Culturally Relevant Preparedness Using STEAM Integrative Teaching in the Classroom

Culturally Relevant Preparedness Using STEAM Integrative Teaching in the Classroom

Heather McKeen (Columbus State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9348-5.ch008

Abstract

Although there exist some studies that examine culturally relevant teaching and its positive impact on learning outcomes; overall, these studies are not abundant, and teachers are generally unaware of the educational frameworks that would allow them to apply their theoretical knowledge of culturally relevant preparedness in practice. In this respect, STEAM can be a perfect solution for reinforcing culturally relevant teaching at schools. First, culturally relevant teaching requires certain conditions (e.g., diversity, inclusion, a teacher's willingness to learn, etc.) that are inherent in the STEAM educational framework. Second, the STEAM educational framework shares similar values with culturally relevant teaching (e.g., brain focus on social and cross-cultural skills, pedagogical focus on teachers' learning, etc.). Finally, the literature review demonstrates that there are numerous strategies of using the STEAM educational framework to reinforce culturally relevant teaching (e.g., to design a culturally relevant program based on STEAM).
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Introduction

Culturally relevant teaching is one of the most under-researched areas in education. The difficulties of researching it are, first and foremost, rooted in broadness and ambiguity of the concept as such. In this respect, Byrd (2016) offers a detailed overview of the limitations of the research on culturally relevant teaching. According to him, this research is characterized by three major limitations. To begin with, the critical limitation is that there are few studies that have empirical results regarding the effects that culturally relevant teaching. This has several explanations. Thus, it is highly problematic to determine whether a teacher uses culturally relevant teaching or not. As a result, we, as researchers, have to rely on their claims though in fact, it might turn out that those who say that they use culturally relevant teaching do not do this in reality (they say they do to produce a positive impression), while those who say they do not use the elements of culturally relevant teaching, actually use them but they are not aware of this. Moreover, when we research the effects of culturally relevant teaching, we inevitably face the problem of understanding whether this or another effect (e.g. improved academic achievements) is the result of culturally relevant teaching, another intervention, or both. The second limitation of the existing research on culturally relevant teaching is that it completely overlooks the students’ perspective (Byrd, 2016). Thereby, it is necessary to realize that when we speak about culturally relevant teaching, we speak of what we know from theorists, researchers, and teachers practicing it. Even when we say that culturally relevant teaching affects students in this or another manner, our claims are based on what we have learned from teachers who, in turn, rely on their observations and experience. Finally, the third limitation is that the discourse on culturally relevant teaching is generally focused on predominately black classrooms (Byrd, 2016). This creates an impression that culturally relevant teaching is a sort of specifically designed educational program that is supposed to benefit minority cultures, whereas, in fact, it is an entire educational philosophy that should be obligatorily integrated into the educational process of the twenty-first century.

In this chapter, we tried to overcome (at least, to an extent) the limitations of the discourse on culturally relevant teaching and offer a new perspective on how this teaching can be integrated into the classroom. Thus, this chapter aligns the concept of culturally relevant teaching with that of the STEAM educational framework (that is far better defined and acknowledged). Because the latter is widely practiced and, as this chapter later shows, has a lot in common with the former, we believe that it can be an effective and non-trivial solution to use the elements of the STEAM educational framework in order to enforce culturally relevant teaching. the structure of the chapter is thus designed to offer a step-by-step explanation of how the two educational philosophies can be merged to deliver positive learning outcomes. First and foremost, we provide a detailed description of culturally relevant teaching, its characteristic features, the underpinning approaches, and related challenges. Further on, we explain how culturally relevant teaching can be aligned with the STEAM educational framework and why it is a good idea to use them in a combination. In the second part of the chapter, we describe some practical strategies of how our concept can be realized in practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culturally Rich Environment: This term describes an environment that ensures the learners’ active exposure to elements of different cultures and that facilitates their involvement in a multicultural context. In this chapter, a culturally rich environment is referred to as one of the essential conditions for culturally relevant teaching.

Culturally Relevant Preparedness: This term describes one’s individual culture-related awareness, respect to different cultures, and the ability to recognize and respond properly to instances of social injustice and discrimination. In this chapter, culturally relevant preparedness is referred to as the competency that teachers are supposed to possess to effectively perform culturally relevant teaching as well as the asset that learners are supposed to receive as the result of culturally relevant teaching.

Interdisciplinary Structure: This term describes the structure of a framework or program that establishes a connection between multiple disciplines or areas of knowledge. In this chapter, it is the STEAM (and STEM) educational framework that has an interdisciplinary structure because it establishes connections between science, technology, arts, and mathematics.

Cultural Competence: This term describes an individual’s awareness and knowledgeability of different cultures including their own culture and those cultures that are not represented in their environment. In this chapter, cultural competence is referred to as one of the three fundamental approaches on which culturally relevant teaching relies.

Cultural Consciousness: This term describes an individual’s recognition, respect, and tolerance that they demonstrate towards other cultures including their own culture and those cultures that are not represented in their environment. In this chapter, cultural consciousness is referred to as one of the three fundamental approaches (along with cultural competence) on which culturally relevant teaching relies.

Culturally Relevant Teaching: This term describes the teaching practice that is aimed at increasing learners’ culturally relevant preparedness and that relies on three fundamental approaches (i.e., high expectations, cultural competence, and cultural consciousness). In this chapter, culturally relevant teaching is referred to as the desired teaching practice that can be facilitated by adopting the TEAM educational framework.

STEM: This term describes an educational framework that brings together several disciplines (i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in order to enforce learners’ all-around development and improve their critical thinking skills. In this chapter, STEM is referred to as the earlier version of STEAM.

STEAM: This term describes an educational framework that brings together several disciplines (i.e., science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) in order to enforce learners’ all-around development and improve their critical thinking skills. In this chapter, STEAM is referred to as an educational framework the elements of which should be adopted to facilitate culturally relevant teaching.

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