When approaching cultural competence as an educator I begin with creating a safe, equitable and inclusive learning environment. “Culturally Responsive Lesson Plan Descriptors” (2005) suggests, “Providing multiple activities to address multiple learning styles and student needs.” Lessons in my classroom include student voice and student collaboration. Students are given clear expectations and rubrics are used. Each lesson includes an anticipatory set and new learning is connected to student background knowledge. All students are held accountable for following the school promises and student voice is used to establish rules and procedures that model the promises. Each lesson, students share prior knowledge that might help them with the new learning objective. Adding to their schema helps students make connections to new learning. Students also have many opportunities to share and model academic skills with their partners so they are getting multiple opportunities to practice and receive support. I also explicitly teach expectations and provide opportunities for students to share and work together. This way all students feel a part of a safe learning environment and know that their contributions are valued. Students are more willing to share their ideas and learn from each other. Instruction is differentiated with opportunities for students to receive extra support at their instructional level. In order to make a positive impact on student learning I want families to understand that our partnership is vital to their student’s progress. Questionnaires, newsletters, student self-assessments, regular contact and conferences are used to learn more about the families and their children and to keep them informed.
When thinking about cultural competence in my instruction design I look for guidance within my school community. This includes my professional learning community where we work together to refine and brainstorm teaching strategies that will improve student learning. The school counselor, psychologist, specialists, and ELL teacher are also great resources for learning more about student backgrounds and learning needs. Goals I would like to pursue include seeking opportunities for professional development that provide ways to connect to all ethnic groups, cultures and communities. I wonder how my school can help support me in learning about different ethnic groups and ways to provide resources to families that will help them get involved in the school community.
My assumptions about homework that guides my practices today is that students homework should not be new learning but extra practice to reinforce skills already taught in school. Students benefit from homework that is given feedback so they know their strengths and areas needing improvement. Homework helps students develop study skills and discipline for completing assigned work. The report, “Classroom Conditions – How Leadership Influences Student Learning” (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstrom, K., 2004) states, “Homework may cause students to lose interest in academic material, fatigue, lack of opportunity for leisure activities, and parent pressure. Homework can further show the differences between high and low achievers.” My goal as I move forward is to ensure that homework is purposeful and manageable. It should be a task students can complete independently to limit parent pressure and in a timely manner so students can participate in leisure activities.
Currently, I use homogeneous grouping in math and reading. My initial assumption was to group students with like-ability so all students are receiving instruction at their level. However, the report, “Classroom Conditions – How Leadership Influences Student Learning” (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstrom, K., 2004) states, “Students benefit from heterogeneous groups with rich content rather than curriculum focused on drill of academic skills.” My understanding about curriculum is that it should be guaranteed and viable. The curriculum should be differentiated according to learning styles and needs. This is definitely something I want to consider within my own classroom environment. I want to ensure that all students have high expectations through rich and meaningful curriculum. Heterogeneous groups might allow opportunity for all students to be held to high expectations while giving students the opportunity to learn from peer models.
Currently opportunity gaps for our students include limited opportunities for students to access culturally relevant curriculum, and lack of resources and communication with families. There needs to be a deeper understanding of student’s cultures and lifestyles. In the discussion board this week I think it was agreed that there needs to be a greater knowledge of many cultures, traditions, learning styles, and student needs in order to close the achievement gap and support students’ development.
The article, “Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System” (Flores & Sechrist, 2010) suggests that in order to develop our competence some strategies include, “Facilitating parent and community involvement and enhancing the competence of teachers and the cultural relevance of curriculum and instruction.” It may be useful to make closing the achievement gap part of the school improvement process and look at innovative school models that have shown success.
“Synthesis of the Recommendations from the 2008 Achievement Gap Studies” (2009) suggests strategies for enhancing the cultural competence of teachers. My plan for increasing my cultural competency is to gain knowledge of ethnic groups, cultures, and histories and include this information in my instruction. My goal is to seek opportunities for culturally competence professional development. I will continue to initiate positive relationships with families and expect success for all students by providing high expectations and rich content.
Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee. (2009). Synthesis of the Recommendations from the 2008 Achievement Gap Studies. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.k12.wa.us/cisl/pubdocs/Synthesis2008Recommendations.pdf
Eliminating the Gaps. (2005). Culturally Responsive Lesson Plan Descriptors. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CISL/EliminatingtheGaps/CulturalCompetence/Research.aspx
Flores, M., & Sechrist, C. (2010). A Report by the Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee. Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.k12.wa.us/Cisl/pubdocs/AgapLegReport2010.pdf
Leithwood, K., Louis, K., Anderson, S., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). The Wallace Foundation. Classroom Conditions – How Leadership Influences Student Learning. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.wallacefoundation.org/pages/classroom-conditions-how-leadership-influences-student-learning.aspx#c1