Creating a model for teachers to bridge cultural divides and provide students with culturally relevant pedagogy
Effective Years: 2021-2026
This project aims to increase the support students from non-dominant groups receive in schools by understanding better how teacher training and curricular resources can make curricula relevant and compelling to those students. Culturally relevant education makes visible the value of students’ diverse perspectives and experiences and may better support underserved students in STEM. While culturally relevant educational approaches are powerful, they rely on the teachers' competence in the culture of their students for implementation. The majority of those teaching in underserved communities are unlikely to share backgrounds and experiences with students from non-dominant groups. This means that teachers may be under-equipped to meaningfully implement culturally relevant practices or otherwise effectively teach students from non-dominant communities. This project aims to improve the field's understanding of how STEM teachers who come from cultural backgrounds that are different from their students, take up culturally responsive approaches. The strategy is to investigate in-service teachers’ use of the Iñupiaq Learning Framework—a framework developed by the Iñupiat community in Arctic Alaska and centered on Iñupiaq values and culture. The project is generalizing findings from this particular situation to provide a model for supporting teachers to provide culturally relevant pedagogy to students from non-dominant groups. This is a Faculty Early Career Development Program project responsive to a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. This project is funded by the EHR Core Research program.
Project objectives will be accomplished through a series of teacher-focused professional development activities in the North Slope Borough School District in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, where teachers are familiar with the Iñupiaq Learning Framework. Because the majority of teachers in the district are not Native Alaskan and are from other parts of the U.S., the project is studying how they interpret, adapt, and use the framework in their classrooms. The project expands upon existing studies investigating teacher growth when Indigenous knowledge is the focus by capturing the experiences of 12 "outsider" teachers (defined as those who are not native Iñupiat) who participate in a community-based design process. By collaborating with Iñupiat community members to identify problems of interest to the community and resources to explore these problems, the project is developing place-based science inquiry activities that intersect Iñupiaq culture with Western science practices. Finally, to support the implementation of the designed activities in the classroom, the same teachers are working together with students and community members in a learning community to implement and adapt the modules in their classrooms. This project is providing an account of how participation in community-based design can be used to support "outsider" STEM teachers in taking up classroom practices that honor community culture and values. Products of this work include a culturally relevant curriculum for Iñupiat students that will be available in a curriculum repository that collects place-based materials. Other products include research results that answer questions about how "outsiders" come to understand ways of instructing students in culturally relevant ways.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.