6 questions to ask to build a culturally inclusive classroom

It’s almost impossible to ignore that K-12 classrooms in the U.S. are filled with students from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds: race, nationality, religion, economic, etc. Many teachers, though, still aren’t sure how to move from recognizing the diversity to creating a mutually responsive learning environment. In his presentation “Culturally Responsive Teaching: Key Principles and Practices,” Dr. Ken Springer, professor of education and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University, explained why teachers should view diversity as an opportunity and what questions to ask to ensure they’re building a culturally inclusive classroom.

How to build a culturally inclusive classroom

Question 1: What do I know?
Teachers should investigate what sources of diversity they have in their classroom. This can come from institutional knowledge about the students and their families, asking the kids questions about their culture as appropriate, talking with other teachers, and having conversations with the parents. The key is to not make assumptions but to do personal investigations.

Related: 3 tenets for developing cultural competency in schools…Read More

3 tenets for developing cultural competency in schools

Although educational equity is a fundamental pillar of the American education system, school districts are struggling to ensure their students feel included, safe, and supported. This is in large part due to a shift in the demographic makeup of the student population (non-white students are expected to make up the majority of public schools by 2024) while the demographic makeup of the teaching workforce remains constant (80 percent of teachers during the 2015-2016 school year were white).

In light of this disparity, districts face more pressure than ever to cultivate an inclusive environment where students from all backgrounds receive the same learning opportunities. To support that goal, districts need to deliver professional development (PD) focused on cultural competency and understanding. However, while teacher PD is an important step, too often it is considered the only step. In reality, this drive for PD is more nuanced, requiring competency not only in teachers, but also the classroom environment and culturally responsive instructional materials.

Cultivating an inclusive environment often means extended commitments from district and school leaders. The good news is there are best practices districts can employ to ensure all students feel safe and supported. The following three tenets are the foundation for fostering cultural competency in school districts.…Read More