Florida State University
Mentor: Dr. Judith Sharkey, Department of Education
Does Culture Factor In: Examining the Role of Culturally Responsive Teaching in Schools that Successfully Service Diverse Student Populations
One of the most pressing educational issues of our time is that the educational attainment of minority students is consistently lower than other students. Statistically, minority students have lower test scores, higher drop out rates, and are often overrepresented in special education classes. Researchers cite a number of factors including low parental involvement, inadequate schools, unqualified teachers, and lack of access to materials and resources. Due to rapid demographic changes, U.S. public school classrooms are becoming more diverse: racially, culturally and linguistically. Moreover, The U.S. Department of Commerce (1996) projects that by the year 2050 African American, Asian American, and Latino students will constitute close to 57% of all U.S. students. Therefore, the failure of our education system to adequately serve its diverse student population can have long term detrimental effects both on the community of education and students.
Multicultural education scholars and researchers James A. Banks, Geneva Gay and Gloria Ladson-Billings argue that culturally responsive teaching is one part of the solution. However, despite their substantial arguments, there is a lack of empirical data to support these claims. For that reason, I propose to conduct an exploratory case study to investigate whether culturally responsive teaching is a factor in an urban school whose diverse student population is performing above the national average for schools with similar demographics. Data to be collected include teacher and administrator interviews, classroom observation, and school test scores. The data will be analyzed against the main components of culturally responsive teaching, specifically: acknowledging and valuing cultural heritages of different ethnic groups; building meaningful bridges between home and school experiences; and addressing different learning styles in teaching and learning.
This study will contribute to our understanding of how culturally responsive teaching is enacted in schools. It also sets the stage for future, more substantial, empirical research.