Problematizing Niceness: A Teacher Educators' Learning Community on Culturally Responsive Teaching

Problematizing Niceness: A Teacher Educators' Learning Community on Culturally Responsive Teaching

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7270-5.ch014
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Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) advocates for “teaching to and through” cultural diversity to improve learning, build relationships, mediate classroom power imbalances, and challenge stereotypes and prejudices. Despite the plethora of research on CRT in the K-12 environment, there is a lack of research regarding how higher education faculty enact these practices. To address this disparity, an intentional learning community of teacher educators at a university in the US South conducted a self-study to identify areas in which they enact CRT. The authors used a qualitatively oriented, embedded mixed methods design using the culturally responsive teaching self-assessment tool (CRTA) and conversational interviews as data which were then descriptively and inductively analyzed, respectively. The analyses identified three major themes: (a) the impact of course delivery and content on the implementation of CRT, (b) the prevalence of niceness as an obstacle to CRT, and (c) the power of reflection for increased awareness and long-term change.
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Crt In Teacher Education

Most of the literature on CRT in higher education focuses on teacher education. A significant portion of this research examines how teacher educators work to prepare future K-12 teachers to engage in CRT and the effectiveness of these efforts (e.g., Christianakis, 2019; Gutierrez et al., 2022; Huling, 2023; Martin & Spencer, 2020; Moore et al., 2021; Thomas et al., 2020). However, “there is minimal attention to the teacher educators who are charged to prepare CR teachers and how their work in higher education institutions is actualized” (Han et al., 2014, p. 291).

Recommendations for how teacher educators might practice CRT in higher education contexts are available (e.g., Kumi-Yeboah et al., 2020). For example, Baumgartner et al. (2015), utilizing scholarship on evidence-based practices in K-12 and higher education teaching, developed a series of eight recommendations for teacher educators. These eight practices include: (a) understand yourself as a cultural being, (b) use your teacher candidates’ values and experiences to inform your teaching, (c) select curriculum carefully, (d) use student-centered teaching techniques, (e) create a supportive classroom environment, (f) use performance-based assessment, (g) act as an agent of change, and (h) select clinical settings that model CR practice. Similarly, Hutchison and McAlister-Shields (2020) provide guiding statements and questions to help teacher educators rethink their instructional practices. Using a series of three scenarios as an example, these authors prompt teacher educators to identify culturally sensitive issues and biased beliefs, consider how they can use the components of CRT to reconstruct their practice, identify specific practices used to promote the inclusion of CRT, and reflect on what they learned about cultural bias (Hutchison & McAlister-Shields, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mixed Methods Research: A research methodology that combines two or more methodologies (e.g., qualitative research and quantitative research) in a single study to capitalize on their complementary strengths and provide a more nuanced and comprehensive picture of a study phenomenon.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Self-Assessment Tool: The Culturally Responsive Teaching Self-Assessment Tool (CRTA Tool) focuses on five categories of culturally responsive teaching (CRT). These dimensions include (1) intrapersonal awareness, (2) interpersonal skills, (3) creating a welcoming and respectful environment, (4) teaching methods that consider diverse learning, abilities, experiences, and background knowledge and (5) curricular transformation. Designed to support critical analysis of instructors’ pedagogical practices, the CRTA Tool includes several actions for each category of CRT that participants rate their frequency in applying.

Course Delivery: The ways that a course is presented to students. There are three traditional course delivery methods: face-to-face, where the instructor and students meet together, in person, in-real time; virtual, where instruction takes place entirely online; and hybrid, which is a combination of two or more delivery methods.

Descriptive Coding: A qualitative analysis strategy that combines and reduces sentences and larger chunks of data into words and short phrases in order to generate summative labels or topics that illustrate the key ideas.

Whiteness: Categories of race and ethnicity are socially constructed. Whiteness encompasses those aspects within which the white race is culturally understood.

Teacher Educator: An individual who prepares, mentors, and supports aspiring and practicing teachers in developing effective instructional skills and strategies to contribute to the improvement of quality education.

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): Teaching that is inclusive of cultural knowledge, perspectives, and experiences to advocate for, empower, and validate students’ diversity in the classroom.

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