Explain how the underlying principles of culturally relevant instruction contribute to equity in the classroom.

It can be difficult for students in any class to understand the importance of equity in their classroom. “It’s not fair!” is a common reaction from students who observe other students getting benefits that they did not receive. For example, some students with specific learning disabilities may receive additional time to complete assignments. Wardle (2013) points out a clear distinction between equality and equity noting that “Equal education is providing equal resources and opportunities for all students to succeed in education” (p. 51). On the other hand, according to Banks (2013), equitable education “goes beyond equal, and to some extent contradicts it, in that it requires tailoring the educational approach… to each student, based on the student’s individual and cultural characteristics, so the student can achieve to his or her full potential,” (as cited in Wardle, 2013, p. 51).

Initial Post: This discussion asks you to reflect on the importance of valuing equity over equality in the classroom and in life outside the classroom. You will identify at least two examples of equity versus equality in popular culture that you might be able to use in a class to help your students understand the value of equity. This might include advertisements (i.e., pictures), song lyrics, or commercials (e.g., linked from YouTube.com). Try to locate examples that could be used in a class you might teach now or in the future. Next, briefly reflect on the role equity plays in the classroom by explaining how you would use your selected examples to help students understand the differences between equity and equality and by explaining why equity is more important in the classroom. Feel free to refer back to the rubric you created (and those of your colleagues) in the Creating an Evaluation Instrument for Cultural Relevance in the Classroom discussion to help decide how these might inform your students about equality and equity.

Instructor Guidance

Week 3

Week Overview

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

U.S. Declaration of Independence

Have you ever thought for a moment about the level of truth in this famous line from the U.S. Declaration of Independence?  Granted, the authors did not consider gender or race as equal in 1776, but in reality all people enter this world unequal to everybody else, identical twins notwithstanding.  Gender, race, ethnicity, social status, wealth, height, weight, intelligence, predisposition to health-related issues, geography, and any number of personality characteristics collectively consign each one of us to a unique, singular, unequal life.
But so what?  From an educational perspective, the fact that every learner is unique can be seen as a real problem.  Classes would be much easier to teach if everybody possessed the exact same previous experiences, intellectual qualities and dispositions, and family structures.  But this will never be the case, and in fact the diversity of learners in a classroom provides many more opportunities for dynamic interactions and multiple perspectives.  And because no two students are alike, it is most appropriate to NOT treat them equally when it comes to their instruction.  It is best to treat students equitably, not equally.  This is an important component of culturally relevant pedagogy and something you will learn more about this week as you identify examples of equity versus equality in pop culture.
Last week you began considering how culturally relevant pedagogy is realized in diverse classrooms.  This week, you will be learning more specific skills associated with the design of culturally relevant instruction.  You will describe the characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogy in detail, and you will analyze common elements among culturally relevant instruction place-based educational approaches.  Examining specific examples of place-based instruction will help you see how culturally relevant pedagogy can be applied in a variety of settings, with impressive results.  And you will finish the week suggesting how culturally relevant instructional strategies might have improve the quality of instruction for a very specific, very public case of bad instruction captured on cell phone video.  Finally, similar to last week, the skills facilitated this week support your ability to successfully address two key components of the final project.


Intellectual Elaboration

Culturally relevant teachers recognize that they do not instruct culturally homogenized, generic students in generic school settings.  Teachers armed with a repertoire of generic teaching skills often find themselves ineffective and ill‑prepared when faced with a classroom of culturally diverse students…

A culturally relevant pedagogy builds on the premise that learning may differ across cultures and teachers can enhance students’ success by acquiring knowledge of their cultural backgrounds and translating this knowledge into instructional practice” (Irvine, 2009)

This quote by Irvine (2009) does an excellent job of summarizing the nature of culturally relevant teachers and the pedagogy that defines them.
Last week, you spent some time identifying strategies represented in culturally relevant instruction.  This week you are going to put this knowledge together with some of the concepts presented in the first week regarding culture to help you learn the following important skills:

  • Explain how the      underlying principles of culturally relevant instruction contribute to      equity in the classroom.
  • Recommend strategies for      supporting students’ cultural identity through equitable learning      opportunities.

Equity v. Equality

One important characteristic of culturally relevant instruction is that is contributes to an equity in the classroom, as opposed to equality.  This is in keeping with the personalized nature of the instruction. To help you understand the difference between efficacy and equality, you are asked to identify examples from popular culture and media.  A couple of good examples are shown here:

Equity might be described as having enough, whether or not we have as much as someone else. It can also be described as thinking about how to provide enough to others.

In addition to equity in the classroom, you will be evaluating a learning experience this week using a rubric to measure how well the instructional program seems to adhere to culturally relevant guidelines.  This activity supports two important skill areas.  First, it helps you better understanding culturally relevant instruction in action, which is something you will need to apply in the final project.  And second, it allows you to identify and examine specific examples of learning experience that pursue active connections between what goes on in the classroom to issues grounded in the local community.  Such environments naturally support culturally relevant strategies similar to the project-based and problem-based approaches discussed later in the course.  In fact, the “place-based” instructional programs are a form of project-based or problem-based learning.  The distinction is simply that they use problems that really exist in the community as the context for learning important academic and 21st century skills.
And to help you better understand the foundation of culturally relevant instruction that will be evaluated by the instrument you develop this week, read the following article by Irvine (2009) published in Tolerance.org’s Teaching Tolerance magazineLinks to an external site..
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
Consider the quotes below from Irvine (2009) and Wardle (2013) about culturally relevant pedagogy:

Culturally relevant teachers recognize that they do not instruct culturally homogenized, generic students in generic school settings.  Teachers armed with a repertoire of generic teaching skills often find themselves ineffective and ill-prepared when faced with a classroom of culturally diverse students. (Irvine, 2009)

Culturally responsive [relevant] pedagogy focuses on the learning strengths of students, including students from a variety of backgrounds, and provides various means by which diverse students’ cultures and learning styles can be connected to the school’s understanding of teaching, learning, academics, and accepted behaviors. (Wardle, 2013, Chapter 4)

Further, consider the above descriptions of culturally relevant pedagogy in relation to the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995), who noted that…

Culturally relevant pedagogy rests on three criteria or propositions: (a) Students must experience academic success; (b) students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence; and (c) students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order. (Ladson-Billing, 1995, p. 160).

Put more succinctly, “A culturally relevant pedagogy builds on the premise that learning may differ across cultures and teachers can enhance students’ success by acquiring knowledge of their cultural backgrounds and translating this knowledge into instructional practice” (Irvine, 2009).
In addition, read Developing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Chapter 4.3) and Approaches to Educational Equality that Acknowledge Student Differences (Chapter 4.4) in the Wardle (2013) course text, as well as the Equity Pedagogy section of Chapter 10.1.  Pay special attention to the Analyzing Curriculum and Pedagogy for Cultural Responsiveness suggestions presented near the end of the chapter.
Some of the key terms introduced and applied this week include:

  • Efficacy
  • Equity
  • Equality
  • Place-based      instruction/education


Discussion Response Expectations

Discussion 1: The first discussion this week; Creating an Evaluation Instrument for Cultural Relevance in the Classroom involves developing an instrument that you will use to evaluate the quality of culturally relevant approaches observed within place-based educational programs.
Reflect on the readings for this week, including Wardle (2013) Chapter 4, and the Ladson-Billings (1995) article, the video overview of culturally relevant pedagogyLinks to an external site. (Tolerance.Org, 2010), and the Irvine (2009) Relevant: Beyond the Basics article from this week’s required resources list. In Wardle (2013), pay particular attention to the Analyzing Curriculum and Pedagogy for Cultural Responsiveness suggestions included near the end of the chapter prior to the chapter summary. Next, recall that an effective example of culturally relevant approaches to instructional experiences can be found in place-based education, which is grounded in structuring learning experiences designed to actually help communities by using students and school staff to identify solutions to community problems. Place-based education recognizes that local communities are one of the primary resources for learning. If needed, review Promise of Place’s (n.d.) overview of place-based education.Links to an external site.

Links to an external site.For example, one evaluation question might address equity: “How well does the lesson implement strategies to promote equitable experiences for a diverse population of students?” Three criteria that might be used as possible answers to this question might include the following:

  • Advanced: The approach supports      multiple learning styles, a combination of cooperative group and      individual activities, and multiple means of expressing learning within      the assessments.
  • Proficient: The approach does allow      for some individual choices and/or means of assessment, but more could be      done to support individual learning styles.
  • Basic: The approach is      homogenous, expecting all students to experience the same instructional      material without personal input in the experience from start to finish      (including assessment).

Discussion Two: The Equal versus Equitable post asks you to locate and identify examples of equity versus equality in pop culture.  Such distinctions help develop classroom strategies designed to meet the individual needs of diverse members of a student population. As you will see exemplified in the elaboration section of this Instructor Guidance, examples of equality include any depiction of an attitude that it is only “fair” if everybody gets the same. The same style, type, amount, opportunity etc. Advertisements, song lyrics, and political messages are some excellent sources of the concept of equality. Equity is very different, and you may have to really hunt for examples of this concept. Basically, equity refers to “fairness” measured not by how equal the portions, but by how equal needs are met.  Since everybody has different needs, the amount and type of resources (money, food, housing, love, support, help etc.) available to people will differ…which is another way to look at “fairness.” Again, examples of these ideas can be found in popular culture.
Assignment: This week’s assignment focuses on your analysis and evaluation of an actual problem observed in a Texas high school social studies classroom.  Video footage was captured from a cell phone that depicts a very brief, heated interchange between a student and his teacher.  Closer examination of the classroom environment and the student’s complaints reveal quite a bit about the nature of the instructional experiences designed.  You will analyze the situation and submit a brief evaluation for other students in the class to review.
This two-minute video Links to an external site.was recorded by a student in a Texas high school social studies class. It depicts a student, Jeff Bliss, being asked to leave the class because he was apparently disruptive in some way. Watch the video several times and carefully observe what the student is saying, how the teacher responds, and what the other students seem to be doing within the class. A transcript of the short video is provided below.

Jeff Bliss: [I’m tired of] hearing this freakin’ lady go off on kids because they don’t get this crap. If you can just get up and teach them instead of handing them a freakin’ packet, yo. There are kids in here who don’t learn like that, they need to learn face-to-face. You’re just getting mad because I’m pointing out the obvious. [Teacher says “Bye” throughout…]
Teacher Julie Phung: (mumbling) No. ‘Cause you’re wasting my time.
Jeff Bliss: I’m not wasting your time. I’m telling you what you need to do. You want kids to come in your class, you want them to get excited for this? You gotta’ come in here and you gotta’ make ’em excited. You want a kid to change and start doing better? You gotta’ touch his freakin’ heart! Can’t expect a kid to change if all you do is just tell him. You gotta’ take this job serious. This is the future of this nation. And when you come in here like you did last time and make a statement about “This is my paycheck…” indeed it is, but this is my country’s future and my education.
Teacher Julie Phung: I respect that. Could you go outside please?
Jeff Bliss: But there’s a limit. When I’m not bitching, but simply making an observation. And now I will leave.
Teacher Julie Phung: (mumbling) OK.
Jeff Bliss: You’re welcome. And if you would like, I’ll teach you a little more so you can learn how to teach a freakin’ class. Because since I’ve got here I’ve done nothing but read packets. So don’t try and take credibility for teaching me jack! [Teacher: “Go, go, go, just go.”]

It is difficult to generalize about Ms. Phung’s professional practice based on one very short peek into her classroom. But there is no arguing that the experience could have been used as a teachable moment, and if Jeff Bliss’s claims about “completing packets” and the lack of interaction are believable, then much can be inferred about the general nature of the class and how it is structured and facilitated. In fact, such inferences can also be made by examining how the room is set up and how the other students react to the conflict.
The video made national news because the student being recorded is very articulate about his feelings regarding the inadequacy of the instruction, and the teacher does not do a very good job of using the experience as a teachable moment. It is impossible to generalize about a teacher’s practice from such a short video, but you will make some inferences based on what is presented and analyze the manner in which you feel the teacher addresses the issues raised by the student. You will imagine how the situation might have been different if the teacher incorporated more equitable, culturally relevant practices, and you will recommend specific strategies for improving her practice in this area.  It might be useful to use the evaluation instrument you designed this week to help evaluate the teacher and offer suggestions for improvement.


Bliss, J. (2013, May 8). Student “Jeff Bliss” mad at teacher at Duncanville HighLinks to an external site. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jsUj4DqWfU
C.K.. L. (Writer), and C.K., L. (Director). (2011, June 30). Bummer/Blueberry [Television series episode]. In L. C.K. (Producer), Louis. New York, NY: FX.
Irvine, J. (2009). Relevant: Beyond the basics. Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/feature/relevant-beyond-basics.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-195.
Promise of Place (n.d.). Principles of place-based educationLinks to an external site.. Retrieved from: https://www.promiseofplace.org/what-is-pbe/principles-of-place-based-education
Tolerance.org (2010). Introduction to culturally relevant pedagogy. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org\blog\introduction-culturally-relevant-pedagogy
Wardle, F. (2013). Human relationships and learning in the multicultural environment. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.