Culturally Responsive Pedagogy is a hallmark of culturally diversified educational complex ground , an well known panacea. We want to practise it earnestly, but mostly, find it hard to understand; especially the execution in the classroom. It is an integral part of our regular planning, if not daily planning criteria in New Zealand. It is almost a 'ritual' we love to follow like the graduation of a Maasai Warrior.
"Confronting the Marginalization of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy" is an interesting research paper written by Christine E. Sleeter (2012) which endorses the fact that culturally responsive pedagogy, over the last two decades, getting attention and is a global phenomenon. Author begins with the curious statement saying, "Multicultural approaches to teaching have largely been supplanted by standardized curricula and pedagogy that derives from neo-liberal business models of school reform". I mused over the usage of the word 'neo-liberal' which has some 'aroma' of a modified form of liberalism tending to favour free-market capitalism. Otherwise, I did not have any anxiety over the word 'liberalism' which alludes to the worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.
The author claimed that culturally responsive pedagogical idea is marginalised due to a persistence of faulty and simplistic conceptions of what culturally responsive pedagogy is.
There are other issues, for example, there are too little research connecting its use with student achievement. The other concern is about elitist and 'white' fear of losing national and global hegemony. I think that worry is reflected clearly by recent socio-political activities by some 'powerful' political leaders around the globe.
Sleeter clarified what culturally responsive pedagogy means and she used Gay's (2010) definition, "Teaching to and through [students] personal and cultural strengths, their intellectual capabilities, and their prior accomplishment." (p.26). She continues, "Culturally responsive pedagogy is premised on close interactions among ethnic identity, cultural background, and student achievement". (p.27). She notes further that, "students of color come to school having already masked many cultural skills and ways of knowing. To the extent that teaching builds on these capabilities, academic success will result" (p.213). Here, Ladson_Billings (1995), sounds similar to Russell Bishop, "holding high academic expectations and offering appropriate support such as scaffolding; acting on cultural competency by reshaping curriculum, building on students' funds of knowledge, and establishing relationships with students and their homes; and cultivating students' critical conciousness regarding power relations."
Author thinks, culturally responsive pedagogy is often understood in limited and simplistic ways. It is simplified with respect to cultural celebration, trivialisation, essentialising culture and substituting cultural for political analysis of inequalities. Author draws example from an evaluation of a professional development programme for culturally responsive pedagogy in New Zealand, Meyer and Colleagues (2010) found that while many teachers' academic expectations for Maori students had improved as a result of the 'project' quite a few were vague about what their academic expectations were, and several worked with culture in elementary ways such as adding Maori terms for days of the week.
Trivialisation of culturally relevant pedagogy involves reducing it to steps to follow rather than understanding it as a paradigm for teaching and learning. For example, to a question from the author to administrators and teachers about connections the school had built with the community it serves. "They fumbled to answer my question, saying things such as the community was hard to reach."
So, the author exposes us to the new challenge, " what makes more sense if for teachers to bring to the classroom an awareness of diverse cultural possibilities that might relate to their students, but then to get to know the students themselves. For example, based on her research investigating what excellent mathematics teachers of such students do, Gutierrez (2002) argues that rather than basing pedagogy and curriculum on global and stereotypic racial and language identities that others project onto the students, excellent teachers take the time to get to know their students, then shape their pedagogy around relationships with them.
Last but not the least, the author proclaimed, "oversimplified and distorted conception of culturally responsive pedagogy, which do not necessarily improve student learning, lend themselves to dismissal of the entire concept." Question remains, are we as a community of self-reflective pedagogical professionals agentic enough to discard the "non-deficit theorising" or are we only keen to find the contradictions and anomalies?
Note: Christine Sleeter is an American Professor and an educational reformer. Her work, including the National Association for Multicultural Education, her work primarily focuses on multicultural education, preparation of teachers for culturally diverse school, and anti-racism.
Sleeter, C. E. (2012). Confronting the marginalization of culturally responsive pedagogy. Urban Education, 47(3), 562-584.
Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Wearmouth, J., Peter, M., & Clapham, S. (2012). Te Kotahitanga: Maintaining, replicating and sustaining change. Report to the Ministry of Education. Wellington: Ministry of Education.