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Philosophy of a Culturally Competent Curriculum

Arthur has a Ph.D. and is a substitute teacher in Virginia Public Schools. He is also a Technology Leader and an Educational Consultant.

Philosophy of a Culturally Competent Curriculum


Philosophy of a Culturally Competent Curriculum

A child's development is dynamic, interactive, and determined by their culture. Every child is unique because of their culture, and it is a big part of the way they interact with the world around them. Children growing up in different environments receive specific input that creates a vast array of their beliefs and behavior. Their background and education play a big part in their concerns and interests.

Culture affects the development and how they think and approach problems differently. If we use language as an example, we can see how mothers speak to their infant children, which varies according to their culture. Language, in many ways, affects development. It affects their values, their behaviors, and their self-esteem.

Understanding different cultures are imperative to ensure that every child receives an education that will align with their cultures, beliefs, and interests. Many teachers find this a challenge, but it is necessary to ensure that every child receives a culturally competent education that they can use in the real world and not only in the classroom.

Cultural competence is the actions created to build an understanding between people of different cultures, respect other cultural perspectives, and work towards equality in education. Educational leaders have studied cultural competence for decades, but it is still challenging to implement. However, for many educators, teaching a culturally competent curriculum is new. They struggle to understand how to apply it and teach it in a manner that builds equality in the classroom.

There have been many educational challenges and injustices caused by racism, racial exclusion, inequity through legislation, educational injustices, and a biased curriculum. Cultural competence within the curriculum has driven the need for a curriculum that concentrates on cultural understanding and respect. Cultural competence reinforces the importance of this work. Cultural competence is the principle of respect for diverse individuals and equity and focuses on social justice. A culturally competent curriculum is more than just having an awareness of cultural differences. It is more than just knowing people's behaviors, customs, and values that differ from other ideologies. Culturally competent curriculums teach the ability to understand, communicate, and interact with people of different cultures and gain experiences that help develop a positive towards people who are different and gain knowledge of other world views.

A culturally competent curriculum should be developed by gathering ideas from stakeholders. An example of setting the curriculum would be to create focus groups. Using a focus group is to conduct a qualitative analysis and record the data performed by looking at a recurrent theme. Cultural competency and sensitivity training are an essential part of the curriculum for students. Teachers must be trained and be members of their focus groups and have mentors and third-party contacts specializing in the curriculum and cultural competency area.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, "culturally responsive schools can help support historically underserved and marginalized students in coping with bias, discrimination, and negative stereotypes they often face because of their cultural, racial, and socioeconomic identities. Recent surveys of teaching standards by new America find that most states do not yet describe culturally responsive teaching that is clear or comprehensive enough to support teachers in developing and strengthening their culturally responsive teaching practice throughout their careers." (NASSP, 2019).

I also believe a direct approach should be deliberative democracy or discursive democracy. It is a technique that is used for deliberation and decision-making. It is crucial because it adopts the elements of consensus decision-making education. We use a practical perspective about the theory of education, and then we individualize it to meet the student's needs. Deliberative democracy is a form of an amalgam of representative and direct democracy. Many use this reasoning to dispute the actual relationship between the two, and this is what brings about brainstorming and improvements to education models. Many theorists believe deliberative democracy is weak because it does not have a core set of propositions to distinguish it from other concepts.

Parkinson states, "And yet, despite the bewildering variety of theoretical starting points, deliberative democracy does have a core set of propositions that distinguish it from its rivals" (Parkinson, 2003).

Teachers must learn many clever strategies that align with the core curriculum and may be problematic due to the diverse nature of the 21st-century classrooms if teachers are not familiar with their students, cultures, and gender. Deliberating democracy gives students a choice of which educational journey they want to accomplish.

Students that become stakeholders in their education create motivation, inspiration, and hope. Students that live in low-income communities are the future and will determine if we can ever abolish poverty. The deliberating democracy model is a process that will assist with the skills needed for students that aspire to become members of the working class. The reason is that deliberating democracy will allow students to work towards their chosen careers and become qualified for 21st-century jobs.

Peer-to-peer learning allows students to share their experiences, enabling teachers to facilitate and learn about how prepared their students are for the future. Teachers who use a student-centered approach to teaching understand that students can learn helpful information from each other through sharing experiences through evaluating each other's work.

According to Vygotsky's theory, learning models are that cognitive development helps children achieve cognitive development. This theory states that social learning comes before cognitive development. If teachers are to be successful in education, they must first learn to respect the cultures of their peers. Actively engaging children in diverse classrooms help to advance a learner's knowledge because students construct knowledge by actively doing.

Using ZPD, referred to as scaffolding, is essential because it helps learners learn where they are. If teachers fail to understand the diversity of their students, they will also fail to know what they know and what they need to know. To use the constructivism model effectively, teachers must use action research to observe their students understand the level of learning a student is.

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To apply the zone of proximal development concept (ZPD), teachers instruct in small steps according to the tasks a child can do independently. The teacher should also support and assist the child until they can complete all the steps alone. As teachers use ZPD and scaffold the learning goals, they can meet students where they are. The teacher can use the concept I do, we do, and you do, as a model for themselves.

Differentiated instructions are another excellent way to recognize students' differences and for the teacher to observe each student individually and use scaffolding to help them learn.

In the School Districts of Philadelphia (SDP), teachers believe students can learn. They build on the strengths, and knowledge students bring to school, one of the significant attributes of culturally responsive instruction. These teachers and administrators intentionally and consistently create and use practices that support the learning of all of their students; there is no quick fix, no silver bullet. They grapple with the challenges and encourage the strengths that students, their families, and their communities offer. (Burns, Keyes & Kusimo, 2005).

Teachers need to resolve their biases before accepting jobs that involve instructing students. Students need to gain self-efficacy, and the curriculum needs to be flexible enough to allow teachers to teach effectively. Students that do not believe they can achieve an educational goal will fail unless the teacher understands their culture and the student experiences. Teachers should never assume that a student will fail because of the way they dress or where they come from and their current education level.

Relationships are powerful. Our one-to-one connections with each other are the foundation for change. And building relationships with people from different cultures, often many different cultures, is key to building diverse communities that are powerful enough to achieve essential goals.

The relationship between assessment and culture is that using an ethnography research approach can help teachers, through assessment, understand the community and home where their students live. If there are no formal and informal assessments, teachers will not have the data needed to understand the culture.

Assessments designed with the approach to only obtain data will fail without thinking qualitatively. The most critical part of assessments is that it takes a cognitive process and is used to gain knowledge. At this stage, the evaluation should not answer a hypothesis but gather information about the student, their environment, and their beliefs to design a learning curriculum. Individual assessments are designed to learn more about a student and should be gathered through communication & observation and getting to know the student's interests.

If an exam is given to a student who has only lived in Harlem, NY, and the student has never gone on a vacation, they will fail an exam about vacationing in Disney World. This line of thinking has caused assessments to be necessary so that students can work with others in their class that has been to Disney and uses their peer's experience to do well on the test.

If a teacher looks at a student and makes an assessment because the student has never been to Disney, they will fail the test and have done the wrong evaluation. An evaluation must support a student by gathering data and then using that data to ensure that they can gain the knowledge they are missing.

"There is a great deal of concern and debate about the low performance of racially and linguistically diverse students—African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans—on standardized tests and their under-representation in gifted education. Nowhere are the debates and controversies surrounding intelligence more prevalent than in gifted education and special education. These two educational fields rely extensively on tests to make educational and placement decisions. In gifted education, low test scores often prevent diverse students from being identified as gifted and receiving services; in special education, low test scores often result in identifications such as learning disabled or mentally retarded. Racially diverse students, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans are under-represented in gifted education and over-represented in special education (see Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted and National Association for Gifted Children," U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

The black-white achievement gap in SAT math scores has remained virtually unchanged over the last fifteen years. Between 1996 and 2015, the average gap between the mean black score and the mean white score has been .92 standard deviations. In 1996 it was .9 standard deviations, and in 2015 it was .88 standard deviations. Roughly 64 percent of all test-takers scored between the average black and average white score over the last fifteen years.

Traditional colleges have made no positive moves to change the entrance exam tests to be more culturally relevant to African Americans. K-12 schools are not educating minority students by using culturally appropriate courses to provide African American students with the resources needed for them to pass college entrance exams. Online schools like Ashford University & Kent college have eliminated the need for online students to take college entrance exams. It allows African American students to get into college and learn the skills they need to gain their college degrees.

For decades there have been talking but no solutions to education inequities for minority students. Teacher bias and the policymakers' ignorance try to achieve a standard using a practical approach that does not work for minorities. African American students suffer under the current curriculum, assessment practices, program design, and program evaluation because of the communities they live in, their poverty levels, and their different cultures. A world still fighting and controlled by biased individuals still exists. A revamping of the educational leaders is not the answer. Still, a merger of teachers with proven experience in solving diversity in the classrooms needs to be involved in creating policies.

The school curriculum, assessment practices, program design, and evaluation are ancient. It's all designed by politicians and administrative staff that have no involvement with directly educating students. Teachers are needed to be the designers of education within the state, and this is not mean that a 3-year teacher requirement should be in place. Teachers that have retired from the educational arena after 20 years of service will have the experience needed to change educational policies and programs that will help eliminate the achievement gaps and the biases that still exist inside educational organizations.

Schools in low-income areas need to receive more funding than students' parents who can afford to purchase supplies. Teachers making low-income wages should not be the ones buying supplies while a trillion-dollar government turns its back on its educational responsibilities. The government needs to realize that rebuilding the economy takes educating students so they can become members of the working class and not welfare recipients.

© 2022 Dr Arthur Burton

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