Standard 9 Meta-Reflection: Cultural Sensitivity

Standard 9 Cultural Sensitivity: Establishes a culturally inclusive learning climate that facilitates academic engagement and success for all students.

In the course, Culturally Responsive Teaching, I learned that it is important that teachers are consciously aware of their own background and beliefs so they can appropriately respond to their students and create an environment that respects all students’ beliefs and cultures. Mvududu (2013) states, “Curriculum content and materials do not reflect multicultural perspectives of the populations taught” (p. 2). It is important that teachers are able to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of all students. In order to do this, teachers need to be aware of their own cultures and backgrounds but also take interest in learning about the cultures of their students. This will be an ongoing process as teachers learn about the cultures and interests of their students. Teachers must seek opportunities for professional development, activate students’ prior knowledge, and model respect for individual differences. This will ultimately help develop multicultural classrooms in which all voices, backgrounds, and cultures are equally valued instead of Whites being the “norm” against which all other groups are measured (Mvududu, 2013, p. 9). 

Key Concepts

Views of Multicultural Education-

The views of multicultural education vary depending on the subjective and objective elements in which knowledge is constructed. There are different types of knowledge that should influence the curriculum taught in schools. These include personal/cultural, popular, mainstream academic, transformative academic, and school (Banks, 1996, p. 9). In a multicultural classroom, students should learn all types of knowledge so they are able to understand multiple perspectives and develop their own. If teachers understand different types of knowledge they can apply this knowledge in the classroom to help students see how the knowledge fits within a social context. It is important to remember that our own background and cultural experiences influence the way we construct knowledge. Banks (1996) states, “The goal of multicultural education is to create equal educational opportunities for all students (p.8).”

Culturally Responsive Instruction-

Culturally responsive teaching involves teachers designing instruction that meets the needs of all students. Mvududu (2013) states, “The general claim is that most children of color are socially acculturated to more communal living arrangements than White, middle-class kids, and thus they profit from more collaborative instructional activities than they usually experience in school” (slide 2). I think when cooperative learning includes: positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, individual accountability, social skills development and group processing opportunities it provides a structure for students to learn from one another (Del’Ollio & Donk, 2007). It allows each student to engage and participate in the learning. Students are not only engaged in learning the content but are developing social skills and positive relationships with their peers. When students have the opportunity to problem solve and accomplish tasks they are learning to work productively with others. Cooperative learning is giving all students a chance to participate while building classroom community. Students need to feel successful and develop positive relationships with their peers. These social skills are skills they will take with them beyond the classroom and that will be applicable to real life. Transformative Knowledge, Curriculum Reform, and Action describes the dimensions of multicultural education which includes content integration, an equity pedagogy, the knowledge construction process, prejudice reduction, and an empowering school culture and social structure (Banks, 1996, p. 337). Content integration is when teachers use content from a variety of cultures in their instruction. An equity pedagogy requires teachers to use a variety of teaching styles to meet the learning styles of all students. The knowledge construction process involves teachers presenting multiple perspectives to help students understand how knowledge is influenced by multiple factors. Prejudice reduction is implemented when teachers develop lessons that will help students develop positive attitudes about all cultural backgrounds. Lastly, an empowering school culture and social structure requires the school to create a culture that supports all students (Banks, 1996, p. 336-339). I think the shift from content integration to transformation is the shift many teachers still need to make, including myself. Rather than adding units on different cultural groups, teachers can use the existing curriculum. This emphasizes the importance of creating an empowering school culture where all teachers are approaching the curriculum with a critical eye and making modifications that will allow students to see multiple perspectives. Since curriculums vary from school to school and do not always represent multiple cultural backgrounds, it is not enough to rely on simply delivering the content. It is important that teachers not only provide multiple perspectives but allow students to engage in critical thinking activities so they can learn to make their own interpretations. These are skills that students can apply beyond the classroom. Students need to be prepared to make decisions so they can make positive contributions to our diverse society.

Students’ Cultures and Background Knowledge- As our school populations become more diverse it is important that we seek opportunities to learn about students’ cultures and background knowledge that will facilitate us in adapting curriculum to meet the needs of all students. Mvududu (2013) states, “Multicultural entails knowledge of many cultures, which is impossible to posses in full” (p. 2). This reminds me that learning is an ongoing process and teachers may visit the area of  “distinguished” but often do not stay there. There are always opportunities for growth. Teachers need to constantly invest interest in understanding student backgrounds and lifestyles that will improve student learning. There are multiple factors aside from race that may affect the “achievement gap.” Mvududu (2013) states, “Understanding cultural issues associated with poverty is at least as complicated as race, and one has to deal with both of them to begin to make sense of the achievement gap” (p. 3). This stresses the importance of teachers taking time to understand the multiple factors that influence a child’s education. Mvududu (2013) states, “There is plenty of blame to go around, and the more important question is not who we blame but how we continue the slow process of incremental change in our schools and classrooms” (p.10).

Helping Students Academically-

Helping all students succeed academically is critical for improving the quality of life for students of color. “Forming better relationships and building self-esteem are important, but academic achievement is the best path” (Mvududu, 2013, Slide 3). Students will be motivated to learn if they are able to feel and celebrate their academic success. The other goals of multicultural education will greatly impact students’ pathways towards reaching academic success. Students must first be engaged in a curriculum they can identify with and that interests them. Part of our job as educators is to build our own understanding of our identities while learning the backgrounds and lifestyles of our students. This way we are delivering the content to address multiple learning styles and not just delivering content the way we were taught or learn best. Dr. Mvududu (2013) states, “All kids won’t meet the standards without significant changes in how curriculum is delivered to outside the main stream” (slide 15). I think it is possible to change the way the curriculum is taught while still meeting the state standards. I think the state tests are an accurate assessment of standards that can be taught through the curriculum without specially teaching to the test. I do think there is specific language and formatting that can affect students’ abilities to show what they know. So I think teachers do need to spend time teaching test-taking strategies and formatting. However, I do not think it’s necessary for teachers to teach to the specific content since the content is embedded in the curriculum being taught throughout the year. This is where there is flexibility in how the curriculum is delivered, while still ensuring that state standards are being taught.

Building Positive Relationships-

“Caring relationships are, and will always be, the centerpiece of effective teaching and learning” (Mvududu, slide 3). I am a strong believer in holding high expectations for all students regardless of ability level. Creating a learning environment in which all students are expected to take responsibility for their behavior and learning is a part of developing caring relationships with students. Dr. Mvududu (2013) states, “In its authentic form, it often requires what we call ‘tough love’” (slide 5). In the classroom, it is important to establish high expectations and hold students accountable for meeting them. In my classroom, there are some students who turn in work late or do not turn in homework on a weekly basis. The expectation is that the student will come in during his/her recess to complete the assignment. It can be very easy to excuse the student from having to complete the assignment during recess when the student gets upset, tells you they just forgot it, has worked hard during the day and needs a break, ect. Although there is some flexibility depending on the circumstance, I really think that not following through with the expectation is teaching the student that we as teachers don’t believe there is any value in having them complete it. We also run into this dilemma with behavior expectations. It can be difficult to make a decision about whether a student should be able to participate in our school-wide gold card celebration (for students who have modeled our school promises). It is easy to frequently give students multiple chances. However by not following through with the expectations, I think we are teaching the student that they do not have to model respectful behavior and they will still be rewarded. Sometimes it feels strict or uncaring, but I think students feel they are a part of a safe environment when there is accountability and structure. They know their teacher cares about their well-being and believes in their potential because their teacher will not settle for anything less than their best.

Knowledge Construction and Multiple Perspectives-

This course taught me the importance of understanding that knowledge construction is both objective and subjective. As teachers we need to not only be aware of the curriculum and information we present but how we interpret it based on our own background and beliefs. I think as educators, it’s important that we are knowledgeable in the content areas we teach so we can help students develop multiple perspectives that allow them to construct their own knowledge. I think it’s also valuable that we challenge knowledge that is presented to us or information that we read, rather than always accepting it as truth. I think working in a professional learning community is a great avenue for discussing how we can teach curriculum and content to help students construct their own knowledge.

Communication-

The importance of communication is a valuable piece to culturally responsive teaching that may be easily overlooked in instruction. When I think about communication, I first think of language. For example, a culturally responsive teacher provides accommodations for English Language Learners in order to provide access to the learning material. However, communication includes both verbal and non-verbal. Students’ background and culture influence their responses and interactions in the classroom. Understanding how students’ cultures play a role in their communication is another component in designing instruction to meet the needs of all students. I think including multiple instructional strategies is one way teachers can provide students with multiple ways to respond to the learning. Since lessons are designed to focus on specific learning targets it can be easy to design questions that are convergent. I think allowing students opportunities to have conversations about the learning through cooperative learning or by allowing time to turn and talk gives students a chance to explain their thinking and understanding. This might support students’ development of inquiry skills and allow students to apply their background knowledge to the new learning. Mvududu (2013) states, “Teachers need to be able to read their students well enough to discern whether learning is going on or not right in the midst of lively discussion” (p. 4). I think this is a key component of effective teaching because the teacher is constantly using formative assessment to ensure that students understand the learning. If students do not have opportunities to actively participate in the learning it is difficult to assess their engagement and level of understanding. Teachers must be aware of students’ engagement so they can provide accommodations for students who need support. This may include asking divergent questions that allow students to respond creatively and discuss the learning with their peers.

Conclusion

A culturally responsive teacher takes time to learn about students’ background knowledge, strengths, learning styles, and needs. Culturally responsive teachers use what they learn about students to inform their instruction and provide multiple ways to access the curriculum. Teachers should establish a positive learning community by involving students in the learning process. Students should help create classroom expectations that contribute to a safe learning environment so all students know they are respected and cared for. Students also need opportunities to develop social skills and work cooperatively with others. This way, students know they are valued members of the classroom and their ideas are heard.  I think it’s important that teachers are seeking opportunities to learn about different cultures so they are able to apply students’ background knowledge to their instruction. Finally, I think culturally responsive teaching includes increasing parent involvement so teachers and parents can work together to meet the needs of each student.

Artifacts:

Integration and Action Exercise This artifact is a reflection on what it means to be a multicultural teacher and includes instructional implications for the classroom.

Autobiography This artifact is an autobiography that describes how my background influences my teaching today.

Assessment Portfolio This artifact demonstrates my ability to design instruction based on students’ prior knowledge, experiences, and interests. It also demonstrates my ability to use a variety of assessment strategies and modify instructional strategies based on students’ needs.

References

Banks, J.A. (1996). Transformative knowledge, curriculum reform, and action. In J.A.

Banks (Ed.) Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives (pp. 335-348). New York, NY: Teachers College Press (Chapter 18).

Del’Ollio, J., & Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching: Connecting Student Learning With Standards. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Hillis, Michael R. (1996). Allison Davis and the Study of Race, Social Class, and Schooling. In James A. Bank (Ed.), Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge & Action (pp. 64-87). New York: Teachers College Press.

Mvududu, N. (2013). Personalizing cultural diversity. Culturally Responsive Teaching Podcast. Podcast retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p76702429/

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2012). Module 03: Multicultural education in the classroom. Podcast retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p90683827/

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2013). Module 04: The twin pillars of justice and caring. Podcast retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p52679026/

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2013). Module 06: Cross-cultural teacher-student communication. Podcast retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p14669958/

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2013). Module 07: Authentically Multicultural Curriculum. Lecture retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p66656157/

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2013). Module 08: Authentically multicultural instruction. Lecture retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p28642356/

Mvududu, N. (2013). The Need for Multiculturally Literate Teachers.  Culturally Responsive Teaching Podcast. Podcast retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p38697628/

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