Monday, January 20, 2014

Learning: Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

I'm preparing for a after school workshop on Culturally Relevant Teaching.  While doing some research on the topic I ran across this article from 2011:

This article provided some amazing insights and began a foundation of understanding what it means to be "Culturally Relevant."

See below for some of my take aways, questions and musings.  Please add other resources, books, comments, ideas to the comments.


"Scholars have pondered over strategies to assist teachers in teaching about diversity as well as interacting with diversity found within their classrooms in order to ameliorate the effects of cultural discontinuity."

Cultural discontinuity = difference in culture between the white middle class teacher and classroom that isn't reflective of that.  (vice versa can also be true for an African American teacher in a classroom of students that are not reflective of that culture.)

"The problem embracing the American educational system is how to ensure that all students, especially racal/ethnic minority students, achieve.

"Theories and research which argue that students, especially those from status-oppressed minority groups, are sensitive to their treatment in school by teachers, administrators, and peers will look for answers in these social relationships"

How do we move from theories and research to solutions?

"Viable teaching and learning environments are:

  • culturally appropriate
  • culturally congruent
  • mitigating cultural discontinuity
  • culturally responsive
  • culturally compatible"

How is a student's home reflected in my classroom?

"Just as the student body is not homogeneous, teachers may come from a culture quite different from that of their students, resulting in cultural clashes that can potentially lead to gaps in learning."

What are the cultural gaps that exist between you are your students?

"For viable teaching and learning to take place, there must be connections between the home-community and school culture."

"...intentional inclusion of students' backgrounds becomes a direct demonstration of the distinction between difference and deficiency."

How do we recognize difference and/or/vs deficiency?

How does your school mirror the community?

Historical Evolution of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

"Bringing the relevance of the text to the child's own experience helps the child make sense of the world"

"This illustrated the importance of teacher as a bridge between home-community and school culture."
"...teachers need to recognize differences in interactional style (preference or learning style and demonstrating what was learned) as well as differences in cognitive style (cognitive information processing).  They stressed that the teacher should be actively involved in ascertaining the learning styles of his or her students."

When students and teachers are from the same culture, evidence shows there is more learning.

"cultural incompatibility is one explanation for school failure."

Significance of Critical Race Theory

"...acknowledgement of who children are, how they perceive themselves, and how the world receives them."

"...racism persists in being"endemic and deeply ingrained in American life"" Ladson-Billings and Tate 1995

"Critical Race Theory tenets:

  1. Racialized power
  2. the permanence or centrality of race
  3. counter storytelling as a legitimate critique of the master narrative
  4. interest convergence
  5. critique of liberalism"

"...reviewing the ways that, for instance, curriculum is designed, the delivery of instruction is executed, classes are composed and grouped, assessment is determined and processed, school funding is allocated, and redistricting lines are drawn."

How do you get to know, I mean know, your students, their families and their culture?

Conceptual Framework of Cultural Relevant Pedagogy

5 themes:

  1. Identity and Achievement
  2. Equity and Excellence
  3. Developmental Appropriateness
  4. Teaching the Whole Child
  5. Student-Teacher Relationships

Figure 1:

Identity and Achievement

"...both student and teacher identities are considered."
"...identity is defined as a cultural construct."

"parts of our identity that do capture our attention are those that other people notice, and reflect back to us."

"Teachers should realize that students who are racial or ethnic minorities see, view, and perceive themselves and others differently than those who are of the majority group."

"race is not to be ignored in the picture of identity development."

"Teachers need to be aware of their own identities."

"...individually and collectively students voices are heard, they matter, and their presence and contributions are valued."

Teachers CANNOT be colorblind or race neutral because each "ignore the centrality of race and racism within American society."

"When teachers acknowledge that the system is racist, they can move forward to not only avoid socially reproducing the racism, but also to rethink the system, recognize their actions in it, change them if they need to be, and embrace all cultures as equally important."

"by embracing the reality of diversity through such an identification is critical in creating an environment for equitable learning."

Equity and Excellence

"...equity involved giving students what they need."

"Giving students what they need means believing:

  • Difference is good.
  • Differentiated instruction is essential for some
  • Culturally relevant pedagogy practices can enhance learning."

"when teachers do not see diversity, they truly do not see students at all and therefore greatly limit their abilities to meet students' diverse educational and social needs."

How do we incorporate more multicultural content?

How do we provide windows and mirrors into our content that allow our students to see themselves in their curriculum?

Developmental Appropriateness

"...acknowledge the importance of knowing where children are in their cognitive development."

"The key is generating teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students."

How do we do we generating teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students?
What does it look like when teachers generate teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students?

Teaching the Whole Child

"These cultural influences affect how students and their families perceive, receive, respond to, categorize, and prioritize what is meaningful to them."

"Culture resides in the individual."

" is crucial for teachers to learn about all of their students, especially those who are culturally different from the teachers themselves."

How can we filter the content required by teachers to 'cover' to leave time for teachers to get to KNOW their students?

Student-Teacher Relationships

"the nature and the extent of the relationships between the teachers and their students are crucial in promoting student learning."

"...teachers' knowledge and translation of different cultural communications styles can avert misinterpretations of behavior, demonstrations of disrespect, and conflicts in schools."

Student-teacher relationships are "fluid and equitable and extend beyond the classroom."

Teachers should "demonstrate a connectedness with all their students and encourage that same connectedness between the students."

Teachers should believe that "community is a vital partner in students' learning."

Teachers should "simply not accept failure, but begin where students are and works hard to help them succeed."

"...through counter stories, teachers are provided a vehicle by which they can see what has, in some cases, been consciously invisible to them before."

How do we as teachers INVEST in our students and our students families?  Only through that investment will true learning be achieved.

That's it for now, add more resources in the comments section....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

EdcampSTL and Things you can't do with kids in the building

So I organize and lead a team of educators to create an event called #edcampSTL.  Please follow along with the hashtag and participate.  This year it will be on 2/8/2014.

One of the things we like to do is get creative.  To get creative we need people to get our of their shells.  The whole day is pretty uncomfortable for those that have never attended an edcamp.  This event really pushes them over the edge.

After lunch, typically there is a lull.  It's not anyone's fault, it just happens.  Blame it on circadian rhythms, the ebb and flow of the day, the lack of coffee, or the cycles of the moon, regardless, there's a lull.

To combat this lull, to build community, to meet new people, we needed an activity.  We came up with an activity we affectionately call "Things you can't do with kids in the building."  I know, long name.

We gave every person a sign off sheet (see below) and a MAP of the school:

The idea is get people up, moving, doing things they normally wouldn't in their "professional day."  The ideas below are accompanied by images if we were able to catch them.  These images are from over the last two years of EdcampSTL.  The stations we used included:

  • Running in the halls - Super easy station and fun for everyone!  Gets the blood pumping!

  • Screaming in the library - Wish I had a video of this.  People had a blast since they never get a chance to do it.  We really wanted to get a person in a white wig and bifocals (old-school librarian style) shhhhing people after they screamed.  That would have been great!
  • Sliding down the rails - We all want to do it, it's great to give people permission to play!
  • Bouncing balls in the hall - How many times have you said for students to not bounce the balls in the hallway, it's freeing to let go of that!
  • Throwing food in the cafeteria - The one station people talk about every year.  It's a classic.  Both years we used mashed potatoes.  We forgot about having people wipe their hands after throwing them, oops!  We got smart and picked up an apparatus from the dollar spot to keep people's hands clean!
  • Throwing paper airplanes - Toby is the king.  People came up with creative airplanes and we learned who's a perfectionist. :-)  

  • Texting in school - Really easy station.  We used poll everywhere to gather information to show teachers how they can use student's devices in the classroom.
  • Rolling chairs in the hallway - Awesome!  Be careful though, we broke two chairs and had to replace them :-)
  • Playing with bouncey balls - I forgot the name of the game.  We had cups and the bouncey balls had to make it into the cup.  The only trick was there were directions of different tasks on cards.  It was awesome.  I do remember we purchased the game at urban outfitters. No it wasn't beer pong!
  • Book Bowling - This was awesome!  We built "pins" out of shoeboxes and then used books to knock them down.  Very fun!  I wanted to do a station called "Angry Books"  Which we built a structure and then flung the books like angry birds, it just took too long to set up each time.
  • Bullying in the stairwell - Fun one!  We came up with insults (see planning documents below) and people picked them out of a hat and read them to each other.  It was all in good fun!  Even the team from Mentor Mob appreciated it!

  • Dance walking -   Interesting.  I really wanted video taken of this and then made into a promo for EdcampSTL.  I'm not sure what happened to the video.  Anyway, this was our inspiration:

  • Acting up - We had a room where people could do anything they wanted.  Most just stood on the table.  That's a big thing for people.  I guess they wanted to reenact the scene in Dead Poets Society:

Here's the planning document we used from last year:

And some brainstorming done here:

 At each station is a volunteer that signs off on their form, these submissions are used to win a prize, yet another incentive to get people moving.  Here's the form for 2012:

Steal this idea!  Bring play, unprofessionalism and creativity to your school or team.  With play and creativity we can accomplish anything!

What stations could we have in the future?  

Add your thoughts of things you can't do with kids in the building to the comments!