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?
Let’s start our conversation by reflecting on the thoughts of Zaretta Hammond—educator and subject-matter expert on culturally responsive teaching—regarding the benefits of getting to know your students. She mentions the practice of using “cultural knowledge as a scaffold to connect what the student knows to new concepts and content…” We explore what she means by that and how this might look in the classroom.
Let’s think about our own teaching practice and the instructional moves that we have made based on our knowledge of our students. What effect has this had on how you deliver a lesson, who you call on, the examples you use, and the ways you set up activities or your classroom?
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 [on defining culturally responsive teaching], author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain
The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:
- Accelerating Learning With Culturally Responsive Teaching (podcast episode)
- Design for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Learning (article collection)
- Increase Your Equity Awareness (article)
- Embrace Differences and Establish Community (article)
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.”
- Hammond, Z. (2014). Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Corwin.