public education today because many teachers are inadequately prepared with the relevant content knowledge, experience, and training (Au, 2009; Cummins, 2007). Inadequate preparation can create a cultural gap between teachers and students (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009) that limits the ability of educators to choose effective instructional practices and curricular materials. Research on curriculum and instructional practices has primarily focused on White middle-class students, while virtually ignoring the cultural and linguistic characteristics of diverse learners (Orosco, 2010; Orosco & O’Connor, 2011). A mandate for change requires that racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students have the opportunity to meet their learning challenges with the strength and relevance found in their own cultural frame of reference. Therefore, teachers must be prepared with a thorough understanding of the specific cultures of the students they teach; how that culture affects student learning behaviors; and how they can change classroom interactions and instruction to embrace the differences.
2 © Education Northwest 2016 Preparing Teachers To Be Culturally Responsive Because culture strongly influences the attitudes, values, and behaviors that students and teachers bring to the instructional process, better teacher preparation is a major factor in solving the problems of underachievement. Reasonably, teachers can only be held accountable for student outcomes if they are adequately prepared to be culturally responsive to their students’ learning styles and needs. Seminal studies of culturally responsive teaching, conducted over the course of the past 30–40 years have provided the evidence base for many of the innovative practices developed by Geneva Gay, Sonia Nieto, and Gloria Ladson-Billings. These “teachers of teachers“ developed systems of instructional delivery based on what the research told them about racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students. For them, cultural congruity had to be deeply embedded in any teaching practice; therefore, they recommended training teachers in instructional techniques matched to the diverse learning styles of their students. Gay (2002) made the case for preparing teachers with culturally responsive knowledge, attitudes, and skills during preservice education programs to improve the school success of diverse students. Through proper training, teachers learn to bridge the gap between instructional delivery and diverse learning styles and establish continuity between how diverse students learn and communicate and how the school approaches teaching and learning. Villegas and Lucas (2002) encouraged teacher educators to critically examine their programs and systematically interweave throughout prospective teachers’ coursework, learning experiences, and fieldwork the strategies that research has shown better prepares them to work successfully with diverse students. These researchers posited that helping prospective teachers develop the following six
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