The Problems, and some solutions, To Teaching Towards Diversity (Part II)

A method that will allow educators to teach towards diversity is allowing students to shape the curriculum based on their cultural knowledge and experiences (Carter, 595). According to Prudence Carter and Linda Darling-Hammond, who wrote a handbook chapter called “Teaching Diverse Learners” (2016), examining the power of student’s cultural knowledge in curriculum and pedagogical development is a major line of research, although academics do not take it seriously (Carter, 595).

 In their chapter, Carter and Prudence dedicate a section to teaching diverse learners and focus on culturally responsive pedagogy. Along with defining diversity, the authors describe practices for effective teaching of diverse learners (Carter, 607-612). There are three practices that are key to teaching diverse learners; they are (1) use of culture as a resource for learning; (2) explicit teaching of skills and critical thinking; and (3) cooperative learning as a path to achievement (Carter, 608).

Adding cultural perspectives to curriculum tints the often dull factoids that fill social studies lessons. Students can add contextual “color” to the curriculum by being allowed to voice their opinion.

How does the place where students live affect their cultural perspectives? How does it affect how they learn history?

In general, the three practices focus on the core conjecture of culturally responsive pedagogy, which uses student culture and knowledge to shape practice. As Carter and Darling-Hammond write themselves; teachers who utilize this method “find ways to know and value who their students are, and to envision and support their potential” (Carter, 604). Students should be able to see their culture and knowledge represented in the curriculum. Carter and Darling-Hammond examine the research that promotes this idea, and they list recommendations for teachers to soak in this diversity and shape their practice. Missing from this recommendation is the practicality of teachers addressing the vastness of diversity, as well as the potential for student voice and choice.

Culturally responsive pedagogy has failed to give teachers a practical answer in how to address diversity in the classroom. If Carter’s and Darling Hammond’s analysis of diversity literature is correct, then researchers recommend that teachers spend time understanding the community and cultures around them and adjust their practice and curriculum. From a teacher’s perspective, this is yet another task that they must do in order to be “good teachers.” This is even more difficult for preservice teachers, as they are already burdened with method classes and internship hours (Faltis, 562-565).  From the student’s perspective, practices that are only developed by the teacher could be taken as an odd intrusion and adaption of the student’s culture.

These teacher and student perspectives clash with inclusion attempts like Black History Month or Native American Day, where well meaning teachers try to use their few resources to be culturally responsive, but students and the community view them as weak attempts to adapt curriculum. Instead, a culturally responsive pedagogy should be seen in the day-to-day actions of teachers and schools, and students should feel comfortable with the outcomes.

In order to gain successful repetition of culturally responsive pedagogy and the comfortability of students, then the power of student choice and voice must be invoked. Students must be allowed to more directly change the curriculum and have a more equal balance with their teacher’s decision making.

Continue to other parts and Resources Cited

To see the other parts of this article series, click on Part I and Part III

Faltis, Christian, and Guadalupe Valdès (2016). Preparing Teachers for Teaching in and Advocating for Linguistically Diverse Classrooms: A Vade Mecum for Teacher Educators, 549-592. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Carter, Prudence L., and Linda Darling-Hammond (2016). Teaching Diverse Learners, 593-637. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

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