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Black History Month and Culturally Responsive Resources

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February is Black History Month, a good reminder for one of those occasional check-ins: am I employing cultural responsiveness in my work, this month and throughout the year?

Over the years, DPI-ConnectEd has observed Black History Month with stories about teaching resources curated by the state’s social studies education consultant, the personal story of segregation and oppression from a Wisconsin assistant state superintendent, and more.

These and other resources on the DPI website can support educators’ work to ensure that students from all cultures have the equal opportunity to succeed.

Educators who reviewed the literature for Wisconsin’s Guiding Principles for Teaching and Learning (specifically “Principle 6: Responsive environments engage learners”) wrote:

“Research on culturally responsive teaching has found that students both are more engaged in learning and learn more effectively when the knowledge and skills taught are presented within a context of their experience and cultural frames of references.”

This cultural frame of reference includes not only those fun, engaging details that can add some life to instruction – things like cultural foods, arts, clothing, and music. Deeper cultural inheritances can be studied by educators to transform their own understanding and potentially make a powerful difference for students. The Wisconsin Statewide Parent Educator Initiative offers some examples on culturally responsive family engagement, such as cultural value systems, expectations and goals of family, verbal and nonverbal communication differences, ways of expressing disagreement, points of view on disability, and ways of interacting with adults.

The presentation references the idea of “ubuntu,” a word from the Southern regions of Africa that (while it appears to have a range of meanings) is commonly used to reflect having the consciousness of one’s whole team, group, society, or humanity in general, rather than simply one’s self in isolation.

Nelson Mandela in an archival video interview
Mandela on the concept of ubuntu.

Nelson Mandela explained the concept in a video available on the Wikimedia commons and a book titled Ubuntu!, set in corporate America, explores how the philosophy could impact management.

Focusing on what a group has in common and how they can work together is at the core. Another necessary implication may be recognizing and appreciating the value of each human being for who they are.

Books written by authors from another culture can be part of creating a culturally responsive environment. Among the world’s resources for finding children’s and young adult’s books by authors of African-American heritage is a list maintained by the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL) on the DPI website (check the WTBBL catalog to see which of these books are available as audiobooks or in braille format).

More DPI and partner resources on culturally responsive practices can be found in locations such as:

  • identified commonalities between culturally responsive education and Universal Design for Learning;