- What role does culture play in learning?
- How can teachers develop culturally responsive practices?
- Multicultural education
Teachers will become familiar with some of the causes of
inequality in education, as well as the sources of diversity
in classrooms. They will understand the importance of multicultural
education and the different forms multicultural education
can take in schools.
- Culturally responsive teaching
Teachers will reflect on and consider the relationship between
culture and learning. Teachers will understand that culturally
responsive teaching involves a genuine respect for students
and belief in their potential as learners. Teachers will
understand the importance of connecting to students' experiences
and will explore how to create culturally responsive, caring
- Congruity between home and school
Teachers will consider the impact
of school culture and home culture on students' learning.
They will evaluate how to make the classroom a place where
students feel comfortable, see themselves represented, and
engage with curriculum materials that reflect their home
- All of us make sense of the world through
our different cultural experiences. Culture shapes how we
communicate, what we do in our work and play, how we interact
with one another, what customs we follow, and how we view
- The ways in which we learn cannot be separated
from these cultural contexts. We all bring a set of cultural
understandings, perspectives, and expectations to school
- Two questions are addressed in this
- How does culture affect learning?
- How can we make cultural knowledge a
source of understanding in the classroom?
Culture, Inequality, and Schooling
- As we move into the 21st century,
the demographics of the United States continue to evolve
rapidly, and schools reflect increases in students of color.
- Too many schools in the United States do
a poor job of educating low-income and minority students.
- The reasons for these inequalities range
from the policies that govern school funding, curriculum
offerings, staffing, and tracking systems, to factors that
depend much more on teachers' knowledge, skills, and expectations
for their students.
- Joel Spring (1997) suggests that the culture
of schools can undermine the cultures of some students.
He describes several ways in which schools can "deculturize"
students. These include –
- segregation and isolation of minority students
- forced change of language
- a curriculum whose content and textbooks
reflect only the culture of the dominant group
- a setting in which dominated groups are
not allowed to express their culture, language, or customs
- the use of teachers exclusively from the
- Students develop a wide range of coping mechanisms
in response to institutional pressures that send them signals
that they do not belong.
- "Multicultural education" represents
an attempt to address all of the issues that influence achievement
by considering the content of materials and the nature of
instruction, in light of the specific needs, perspectives,
and backgrounds of students.
- Inequities in schooling can be addressed
in part by taking into account the range of experiences,
histories, and cultures that students bring to the classroom.
- James Banks describes five ways scholars
and teachers have thought about multicultural education,
each of which reflects an aspect of educating for and about
cultural diversity. They are –
- content integration
- knowledge construction
- prejudice reduction
- equity pedagogy
- empowerment of school culture
- Some worry that a multicultural curriculum
will divide rather than unite students. However, far from
encouraging separatism, acknowledgement of diverse experiences
helps teachers and students create new associations and
understandings of one another.
- Creating new understandings requires a conscious
effort on the part of both teachers and students to understand
and embrace diverse perspectives.
- Multicultural education means more than simply
incorporating diverse curriculum materials. "Curriculum
and materials represent the content of multicultural education,
but multicultural education is above all a process..."(Nieto,
2000, p. 315).
Culturally Responsive Teaching
The following elements
are central to culturally responsive teaching (Gay, 2000;
- respect for students and belief in their
potential as learners
- caring environments and personal connections
with students and families
- cultural congruity between home and school
- active teaching and a wide range of authentic
assessments that tap into students' learning
Respect for Students and Belief
in Their Potential as Learners
all aspects of culturally responsive teaching is a classroom
atmosphere that is respectful of all students and that holds
high expectations of them as learners.
Caring Environments and Personal
- Research suggests that effective teachers
form and maintain connections with their students within
their social context. Such teachers do not shy away from
issues of race and culture.
- Culturally responsive classrooms are caring
places where it is acceptable to take risks, and where the
classroom is a "safe place," making school a haven
from outside stresses.
- Setting clear norms for respectful and caring
behavior at the beginning of the year, as well as consistent
routines that make the classroom a predictable, pleasant
place, can communicate this feeling of safety.
- Caring can be communicated by the time teachers
dedicate to their students, their patience, how well they
prepare for class, and the effort they put into making classes
- The beginning of the year provides an ideal
opportunity for teachers to get to know their students by
asking them to describe their communities, what they like
to do outside of school, what their school interests are,
and how they feel about school itself.
- A teacher may take into account what students
bring to the classroom by individualizing reading lessons
around the particular interests of a student, decorating
classroom walls with students' favorite heroes, or basing
writing assignments on community issues that the students
Cultural Congruity Between Home
- Cultural continuity between home and school is another
element of culturally responsive teaching and equity pedagogy.
This involves making the classroom a place where students
feel comfortable, see themselves represented in the curriculum
and classroom environment, and engage with materials that
provide connections to their home and community experience.
- Research provides many examples of culturally specific
practices that have been found to make a positive difference
for student achievement.
- Cultural congruity does not just refer to being aware
of differences in communication and interaction styles.
Teachers can also work with the content of the curriculum
itself to make it more congruent with students' home experiences.
Active Teaching and Authentic
teachers tend to use an active, direct approach to teaching
that includes –
- giving feedback
- emphasizing higher order skills
Culturally responsive teachers tend to avoid
- excessive reliance on rote learning
- drill and practice
One way to both make expectations clear and
provide opportunities for diverse learning styles is through
authentic assessment. Authentic tasks represent knowledge
in ways that resemble real-world applications and allow students
to integrate what they have learned. In addition, meaningful
performances in real-world contexts provide opportunities
for a diverse body of students to demonstrate the many strengths
and intelligences they possess.
Dealing with diversity is one of the central challenges of
21st century education. It is impossible for teachers
to succeed with all students without exploring how students'
learning experiences are influenced by their home languages,
cultures, and contexts; the realities of race and privilege
in the United States; the ongoing manifestations of institutional
racism within the educational system; and the many factors
that shape students' opportunities to learn within individual
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Materials for Session 6