Learning Experience – Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Gloria Ladson-Billings speaks extensively on the subject of culturally relevant pedagogy in her piece, “But That’s Just Good Teaching! A Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” She redefines what good education is and how to apply this method of teaching in the classroom. Ladson-Billings uses a variety of examples from exceptional teachers of African American students. She highlights the key to a culturally relevant pedagogy and the need for this type of methodology to be applied in the classroom today.

Ladson-Billings begins by identifying the vitality of this kind of teaching. She defines a culturally relevant pedagogy as, “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Ladson-Billings, 2016). This is necessary because it provides a bridge between students’ lives at home and at school, specifically for African American scholars. She highlights the fact that these students have not been served well by the public school system and must have this pedagogical approach implemented in the classroom in order to succeed academically. 

The author emphasizes three criteria that are needed to successfully implement this pedagogy. 

1. “Students must experience academic success” (Ladson-Billings, 2016).

2. “Students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence” (Ladson-Billings, 2016).

3. “Students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of current social order” (Ladson-Billings, 2016).

Academic success highlights the need for scholars to learn. A teacher is responsible for challenging their students’ minds in order to fuel higher level thinking. This type of educating must be done for understanding, not just for conformity to rules or high grades on a test. Furthermore, cultural competence requires for scholars to gain and maintain some level of understanding of different cultures. Teachers must acknowledge that cultures change and adapt. They must be aware of this in order to keep themselves and their pupils well educated on contemporary alterations. This will also help the teacher better connect with his/her students and keep up to date with their language in order to fully embrace it in the classroom. Ladson-Billings suggests that students must become knowledgeable about at least one other culture than their own. Scholars should be able to identify as biculturally or multiculturally competent. This highlights Billing’s cultural perspective. She is understanding and accepting of all cultures and acknowledges their relevance in education. In addition, in order to provide students with a sociopolitical consciousness, teachers must ensure they can take their knowledge from school and use it for larger social purposes. Scholars should be able to critique elements of society in order to push for reform. Each of these criteria are necessary in order to successfully implement culturally-relevant pedagogy in the classroom.

Ladson-Billings recognizes that in order to put this type of methodology in place, teachers must form close connections with their students and be able to understand them on a personal level. They keep their relationships fluid and impartial in order to fuel the completion of the three criteria. She also underscores that this type of pedagogy can be constructed in a multitude of ways. She presents a series of examples in her piece, but identifies that there is not just one route to achieve this goal. No matter how teachers go about it, a culturally relevant pedagogy is necessary to better help and understand African American students in the classroom. This highlights Billing’s ideological perspective. She strongly values the education of African American scholars and is doing what she can in order to help these individuals excel in a society that has created a variety of obstacles for them.

I strongly agree with Ladson-Billings ideas about a culturally-relevant pedagogy becoming more common in the classroom. Young African Americans already struggle in society with racial stereotypes, prejudices, and overall unfair treatment because of the color of their skin. I am glad Ladson-Billings is working on educating the public about how to truly incorporate these students into the classroom. This type of education will not only benefit African American scholars, but any student that does not know about their own culture or the cultures of those around them. Culturally relevant pedagogy is a groundbreaking and needed incorporation in the American education system in order to ensure a better future for all. 

In my personal experience, I only was able to meet two of the three criteria during my high school years. I was given the opportunity to achieve academic excellence by being encouraged to take different courses and understand varying, yet interesting topics. In addition, I was able to develop some sociopolitical consciousness. My teachers made it a point to incorporate hands-on learning in my classrooms. This would often require us to get involved in our communities and the surrounding environment so I was able to understand various issues and see the need for reform. However, I do see some gaps in my personal knowledge. I was not as well informed about mental health issues as I discussed in class which did not help fuel my push for improvements in order to benefit the mentally ill. In addition, I do not feel as if I became culturally competent during my educational experience. I lacked the knowledge and understanding of my personal culture and those around me. With these large gaps in my education, especially pertaining to different races, ethnicities, and cultures, I felt scared to speak out and ask for help in fear of saying the wrong thing or being labeled as ignorant. Our class discussions have shown me that I am not alone in these feelings; therefore, I am glad and inspired by the fact that Ladson-Billings is speaking on this important topic.

For our learning experience this week, our learning objective was to inform our audience about culturally relevant pedagogies by defining it, explaining the criteria, and identifying the reasons why this should be implemented in the classroom. We emphasized the aforementioned important themes in our presentation. While planning the lesson, my responsibility was to find an informative video on the topic of culturally relevant pedagogies, gather information about each of the criteria, generate questions about such topics, and create slides in the presentation to relay my information to the class. While gathering the information for my slides pertaining to the criteria I found a video of Ladson-Billings speaking on the subject of culturally relevant pedagogy. She summarized her main points on the three criteria presented in the article which furthered my understanding so I could more easily spread my knowledge to the class.

 My responsibilities teaching the lesson included showing the video I found. This film exemplified the variety of positive effects that come about when this type of teaching is incorporated. A multitude of young African American students spoke on how they felt more confident, empowered, and knowledgeable because of the efforts of their teacher. This video was meant to inspire the class to take on this pedagogy in their future instructional times. After the clip, I spoke on why this information was relevant to the class as future teachers and parents, as well as current students. As future educators, they must be able to understand and apply this pedagogy in their classrooms. As future parents, they must be able to recognize if their child is receiving this type of education. If not, the parent must seek better academic options or fill in the blanks themselves. Furthermore, as current students we must recognize the gaps in our own knowledge and take responsibility for them. 

Moreover, I then was tasked with presenting Emma’s slides since she unfortunately could not attend class. I read these verbatim and led short discussions for the questions she included throughout. Next, I presented my slides that explained the three criteria needed for a culturally relevant pedagogy to thrive in the classroom. After each point, I was sure to ask questions in order to keep my audience engaged and see how they understood the information I was presenting. My first set of questions worked to connect Ladson-Billings’ ideas to previous pieces we have studied. The first inquiry asked if this type of pedagogy urged schools to decrease or eliminate testing. This question was directly related to chapter seven of  Kortez’s book, The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. This chapter highlighted how test preparation has become dangerous because educators are teaching to the test, rather than for understanding. Ladson-Billings’ first criteria, academic success, specifically highlights the need for an educator to teach for understanding, rather than simply teaching to receive a good grade on an exam. My second question was centered around the connection between a culturally relevant pedagogy and progressivism in education. I was specifically referring to Edward Janak’s ideas in the fourth chapter of his book, A Brief History of Schooling in the United States. Progressive teaching also requires a more personal learning experience, similar to that needed for Ladson-Billing’s method of teaching. These questions were meant to identify connections between earlier topics in the class. They were not meant to imply that a culturally relevant pedagogy required a decrease in testing or totally progressivist teaching style. As mentioned earlier, this methodology can be done in a variety of ways. The questions I included after the second criteria, cultural competence, were meant to connect the ideas of a culturally relevant pedagogy to the educational experiences my classmates had and to inspire them to think in depth about how they plan to be as a teacher. Furthermore, the questions I included after my discussion of the final criteria, sociopolitical consciousness, sparked a discussion about the absolute necessity of each criteria. Mac identified that all three work together to create a well-balanced application of this pedagogy in the classroom. While, Dr.Shutkin highlighted the importance and need of academic excellence in order for the other two to thrive. My final inquiry, do you think having more teachers with varying cultures, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds could impact a child in education, allowed me to emphasize the need for more people of different backgrounds to educate the youth. I presented the findings from a study reported by Anya Kamenetz, a writer for NPR, in her article, “Having Just One Black Teacher Can Keep Black Kids In School.” She found that, “Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found. And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college” (Kamenetz, 2017). These facts and statistics show what a role model that represents a child’s personal culture can do for their educational experience. 

Overall, I felt that our learning experience was a success. The class was less interactive than usual, but that is okay. This better prepared Jess and I for times in our future classrooms when the children do not want to participate and add to the lesson. We plan to go back to small group discussions for our next learning experience in hopes that this will fuel a stronger discussion. I look forward to future readings and conversations on this topic to broaden my perspectives and increase my classmate’s knowledge.

References

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy by Gloria Ladson Billings. (2018, February 23). Retrieved March 09, 2021, from 

DemetriusLancaster. (2015, June 24). Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved March 09, 

2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uc0dFs5nO8

Janak, Edward 2019.  The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education. Chapter 4: 

Education in the Progressive Period (ca. 1890s–1920s). Switzerland: Palgrave 

Pivot. pp. 43-63. 

Kamenetz, A. (2017, April 10). Having just one black teacher can keep black kids 

in school. Retrieved March 09, 2021, from 

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/04/10/522909090/having-just-one-black

-teacher-can-keep-black-kids-in-school

Koretz, D. (2017). The testing charade: pretending to make schools better. Chapter 7, Test Prep. 

pp. 93-118. Chicago; London: The 

University of Chicago Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2016/1995). 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.

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