Driving Equity in Action Through a Socially and Culturally Situated Pedagogy: Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning as a Form of Equity Toward Student Engagement

Driving Equity in Action Through a Socially and Culturally Situated Pedagogy: Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning as a Form of Equity Toward Student Engagement

Jose W. Lalas (University of Redlands, USA & San Bernardino City Unified School District, USA) and Heidi L. Strikwerda (University of Redlands, USA & Corona Norco Unified School District, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1177-0.ch013

Abstract

Culturally relevant teaching and learning is a good approach for complementing equity work, but educators are not particularly familiar with it and intentionally employing it in schools although the concept of culturally relevant pedagogy or CRP has been introduced to the professional literature for more than 20 years ago. It is vital that educators understand the role of culturally relevant teaching and learning in supporting equity as a remedy for eliciting more active and productive student engagement. All educators involved in promoting and implementing equity as a solution toward student engagement and achievement must accept the reality that it needs not only understanding of what educational practice works and does not work but also patience and realistic expectation that equity's challenging work is an on-going and long-lasting advocacy. As educators who are social justice advocates, we must reimagine teaching and learning as a socially and culturally situated pedagogy to increase motivation, engagement, and hope to meet the needs of all our students, when they need them.
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Background

Educators who are committed to removing barriers for all students must be ready and prepared to experience discomfort as they engage in courageous conversations around challenging issues such as students of color, students who are immigrants, English Language Learners, children with disabilities, students from impoverished families, students and employees with mental health issues, and students who are gay, bisexual, transgender, and other social identities. In addition, all educators doing equity work and employing culturally relevant teaching and learning must be prepared to recognize and value the unique social, cultural, and economic backgrounds of each student, expect multiple issues of difference in working with diverse students, and use a variety of data sources consistently to be informed in planning programs, interventions, and differentiating classroom instruction. All educators involved in promoting and implementing equity as a solution toward student engagement and achievement must accept the reality that it needs not only understanding of what educational practice works and does not work, but also patience and realistic expectation that equity’s challenging work is an on-going and long-lasting advocacy. It is vital then, that educators understand the role of culturally relevant teaching and learning in supporting equity as a remedy for eliciting more active and productive student engagement.

Ideally speaking, educators must view equity as the answer to all our educational problems! Although there is no doubt that if we really intentionally employ equity as a transformative solution to challenging problems in schools, engagement, hope, and eventually, success will be enhanced. It may be added that current discoveries for a more joyful life are potentially hinting that if a student is receiving equitable attention and culturally relevant texts (Schrodt, Fain, & Hasty, 2015; Boyd, Causy, & Galds, 2015), not only will he or she be more motivated and more engaged, but he or she will be happier and therefore, predictably will achieve more. The well-established tenets of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 2014: Ladson Billings, 1994) or Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (Gay, 2002; Gay, 2010) are helpful guides in supporting equity because they are intended to meet the needs of students and motivate them for engagement in school.

However, the most important vital questions will be the “how” and “why.” How would culturally relevant teaching and learning influence equity work and what would drive equity to recognize the needs of all our students, especially the traditionally underserved, in order to redistribute the resources and services needed for them to be successful? Why do we need equity as an educational remedy? What does culturally relevant teaching and learning offer in supporting equity work and why and how is it an equitable approach to teaching?

This chapter discusses the notion of equity and presents the use of culturally relevant teaching and learning in planning programs for diverse students as an equity solution for more student engagement. Diverse students in this chapter will be inclusive and include mainstream English-speaking students, minority students, English Learners, students with special needs, students of poverty, foster students, and other students with particular social and cultural identities. The authors conclude that educational and social justice influence teaching and learning from a socially and culturally situated pedagogy as a form of equity to enhance student engagement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Equity Work: Effort of providing and fostering relevant and appropriate instructional, curricular, and programmatic service to meet the needs of all students, as they need them. Related to this is the necessity to know who the students are, how they learn, and what factors motivate and facilitate their engagement. This work includes raising the level of awareness of educators about equity, inequality in schools brought about by the existing categories of social and cultural difference, and putting equity front and center to nurture hope, sense of belonging, and student engagement.

Student Engagement: A variety of student activities and may be described as behavioral which shows academic and social engagement, cognitive which shows deliberate use of strategy, emotional which shows expression of interest and affection, and agentic which shows attempts to contribute to learning activities.

Ethnicity: Represents a complex of characteristics influenced by a myriad of interrelated factors such as language, nationality, cultural practices, gender, religion, social class, geography, religion, family history, racial characteristics, sexual orientation, physical and mental degree of ability/disability, and other combinations of these factors that belong to collective social and cultural identities or groups of people.

Culturally Relevant Curriculum: Set of pedagogical ideas and practices that emphasize academic achievement, cultural competence, and critical consciousness in empowering students using culture as a necessary resource to impart knowledge, skills, abilities, and disposition.

Race: Is a social and cultural concept constructed physically, socially, legally, and historically by human beings, not influenced by some predetermined set of biological and genetic factors. It is an element of social and cultural structure and dimension of human representation which may symbolize certain social and cultural characteristics, interests, and even conflicts.

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