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Beaverton School District
Beaverton School District

Beaverton Schools

Culturally Relevant Instruction

Culturally relevant instruction is both a mindset and set of actions that is necessary to break the predictive link between student demographics and student success. Through the explicit and deliberate use of students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and frames of reference, culturally relevant instruction empowers students to excel intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

Key Tenets of Culturally Relevant Instruction:

• Know Yourself: Assumptions, values, beliefs, and biases toward those who are different and their impact on teaching and learning
• Know Your Students: Cultural capital, background, references, prior experience, and historical legacy of oppressions and its impact on learning
• Know and Adapt Your Practice: Culturally congruent practices based on student needs while challenging students to meet high standards.
 
Teaching & Learning Theory of Action: If educators are able to make explicit connections between the cultural knowledge, beliefs, and practices that students bring from home and the content and pedagogy they use in their classrooms, then the academic performance and overall schooling experiences of learners from culturally diverse groups, particularly those who have been historically marginalized, will improve.

 

Qualities of Culturally Relevant Educators:

• Thorough knowledge about the cultural values, learning styles, historical legacies, contributions, and achievements of different groups of students in their classroom

• The courage to stop blaming the victims of school failure and to admit that schools are set up to replicate the disproportionate results we currently see

• The will to confront prevailing educational canons and convictions and to rethink traditional assumptions of cultural universality and/or neutrality in teaching and learning

• The skills to act productively in translating knowledge and sensitivity about cultural diversity into pedagogical practices

• The tenacity to relentlessly pursue high-level performance for students who currently are underachieving in schools

Culturally Relevant Instruction & 5 Dimensions of Teaching & Learning:

1. Purpose (P): Students know what they are expected to learn, and such standards are unequivocally the same across the board, regardless of student backgrounds, such as race, language, economic circumstances, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or initial proficiencies

2. Student Engagement (SE): Students demonstrate their intellectual work and academic selfefficacy while maintaining their cultural identity by accessing inquiry-based culturally specific engagement strategies

3. Curriculum & Pedagogy (CP): Students have access to curriculum, pedagogy, materials and technology to learn within the context of their culture. Students see themselves in learning, feel valued for who they are, and make explicit connections between their life experiences and learning

4. Assessment for Student Learning (A): Students demonstrate their learning in relation to the standards through ongoing formative assessment. Students regularly receive feedback that: 1) is aligned with rigorous standards; and 2) explicitly communicates belief in their capacity to reach those standards

5. Classroom Environment and Culture (CEC): Students learn in the classrooms where they have a sense of belonging, feel empowered to learn, have a voice to demonstrate their learning and ask questions, and enjoy learning experiences.

Things You Can Do In Your Classrooms:

The path to equity and excellence begins in the classroom. The following 10 High Leverage Classroom Practices are research-based, concrete and measurable. When using them becomes second nature as teachers think, plan, and teach, breaking the predictive link between student demographics and student success becomes a reality. These practices are also directly connected to the 5 Dimensions of Teaching & Learning Framework, as indicated by the key(s) appearing after each practice. These practices are not independent of each other; rather they complement, depend and build upon one another. Focus on one practice at a time within a specific timeframe in a given school year. By the end of the year, the accumulative effect will have a positive impact, resulting in increased student learning.

Practice 1: Know yourself – Explore how your own experiences, attitudes, assumptions, values, and beliefs around race, language, culture, gender, and class impact teaching and learning. (PCC)

Practice 2: Know your students – Learn how their race, language, culture, gender, and class, along with prior knowledge of content, shape their beliefs and expectations about learning. (CEC)

Practice 3: Build caring relationships – Foster and facilitate an environment where all students feel included, respected, valued, cared for, seen and heard by you and the rest of the classmates. (CEC)

Practice 4: Normalize rigor – Use clear and consistent behavior and academic learning targets and ensure students know they are expected to and can meet the same high standards. (P)

Practice 5: Check your classroom – Create a classroom environment where all differences, such as race, class, language, gender, sexual orientation, disability and learning styles, are validated and affirmed. (CEC)

Practice 6: Capitalize student expertise – Learn about students’ cultural capital – strengths and experiences students bring into the classroom - and connect them to pedagogy and content. (SE, CP)

Practice 7: Make language count – Leverage the languages used in the classroom – vocabulary, nonverbal communications, native languages, and culturally specific communication styles. (SE, CP)

Practice 8: Work in teams – Structure your classroom so that students can work in a heterogeneous cooperative environment where they can learn about and from each other. (SE, CP, CEC)

Practice 9: Assess for Learning – Use a variety of formative assessments and inquiry-based strategies to assess learning in relation to the targets, adjust teaching, and give targeted feedback. (A)

Practice 10: Celebrate & Reflect – Apply asset-based thinking to acknowledge learning that took place and reflect on what can be improved on your part. (PCC)