Course of Mind

How to break-down barriers in the classroom

May 28, 2019 Season 1 Episode 3
Course of Mind
How to break-down barriers in the classroom
Chapters
Course of Mind
How to break-down barriers in the classroom
May 28, 2019 Season 1 Episode 3
ISTE
Learn how teachers can keep cultural differences and implicit biases from becoming barriers in the classroom.
Show Notes Transcript

In this installment of the ISTE podcast series Course of Mind (@courseofmind), hosts Zac Chase (@MrChase) and Shana White (@ShanaVWhite) talk to Dr. Ranjini Johnbull, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and faculty lead for the Mind, Brain and Teaching program, about how teachers can keep cultural differences and implicit biases from becoming walls between them and their students. Ranjini and hosts discuss how social bonding and a strong connection between teachers and students improves outcomes, especially at the middle and high school levels. Also included are discussions of ways in which educators can reach out to students on the fringes, build a culture of inclusiveness and create bridges to reach disruptive students.

This podcast is produced by NarayanKripa Sundararajan (@KripaSundar) as part of the Course of Mind project, an ISTE initiative made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.





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Speaker 1:
0:00
Think about an educational space you inhabit. Maybe you're a classroom teacher, maybe you're a school administrator, maybe you're a college or university professor. Whenever your role as an educator, imagine it. No, fill that space with your students. Imagine them populating your classroom, your hallways, your common areas. Now pause everything and look around in your minds eye. Noticing the visible markers of culture you and your students have in common. Notice the markers that might signify differences between you and them. Now notice the similarities and differences amongst your students. Come back to the present. Those markers, the ones you saw in your imagination, noting the visible similarities and differences. They were only the visible ones. They don't even begin to touch on the elements of culture we can't see but experience in so many different ways. I'm Shana white and I'm Zach Chase and this is course of mind is ds learning sciences podcast.
Speaker 1:
1:10
In this episode we continue our conversation with Dr Ranjini Johnbull of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. In our last episode, Doctor John Bull helped us understand the research behind general and personal teacher efficacy and how we can set the tone in ways that can signal students are physically and socially safe as they enter our classrooms. In this episode we'll conclude our conversation by looking more specifically at what educators can do to be aware of the levels of cultural competency and keep cultural differences from being walls between them and their students. Will also discuss ways in which educators can build bridges to reach disruptive students.
Speaker 2:
1:53
Yes.
Speaker 1:
1:54
Welcome to course of mind. So what you're talking about might sound to some people like the touchy feely stuff, but what you're saying is that you can draw a line from the touchy feely, for lack of a better word, to improved student outcomes with the research support that to say that if something like, well we've talked about is happening at the beginning of class that we would expect to see improved academic outcomes for kids.
Speaker 3:
2:30
Yeah. Actually the research from both public health and sociology have have some studies out about social bonding and connectedness and that, especially for middle and high school students, when students are able to identify one adults within the school building who they feel connected to and who they feel, you know, socially bonded to their delinquency outcomes are dramatically. I'm actually my colleague and friend Chrissy ice at Johns Hopkins School of Education has some of this research, but essentially their likelihood to become pregnant early, to engage in drug and alcohol abuse, to, to Miss School, to um, engage in altercations. Like it's dramatically reduced just because they feel connected to one adult in the school. And that's not necessarily one teacher but one adult. So their outcomes are much, much better. So yes, it absolutely matters for academic outcomes. The social bonding piece is critical and I think that has a lot to do with, you know, our classroom climate, our classrooms, safety, school safety, all of these things are intermingled and related.
Speaker 4:
3:45
Okay. So I have three issues in my head that might call for some specific thinking here. One as a CIS gendered man who is taught in spaces where those markers, particularly my whiteness made me a minority. What would have, what would, what would have been helpful to keep in mind in those spaces? Uh, and to speaking more to a gender identity. Was there any research around male teachers and female students or vice versa? And the issues of privilege that we might want to, to keep in mind. And, and finally, third with issues of sexual orientation. I mean I, I'm now an out queer man, but when I was in school I had not yet claimed or recognize that identity. Do we have any understanding of how sexual orientation figures into our understanding of cultural competence and its effect on learning three small, small topics? Yes. Very. And if you could sum it up and maybe four sentences, that would be great.
Speaker 3:
4:47
Oh my gosh. Um, let's see. So white male,
Speaker 4:
4:54
cause I don't think I can say anything right
Speaker 3:
4:55
or sentences. Um, so white male working as a teacher and a pro predominantly, um, school with predominantly students of color. What do you need to be aware of? I think you need to be, again, this comes back to the idea of some self awareness on personality, on your teacher efficacy, beliefs on your cultural competence and your multicultural identity. And when I, when I say multicultural identity, I'm referring to this construct that I use. It's called from the self identity inventory that acknowledges that we are not just white, we're not just male, we're not just, you know, middle, middle class, you know, you're not just one part of your identity, but that all parts of your identity are operating in. Some might be more prominent in some spaces than others depending on the context. Right. So in that context, your identity as a white male is probably the most, um, the salient part of your identity as your students are interacting with you and whatever beliefs they may have about you as a white male.
Speaker 3:
5:56
Right. And perhaps this is not from the research, but I'm just suggesting like perhaps if you were in that situation you might just ask them like, what do you think about when you see me for the first time as a white male? What else do you need to know about me to help you to feel comfortable in my classroom? You know, like, what would you like to know about me? It could be on a piece of paper because maybe you don't want to take away from your quote unquote instructional time. Although I, I contend that the emotional groundwork and foundation of a class, um, is part of that academic work and part of that essential essential work to prepare the space and the year for academic tasks and cognitive effort from the students. When you invest your time in them and helping them to, to get to know you better is as a white male.
Speaker 3:
6:44
Like, so you're as a white male and you're also queer. I think you're, you are more aware of the fact that we need allies, right? Allies and advocates. So understanding, you know, what's happening within the system in your school that is advantaging certain students and not other students, you know, what's, what's at play and being more aware of the systemic and the institutional structures that are, that are operating that our advantage in some and not advantage and others and like to be an advocate and an ally with your students. I don't know the specific research on male teacher, female students slash female teacher and male student particulars. I know that there are a number of studies out there on, you know, single gender classrooms or single sex classrooms. So having all female classrooms and all male classrooms. But I, that's not really my wheelhouse. And so I will go and study up on that and see if there's any of that. And I don't think that I've read even any teacher efficacy studies on that specifically or cultural competence studies. Uh, so I'm going to, I'm going to shelve that one. I'm sorry.
Speaker 4:
7:55
And the piece of it I would say is about being around competent around privilege, maybe all of that money issues on this. So is privilege backed by science? I mean, is there research that says where folks or, or is that what efficacy kind of takes the place of,
Speaker 3:
8:18
so efficacy does not talk about privilege at all. Um, efficacy is much more about your context based beliefs that you can, you can engage in a task and that you have the competencies to engage successfully in a task. And, and the general teaching efficacy is, is related to outcome expectancy in that like you believe that no matter who does this task, it's going to, it's going to go well if they do this task in a particular way. Right? Uh, based on the context. And I think that's the thing, right with this, these theories is that it's based on the context. So there are other variables like your cultural competence that are operating that influence and impact those efficacy beliefs, which is why I wanted to study that. So it's really important that we are aware of and take account of our political privilege. I, well, I don't want to get into, um, my, my issues with the word privilege. I think it's, uh, an awareness of what benefits we are afforded based upon the systemic institutional oppression of wherever we are. Right? Because oppression and institutional advantage disadvantage happen everywhere. And I don't know that that's necessarily a privilege but it's benefits of the system that we, that we are, I suppose that's a privilege but I don't know,
Speaker 4:
9:41
10 language. The language is imperfect and so sometimes we can. Perfect. And I want us to be aware of the systems. I do want to go back to the one other piece that was in there, which is supporting students with students from all gender or sexual orientations and uh, those identities that may be nascent or might be closeted or unexpressed or those pieces because that's not a question teachers are going to ask. Right? Like, raise your hand if you identify as, but what are some things, or maybe it's just the general things you were giving us before. What are some things you might advise teachers to make spaces safe for those brains as well?
Speaker 3:
10:22
Well for middle and high school kids, I think that like safe zone stickers and you know, um, the rainbow tags that you can put up in your, in your personal space can allow for that because it also allows for kids to ask questions like, what is this all about? Or to you for you to explicitly say like it's important for you to know upfront that identity and how you develop and grow is, is completely up to you and it's not and you're safe here however you identify. Right? And that could be, and then you start explicitly naming it out loud. That is not just an implicit or on the side piece of information that's posted to your wall. For the little ones, I think it's important that we challenged gender stereotypes when we present information. Um, one of my colleagues who, well actually he's a friend from graduate school, his name is Craig young and he does work in Queer Children's literature.
Speaker 3:
11:21
So introducing literature to your students that show different kinds of families, right? That allow for a different narrative to be written and explained in the classroom about what families look like. And what families can look like that, that no, no two families are alike and that is, that is good and okay. And you know, helping students too. I mean I know that this is basic but like color, color, the children's clothing with colors that are not gender, right. So or not that disrupt gender identities specificities when they're little, right? So girls can wear blue and girls can wear green and boys can wear pink and purple color is just that. It's color. It's not meant for one, one sex or another sex. Simple conversations like this I think can also help kids feel a little bit more safe. That challenges, I think a lot of basic implicit biases for biases for teachers, which is why we really need to have these conversations regularly throughout the year with in faculty groups, in small groups, studies in book studies so that we're getting at like how can you talk about this stuff to make sure that our students in our classrooms feel safe and psychologically safe to be who they are and not conform them to who we want them to be.
Speaker 3:
12:44
Does that make sense? I mean I'm not touching on everything.
Speaker 5:
12:47
No, that makes absolute sense. In the sense of like you mentioned, I think that the PD is lacking for teachers to kind of combat their implicit biases and understanding how to be more inclusive of anybody that would walk through their doors. The last question that I wanted to ask relates more to my k through 12 upbringing and it relates to a paper that you co authored about empowering misbehaving students. I was tagged as gifted as a kindergartener and actually had a black teacher, a tag me, uh, for gifted. And I went through school really with no major issues until I got to middle and high school. And I was a very, very questioning child. Zach knows me very well. I always like to ask why, because I really want to understand, but she's still, she's still gifted.
Speaker 5:
13:41
I always want to ask people's intent, what is the motivation behind this? And I notice through middle and high school I would have A's in all my classes, but I would have used an ns and conduct. Um, because I would always question why a teacher would be doing something, why he wasn't or she wasn't meeting the needs of other kids in classes. And I actually had former classmates from high school actually send me messages on Facebook that they remember me getting kicked out of class, bringing up the fact that a lot of times teachers operate on a bell curve and we deal with the kids on the extremes and the ones that are in the middle, we seem to overlook. And I would always point that out that in class, like the teacher would always want to meet my needs because I was gifted or they would want to meet my needs because I was misbehaving. But their ids that are getting B's and C's who still don't understand what's going on. But because you're focusing all your attention on me, if I eliminate myself from the classroom, then that gives the teacher more time to focus on them. So I would purposely get kicked out of class. So the teacher would focus attention on the kids in the middle. So curious with your paper about empowering misbehaving students. Um, since I am a former, uh, I wouldn't say I'm reformed yet, but I am a student.
Speaker 3:
14:53
Um, how would you encourage teachers to kind of tackle that process as far as with learning in the classroom? How to tackle dealing, like addressing the needs of all the kids in the classroom specifically? Yeah. Yes. That absolutely. And then dealing with maybe the misbehavior aspect when, like I said, as your paper is about empowering those students, um, how that process kind of look like. Okay. So I'm going to, I'm going to give a shout out to my colleague Bill Stare at who actually is the first author on that. And he's at UNC Wilmington. He was the principal at the school where I did my administrative internship, um, when I lived in Charlottesville and was in my graduate studies. And, um, so he, I would say, so there's multiple ways to go about this. Number one, empowering misbehaving students is, uh, one of the ways to engage quote unquote misbehaving students could be to involve them in your class, right?
Speaker 3:
15:48
So allowing them to take ownership of something or take leadership. So if you've got a gifted student who is also misbehaving right in their questioning, why not, why not ask you Shana, um, can you stay after class and help me to understand, um, what you're concerned about. Like I am interested in your ideas and maybe you can help lead a particular part of class, getting the kids involved in what you're doing. For me, when I was a teacher in Saint Louis, my technique was to always have students help me after class, like two students every day, uh, helped me do something even if it wasn't really important. It helps develop a relationship between me and the student, the students to students. Um, and it allowed me to understand them better and to also see what they cared about so that I could leverage that for like, you know, hey, if you do this thing for me that doesn't seem like it's very fun.
Speaker 3:
16:39
I'd be happy for you to stick around and play my piano afterward and I could teach you the thing that you want to learn on that thing, you know? Or, I mean I really do think that student ownership of the classroom space and environment is really important. So how can you, how can you bring them in and help them be a part of your team? So that's just one way. Meeting the needs of the students in the middle I think is incredibly challenging and important. And I, I love that you, that you did that and you cared about the students that were in the middle. So I think this is also, I think teachers are hit at a variety of different levels with looking at data and trying to assess data and trying to move kids forward by a year or more in their, in their learning trajectories in classrooms. Going back to some of those things that I suggested earlier, like asking students for feedback on their learning activities, providing opportunities for them to express their and display their knowledge in different ways. So if you are trying to learn something on a particular topic, um, or standard allowing for project work that allows the student to fully get invested in a topic and while hitting standards can open up a world to them, right. If they have the freedom versus a very prescriptive assignment and parts of illness of an, of an assignment to those.
Speaker 5:
17:57
Yeah. That, that helps tremendously. I think that that's huge. As far as for me, I didn't, I don't, I don't remember until probably my junior year did I have that teacher that kind of help curb the behavior. I'm from Shana as far as being the, the you and in and conduct student. Um, because she did, she empowered me in saw that I actually was a leader because I was a athlete as well and played multiple sports. She kind of fostered, hey, like you can be the coach in the classroom with me. And kind of built that with, she started actually a zero period class. Um, that was an elective. So it was before the actual school day started and it was an ELA, which wasn't really one of my strengths. I was a math science person and I actually took the zero period class and came to school at seven o'clock every morning because she empowered me to do so. And she said, well, you're actually pretty good at Ela. Like she took that time, like you said, aside outside of class to bring me into the classroom and say, Hey, you can use your gifts to help me better meet the needs of all the kids. And I think that's really huge and key.
Speaker 3:
19:03
Oh, that's awesome. So, well for that teacher. Okay. Sorry, go ahead.
Speaker 4:
19:06
So that, that's awesome. I want to kind of follow up on that and maybe close out with, if you had kind of a list and won't put a number to it, uh, things, you know, teachers are doing now that you think, man, if we could stop those practices, uh, what are some quick things that you would, I mean, we, we've talked about what teachers should do or could do or what's been shown to be effective, but what are some maybe things that have common practices that you would say, please stop.
Speaker 3:
19:36
Oh, that's, that's tough because here's my stance on teachers is that they are, um, they are undervalued and underpaid and really in general trying to do the hard work of serving kids for, um, for, in my opinion, in many situations, altruistic purposes, right. They really care and want to do their best. And so it's hard for me to call out practices that, um, that teachers may think are appropriate. Um,
Speaker 4:
20:04
well, uh, maybe it would be helpful to say it differently. Okay. What are some shifts of practice that you would recommend that would make things that are shown to be an effective, more effective?
Speaker 3:
20:18
Okay. Well I think that, well, let me, let me say some, some research, um, on, on engagement. Um, we just, we recently published an article on art teaching through the arts or arts integration in science. And I think that one of the things that we don't do is engage students well enough when we're learning some basic information that we may not feel very comfortable with. I think doing simple things like integrating the arts in, in helping students to memorize information is a very easy way to get them to recall content and it's also a really fun way to engage them, right? So boring things like doing vocabulary words and writing a sentence along with it. Instead of that, you could write the word and create a drawing and label the drawing in order to better remember that concept and that was one of the techniques that we used in our arts integration study versus repeated notes and note cards.
Speaker 3:
21:14
Those will still work because it's definitely based on this idea of active retrieval and repeated rehearsals of the content. So the more that your brain uses information, the better it will remember that information if you accurately, if you've accurately than reviewing that. My piano teacher always like to say that it's not practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect, which is true of the brain. Your brain will remember a mistake if you do that mistake over and over and over. What are we doing that we could shift? I think, I think classroom routines from the beginning to the end. I think that at times secondary teachers address students as if they're adults, but they're really still developing and growing and need our love and intention and I think that remembering to, to help them with routines from the time that they enter to the time that they leave us is still important.
Speaker 3:
22:06
Even if you only have them for an hour so they know what to expect and they know the end of the environment and safe and letting them and allowing them to be a part of how their classroom looks and feels and having some ownership of it. I mean, if we were to shift some things that if you have a board outside of your classroom and that's your bulletin board or in your classroom and you've designed your entire classroom yourself, consider allowing some students to be in charge of that each month from each class. Or maybe you, if maybe you have a group of students from each section that you teach that could be in charge of, you know, what part of the room looks like versus us being in control at all times of how our classroom environment is designed and, and put together. Were there others,
Speaker 4:
22:52
as I said earlier on my list, this is not a test anxiety and your voice. Tell me the list.
Speaker 3:
23:04
See I did write some things down before. So you know, having, having an exit tickets or mid point checks throughout the class, making kids sit all through through an entire hour of learning is not, that doesn't go with go well with some of the learning sciences research. So getting kids up and moving, especially if you, if your movement can be related to your content, so if you can get them up and moving and showing engaged in gestures that help, um, explain a concept, um, it helps them learn and solidify the memory in, in more than just one way, you know, and checking again for their emotions in different ways throughout the, throughout the day.
Speaker 4:
23:43
Well, yeah, we had a, on the ticket space, there's a teacher who works in our district who has set up some QR codes at right by his door. And so his exit ticket is having all the kids use their device to activate the QR code and it takes them to an online form. And the form asks, uh, two questions capturing all their who are of data. The two standing questions are, what did you learn in class today? And the second question is, what should I have learned from you today? So it's a really interesting piece that I love because it's on the academic, but it also sits, hits on the social emotional. So he's checking for understanding and he's also checking to understand who the students are. Uh, he shared some of those results with me and watching the kids, how they interpreted that question.
Speaker 4:
24:35
As I looked at them longitudinally, it was like a teacher or teacher. Uh, Hitler was a really bad dude. And then maybe three days later said something like, you should know I had a fight with my mom today. So watching that emotional flow for the students was such an amazing insight, especially to me as a, as a guest to the classroom to see those pieces too. So when you say those things, it makes me think, oh, I've, I've seen this all happen. Absolutely. And they don't take much. It's not a huge investment in resources. It's just a good way to do it.
Speaker 5:
25:12
And it's a huge investment in building student agency. And I think that that's also huge. Um, I think students feel safer when they feel like they have a bit of control over the environment in the sense of that a teacher cares about me, the kids care about me, and I actually, my input is valid here and are respected here. Um, and people want me to be here. And I think those are huge components of agency and the fact that the teacher is willing to listen as their exit ticket to what's going on in your world, um, is a huge piece to me of agency because it makes the child know that they're being heard. And that's so, so, so important. Absolutely.
Speaker 4:
25:48
And as you were talking about that they may have had, uh, students are coming to us from other spaces where they may have been stressed out. I just think about how that teacher is setting up students to go to the next class in a way that says, hey, I was cared about. So like his thing is helping him, but it's also potentially leveling out those brains and that exact identity and that sense of belonging for whoever's responsible for those students. Next.
Speaker 3:
26:15
Definitely, definitely went. And I think that just to add one last piece that I think that we could walk away with is that all cognition is either is in coordination with our emotions, right? So Jill Bolte Taylor is quoted in Dr. Herman Brain targeted teaching book. And her quote is, we are not thinking creatures who feel, but we are feeling creatures who think and that our emotions are inextricably connected to every part of our learning. Whether we leverage those positively is, is our choices. Teachers. I would love to teach us to walk away with that. Perfect. Thank you so much for talking with us today. This has just been wonderful. Yes, it has been a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 1:
27:05
Go back to that image in your head of your learning space. Imagine yourself standing with your students. Notice the differences. You can see and acknowledge the invisible pieces of culture that might connect or separate you. Age, ethnicity, orientation, gender identity. As doctor John Bull mentioned in our last episode, cultural competency is constantly changing and will never be completely competent. Still as you look at that mental picture, consider what tools and practices supported by learning sciences can help you bridge or just acknowledge some of the cultural divides that stand in the way of learning. For us, it was this reminder of the importance of ongoing professional learning around these issues.
Speaker 3:
27:52
We really need to have these conversations regularly throughout the year with in faculty groups and small groups, studies in book studies so that we're, we're getting at like how can you talk about this stuff to make sure that our students in our classrooms feel safe and psychologically safe to be who they are and not conform them to who we want them to be. And this call to remember, secondary students are still kids no matter their appearance. I think that at times secondary teachers address students as if they're adults, but they're really still developing and growing and need our love and attention. And I think that remembering to, to help them with routines from the time that they answer to the time that they leave us is still important. Even if you only have them for an hour, they know what to expect and they know that the environment is safe.
Speaker 1:
28:43
And also this literal call to action in getting students moving as part of their learning rather than apart from their learning.
Speaker 3:
28:51
Making kids sit all through through an entire hour of learning is not, that doesn't go with go well with some of the learning sciences research.
Speaker 1:
29:01
What about you? What ideas did doctor John Bull bring into your practice? How can the learning sciences inform how you interact with your students and colleagues? Let us know by tweeting us@coursemineandreadmoreaboutefficacyandculturalcompetencyanduncoveringourbiasesatourwebsiteofcourseofmind.org join us next time as we discuss how students centeredness might be working against sustainable systems of learning and how we can better bring more awareness store practice. Until next time. I'm Shaina white and I'm Zach Chase and this is of course of mind
Speaker 1:
29:44
of course of mine is an Isti podcasts made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, Daf and advised fund the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, our producers crib as soon dark. Our editor and music maestro is Trevor Stout. You can find me Shana. Why on Twitter at Shana v White. You can find me at him. Chase and Crypto is at Crepeau. Sundar as always, for more on how learning sciences can inform your practice. Check out the course of mine Twitter feed at course of mind, where you can learn about how other educators have applied learning sciences in the classroom and learn what we're learning.
Speaker 2:
30:22
Yeah.
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