#62 – Relational Capacity to Up the Rigor in Learning

Unpacking Education October 20, 2021 26 min

The idea of building relationships has been a frequent topic of conversation in K–12 education over the last few years, especially when thinking about working with communities of color and other marginalized identities. In our conversation today, we’re going to connect relational capacity to academic success. In other words, how do we move beyond getting to know students to using this knowledge to impact our instructional practices?

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

An educator’s ability to recognize students’ cultural displays of learning and meaning making and respond positively and constructively with teaching moves that use cultural knowledge as a scaffold to connect what the student knows to new concepts and content in order to promote effective information processing. All the while, the educator understands the importance of being in a relationship and having a social-emotional connection to the student in order to create a safe space for learning.

Zaretta Hammond, author


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Use Cultural Knowledge as a Scaffold for Students to Connect to Learning

In this episode, we develop a theme that we introduced last week in exploring the mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors of our classrooms to determine how we might provide equitable and accessible learning opportunities for our students.

Join the team as they have a candid conversation addressing the following topics that you are likely experiencing in your classroom:

  • How has your understanding of your students’ cultural influences and personal passions affected how you deliver a lesson, who you call on, the examples you use, and the ways you set up activities or your classroom?
  • What instructional moves could you make if you find out that some of your students are argumentative?
  • For many teachers, we serve students from several ethnic enclaves in our schools. How could you use this demographic diversity as a part of your instruction?
  • What does it really take to create deep connections with your students so that their heritage and interests drive the learning process?
  • How might approaches like project-based learning and inquiry-based learning fit into this conversation?

As we reflect on the role of relationships in helping students access more rigorous learning opportunities, we recognize that the more we know about our students, the more they know we care. And in turn, the more they will engage in learning. We close our episode with this important reminder from STEM educator Steve Spangler: “Once you hit the heart…they’ll follow you through fire.”

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