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Response: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy 'Increases Student Engagement & Learning'

Linda Bauld

This post appears in Larry Ferlazzo's Education Week blog, Classroom Q&A.

What does culturally sustaining pedagogy look like in the classroom? SCOPE's Linda Bauld, director of the National Board Resource Center, responds:

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy through National Board Certification

For me, culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) starts with being curious about and respectful of the cultures of the students we teach. As a White teacher teaching primarily students of color, that seemed at first glance to be simply good teaching. As a National Board Certified teacher with over twenty years experience, I came to realize it is much more complicated.

The more I learned about the events that were seminal in my students' lives like First Communion, Quinseñera, weekly church activities, and various family activities, the more I realized how different my culture was from my students. That got me asking questions.

Soon I was building units of study and lessons around my students' lives. One unit was an inquiry around our various traditions. Parents were asked to share artifacts, realia, ceremonies, and food. Students compared and contrasted different traditions in the world and in our class with the idea that we all have important traditions and learning about them helps us grow in understanding and respect.

In the past few years, I have learned that CSP requires me to be aware of my own cultural lens and biases. My cultural ignorance can cause unintended harm. For me it was lowering my expectations for two Latino students who recently transitioned into English-only instruction. With the help of my colleagues, I learned that I could maintain rigor if I used resources within their family and created scaffolds that supported learning. 

Now I am the Director of the National Board Resource Center at Stanford University, and I support teachers as they move through the certification process. National Board Certification is fundamentally about CSP. Teachers must show their knowledge of students, and how they use that knowledge to create an equitable, rigorous learning environment. All 25 Certificate areas have a Knowledge of Student and Equity standard.

These standards were written by teachers and are revisited every few years. It's an affirmation to the wisdom of accomplished educators that these standards are vibrantly relevant today. The Architecture of Accomplished Teaching is National Board's instructional sequence tool, which begins with knowledge of students and aligning that knowledge with high-level, relevant goals.

Another powerful part of the National Board Certification process is the deep reflection and analysis teachers undertake. It was during my analysis that I had a chance to expand my cultural lens and grow in my cultural competence.

Imagine what could happen if states and districts used the National Board Standards and Architecture so all teachers could become more culturally competent and effective in reaching all students? 

This post is part of a two-part series co-hosted by Travis J. Bristol. "In this second series, we continue to share reflections from teachers on how they have organized their classrooms to enact culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP). CSP is an essential mindset and tool for increasing student engagement and learning."

Linda Bauld is the director of the National Board Resource Center, which provides support for teachers pursuing National Board certification and promotes accomplished teaching. >> Learn more about NBRC at Stanford University