This weeks learning experience is based off of the article titled “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case For Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” by Gloria Ladson-Billings. The author, Ladson-Billings makes a case to close the bridge between school and culture and how we can make relevant changes to achieve this.
I want to begin by noting how truly incredible Gloria Ladson-Billings point of view on culturally-relevant pedagogy is. Before delving into the intricacies of this pedagogy, I find it is imperative to have a working definition of what culturally-relevant pedagogy is. Ladson-Billings defines culturally-relevant teaching as a pedagogy of opposition, one that places emphasis on collective empowerment. She furthers this definition by using three criteria in order to achieve this pedagogy, these include students experiencing academic success, students developing cultural competence and finally students developing critical consciousness. The author uses these three criteria in order to form her main points regarding how we need to bring education into the world of the student and the implications of doing this.
As previously mentioned, Ladson-Billings overarching main point is to bring education into the world of the student and to ensure our teachers are culturally-relevant. It is interesting to note that a lot of the authors main ideas are often thought of just being a part of “good teaching” as eluded to in the title. However, upon reading more into the article, I was able to find there is not nearly enough culturally-relevant teachings currently happening throughout the education system. The author of this article uses a cultural perspective in order to support her pedagogy. A quote that I find from the author that perfectly sums up her cultural perspective, specifically the importance of culturally relevant teaching is her stating “Culturally relevant teacher utilize the students’ culture as a vehicle for learning.” Ladson-Billings additionally uses a variety of evidence in order to support her pedagogy. This being the lived experiences of the teachers in her study, the parents, as well as the community. Ladson-Billings was able to use the outcome of her study to support her statements that children not only learn better when they have culturally-relevant teachers, but are better able to be successful in the world and make their world a better place.
Upon reflecting after reading this article, I had come to the conclusion that I do not have very much lived experiences in terms of culturally-relevant pedagogy. I had grown up in a city that did not have extensive diversity or major cultural differences, so this may have been a factor. I found it to be very interesting as brought up in the discussion in class that since the predominant culture in my city was Eurocentric, the teachers were teaching to that culture. As I had also mentioned in the discussion, even if the majority of the city or district is one culture, it is a disservice to our students and community to not be using culturally relevant pedagogy. While I do not have a lot of lived experiences in this pedagogy, I find it is essential to bridge the gap between culture and education. A reasoning I gave in the discussion is that oftentimes, a student does not stay in one city for the entirety of their lives. If we only educate them in the city’s dominant culture, what will happen once they leave the city and possibly go to a place much more diverse? Alternatively, what if they never leave the city? Do we want to continue this cycle of only being educated in the majority culture, which is often times the Eurocentric culture?
So while I do not have a lot of lived experiences, I was able to really reflect on how crucial this pedagogy is. I touched on earlier how incredible I think this pedagogy is- but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I find this pedagogy to have a lot of positive implications if they are used in education. Most importantly, I want to note how important I find it for students to feel as though they are the center of their education. If students feel as though their culture and lived experiences are not cared for and validated, how can we ever build a sense of community? How can we make students learn if they are not being represented in anything we are learning? I would like to believe that teachers employed this pedagogy, it would not only validate our students, but also allow us to build an equitable community.
My LC group and I wanted our classmates to be able to define and analyze culturally-relevant pedagogy to apply it to their professions as our objective. In order for this objective to be met, my group focused on presenting the definition of cultural pedagogy through explaining academic success, cultural competence and critical consciousness. As noted earlier, these were the three critical components Ladson-Billings included in her pedagogy. We felt as though going through these critical components would allow our classmates to form a concrete understanding of culturally-relevant pedagogy and how they can actively use these in their lives.
To begin, academic success was incredibly summed up by the author ,”Culturally-relevant teaching requires that teachers attend to students’ academic needs rather than simply make them feel good”. My group really wanted to emphasize that culturally-relevant teachers encourage the class to focus on being academically successful and change the culture of the class toward success and viewing themselves as capable of success. These teachers should give their students the tools to not only be academically successful, but to demand their students to be. Each student is capable of success and teachers should get students to choose academic success. Next, we focused on cultural competence. This aspect of the lesson focused on how school can often be an alien and hostile place for students, especially those who are not the typical white student. It was this slide in which we emphasize that we must mesh experiences at home with experiences at school, achieving cultural synchronization. Some examples we note in the article are bringing in parents and community members into the classroom, demonstrating their skills, values, and worth. These allow for grounding students in their home lives and building rapport with families and culture among the class. Finally, critical consciousness was also a large component of the lesson. In this section we emphasize that critical consciousness is the idea of inviting students into conversation that looks at the power structure of their world, critiquing it and analyzing it to see how it creates inequities or perpetuates them. Having students develop a critical consciousness gives them back their power and allows them to use critical thinking skills in order to make decisions and changes in their community. Using Gloria Ladson-Billings three criteria for culturally-relevant pedagogy, my group and I were able to truly achieve the learning objective set.
I contributed to the lesson in a variety of ways, such as annotating the article, assisting in the powerpoint and actually teaching the lesson. I find my responsibilities in this lesson to be very reflective of the contributions, such as I was responsible to be knowledgeable in the topic of discussion as well as being responsible for ensuring the students were grasping the topic. I would like to note that the majority of my contribution during the lesson came from facilitating questions and discussion. I find listening to lived experiences of the students to be imperative to making connections to the actual material. Facilitating discussions and asking important questions can be challenging, especially when answers are not always clear cut. I find that being able to challenge the students while teaching a lesson and hearing their thoughts and opinions is one of my favorite aspects of contributing to learning experiences. In all, I think my group did an incredible job of presenting culturally-relevant pedagogy and giving our students the information in order to be informed and (hopefully) practice the pedagogy in their respective professions.
Ladson-Billings, G. 1995. But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. In E. Blair & Y. Medina (Eds.), The social foundations reader: Critical essays on teaching, learning and leading in the 21st century (pp. 285-292). New York, NY: Peter Lang.