In the last two weeks of class, we have been discussing culturally responsive teaching and inclusive pedagogy. I must say that my biggest take-away from this content is that I still have a LOT to learn. The following paragraphs discuss some of the points I found particularly interesting from our discussions and readings.
I really enjoyed reading Gloria Ladson-Billings’ “But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy.” Honestly, until this point, I had given very little thought to how “typical” classroom instruction in the US caters primarily to the “White, middle-class mainstream.” Undoubtedly, this is because 1) I fall squarely into the aforementioned category, and 2) I have succeeded in this system without having to overcome many significant challenges. That said, I was blown away by how much sense it makes to develop and utilize culturally relevant pedagogy in the classroom (this seems to be a common reaction, as reflected in the article’s title). Ladson-Billings includes a point from Pewewardy (1993) that asserts that the failure of US schools to cater to a diverse audiences stems from the fact that educators try to “insert culture into the education, instead of inserting education into the culture.” What a profoundly accurate description!
The question then arises, how do we insert education into the culture? Ladson-Billings provides several examples drawn from a study of exceptional teachers of African American students. In one example, a teacher uses the lyrics of her second grader’s favorite (clean) rap songs to teach the fundamentals of poetry. Another teacher set up a series of seminars inviting students’ parents or relatives to come into the classroom and teach the students a particular skill that they were good at. In sourcing role models from the students’ own community, the teacher reinforced the idea that the culture backgrounds and competencies of her students and their families were recognized and valued.
An interesting point came up in our last class discussion that perhaps culturally relevant and inclusive pedagogy is more suited for some disciplines compared to others. This thought has often crossed my own mind, as my field is highly technical and on the surface, cultural competency almost seems irrelevant. I thought that Homero’s counter-example to this point was spot-on: if you insist to a student who has an extreme distrust of authority on the first day of class that 1+1=2, instead of accepting this fact, this student will spend the rest of the semester trying to prove you wrong (even if they are not correct). And I had never thought about it this way! Every single topic we teach, and every interaction we have with our students has layers of subtext. Of course a student’s culture will come into play when they are learning new things (no matter what the subject is, or how black-and-white something may seem to us as an instructor) – it is woven into the fabric of who they are as a person.
I think an overarching idea of culturally relevant and inclusive pedagogy is that students must feel like their identity is recognized and valued in order to have an effective learning experience. As a future instructor, I hope I will be able to follow in the footsteps of some of the impactful teachers discussed in these readings and create a classroom experience that is both culturally relevant and inclusive for my diverse population of students.
Articles I referenced in this post:
Gloria Ladson‐Billings (1995) But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy, Theory Into Practice, 34:3, 159-165, DOI: 10.1080/00405849509543675
Pewewardy, C. (1993). Culturally responsible pedagogy in action: An American Indian magnet school. In E. Hollins, J. King, & W. Hayman (Eds.), Teaching diverse populations: Formulating a knowledge base (pp. 77-92). Albany: State University of New York Press.