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It can be said with assurance that COVID-19 and the resulting removal of students from school buildings, has changed the way classrooms work and has left schools, districts, and teachers searching for ways to motivate and engage students now that they are back at school.

Because of the learning loss students experienced as a result of the pandemic, schools and parents are finding it challenging to figure out ways to best manage both student resilience and learning. Many school districts have been able to access funds and resources to help address the issue while parents have become more concerned about their children’s education than ever before. In some instances, school districts and parents have developed partnerships to identify gaps in student learning. Additionally, districts have implemented tutoring and mentoring programs for students and utilized time and funding to re-evaluate curriculum to help further address learning loss. However, many students still appear disengaged and unmotivated regarding from learning

Engagement and Motivation Are Essential to Learning.

Engagement and motivation are necessary components of the learning process. In fact, student engagement plays a central role in shaping a student’s ability to master academic subjects. Students must be engaged, motivated, and willing to learn new things in order to succeed. When they are not academic and behavioral problems often occur. Disruptive behavior, poor attendance, and negative feelings towards school are directly associated with low academic performance and are related to decreased emotional well-being, delinquency issues or even dropping out of school.

How Can Culturally Responsive Teaching Improve Student Achievement?

Because motivation and engagement are major contributors to academic success, teachers are now responding to this education crisis by implementing culturally responsive teaching.

Culturally responsive teaching is an approach to instruction which recognizes and values cultural differences in the classroom by recognizing, understanding, and acknowledging the student’s cultural background. This educational approach seeks to maintain academic standards and expectations while adapting traditional practices to suit the social, cultural, and educational needs of students. It honors students’ diverse identities, recognizing the influence of cultural diversity on learning, and providing culturally relevant content and resources in order to create more equitable learning environments. Through this type of instruction, teachers are able to reach a range of learners who may otherwise be unable to access traditional course material.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies

The following is a list of strategies that schools – and families – might use to make learning more engaging and culturally relevant for all students.

  • Establish relationships. Making connections with students as individuals is vital to culturally responsive instruction. Teachers who utilize this approach learn about their students’ interests, likes, dislikes, families, and goals.
  • Re-evaluate the classroom environment. Students should feel a connection to their learning environment, and one way to demonstrate this is to ensure there are representations of them reflected in the learning space.
  • Activate students’ prior knowledge. This might include asking students what they know about a particular concept and connecting that to the lesson you’re introducing.
  • Discuss current events. Help students connect with current issues that are impacting the world around them. During this process, students are encouraged to think, discuss, and write about these topics in a way that is non-threatening for them.
  • Make learning contextual. When discussing a topic about another time, place, or culture, students are encouraged to connect the subject to their own lives.
  • Utilize popular culture. Find ways to connect the music, movies, and other media students engage in daily into the content of the classroom. This helps to grab and hold their attention during instruction.

If we are to address the academic outcomes for all students, culturally responsive teaching is an approach to consider. In classrooms where Culturally Responsive Teaching is utilized, educators are experiencing an increase in student participation and academic success. Given the impact of the pandemic on learning, it is strongly recommended that more classrooms begin to embrace this approach to teaching and learning.