The impact of quality professional development in the areas of culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching : an instrumental case study in an economically disadvantaged rural middle school.


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A problem exists for many rural and economically disadvantaged schools because teachers are not prepared to teach the students sitting in their classrooms. Each person has their own unique culture that helps them navigate the world around them, but what happens when the needs of the school do not meet the needs of the student? The use of culturally relevant and responsive teaching can help bridge these needs. An instrumental case study suited my research because it allowed me to collect rich, thick data from the participants after experiencing training about culturally responsive teaching strategies. My research supported the advancement of a professional development series based on the framework of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP). The newly designed professional development presented information on culturally responsive teaching, culturally relevant pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching strategies to participants to explore, understand and apply these strategies in their classrooms. To capture the participant’s application and understanding of the culturally responsive teaching strategies, I utilized the following data collection tools: observation follow-ups, response journals, semi-structured interviews, and field notes. The findings of the CRP professional development series revealed the importance of the three tenets of the pedagogy which are self-awareness, cultural competencies, and critical consciousness when bridging the gap between students’ unique cultures and classroom learning. The participants engaged with the self–awareness tenet, and they started by building relationships with their students by taking the time to talk and learn about them. As the relationships grew, the participants created learning activities based on the needs of the students. Next, the participants explored the cultural competence tenet and found they did not always have to be experts. They could bring in experts from the communities and work toward building a strong community relationship. Through the lens of the last tenet of CRP, critical consciousness, participants discovered that by using collaborative student center learning activities, students were more willing to share their knowledge with their peers. This study implied that the consistent application of culturally responsive teaching strategies in a rural, economically disadvantaged middle school worked for all students and created a more positive classroom culture.