How to Build Student Programming Through an EDI-R Lens

What does it mean to have an EDI-R lens?

When you equip yourself with an EDI-R lens, it means that you are systematically and intentionally incorporating equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism into your daily practices. It involves active participation and willingness to learn from yourself and others. But what are the important distinctions between each concept?

Diversity is the variety of differences that make us unique and shape our perception of ourselves, others, and the world; these are traits such as race, sex, gender, age, sexuality, religion, ability, and more. To have an EDI-R lens, you must understand that we will never fully comprehend all the intricacies of a person’s existence, but our differences is what makes us individuals.

Equity is sometimes used interchangeably with equality, but they are vastly different concepts. While equality focuses on providing everyone with the same resources (e.g., equality of opportunity), equity focuses on providing individual people and groups with the tools needed for them to succeed (equality of outcomes). Those who adopt an EDI-R lens understand that there are varied kinds of barriers that make some folks less capable of converting resources into opportunities/goods; what people need to succeed differs amongst individuals.

Inclusion takes diversity and equity one step further. It is the active, intentional, and continuous process of creating environments in which individuals or groups feel respected, supported, and are able to fully participate (The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism, 2023).

Anti-racism refers to the active work of opposing racism in all forms by advocating for changes in all facets of social life (Race Forward, 2015). It is not enough to be “not racist” because silence and inaction makes us complicit in maintaining racism and white supremacy. To have a true EDI-R lens, you must strive to be anti-racist.

Principles of Student-Centred Learning

EDI-R lenses must be integrated into all domains of life. We need to be able to self-reflect, hold others and ourselves accountable, be willing to learn and know better, and be willing to equip ourselves with the tools to teach others about EDI-R. To incorporate all these practices into student programming is to allow the student to have autonomy in their own learning. Institutions that prioritize western understandings of prestige force conformity amongst students of marginalized identities. Unlike teacher-centred approaches, student-centred learning calls for the instructor to go beyond transmitting knowledge and instead facilitate active learning experiences, giving marginalized students the opportunity to have their own everyday lives be spoken to.

Student Centered Learning

Figure 1: Principles of Student Centred Learning. Adapted from Ontario Tech University's Teaching and Learning Centre

Teacher-Centred Learning

  • The teacher is at the centre of the learning process.
  • The teacher deposits knowledge, similar to a passive banking system (Freire, 2018).
  • The teacher chooses topics and activities with passive participation from the students.
  • Assessments are one-dimensional and focus on grading.
  • Prioritizes memorization and being correct.
  • Academic culture is competitive and individualistic.

Student-Centred Learning

  • The student and their vast experiences at the center of the learning process.
  • The teacher is merely a facilitator, involving students in the learning process.
  • Learners are primary designers in content that actively enables their everyday lives, sparking active participation.
  • Assessments are multidimensional and provide continuous opportunities for feedback.
  • Prioritizes critical thinking.
  • Academic culture is collaborative and supportive.

Figure 2: Differences Between Teacher-Centred Learning and Student-Centred Learning. Adapted from Ontario Tech University's Teaching and Learning Centre.

Inclusive Design for Learning

You might be familiar with the concept of Universal Design for Learning, which attempts to create programming for users while taking into account a wide range of abilities and situations. While this is a good first try, attempting to account for everything possible tends to be counterproductive. Instead, let’s turn to Inclusive Design for Learning, which means making choices that consider the needs of the people in the room. Instead of attempting to anticipate everything, inclusive design asks us to seek out and incorporate the feedback of students. This could look like co-creating your syllabus with your students during the first week of classes. The section below is a selection of questions from a Guide for Planning Inclusive Teaching Toolkit put together by San Jose State University.

Questions to guide inclusive teaching

Resources for Student Programming


Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.; 50th anniversary edition.). Bloomsbury Academic.

Frigola, G. (2021, October 4). Universal design, inclusive design, and equity-focused design. Medium.

Race Forward. (2015). Race Reporting Guide.
The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism. (2023). Intro to Equity [PowerPoint slides]. The

University of Waterloo.