Culturally Relevant Teaching at Acadsoc
Princess Jeiem Marquez, ESL teacher and trainer at Acadsoc.
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Cultural sensitivity plays a great role in the teacher’s continuous pursuit of good teaching. But how does one define culturally relevant teaching (CRT) and what are some of the ways a teacher can practice such pedagogy?
It might be helpful to define a few terms first. One such term is pedagogy. Put simply, pedagogy means the method and practice of teaching. Gloria Ladson-Billings defines culturally relevant teaching as a “pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.”
At the heart of this approach to teaching is that a learner’s cultural background becomes a tool in shaping his or her academic success, cultural competence, and critical consciousness.
In the traditional education classroom setting where there are constant and immediate interaction and negotiation of meaning between teachers and students, employing CRT remains to be a challenge, especially among teachers whose views of the approach are limited to the idea of tailoring a lesson with the students’ own racial pride such as using famous artists that belong to the students’ racial background in order to provoke curiosity and spark some interest. While there’s nothing wrong about it, dispelling such misconception becomes imperative.
To be culturally relevant or responsive in teaching goes beyond using ‘physical’ cultural referents and to use them as motivators in order to push the lesson forward. Instead, it also means being consciously aware of your students’ cultural learning styles and habits and knowing how to tap into these innate learning tools. Some learners come from a communal and oral background of relaying and processing information. Knowing your students’ cultural learning process helps you as a teacher and your class becomes more relevant to your diverse students.
In online teaching, where physical proximity between teachers and students is not possible, a teacher can still practice CRT in so many ways.
So how can you employ culturally relevant teaching in your daily teaching-learning encounters with your students?
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- Games and Ice Breakers. Games are a great way to get your student’s attention. Some games, when tailored accordingly with the goals of your lesson, use cultural learning tools in oral traditions: repetitions, problem-solving, rhyme-and-rhythm, drawing connections.
- Collaborative Activities. As much as individual work is important because it teaches students to be responsible in their own learning, pair and group work also highlights the importance of working together, an aspect that’s very apparent in communal cultures.
- Stories. Stories have long played an important role in history, and it’s one way of remembering important events from people’s lives. People naturally gravitate toward stories, and tailoring this in your lessons can help your culturally diverse students get hooked and motivated.
- Learn some Chinese from your students. Traditionally in a class, teachers teach and students learn. However, this will cause ‘Power Distance’ (people in some cultures accept a higher degree of unequally distributed power than do people in other cultures). To balance the power inequality, the best way is to let teachers act as students sometimes in the classroom. Trust me, when students are teaching their mother language and culture, they will be shining and confident to express themselves and use English!
Please keep in mind that students and teachers share the same equality in the classroom, which includes the equality of their mother cultures as well.