School of Education to offer certificate in culturally responsive teaching  

Educators from Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., to participate


April 24, 2013

This summer 30 educators from the Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., public school districts will be invited to come to the University of Missouri-Kansas City for a first-of-its-kind continuing education program designed to help them better reach the hardest-to-reach learners.   

Thanks to a $134,000 grant from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and $30,000 from the Sprint Foundation, the UMKC School of Education will offer a professional development program for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educators in culturally responsive pedagogy – a philosophy and teaching practice that respects that not every student sees the world through the same lens.     

“People often say that culturally responsive pedagogy is just good teaching,” said Monika Shealey, Ph.D., associate dean for teacher education who is helping oversee the pilot program. “But I think it’s much more intentional than just good teaching.”   

All educators – but especially those working in urban schools – need to work to understand their students’ homes and cultures. Culturally responsive pedagogy urges teachers to get to know their students, embrace their diversity, and use it to frame their approach to teaching.   

“How can we get high outcomes from kids who have traditionally been underserved?” Shealey asked.  

A key answer to that question, according to culturally responsive pedagogy, comes down to building relationships with students.   

By getting to know students’ families and communities, educators can help bridge the gap between home and school. They need to recognize that all families and communities offer “funds of knowledge,” which will enrich teaching, Shealey said. And, significantly, acknowledging the value of students’ diverse home lives also promotes self-esteem among students.  

“It’s about establishing a relationship,” Shealey said. “You have to come at it from looking through the lens of the children. Ask who they are and use that knowledge to get them where they need to be.”  

Culturally responsive pedagogy also helps educators rely on more authentic assessment methods. Rather than assuming a student with a poor standardized test score is not capable, it encourages teachers to seek better ways to discover a student’s capabilities.   

The four-course teacher professional development program that UMKC’s School of Education will offer beginning this summer is in a pilot format. Fifteen educators from Kansas City, Kan., and 15 from Kansas City, Mo., will be eligible for tuition remission.  

Participants will take two courses in an accelerated format this summer, one course in the fall of 2013 and the final course in the spring of 2014. The summer institute will include two weeks of community-based experiences to immerse participants in the communities some of their students come from and expand their awareness of the inherent strengths of those communities.  

School of Education officials are hopeful that the pilot program, which is unique in the Kansas City area, will lead to implementation of culturally responsive pedagogy among teams of educators and lead to the program being supported by school districts in the future.  

Even educators in affluent school districts work with students from culturally diverse backgrounds and students who live in poverty and could benefit from the strategies offered in this program, Shealey said.  

It is expected that school districts that implement culturally responsive teaching methods will see higher achievement among traditionally underserved populations.  

For more information about how to apply for the summer institute, contact Monika Shealey, Ph.D., associate dean for Teacher Education, UMKC School of Education, before May 1 at (816) 235-2466. Relay Missouri 1-800-735-2966 TTY.