Module 17: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

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Module 17: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy
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After working through this module, you will be able to:

  • Describe asset-based pedagogical approaches including Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP).
  • Assess the extent to which lesson plans, teaching practices, and schools incorporate CRP/CSP.

Introduction

Historically, schools have seen the home cultures of students of color and English-language learners as deficits to be overcome or resources to be treated as a bridge to preferable, dominant practices. Current pedagogies, including culturally sustaining and revitalizing pedagogies, take an asset-based approach, viewing students’ home and community cultural practices as resources “to honor, explore, and extend” (Paris 2012, p. 94). In this module, we will explore this asset-based approach to students’ home and community cultural practices. The most well-known asset-based approach is culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP).

CRP’s goals:

  • Students achieve academically.
  • Students demonstrate cultural competence (maintaining their own heritage and community practices while gaining access to dominant practices).
  • Students understand and critique the existing social order. (Ladson-Billings, 1994)

Culturally sustaining pedagogy retains these goals but goes a step farther. In addition to ensuring BIPOC students maintain their own heritage and community practices while gaining access to dominant practices, culturally sustaining pedagogy engages with students’ youth culture practices and recognizes that youth are producers of culture as well as consumers. Culturally relevant pedagogy sees BIPOC students’ heritage and community cultural practices as resources to honor and explore; culturally sustaining pedagogy sees them as resources to honor, explore, and extend.

Who is…

Dr. Gloria-Ladson Billings

Photograph of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is a pedagogical theorist and teacher educator whose research focuses on culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory.

To learn more about Dr. Ladson-Billings and her work:

  • Watch this video, Successful Teachers of African-American Children.
  • Read one of Dr. Ladson-Billings’s texts (we recommend starting with The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children).

The graphic below compares deficit, difference, and asset-based approaches:

Deficit Approaches Goal: eradicate home and community practices and replace them with “superior” practices View of home and community culture: bankrupt of value Difference Approaches Goal: bridge toward dominant practices without concern for maintaining home and community practices View of home and community culture: equal to, but different from, practices of value for teaching and learning Resource (Asset-based) Approaches Goal: provide access to dominant practices while sustaining home and community practices View of home and community culture: “resources to honor, explore, and extend” (p. 94)
Based on Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.

Icon_watchWatch

Culturally sustaining pedagogy has been described as “culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0.” Watch this video to learn more about culturally relevant and culturally responsive pedagogies.

As you watch, consider these questions:

  • What is the primary premise of culturally relevant pedagogy?
  • How is culturally relevant pedagogy compatible with what we know about good teaching?
  • What dilemma is culturally relevant pedagogy designed to address? How does it address this dilemma?

Click or tap the arrow to the left of each question below to read our answers to the questions we asked you to consider.

  • What is the primary premise of culturally relevant pedagogy?
    Teachers make connections between students’ everyday lived experience and the curriculum.
  • How is culturally relevant pedagogy compatible with what we know about good teaching?
    It builds on students’ existing knowledge. We often design instruction to build on students’ existing academic knowledge; CRP also builds on students’ existing cultural knowledge.
  • What dilemma is culturally relevant pedagogy designed to address? How does it address this dilemma?
    Culturally Relevant Pedagogy addresses an incompatibility between the school’s cultural filters and BIPOC students’ cultural filters by requiring the school to adapt to students rather than requiring students to adapt to the school.

Read

  • For a more in-depth exploration of culturally relevant pedagogy, read this article from Teaching Tolerance.

Listen

To learn more about culturally sustaining pedagogy, listen to this conversation with Django Paris, who coined the term. You can also follow along with or read the transcript [PDF].

As you listen, consider the following questions:

  • What is the goal of culturally sustaining pedagogy?
  • What should we ask ourselves when we’re taking on a culturally sustaining approach? How do we address this question?
  • What is the difference between culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally sustaining pedagogy?
  • What can educators do to move toward culturally sustaining pedagogy?

The key question we must keep in mind as we implement culturally sustaining pedagogy is, “What are we seeking to sustain?”

Who is…

Dr. Django Paris

Dr. Django Paris

Dr. Django Paris is a professor of multicultural education and researcher whose research and teaching focus on understanding and sustaining languages, literacies, and lifeways among youth of color in the context of demographic and social change.

To learn more about Dr. Paris and his work:

  • Read the book he co-edited with Dr. H. Samy Alim, Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World.

 

Click or tap the arrow to the left of each question below to read our answers to the questions we asked you to consider.

  • What is the goal of culturally sustaining pedagogy?
    To perpetuate and foster linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling and as a necessary response to demographic and social change.
  • What should we ask ourselves when we’re taking on a culturally sustaining approach?
    What is it we’re seeking to sustain through classroom learning?
  • How do we address this question?
    Think about what are the valued practices, languages, literacies, and cultural ways of young people and work them into our instruction. Center the histories, literatures, literacies, and cherished ways of our BIPOC students.
  • What is the difference between culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally sustaining pedagogy?
    CRP and earlier pedagogies invite students’ cultural ways into the classroom primarily as a bridge to “better” mainstream practices. CSP seeks not only for students to maintain their own practices, but also to grow more critically engaged with them, seeing them as worthy of study themselves, rather than only seeing them as a bridge.
  • What can educators do to move toward culturally sustaining pedagogy?
    Think about who your students are and what language varieties and languages they use in their communities and at school and start thinking about ways to bring those meaningfully into the classroom. Ask students what it is they care about and not only bring it into the classroom, but also join in it yourself.

Here are some points to remember about culturally relevant and culturally sustaining pedagogies:

  • Culture is “dynamic, shifting, and ever-changing” (Paris, 2012, p. 95).
  • Take care not to essentialize students’ cultures or be overdeterministic in linking cultural practices to racial and ethnic groups.
  • Value both traditional, heritage practices and current, community practices.
  • Invite students to critique cultural texts and practices, considering how they can promote inequity or be exclusionary.
  • “…learners can be sources and resources of knowledge and skills…” (Ladson-Billings, 2014, p. 79)

CSP is not a teaching guide or a set of lesson plans. It’s an approach to the craft of teaching.

– Lorena Germán


Images of Practice - Icon by Adrien Coquet from Noun ProjectImages of Practice

Read these blog posts [PDF] to learn how six different teachers implement culturally sustaining pedagogy in their classrooms. As you read, consider these four elements of culturally sustaining pedagogy:

  1. key beliefs and values
  2. instructional strategies
  3. activities
  4. environmental elements

respond

In your journal, respond to these questions:

  • What messages did you receive from school about your own heritage and community cultural practices?
  • How do you view your students’ heritage and community cultural practices? How does that impact your instruction?

Act

In your journal, brainstorm what you can do in your library or classroom to incorporate culturally sustaining pedagogy into your instruction.

When you’re done,click here to see our ideas.


Work with students as co-creators of curriculum and programming:

  • Invite students to participate in the selection of materials for your library or classroom.
  • Have students choose from a menu of different products to use to demonstrate how they engage with instructional or library resources.
  • Have students create their own questions to ask as writing prompts.
  • Invite students to share their own stories.
  • Include students’ out-of-school experiences as reference points in class discussions.

Bring students’ culture into the curriculum and library:

  • Use popular media (movies, comics, video games, music, more) and non-traditional texts (street art, tattoos, more) that students identify as personally resonant as texts to engage with and critique.
  • Use these same media as ways for students to demonstrate understanding.

Connect with the community:

  • Bring in guest speakers. It is critical that guest speakers reflect the racial diversity of your community. BIYOC should have opportunities to hear from community leaders who look like them and share their culture and some of their experiences.

Select one change you want to make in your library or classroom to enact culturally sustaining pedagogy. Make a plan, then implement it.


BUT WAIT!

In this section, we address common questions and concerns related to the material presented in each module. You may have these questions yourself, or someone you’re sharing this information with might raise them. We recommend that for each question below, you spend a few minutes thinking about your own response before clicking the arrow to the left of the question to see our response.

  • Why is culturally sustaining pedagogy important?
    Culturally sustaining pedagogy demonstrates to BIYOC that their cultural and linguistic practices, and by extension they themselves, are of value.  When they believe their own forms of expertise are valued, they are more likely to succeed (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Culturally sustaining pedagogy, then, has the potential not only to show students that we think their cultural and linguistic practices are important, but also to contribute to their academic success. Further,  “multilingualism and multiculturalism are increasingly linked to access and power in U.S. and global contexts” (Paris & Alim, 2014, p. 87). Perpetuating and fostering pluralistic cultural and linguistic practices helps students gain access and power.

 

  • Youth culture moves so fast. How can I keep up?
    You don’t need to keep up. Allow your students to be the youth culture experts in your library or classroom. Find ways for them to bring their own cultural expertise into the space and their academic work, both by demonstrating its value as a subject of study and by asking them to critique it.

 

  • Isn't it racist to assume that all people from the same race share the same culture?
    As we discussed in Module 7, culture is not race-dependent or race-determined and “it is important that we do not essentialize and are not overdeterministic in our linkages of language and other cultural practices to certain racial and ethnic groups in approaching what it is we are seeking to sustain”(Paris, 2012, p. 95). Culturally sustaining pedagogy does not ask educators to make assumptions about students’ culture; instead, it asks them to invite that culture into the classroom based on students’ own articulation of their cultural and linguistic practices. It asks educators to center those practices, rather than insisting that students only approach knowledge creation from a dominant, white, monocultural paradigm.

 

  • In the public library, we often celebrate culture in a superficial way through book displays on a specific holiday or cultural holiday celebration like Dia de los Muertos. How can we use culturally sustaining pedagogy in book displays and library programs?
    Invite families and youth to help plan programs, events, and book displays. Think about ways you could extend a cultural program such as Dia de los Muertos using culturally sustaining pedagogy. Create displays that celebrate the ethnicity, languages, and culture in your branch throughout the year, not just on specific holidays. Make sure to show the deep and nuanced aspects of culture, ethnicity, and language, rather than just the concrete aspects like food and music. Revisit Module 7 for additional ideas.

 

 


Additional Resources

Paris, Django and H. Samy Alim, Eds. (2017). Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World. New York: Teachers College Press.


References and Image Credits

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2012). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: AKA the remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74-84.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85–100,134,136–137.

 

Go Back:
Module 16b: Building Relationships With the Community
You Are Here:
Module 17: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy
Next:
Module 18: "Leveling Up" Your Instruction