Chall Lecture: Culturally Responsive PedagogyBy Jill Anderson
Can using a student’s own culture in literacy instruction make a difference? According to Vanderbilt University Professor Robert Jiménez, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP) can transform literacy education for students of diverse backgrounds.
During his talk at the eighth annual Jeanne S. Chall Lecture held on Thursday, October 25, Jimenez provided an outline of this research in his presentation entitled “Optimal Outfitting: The Continuing Relevance of Culturally Responsive Instruction.” “We need to bring outside linguistics inside the classroom,” he said, as a means to provide more equitable learning to students of diverse backgrounds.
Before the concept of changing instruction to suit cultural differences existed, immigrants were often viewed as ignorant or lazy in the classroom when they struggled to learn or understand another language. As a result, Jimenez argued that education only reinforced the social constructs of society. Even in today’s world, many students of diverse backgrounds continue to be left behind compared to their “privileged” peers, he said.
While Jimenez acknowledged that there has been little research to date on the effectiveness of CRP, and existing research is greatly debated amongst educators, he believes that using this method, along with careful monitoring, can ensure that diverse students are not being disadvantaged. CRP, as Jimenez described, is just one mechanism for moving in between culture and students. He also argued that practicing CRP can lead to more student engagement.
Through his Project Translate, Jimenez is testing how literacy education tied to culture can aid students from diverse backgrounds. During his presentation, he shared a video of seventh grade Latino boys in which they appeared bored during a reading comprehension lesson when they were asked to make sense of a passage in English; however, when asked to translate the same passage into Spanish their level of engagement increased markedly. Examples of instruction like this can help students from diverse backgrounds figure out how to understand not only their first language but also their second language. Within this work, Jimenez said he strives to help students see reading as an aid to understanding, translation as useful for comparison, and, ultimately, bilingualism as a valuable resource.
Jimenez acknowledged that there is much work that needs to be done to understand the effectiveness and implications of CRP. In the future, he stressed a need for more theoretical and academic work, as well as large-scale studies, teacher development, and implementation of research development on CRP.
“Work on CRP will never be done,” he said. “It hasn’t had the impact it should on student learning.”
Following the lecture, Gutman Library director John Collins and Lecturer Pamela Mason announced Chantal Francois, Ed.M.’08, Ed.D.’11, as the recipient of the Jeanne S. Chall Doctoral Student Research Award. Her doctoral dissertation, “The Social Dimensions of an Individual Act: Situating Urban Adolescent Students’ Reading Growth and Reading Motivation in School Culture,” draws on various methodologies to examine the sociocultural factors that influenced unusually positive growth in reading achievement at an urban secondary school. She is currently an assistant professor in the department of teaching and learning at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education where she teaches courses on middle school and high school English instruction.
In addition, Mason announced Caroline Mark, research associate at the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, University of Kansas, as the recipient of Jeanne S. Chall Visiting Researcher Award. Mark received her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Kansas in 2011. Her research will focus on defining treatment intensity for instructional programs that address reading disabilities.