Washoe Country School District

April 21, 2014

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Understanding Diversity

Why do we need to address diversity?

  • As more and more students from diverse backgrounds populate 21st century classrooms, and efforts mount to identify effective methods to teach these students, the need for pedagogical approaches that are culturally responsive intensifies. Today’s classrooms require teachers to educate students varying in culture, language, abilities, and many other characteristics (Gollnick & Chinn, 2002).
  • To meet this challenge, teachers must employ not only theoretically sound but also culturally responsive pedagogy. Teachers must create a classroom culture where all students regardless of their cultural and linguistic background are welcomed and supported, and provided with the best opportunity to learn.
  • For many students, the kids of behaviors required in School (e.g., sitting in one’s seat and only speaking when Called on) and types of discourse (e.g., “Class, what is the title of this book?”) contrast with home cultural and linguistic practices. To increase student success, it is imperative that teachers help students bridge this discontinuity between home and school (Allen &Boykin, 1992). Moreover, a culturally responsive instructional environment minimizes the students’ alienation as they attempt to adjust to the different “world” of school (Heath, 1983: Ladson-Billings, 1994).
What is culturally responsive pedagogy?

  • Culturally responsive pedagogy facilitates and supports the achievement of all students, in a culturally responsive classroom, effective teaching and learning occur in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote students achievement.
  • Culturally responsive pedagogy comprises three dimensions: (a) institutional, (b) personal, and (c) instructional. The institutional dimension reflects the administration and its policies and values. The personal dimension refers to the cognitive and emotional processes teachers must engage in to become culturally responsive.
  • The instructional dimension includes materials, strategies, and activities that form the basis of instruction. All three dimensions significantly interact in the teaching and learning process and are critical to understanding the effectiveness of culturally responsive pedagogy.
  • While all three dimensions are important, because of space limitations only a few points will be made about the institutional dimension.