Niagara University professors learned more about culturally responsive teaching at a workshop Oct. 23, 2019, led by Dr. Rolanda Ward, faculty director of the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality and Mission. The pedagogy is a key part of Niagara University’s strategic plan to enhance the campus’ diverse, inclusive, and values-based learning environment.
Participants discussed terms such as bias, privilege, cultural destruction, cultural competence, and cultural proficiency as they relate to their current curriculums, and reflected on how they might enhance and advocate policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference and support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources in their classrooms and departments.
“Do we see our students bringing their life experiences to campus, or do we just see them as students?” Dr. Ward asked. “We, as teachers, have the responsibility to work with students from where they are coming from in order to bring out their strengths.”
Ultimately, cultural proficiency, which holds all forms of cultural differences in high esteem, leads to culturally responsive teaching, where students are engaged and connected to what they are learning in the classroom because it aligns with their cultural references.
Without culturally responsive teaching, “we’ve lost an opportunity to create capacity in a young person so that they can change their lives,” Dr. Ward said.
Follow-up sessions will be held in the coming months that will explore practical strategies to engage all students and promote racial equity in the classroom and on campus.