How teachers can address these gaps

Schools should be striving for equity, where every learner is getting what he or she needs to be successful. Providing equity initially means understanding the areas of instruction that influence the achievement gap and how to tailor lessons to different learning and cultural needs.

Regarding literacy, Berry-Jones identified four key areas that can impact achievement and are affected by culture:

  • listening and speaking
  • thinking
  • reading
  • writing

For example, when approaching how students think, teachers need to consider students’ life experiences before the classroom, their world view, and the ways in which their thoughts have been shaped by their community.

In addition, Berry-Jones advocates for teachers to develop a culturally self-sustaining pedagogy, which requires deliberate instruction and practice.

  1. First, teachers need coaching and constructive feedback to understand how they can improve their skills; they also need to be open to learning new ideas and techniques.
  2. More important, educators must offer consistency and persevere with even the most difficult students. The problem is not that students don’t want to learn, but there are other cultural influences interfering with their ability to learn. Teachers must provide opportunities for students to share their worldview and take charge of their education.

“We can push our learners so much further, not by putting more and more information in front of them, but by…believing that they can do what we’re asking them to do and stretching them and giving them opportunities through discussion,” said Berry-Jones. “Let them talk peer-to-peer about what they’re seeing, what they’re learning, what they’re reading. Furthering that conversation is what keeps students interested and engaged in instruction. It’s not our song and dance routine.”

About the Presenter

How does culture impact our ability to learn?

Almitra Berry-Jones, Ed.D., is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and consultant on the topic of culturally and linguistically diverse learners at risk. Her research focuses on academic achievement in majority-minority, high-poverty, large, urban school districts. She is author of the book Effecting Change: Intervention for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners. Berry-Jones has taught, trained, and supervised reading/language arts implementations (regular, intervention, bilingual/dual immersion, and special education) throughout the United States with an emphasis on direct instruction. She has presented at scores of state, national, and international conferences on the topics of leadership, curriculum reform, and meeting the needs of students at risk.

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About the Author:

Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Pusey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. She is working with edWeb.net as a marketing communications advisor and writer.