedback or explanation to students as to why I placed it in the quadrant. And while students may suspect the axis labels, they don’t know it yet.
  • I repeated this process three or four more times, calling students one at a time and placing the card or idea in the quadrant that seemed, at first glance, to me where it belonged. It is important to be sensitive to the students and to be realistic that the instructors do not yet have a full picture of the activity being described. It is likely (and expected) that some of the cards will be misplaced and will need to be moved later in the lesson.

After placing several cards, I asked the GSTs to read the cards on the Matrix and use Think about sharing for gGenerate the possible labels for the horizontal and vertical axes of the quadrant. However, I did not confirm every axis label; instead, students were asked to provide an example that seemed to meet the criteria for one of the quadrants (example to idea). GSTs will assume that the activities in the quadrants have some similarity and will generate activities that they deem “match” the quadrant, but they are still not allowed to provide the label for each axis.

After repeating this process a few more times, I eventually request axis labels and modify the labels as needed to reflect student-generated ideas, as well as to move misplaced activities. Once the axis labels are in place and after reaffirming the lesson objective (“to identify the types of instructional lessons that are prepared, taught, and assessed for all learners as possible root causes of student underachievement” ), students share anonymous and authentic information. classroom/school practices that meet the descriptions the students created for the axes. Accordingly, this lesson creates a common understanding of terms, concepts, and experiences as the basis for discussion of educational equity and root causes.

This strategy had an impact in my graduating class. In both virtual and in-person environments, the level of concern for fairness expressed by students, the declared awareness of the impact of the instructional choices made, and the lively discussion within the classroom were three evident artefacts that this lesson thoughtful had an impact on the teacher. agency.

Dr. Katherine Orlando is a Lecturer and Graduate Program Director for the Department of Educational Leadership and Professional Development at Towson University. His areas of interest and research are leadership, instructional leadership, equity, professional learning communities, and intergroup dialogue.


Bast, F. (2016, January). Crucial point of time management for students. Resonance: Journal of Science Education, 21(1), 71–88.

Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Free press.

Lyman, F. (1981). Think-Pair-Share: Strategies for Reading Comprehension [pdf]. Retrieved from

Lyman, F. (2016). ThinkTrix: Tools to teach 7 essential thinking skills. Kagan Editions.

Quintana, P. (2021). Covey’s Matrix: the simple secret to great time management. ByteStart.

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