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Culturally effective teaching leads to improvement in students’ performance. In the United States, there is a steady shift from “the philosophy of an assimilationist melting point to the philosophy of cultural pluralism” (Wlodkowski, & Ginsberg, 2009, p. 20). This shift is important because effective instruction involves the ability of teachers to communicate congruently with their students. Teachers must learn how to communicate with their culturally diverse students. This is because the aspects of culture that influence classroom life most powerfully are those that affect the social organization of learning” (Shore & Garcia, 1995, p. 57). Students’ achievements increase when teachers adjust their methods of instruction to be in line with cultures and the communication of their culturally diverse students (Howard, 2001, p. 183). This paper will endeavor to discuss the impact of culture-sensitive science teaching on urban schooling.
Essentials for culturally responsive teaching
Cultural responsive teaching takes place in an environment where there is respect for circumstances as well as the backgrounds of students. In such an environment the education system creates learning experiences that protect the experience, knowledge, and skills of the learners. This is especially useful in the field of science where many students of color have been underprivileged (Pai, & Adler, 2001, p. 56-78).
Cultural responsive teaching requires a system that has justice and pedagogy that aims to both transforms as well as inform (Wlodkowski &Ginsberg, 2009, p. 24). Teachers are expected to recognize their own biases as well as ethnocentrism, understand learners cultural backgrounds, understand the political, social, and economic context of the educational system, be willing to be culturally sensitive, and be committed to creating a caring classroom environment (Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke & Curran, 2004, p. 27).
Teaching science to culturally diverse learners
Teaching science in a culturally diverse environment has not been effective and this can be seen in the achievement gap between learners of different races or ethnic groups. In the American context, the population is diverse, especially in urban areas. However, teaching remains white. Most of the teachers are female and this creates a problem for the male urban African American students as they lack male role models (Ladson-Billings, 1992, p. 106 -121; Villegas & Lucas, 2002, p.22). This means that a change in the way science is taught in a cross-cultural class is important if the gap of achievement is to be closed. In American society, there is an ideology that exalts western science above all others. Yet, in the classrooms, there are students from diverse backgrounds who do not understand science in the American context. For example, there are immigrants from non-western countries. Teachers of science tend to have the ideology of scientism – assumption that science is purely objective, solely empirical, immaculately rational and thus, singularly conforming” (Aikenhead, 2001, para. 1; 1997a, p 36-42). This assumption has led to a gap in achievement between the privileged Australian and Aboriginal learners in Australia.
The social context of the learner must be recognized together with the learner’s sociocultural background because it is a basic foundation for successful science learning and achievement (Scanlon, p.153; Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke & Curran, 2004, p. 23-24). Teachers should act as cultural brokers and help the students meditate on cultural borders so that they can understand science by resolving the conflict between their world and the culture of science taught in schools. Thus, teachers take the role of facilitators (Atwater, 1996:57; David man, L & David man, P. 1994, p. 75; Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995, p. 41; Irvine & Armento, 2001, p. 67-87). They are encouraged to take recognize the diverse value systems and cultures of their student population. They should teach science in a global context hence should embrace international science (NSTC, 2009, declarations para.1).
Impact of culture-sensitive teaching
Teaching science at a global or cross-cultural level is important as it will lead to the empowerment of people and they will be able to improve the quality of their lives through exchanging technological information with the other communities.
Culturally sensitive teachers provide their learners with culturally relevant resources for learning and this increases their achievement (McKinley, para.7). This is as a result of increased involvement in learning by the students as learning becomes meaningful due to the culturally responsive pedagogy (Kea & Campbell-Whatley, n.d, p. 2; Gay, 2000, p 41-56).
The achievement of students increases with culturally responsive teaching. Research conducted shows that achievement of the African American students can be increased by changing the teacher-student interactions (Gallego, Cole & Comparative Human Cognition, 2001, p. 983; McKinley, 2003, para. 1).
For the American educational system to close the gap between the achievements of learners from different backgrounds the pedagogy of learning must change. Teachers should ensure that they build a culturally sensitive environment in their classes especially when teaching sciences. This will enable the learners to understand science better because they will be in a position to relate it to their own cultural experiences. More importantly, all the stakeholders in the education system need to cooperate to implement the necessary changes in the American education system
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