Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Teaching: Classroom to Community and Back


Steffen Saifer, Keisha Edwards, Debbie Ellis, Lena Ko & Amy Stuczynski

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    Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Teaching: Classroom to Community and Back describes how educators can use the knowledge and culture students bring to school in a standards-based curriculum that supports student success. We call this approach culturally responsive standards-based (CRSB) teaching. Unlike multicultural education—which is an important way to incorporate all the world's cultural and ethnic diversity into lessons—CRSB teaching draws on the experiences, understandings, views, concepts, and ways of knowing of the students in the classroom.

    Through foundational research and snapshots of real-life classroom practices throughout the United States, this publication shows teachers and school leaders how CRSB

    • engages all students in learning,
    • builds relationships between the classroom and the outside world, and
    • creates opportunities for families and community members to support student success in and out of school.

    This resource guide also offers tools, resources, and references to help practitioners adapt and apply CRSB teaching in their own school environment. By using this material, the guide seeks to help teachers

    • expand their understanding of their own culture, the students' cultures, and the ways culture affects teaching and learning; and
    • develop strategies for incorporating these cultures into a rigorous, challenging, and effective curriculum that will enable students to meet state and local standards.

    The guide does not write the CRSB curriculum. Instead, it forms a rich, fertile ground on which educators may create lessons that are unique (and responsive) to themselves and their students.

    Why This Book Is Needed

    Across the nation, our schools are growing increasingly more diverse: culturally, economically, and linguistically. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reveals in its latest report on the Condition of Education that in 2007 forty-four percent of public school students were part of a racial or ethnic minority group, largely due to growth in the proportion of Latino students; 10.8 million school-age children spoke a language other than English at home, with Spanish being the most frequently spoken; and 46 percent of all fourth-graders were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (Planty et al., 2009a, 2009b).

    While these changes to the student population have been happening across the country, the distribution has differed greatly across regions. In 2007, for instance, the West was the only region where minority public school enrollment (57 percent) exceeded white enrollment (43 percent). One-third of all students in the West (33.5 percent) spoke a language other than English at home.

    With these changes come additional challenges to schools. According to an earlier NCES report (Wirt et al., 2005), the percentage of children whose families had more risk factors (defined as living in poverty, non-English primary home language, mother's low educational level, or single-parent household) were less likely to have mastered more-complex reading and mathematics skills by Grade 3 than were children from families with fewer risk factors. In grades 4 and 8, white and Asian/Pacific Islander students had higher average scores than did Native American, Latino, or black students in both reading and math, with the level of poverty in the school negatively associated with student achievement in both grades. In addition, language minority youth lagged behind their counterparts who spoke only English at home on most education (and economic) indicators, including school enrollment, grade retention, high school completion, postsecondary enrollment, and highest educational level attained—with those speaking Spanish faring less well than those speaking other non-English languages.

    A number of studies suggest low school performance might be linked, in part, to the lack of congruence between the cultures of the students' families and communities and the cultural norms embedded in the expectations, policies, procedures, and practices of schools (Bensman, 1999; Bowman & Stott, 1994; Cummins, 1986; Delpit, 1995; Entwistle, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1995). In addition, a recent examination of 80 research studies and literature reviews (Henderson & Mapp, 2002) found a positive and convincing relationship between family involvement and benefits for students, including improved academic achievement, higher grade point averages and scores on standardized tests, enrollment in courses that are more challenging, more classes passed and credits earned, better attendance, improved behavior both at home and at school, and better social skills and adaptation to school—holding across families of all economic, racial or ethnic, and educational backgrounds, and for students of all ages.

    In a report to the U.S. Department of Education, the Regional Advisory Committee for the Northwest stated that the overriding regional challenge is to close the achievement gap between white students and students of other cultural and racial groups. When considering the achievement issues, specific challenges were identified that included addressing language, culture, and diversity among students and developing strategies to engage the community, especially families, in effective and meaningful ways (Northwest Regional Advisory Committee, 2005).

    One of the most powerful ways to strengthen family and community partnerships for successful student learning is to change instructional and curricular practices so they are more culturally responsive. Drawing on the knowledge, skills, and experiences of students and the support of family and community members enriches the curriculum and builds family and community support, broadening learning experiences for all students.

    Design and Applications

    The format of this publication and the materials contained in it were designed with the help of a cadre of users. Teachers, administrators, youth workers, curriculum coordinators, in-service trainers, and professors at colleges of education field-tested this guide. Some used it as a stand-alone document to support their teaching practices, and some used it with a variety of professional development supports, including one-to-one facilitation, technical assistance within professional learning teams, and group professional development either on site or through an online course. These field-testers and reviewers provided invaluable feedback that has shaped the development of these materials. They also helped in designing several options for the guide's intended use as a professional development tool and as a resource to support teaching practices.

    The vast majority of the educators who contributed to the ideas in this publication, particularly those highlighted in the snapshots, are from the Pacific Northwest. This is because the first edition of the book was developed with funds from the U.S. Department of Education provided to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (now Education Northwest) for work specifically within a five-state region: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. However, we strongly believe that most of the ideas in these snapshots are generalizable across diverse contexts and locations. Although a school in rural Alaska may seem to have nothing in common with an inner-city school in Baltimore, they actually have a number of remarkable similarities: high dropout rates, many disenfranchised minority youth, most of the teachers from a culture other than the students', difficulty recruiting and maintaining highly qualified teachers and administrators, pressure from the state and the district to improve test scores, facilities in need of improvement, service to low-income communities with high substance-abuse rates and inadequate social supports, and, most important, great potential to harness the strengths and culture of the students for their academic and life success.

    Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Teaching: Classroom to Community and Back is intended for use by K–12 teachers, youth workers, curriculum coordinators and developers, principals, administrators, preservice teachers, and instructors at colleges of education. It can be used in professional development trainings or as a resource for individual teachers in the classrooms. CRSB teaching is an approach that asks educators to engage in a process of continual reflection and improvement. As such, this guide is organized to take the educator through the steps of such a process, with each chapter building on those before it. The reader is encouraged to tailor the concepts and tools to his or her specific role, setting, students, families, and community. Tools and examples (“snapshots”) are formatted differently and listed in the table of contents so they can be found easily. Because effective reflection begins with authentic inquiry, many of the tools contain thought-provoking, open-ended questions.

    List of Snapshots

    1.1Project FRESA, Mar Vista Elementary School, Oxnard, California5
    1.2Listening to Community Voices: Creating School Success, Chugach School District, Prince William Sound, Alaska16
    2.1Molecules—With a Twist of Culture, Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, Oregon34
    3.1Family Story Book, Atkinson Elementary School, Portland, Oregon52
    3.2Using Students' Writing to Build Relationships and Community, Kenny Lake School, Copper Center, Alaska56
    3.3AASK What You Can Do for Your Community, Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, Oregon65
    3.4Belief in Action: A Classroom Unit on the Exploration of Faith, Asheville Middle School, Asheville, North Carolina70
    4.1CVTV: Cherry Valley News, Cherry Valley Elementary School, Polson, Montana74
    4.2Celebrating Differences—Achieving Results, Arnaq School, remote Alaska80
    4.3Gay–Straight Alliance, Madison High School, Portland, Oregon86
    4.4Students' Voices: The Detroit Youth Writers Project, Multiple High Schools in Detroit, Michigan87
    5.1Rediscovering a Lost Heritage, Poplar Middle School, Poplar, Montana104
    5.2Collaborative Action Research Projects, Aberdeen High School, Aberdeen, Washington108
    5.3Family Maps, Parkdale Elementary School, Parkdale, Oregon111
    5.4Family Stories Books, Tubman Middle School, Portland, Oregon116
    5.5Fairy Tales, Folktales, and Family Stories, Whitman Elementary School, Portland, Oregon117
    5.6Know Our Roots, Glenoma Elementary School, Glenoma, Washington119
    5.7Project of the Year Books, Aberdeen High School, Aberdeen, Washington121
    5.8Learning From Aundre'a: A Curriculum of Caring and Concern, Newsome Park Elementary School, Newport News, Virginia124
    5.9Students Express Themselves Through Theater, Providence High School, Charlotte, North Carolina126
    5.10Making Social Studies Meaningful for Young Children, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, Massachusetts134
    6.1Gathering Student Reflections, Sheridan High School, Sheridan, Oregon148
    6.2Heritage Dolls, Woodmere Elementary School, Portland, Oregon152
    7.1Tulalip-Based Curriculum and Lushootseed Classes, Tulalip Elementary School, Marysville, Washington164
    7.2It's a Wild Ride: Using Youth Culture for High-Level Learning, O'Leary Junior High School, Twin Falls, Idaho169
    7.3Culturally Responsive Discipline, Cordova Middle School, Phoenix, Arizona174
    7.4One District's Approach to Ensuring That ALL Students Are Successful, Ithaca City School District, Ithaca, New York184
    7.5Stories Project, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Oregon186
    7.6Learning Through Laps, Legends, and Legacy, Indiana Department of Public Instruction and the Indianapolis 500®, Indianapolis, Indiana189
    8.1A Journey to Promote CRSB Teaching Practices: “Is That How You Do Things in Your Home?” Warren Primary School, South Bend, Indiana202

    List of Tools

    1.Taking Stock of Current Classroom Practices25
    2.Getting to Know Yourself43
    3.Self-Assessment on Culture, Self, and Systems45
    4.Getting to Know Your Students Better50
    5.Self-Assessment on Student, Family, and Community Engagement and Connections59
    6.Home Visiting: Getting to Know Students and Connecting With Families63
    7.Self-Assessment on Transformational Teaching and Learning69
    8.Self-Assessment on Classroom Environment76
    9.Student Conversation Starters79
    10.Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Curriculum Planner and Curriculum Wheel127
    11.Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Project Checklist132
    12.Self-Assessment on Assessment and Reflection138
    13.Staff Reflection145
    14.Student Reflection150
    15.School-and District-Level Policies and Practices Checklist161
    16.Our Cultural and Educational Experiences180


    This book was a collaborative effort made possible by the assistance of many individuals within the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (now Education Northwest). The writing team is grateful to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions: Diane Dorfman, Rändi Douglas, Elke Geiger, and Kendra Hughes. The support of Eve McDermott and Steve Fleishman is greatly appreciated.

    Special thanks go to Rhonda Barton, Denise Crabtree, Linda Fitch, Michael Heavener, Gwen McNeir, Eugenia Cooper Potter, Bracken Reed, Cathy Swoverland, and Patti Tucci, for editing and design assistance.

    We acknowledge and appreciate the generous contributions from the following practitioners and researchers in the field who provided valuable input and feedback through interviews, field-testing, and reviews: Shauna Adams, Judy Barker, Carrie Bartos, Paul Bartos, Carrie Bodensteiner, Lori Bogen, Denise Buckbee, Julie Cajune, Jioanna Carjuzaa, Reid Chapman, Angela Rose Cheek, Myra Clark, Janet Collier, David Cort, Barry Derfel, Lilia Doni, Dan Dunham, Dawn Dzubay, Larry Ericksen, Karen Exstrom, Kathy Fuller, Ann Gardner, David Greuenewald, Verenice Gutierrez, Tania Harman, Camille Harris, Rosa Hemphill, Matt Henry, Billie Hetrick, Jane Hilburn, Cynthia Irving and Freestyle staff, Laurie Kerley, Judy Kirkham, Wanda Kirn, Diana Larson, Amy Lloyd, Jennifer Loyning, Carole Luster, Shirley Marchwick, Wanda McCulough, Marcene McDonnell, David McKay, Elaine Meeks, Linda Mettler, Valorie Miller, Darren Morse, Tamara Mosar, Frank Newman, Evangelina Orozco, Libby Owens, Tiffany Parish, Deborah Peterson, Marcy Prager, Lynne Sadler, DeNae Simms, Michelle Singer, Jill Spaulding, Libi Susag, Patricia Tate, Sue Thomas, Elise Tickner, Tamara Van Wyhe, Marney Welmers, David R. Wetzel, and Stephanie Windham.

    Finally, we would like to acknowledge the School-Family-Community Partnerships team's advisory committee members for their great advice regarding the needs of students, parents, schools, and community members in the area of education: Terry Bostick, Irene Chavolla, Elizabeth Flynn, Dell Ford, Debbie Gordon, Betty Klattenhoff, Lily Martinez, Peggy Ames Nerud, Paula Pawlowski, Barbara Riley, and Paul Sugar.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Denise Carlson, Curriculum Consultant
    • Heartland Area Education Agency, Story City, IA
    • Bruce Clemmer, Director I
    • Clark County School District, English Language Learner Program, Las Vegas, NV
    • Thelma A. Davis, Principal
    • Robert Lunt Elementary School, Clark County School District, Las Vegas, NV
    • R. John Frey, Assistant Principal
    • Columbus High School, Columbus, NE
    • Suzanne Javid, Education Consultant
    • SCJ Associates, LLC, Bloomfield Hills, MI
    • Rachel Mederios, ELL Teacher
    • Jefferson Elementary School, Boise, ID

    About the Authors

    Dr. Steffen Saifer has been the director of the Child and Family Program at Education Northwest since 2000 and an adjunct faculty member at Portland (Oregon) State University since 1996, where he has taught graduate courses in education. His areas of work and expertise include cultural-historical activity theory, the role of play in human development, and school–family partnerships. Saifer has worked extensively in Russia and Eastern Europe, where he has assisted in education curriculum reform. Recently he has been assisting to implement a graduate program in early childhood development at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh (cofunded by the Open Society Foundation and BRAC University). He is the author or coauthor of numerous publications, including Practical Solutions to Practically Every Problem: The Early Childhood Teacher's Manual (2003) and Education and the Culture of Democracy: Early Childhood Practice (1996).

    Keisha Edwards is a trainer for the Oregon Parent Information and Resource Center (Oregon PIRC) at Education Northwest. Her primary work is to design and deliver meaningful learning experiences to educators and families on educational equity, cultural competence, and effective strategies to engage diverse families as allies in the school change process. In this role over the past five years, Edwards has facilitated more than 300 workshops, trainings, and coaching sessions with diverse audiences. As a result, she strongly believes that a new discourse, personal reflection, and deep dialogue across differences will soon be the most powerful and preferred strategies to transform school culture. Edwards is the author or coauthor of several publications, including Everyone's Guide to Successful Project Planning: Tool for Youth (2000) and Beyond the Oregon Trail: Oregon's Untold Racial History (2003).

    Debbie Ellis is the project director for the Oregon State Parental Information and Resource Center (Oregon PIRC) at Education Northwest. Her area of work and expertise focuses on school–family partnerships, educational equity, and early childhood parent education. Ellis coordinates a statewide conference for educators and parents focusing on school–family partnerships, educational equity, and academic achievement. She assisted in the development of a statewide parent leadership curriculum to help underrepresented parents navigate the school system and help their children achieve in school, and is developing multimedia training for families to understand the key transitional periods in their child's education. She has worked as a teacher, family advocate, and parent educator, and is the author or coauthor of numerous publications, including See Poverty, Be the Difference: Discovering the Missing Pieces for Working with People in Poverty (2007) and Partnerships by Design: Cultivating Effective and Meaningful School-Family Partnerships (2002).

    Lena Ko is an advisor in early childhood education and school–family–community partnerships at Education Northwest. She has more than 20 years of experience training and coaching educators, coordinating professional development and technical assistance in model early childhood teaching centers, and consulting and doing technical writing for various education agencies, interagency groups, and early childhood programs. She has worked to help develop a statewide family resource center project, and has worked on several federal grant initiatives to help communities improve outcomes for children and families. Her primary areas of research include early childhood curriculum and professional development and training, kindergarten readiness, culturally responsive teaching and learning, and school–family– community partnerships in education. Ko received her master of science degree in human development and family studies with an emphasis on early childhood development from Colorado State University. She has experience working with culturally diverse populations in unique settings, including children with special needs at a therapeutic preschool. As a bicultural learner and trained education equity advocate, she is passionate about the role of the school meeting the diverse needs of all learners. She has coauthored an Education Northwest publication on a school process called the School-PASS (School Practices for All Students' Success) that focuses on assessing and preparing for the needs of new and diverse students.

    Amy Stuczynski is currently working with the Human Services Research Institute evaluating the use of family team meetings by public child welfare agencies. She began her career as a social worker for a community-based service organization for African American youth and families in Madison, Wisconsin. She later joined Education Northwest where she wrote about language, literacy, and culture for six years. Amy holds a master's in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  • Resources

    The following resources are categorized by topic and broken out by websites—listed first in alphabetic order—and print materials (books, journal articles, etc.)—listed next in alphabetic order.


    Burke, K. (1994). The mindful school: How to assess authentic learning. Palatine, IL: IRI/Skylight.

    Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    Community-Based Learning

    Haas, T., & Nachtigal, P. (1998). Place value: An educator's guide to good literature on rural lifeways, environments, and purposes of education. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED420461)

    Knapp, C. E. (1996). Just beyond the classroom: Community adventures for interdisciplinary learning. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED388485)

    Miller, B. A., & Hahn, K. J. (1997). Finding their own place: Youth in three small rural communities take part in instructive school-to-work experiences. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED413122)

    National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. ETR Associates, Scotts Valley, CA.

    Critical Thinking

    Foundation for Critical Thinking. Dillon Beach, CA.

    Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.

    Culture and Multicultural Curriculum

    Cooper, P. (1993). When stories come to school: Telling, writing, and performing stories in the early childhood classroom. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

    Freedom Writers (with Gruwell, E.). (1999). The freedom writers diary: How a teacher and 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them. New York: Doubleday.

    Kovacs, E. (1994). Writing across cultures: A handbook on writing poetry and lyrical prose. From African drum song to blues, ghazal to haiku, villanelle to the zoo. Hillsboro, OR: Blue Heron.

    Manley, A., & O'Neill, C. (Eds.). (1997). Dreamseekers: Creative approaches to the African American heritage. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Osterling, J. P. (2001). Waking the sleeping giant: Engaging and capitalizing on the sociocultural strengths of the Latino community. Bilingual Research Journal, 25(1/2), 1–30.

    Pierce, M., & Brisk, M. E. (2002). Sharing the bilingual journey: Situational autobiography in a family literacy context. Bilingual Research Journal, 26(3), 575–597.

    Reese, L. (2002). Parental strategies in contrasting cultural settings: Families in Mexico and “el norte.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 33(1), 30–59.

    Romo, H. D. (2002). Celebrating diversity to support, student success. SEDLetter, 14(2), 18–24. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Austin, TX. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

    Rothstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P. M., & Trumbull, E. (1999). Bridging cultures with classroom strategies. Educational Leadership, 56(7), 64–67.

    Saldaña, J. (1995). Drama of color: Improvisation with multiethnic folklore. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Teaching Tolerance. Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL.

    Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., & Greenfield, P. M. (2000). Bridging cultures in our schools: New approaches that work [Knowledge brief]. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. (ERIC ED440954)

    Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Walberg, H. J. (1993/1994). What helps students learn? Educational Leadership, 51(4), 74–79.

    Weatherford, J. (1991). Native roots: How the Indians enriched America. New York: Crown.

    Curriculum Development

    Armento, B. J. (n.d.). The framework for curriculum development. Evergreen State College,

    Washington Center, Olympia, WA. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

    Ethnomathematics Digital Library. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, Honolulu.

    Indian reading series: Stories and legends of the northwest. (n.d.). Education Northwest, Portland, OR.

    Johnson, E. B. (2002). Contextual teaching and learning: What it is and why it's here to stay. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Kemple, M., Kiefer, J., & Skelding, M. (2001). Living traditions—A teacher's guide: Teaching local history using state and national standards. Montpelier, VT: Common Roots Press.

    Rethinking Schools. Milwaukee, WI.

    Spicer, J. (n.d.). Mathematics of world cultures = a world of possibilities. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, Eisenhower National Center for Math and Science Education.

    Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Zaslavsky, C. (1996). The multicultural math classroom: Bringing in the world. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Engagement and Motivation

    Brewster, C., & Fager, J. (2000, October). Increasing student engagement and motivation: From time-on-task to homework. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, OR. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from

    Bryk, A. S., Nagaoka, J. K., & Newmann, F. M. (2000). Chicago classroom demands for authentic intellectual work: Trends from 1997–1999. Consortium on Chicago School Research, Chicago, IL. (ERIC ED470295)

    Home–School Connection

    Ban, J. R. (1993). Parents assuring student success (PASS): Achievement made easy by learning together. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service.

    Edwards, R. (Ed.). (2002). Children, home, and school: Regulation, autonomy, or connection? New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Finn, J. D. (1998). Parental engagement that makes a difference. Educational Leadership, 55(8), 20–24.

    Kyle, D., & McIntyre, E. (2000). Family visits benefit teachers and families—and students most of all (CREDE Practitioner Brief No. 1). Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence, Santa Cruz, CA. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

    National PTA. (2000). Building successful partnerships: A guide for developing parent and family involvement programs. National Education Service, Bloomington, IN. (ERIC ED442910)

    Zellman, G. L., & Waterman, J. M. (1998). Understanding the impact of parent school involvement on children's educational outcomes. Journal of Educational Research, 91(6), 370–380.


    Chard, S. C. Project Approach. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

    Edwards, K. M. (2000). Everyone's guide to successful project planning: Tools for youth. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

    Schuler, D. (2000). The project approach: Meeting the state standards [Entire issue]. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 2(1). Retrieved December 15, 2009, from


    Content Knowledge (4th ed.) Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, Aurora, CO.

    Hurt, J. (2003). Taming the standards: A commonsense approach to higher student achievement, K–12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Lachat, M. A. (1999). Standards, equity, and cultural diversity. Education Alliance, Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown, Brown University, Providence, RI. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

    Youth Development

    Developmental Asset Tools. Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN.

    Positive Youth Development. National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, Silver Spring, MD.

    Center for Youth Development and Policy Research. (1996). Advancing youth development: A curriculum for training youth workers. Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development.

    Glossary of Terms

    Assessment: An exercise—such as a written or verbal test, portfolio, or demonstration— that seeks to measure a student's skills or knowledge in a subject area, or more globally (such as with IQ or SAT tests). Assessments are usually either criterion-referenced (the score is determined by how well a student does according to a set of criteria or a rubric) or norm-referenced (the score is determined by how well a student does as compared to other students).

    Asset mapping: A process of creating a map of your (school) community that tells you what, where, and who the assets are of your school community. It helps everyone involved to learn about what they and their community have to offer the school.

    Authentic assessment: An assessment strategy that asks students to demonstrate abilities through performance-based tasks within real-world situations. Taking a driving test behind the wheel of a car to get a license is a classic example of an authentic assessment.

    Benchmark: A description of student knowledge expected at a specific grade, age, or developmental level. Benchmarks often are used in conjunction with standards.

    Community-based learning: A broad set of teaching strategies that links learning activities in classrooms with a full range of experiences available in the community. This includes project-based learning, service learning, experiential learning, cooperative education, school-to-work programs, youth apprenticeship, lifelong learning, and many others. It provides learners of all ages with the ability to identify what they wish to learn and opens up an unlimited set of resources to support them.

    Contextual teaching and learning: A conception of teaching and learning in which subject matter and content relate to real-world situations. Contextual teaching and learning motivate students to make connections between knowledge and its applications to their lives as family members, citizens, and workers.

    Critical thinking: A process that stresses an attitude of suspended judgment, incorporates logical inquiry and problem solving, and leads to an evaluative decision or action (from the National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Critical Thinking and Language Arts).

    Cultural competence: A set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that comes together in a system, agency, or among professionals, and enables them to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. Five essential elements contribute to the ability of a system, institution, or agency to become more culturally competent:

    • Valuing diversity
    • Having the capacity for cultural self-assessment
    • Being conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact
    • Having institutionalized culture knowledge
    • Having developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an understanding of cultural diversity

    These five elements should be manifested at every level of an organization, including policy making, administration, and practice. Furthermore, these elements should be reflected in the attitudes, structures, policies, and services of the organization.

    Culture: The integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group.

    Curriculum (plural: curricula or curriculums): A plan of instruction that details what students are to know, how they are to learn it, what the teacher's role is, and the context in which learning and teaching will take place.

    Evaluation: How well a program, curriculum, school, or district is teaching individuals to master skills or knowledge. Evaluation usually is based on gathering the assessment information from a number of individuals served by that program or school.

    Experiential learning: Education that stresses hands-on experience and is accomplished by field trips, internships, or activity-oriented projects, as opposed to traditional classroom learning.

    Higher-order thinking skills: The ability to view a problem or situation from multiple perspectives and to analyze it deeply, to understand complex concepts, and to apply sometimes conflicting information to address a problem that may have more than one correct answer.

    Integrated curriculum: A meaningful way of organizing a curriculum that removes the boundaries between subject areas. Such a curriculum is based on the interdependence of concepts and knowledge and allows for faculty collaboration.

    Learner-centered classroom: A classroom in which students are encouraged to choose their own learning goals and projects. This approach is based on the belief that students have a natural inclination to learn, that they learn better when they work on real or authentic tasks, that they benefit from interacting with diverse groups of people, and that they learn best when teachers understand and value the difference in how each student learns.

    Learning style: The unique and idiosyncratic way each person learns. It may include how a person processes experiences (whole vs. part), the person's level of tolerance for accepting things that differ from the “norm,” the degree to which a person reflects or acts impulsively, how a person categorizes information (broadly vs. narrowly), a person's level of persistence, a person's level of anxiety to perform, and a person's locus of control (internal vs. external). Another way of conceptualizing learning style is based on Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences theory.

    Multicultural education: An educational approach that looks beyond curricula's content and strategies from the white, Western European tradition. The goal usually is to broaden students' perspectives and understandings to encompass one or more cultures that are different from their own. Some multicultural education models highlight subjects from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, and gender perspectives. Others represent an immersion in one culture, ethnicity, or race.

    Multiple intelligences: Howard Gardner's theory, which states that people are “smart” in different ways. The multiple intelligences are linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. An understanding of these intelligences can help teachers reach students and help students make learning connections.

    Outcomes-based education: An integrated system of educational programs that aligns specific student outcomes, instructional methods, and assessment; also an education theory that guides curriculum by setting goals for students to accomplish. Outcomes-based education focuses more on these goals, or outcomes, than on “inputs,” or subject units.

    Positive youth development: An approach to working with children and youth that recognizes the developmental needs of young people and provides the supports, services, and opportunities they need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.

    Project-based learning: A student-centered instructional strategy that engages students in long-term projects (usually in groups) that integrate several content areas and result in a product or report. It encourages students to play an active role in the creation of assignments and activities and, as a result, to help develop their collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

    Reflection: Activities that are designed to encourage the self-analysis of learning experiences and to help set meaningful goals. Reflection usually involves some “evaluation” of those experiences and one's role in them (in order to improve in the future), but it can also involve reflecting on the context of the experiences, the relationship between the experiences and other events, or individual values and beliefs. Reflection can be organized as a group discussion, journal writing, role-play, media-based project, survey, or questionnaire, or it can involve the use of a more formal assessment tool.

    Rubrics: Specific criteria or guidelines used to evaluate students' work.

    Service learning: Combining service with learning activities to allow students to do work in the community that meets human needs or improves the community. Service-learning activities are integrated into the academic curriculum and provide students with the opportunity to use skills and knowledge they acquire in school in real-life situations to make a positive contribution. Students also apply the skills and knowledge they acquire in service learning to their schoolwork.

    Standards: Statements of what students should know and be able to demonstrate. When—and to what degree—students should know something are benchmarks. Subject-matter standards form the bases to measure students' academic progress according to benchmarks. Curriculum standards drive what students learn in the classroom. Various standards have been developed by national organizations, state departments of education, districts, and schools. There is national debate on how to implement such standards: how prescriptive they should be, and whether they should be national or local, voluntary or mandated.

    Teaching: Both what is taught (curriculum) and how it is taught (instructional practices).

    Transferable skills: Skills that are interchangeable from one job or workplace to another. For example, the ability to handle cash is a skill transferable from restaurant cashier to bank teller. Some skills, such as the ability to function as a team member, are transferable to almost any job.

    Transformational teaching and learning: Teaching practices that seek to create deep changes in students. These may involve changes in values, beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors and practices. Whereas most teaching seeks more superficial, though important, changes—such as improving reading, boosting test-taking ability, or imparting knowledge of history—transformational teaching seeks to improve students' lives and their relationships with others.


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