The ARC of Understanding
The ARC of Understanding is a model designed to help educators consider our personal levels of awareness regarding issues of ethnicity and racism with the goal of developing deeper understanding and more critical teaching for and about diversity in Canada.
Most educators have some understanding or appreciation of diversity, recognizing that Canada is a multicultural country. Many of us understand the value of cross-cultural awareness and are appalled by overt displays of racism. However, levels of awareness and the ways in which diversity is approached in classrooms can vary greatly. The ARC of Understanding offers a way for educators to consider not only personal knowledge of diversity, but also how we each teach for diversity in our classrooms.
ARC is divided into three levels of knowledge that move toward increasingly complex and critical knowledge about diversity:
Awareness → Recognition/Realization → Critique
The goal is to move teaching practices further along the ARC, from Awareness to Recognition/Realization, and from Recognition/Realization to Critique. However, movement on the ARC is not one way. Just as we can move up in our knowledge, we can also slip back when we encounter new situations that challenge our understanding and encourage shortcut thinking. We are all susceptible to stereotypes, assumptions and misinformation. The ARC also does not have an end point, as we should be continually critiquing our social and professional environments, our perceptions about diversity, and our teaching practices. Continually self-checking on the ARC allows educators to question each of these and, by extension, find alternatives to non-critical ways of thinking.
Here is more information about each level of the ARC, along with classroom examples.