Culturally Restorative Instruction: Technique(s) That Embed Restorative Practices “Within” Teaching and Learning

Culturally Restorative Instruction: Technique(s) That Embed Restorative Practices “Within” Teaching and Learning

Mike D. Revell (Prince George's Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1847-2.ch010


Although the findings from a 2018 Rand Corporation study reported that restorative practices positively influenced classroom and school-wide socio-emotional attainments, it, however, had little impact upon advancing the academic outcomes of learners of color. The source of this regression emerges through the feedback reported from teachers interviewed. Their feedback revealed that a “lack of time” constrained the development of restorative practices in the classroom. This occurs as the time needed to develop the community through restorative practices was made to compete against the time needed to deliver core academic instruction. As such, the conditions that influence the student's learning are isolated from the conditions that influence the teacher's teaching. This dichotomy routes the routine of planning, preparing, organizing, and executing restorative practices as happing either “TO” or “FOR” rather than “WITH” the delivery of core academic instruction and “THROUGH” epistemological inclinations of culturally-responsive teaching practices.
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Many learners experience realities that are overwhelmed by undemocratic policies, abuses of power, bigotry, racism, sexism, violence, and the decline of civil liberties. In considering that academic disproportionalities between learners of color and their counterparts continue to be a source of public concern, schools and school districts across the country have searched for evidence-based practices that can improve the design, delivery, and development of culturally responsive teaching and learning in these trying times. One such vestibule of hope has been evidenced by restorative practices. The use of restorative practices in schools exemplifies the interchange between learning and action. In 2018 the Rand Corporation published the results of a randomized study of restorative practices that occurred over two years within a large urban school system. Subsequently, many of the teachers surveyed in this study reported over-whelmingly that having a “lack of time” was the biggest constraint to developing the use of restorative practices in the classroom. As such, the phenomenon of “time” was made an object that forced the “time” needed to build community through restorative practices to compete against the “time” needed to design and deliver instruction. This Rand study revealed that restorative practices existed as a competing opposite to the design and delivery of academic instruction. Not surprisingly, their findings confirmed that restorative practices positively impact the classroom and school-wide attainment of reduced disciplinary infractions and increased attendance. Unfortunately, the academic performance of learners declined. In fact the current routine of planning, preparing, organizing, and executing the delivery of restorative practices happen either “TO” or “FOR” instructional practices rather than “WITH” instructional practices and moving “THROUGH” instructional practices. If “real” learning emerges and takes shape through action then this dichotomization of Restorative Practices from the design, delivery, and development of core academic instruction is counter-intuitive to culturally responsive teaching and learning.

Not surprisingly, the epistemological inclinations of cultural responsiveness were made evident by W.E. B. Du Bois’ interpretation of the Black experience in America. Du Bois likened the Black experience to that of being “in” American but not made “of” America. Poetically, Du Bois used language as an apparatus to not only manifest the epistemological inclinations of Black America but to also extend Black America’s epistemology beyond America’s cultural inclination. Du Bois’ observed that dichotomous (either/or) Cartesian thinking was absorbed into every facet of American life, economy, society, and assumed to be cross-culturally universal. His insight manifest as Du Bois’ used the language of America’s epistemology to describe the Black experience as being “in” America but not “of” America. This Cartesian (either/or) dichotomous thinking eloquently captures the epistemological inclination of America. Simultaneously the dichotomy of being “in” American but not “of” America, also points out that not all people groups within America experience the world from within the assumed universalism of dichotomized (either/or) thinking. In fact the exceptionality of African-American epistemology counters the habitual, preoccupation of Cartesian (either/or) dichotomous thinking for assuming that objectifying and commodifying the existence of things, events, and actions, is innate, ubiquitous and cross-culturally universal. “If the Black experience is not made “of” the epistemological inclination of America, what, then, does it constitute? Du Bois leaps beyond this assumed universalism of Cartesian (either/or) thinking by implicitly stating this question. Here, Du Bois uncovers meaning by unveiling a broader epistemological disposition that exists and lives beyond the assumed universalism of dichotomous, either/or Cartesian thinking.

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