Reading Between the Lines

Ladson-Billings, G. (1992). Reading between the lines and beyond the pages: A culturally relevant approach to literacy teaching. Theory Into Practice. doi:10.1080/00405849209543558

The journal article, Reading Between the Lines and Beyond the Pages: A Culturally Relevant Approach to Literacy teaching by Ladson-Billings (1992) highlights the importance of how teachers frame culturally relevant approaches to literacy teaching. The author effectively describes the need for this study by sharing that the previous research focused primarily on African American teachers servicing African American students. Ladson-Billings (1992) couples this with explaining that there has not been much research on cultural relevance in education with African American students. (p. 313) I was surprised to learn there had not been much research on this topic with African American students and even more surprised to read one of the possible hypotheses. “One hypothesis for this lack of application is the persistent denial of the existence of a distinct African American culture, one that is not merely linked to poverty and the legacy of slavery” (Ladson-Billings, 1992, p. 313).

There were eight teachers involved in the study that took place in North Carolina. The majority of the teachers were of African American descent. The study focused on pedagogical excellence with African American students. The eight teachers were selected because they were deemed exemplary teachers by administrators and parents and because they were especially successful with African American students. Data collection was not a strength of this article. The author collected data through ethnographic interviews, observation and videotaped classroom instruction. The data collection and analysis was rich but it was not detailed enough in the article to duplicate. One of the ways in which data was analyzed was collectively with the teacher participants. Ladson-Billings (1992) described how all of the participants were involved in watching the videotaped lesson segments, discussed their practice and defined dimensions of culturally relevant teaching. As I read this, I was intrigued by the process of having participants reflect, discuss their practice and come to consensus on culturally relevant teaching elements. However, I would have benefited from the author explaining this data collection in more detail. It left me wondering what questions were asked during this collective discussion? What processes and procedures did the author put in place for the participants to respectfully discuss one another’s practice? Finally, what was their collective knowledge level on culturally relevant practice?

Ladson-Billings (1992) is gifted storyteller. In this article, the author delves into two of the eight teachers’ practice. She gives a brief overview of their experience and background and then masterfully describes their teaching practice. A strength of this article is the findings. Ladson-Billings (1992) provides appropriate convincing evidence of elements of culturally relevant teaching practices. She describes one of the findings as teachers’ not “shying” away from issues of race and culture (p. 316) Another finding was that “students are appreciated and celebrated as individuals and as members of a specific culture” (Ladson-Billings, 1992, p. 317). I believe that this is an important element that defines culturally relevant teaching practices. One finding I found interesting was, “although teachers speak and instruct in Standard English, students home language is incorporated into the conversations of the classroom without reprimand and correction”(Ladson-Billings, 1992, p. 317). I believe this would empower students, knowing their teacher accepts and embraces their language. This was illustrated when the researcher provided examples of the teachers using “Black English.”

Collectively the teachers defined three culturally conscious categories that all teachers in the study showed through the interview process or through their videotaped instruction. The three categories Ladson-Billings defines in the article  are culturally relevant conceptions of self and others, culturally relevant conceptions of classroom social relations and culturally relevant conceptions of knowledge.

Ladson-Billings defines culturally relevant conception of self and others as being proud of you you are and what you do.  I connected this concept of self with having high self-efficacy and the belief of knowing what you are doing is making a difference.  The author describes conception of others as “providing support for students to be themselves” (Ladson-Billings, 1992, p. 317). The author defines culturally relevant conceptions of classroom social relations as there is mutual respect between the teacher and student.  She further defines this concept as “the classroom relations are humanely equitable, fostering positive student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions” (p. 318).  I also noted that she described there is not a power struggle between teachers and students because there is a shared power. The final conception the researcher describes is culturally relevant conceptions of knowledge. Ladson-Billings (1992) defines this concept as being “aware that state and local curriculum mandates may fail to include the experiences of African-American students and, consequently fail to engage the students in meaningful learning, they purposely design curriculum that makes their students (and their heritage) the focus of curriculum inquiry” (p. 318)

As I read the three culturally conscious categories along with the elements that define culturally relevant teaching practices outlined in the article, my initial thought was these are best practices that all teachers should be incorporating in their practice.  I am looking forward to reading more work by Ladson-Billings especially her article entitled, But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.


Ladson-billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching: The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165.

Generational Language Gaps

In the article The Editor’s Introduction of Indigenous Epistemologies and Education – Self-Determination, Anthropology and Human Rights McCarthy (2005) opens the hearts and minds of readers by asking three questions that focus on indigenous epistemologies, anthropology and human rights. Although all three questions the editor opened up the article with are engaging, the one that resonated with me was the first question, “What does self-determination mean for the world’s 300 million Indigenous peoples?” (McCarthy, 2005). The editors collaborated with other scholars to dig deeper into these questions throughout the article.

The editors assert, “Indigenous languages (like minority languages) are increasingly threatened by the forces of globalization-culture, economic, and political forces that work to standardize and homogenize, even as the stratify and marginalize (McCarthy, 2005, p. 2). I felt a deep connection to this part of the article. Both my parents grew up speaking only Spanish in their homes and in their communities. However, when they started elementary school Spanish was not an accepted form of communication. My mom tells the story of how she ran home during recess on the first day of school because they told her, “No Spanish, English only.” She was frightened and knew her language and culture was not embraced in her new school community.

The editors remind us how many languages are spoken only by paternal and grandparental generations. This is true of my family. After my parents experienced difficulties in school due to being second language learners, they chose not to teach my brother and I Spanish. The language stopped in my generation because they saw it as a deficit. The article illustrates how language identifies people, “who we are, where we came from, and where we are going; our family, territory and culture” (McCarthy, 2005, p. 2). Because the language stopped in my generation, I felt a disconnect with my grandparents and parents in relation to who we are, where we came from and where we are going because we did not speak the same language. As a child, I remember sitting with cousins at family gatherings listening to the adults speak in Spanish and tell stories of their childhood, which brought laughter and tears. I remember one time asking for them to tell me the story in English and they did. However, I didn’t find it funny, they said that it wasn’t the same in English because they couldn’t find the right “English words” to appropriately and fully share the story. McCarthy (2005) explains that shifting toward English represents shifting away from Indigenous (p. 3).

In the article, McCarthy (2005) describes four different attempts to incorporate linguistic and cultural content into elementary and high schools. One scholar discusses the importance of both curricular and structural changes in education. Scholar, Mary Hermes, advocates for “cultural incorporation through immersion teaching in the Native language to both strengthen endangered languages and propel the culture-based curriculum movement far beyond superficially adding fragmented pieces of cultural knowledge onto the existing structure” (McCarthy, 2005, p.3). I believe researching the impact of self-determination is worthwhile and positively contributes to the field of education.


McCarthy, T. L. (2005). Indigenous epistemologies and education–self-determination, anthropology, and human rights. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, (36)1, 1-7.


Is Culture the New Dumping Ground?

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). It’s not the culture of poverty, it’s the poverty of culture: The problem with  teacher education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 37(2), 104-109. Retrieved from

Howard, T. C. (2010). Why race and culture matter in schools: Closing the achievemen gap in America’s classrooms. New York, N.Y: Teachers College Press

Losen, Daniel J (2011). Discipline policies, successful schools, and racial justice. Boulder, Col: National   Education Policy Center.

The journal article, It’s not the Culture of Poverty, It’s the Poverty of Culture: The Problem with Teacher Education by Ladson-Billings (2006) asserts that anthropology should be a part of the teacher preparation program. The author describes how pre-service teachers take courses on philosophy, sociology, history and psychology but anthropology is typically absent from teacher programs. Ladson-Billings (2006) argues, “The problem of culture in teaching is not merely one of exclusion. It is also one of overdetermination.” (p.104) She describes overdetermination as “culture is randomly and regularly used to explain everything.” In her research the author describes how she collected data on pre-service and new to the profession teachers on their understanding of culture.

Data collection was not a strength of this article. Although, I was entirely engaged in the data the author collected through interviews, electronic portfolios and student journals the explanation of the data analysis was not detailed enough to duplicate. Ladson-Billings (2006) reflects on “critical incidents” captured through the data collected. She conducted the interviews at the end of the pre-service teachers’ field experience. She asked the pre-service teachers to tell her about a child that was difficult to handle in class. I was saddened to learn that most pre-service teachers described the difficult student as one that was not like them in race, gender or ethnicity. The majority of teachers chose African American boys as the student that was most difficult to handle in their interview responses. This reminded me of Losen’s (2011) work on Discipline Policies, Successful Schools and Racial Justice, where he refers to a speech by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who suggests, “students with disabilities and Black students, especially males were suspended far more often than their white counterparts.” (p. 3)

One incident that the author reflects on is a conversation she had with one of the pre-service teachers. She describes how the pre-service teacher said, “The black kids just talk so loud and don’t listen.” Ladson-Billings asked the pre-service teacher why they thought that and the teacher responded, “I don’t know; I guess it’s cultural.” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 106) As I read this, I flashed back to conversations I have overheard at schools when teachers are talking about the reasons why students are not successful, why parents are not involved or why students are not making good choices and the answer I often hear is culture. Ladson-Billings asserts that “culture has become the answer to every problem.” (2006, p. 106)

Through the data collection, the researcher invited pre-service teachers to consider their own culture. The majority of her pre-service teachers are white, middle-class, monolingual Mid-Westerners. I was astonished by their responses detailed  in the article. “They describe themselves as having ‘no culture’ or being ‘just regular’ or just normal.” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p.107) I believe in order for teachers to understand and value their students’ culture, they have to know, understand and value their own culture.  I connected their responses to what Howard (2010)  refers to as the demographic divide where the majority of the teachers she interviewed are white and the majority of the student population are African American.  Howard (2010) explains how “cross-racial teaching and learning arrangements have the potential for varying degrees of misunderstandings between students and teachers, especially where teachers lack the training and competence necessary to effectively teach students from diverse groups.” (p .43)

Organization is a strength in the article It’s not the Culture of Poverty, It’s the Poverty of Culture: The Problem with Teacher Education. Ladson-Billings is masterful in weaving in and out of data analysis and conclusions. Although this article was not organized with typical headings found in empirical research, it was written in a way that was easy to navigate. The author was also succinct in the development of her argument. I was drawn in by the examples, stories and clarity of her writing.

Another strength of this article is the conclusions the author draws. Ladson-Billings draws three major conclusions throughout the article. One of the conclusions that Ladson-Billings draws is that pre-service teachers need to interact with students outside of the school setting. She reminds us of the importance of celebrating students’ success outside of academics. The author argues that this will support pre-service teachers in becoming “careful observers of cultures” for their students and themselves. (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 109) Another conclusion she draws is that the pre-service teachers need to experience schooling in other parts of the world. The last conclusion she draws is that pre-service teachers need to see identify their own culture and own it.

I believe researching pre-service teachers and new to the profession teachers’ understanding of culture is a meaningful contribution to the field of education. I think it is important for teachers to understand their own culture and the students that they interact with. I also believe the author raises an issue that I have seen and heard on many school campuses and that is blaming student failure on culture.  Culture should not be “the answer” or the dumping ground for failures that happen within the educational system.

The Power of Verbal and Non-Verbal Behavior

In the article Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams: The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, Jordan and McDaniel (in press) explore how peer interaction influence the ways in which students manage uncertainty. The authors explain how “communication is the primary means by which individuals cope with uncertainty.” (Jordan & McDaniel, in press)

The study on managing uncertainty was conducted with 24 fifth graders who represented the demographics of the school. The research involved three collaborative robotics-engineering projects throughout the school year. The researchers chose to focus on robotics and engineering because “learning to participate in engineering practices is one context in which uncertainty is particularly relevant.” (Jordan & McDaniel, in press, p. 4)

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in a professional development with pre-service teachers to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the classroom. During this professional development we collaboratively engaged in an ill-structured engineering project that focused on building wind turbines. My group consisted of three teachers and one pre-service teacher. I experienced uncertainty during this group project. I was unfamiliar with the tools we were using along with the math and science concepts needed to develop the wind turbine. Reflecting back on the project and the interactions of our small group, the pre-service teacher was willing to take the most risks in communicating strategies to manage uncertainty, which positively supported the development of our wind turbine and our new learning during the professional development. Jordan and McDaniel remind us that “involving students in active struggle can be productive for learning.” (in press)

The authors used a variety of methods to collect data on uncertainty and uncertainty management. They thoroughly explain how they collected data and how they refined their collection of data from Project A to Project C. As a future researcher, I really appreciated the deep insight into what methods the authors used to collect the data and why they chose those methods. I was especially interested in the transcript examples throughout the article and how the authors paid special attention to verbal and non-verbal behavior in both the transcripts and the video. The authors also explained how the data sources were not used in silos. They describe how analysis of one source of data would lead them to go back and analyze another data source. The data collection section of this article was beneficial because the authors listed questions they asked themselves during the data collection process and described how they networked with other experts in the field.

Through the analysis of data, Jordan and McDaniel found that “students’ success at managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving was dependent on the willingness and ability of their peer collaborators to respond supportively.” (in press, p. 26) The authors also developed an easy to read flow chart to support their findings visually. (Jordan and McDaniel, in press, p. 33) As a doctoral student, I feel that I can learn a lot from these findings. I am constantly in a state of uncertainty in exploring new content and unfamiliar tasks. I believe as a doctoral cohort, we have already started taking risks within our community in managing uncertainty and responding respectfully and supportively. This article reaffirms the influence of our verbal and non-verbal communication within our communities of practice and I want to be mindful that my words and non-verbal behavior are supportive and productive.



Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Which teachers benefit from coaching?

Marzano, R. J., Simms, J. A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. B. (2013).        Coaching classroom     instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

Ross, J. A. (1992). Teacher efficacy and the effect of coaching on student achievement. Canadian Journal of Education, 17(1), 51-65.

The journal article, Teacher Efficacy and the Effects of Coaching on Student Achievement by Ross (1992) illustrates the link between teacher efficacy, instructional coaching and student achievement. The researcher started with the question, “Who benefits from coaching?” (Ross, 1992, p. 62) The study included 18 history teachers in an Ontario School District. The selected teachers had a wide range of experience and demographic factors. The study also followed six coaches that supported the teachers. The identified coaches were highly competent in the area of history and also had a wide range of demographic factors and experience. All eighteen teachers were tasked with implementing a new history curriculum and were provided with three main resources. The resources included the curriculum materials, three half-day workshops and the third resource was contact with the coach. (Ross, 1992, p. 54) The contact with the coach was defined as face-to face or virtual meetings. The minimum requirement for this study was one contact of each between the coach and the history teacher. The district assigned coaches to each teacher based on their physical location. The coaches had their own community of practice to support one another throughout the study.

The study collected data on student outcomes, cognitive skills and coaching.  Student outcomes were measured by a multiple-choice pre and post assessment in the area of history. Teacher efficacy was measured through a self-report from the eighteen teachers. “Subjects used a six-point agree/disagree scale.” (Ross, 1992, p. 55) The researchers collected data on coaching in two different ways, through an interview and a self-administered questionnaire.

Findings from the study indicated a significant increase from pre to post assessment for the student outcome measure. The teachers that had the most contact with their coach had the higher student results. The author also found that the teachers who had higher self-efficacy, had a higher frequency of interactions with the coach and higher student achievement results. Overall the “investigation found that all teachers, regardless of their level of efficacy, were more effective with increased contact with their coaches.” (Ross, 1992, p. 62) One of the surprising findings from this research was that teachers who had the most principal contact had some of the lowest student outcome results.

The discussion portion of the article was a strength. The author revisited the driving research question and how that was answered by the study. In addition, Ross (1992) also shared three hypotheses he had going into the study and explained how they were confirmed or not confirmed through the study.   This was helpful because it gave the reader more insight into the design of the study. The author used this section to connect to other research and show similarities as well as highlighting the uniqueness in this study. It was helpful to have the author make these intentional connections to other studies. As a reader, it allowed you to make sense of how this study fits into the field of coaching. Ross(1992) also used the discussion section of the article to suggest possible future research.

One way to improve this study would be in the area of data collection, specifically the data collection on coaching. The self-administered questionnaire that was collected as data at the end of the study only gave information on the frequency that the history teachers interacted with personnel resources. The questionnaire did not reflect the quality of the coaching interactions or if the interactions had a direct connection to the student outcomes. In addition, the self–administered questionnaire was not only on the coaches that were assigned to them. There were layers of support that they gathered information on; the coach that they were assigned, use of other teachers in school, use of the coaching network and school administrator support. (Ross, 1992, p. 55) The data collection on how frequently the teachers interacted with the administrators and colleagues at their school didn’t seem to align with the driving research question, “ Who benefits from coaching?” (Ross, 1992)

I think the study would have been improved if the researcher collected data not only on the frequency of the interactions with coaches but also the type of interaction and the quality of the interaction with the coach. Ross (1992) explains that the coaching “relationship was less reciprocal in that the coaches were relative ‘experts’ in the history program and there was virtually no classroom observation component.” (p. 54) Thus, coaches’ feedback was given almost entirely on teacher report and through other artifacts such as lesson plans and student work. I believe in the power of in classroom coaching. Marzano and Simms (2013) research on Coaching Classroom Instruction describes how “traditional professional development usually leads to about a 10% implementation rate.” (p.6) The authors went on to reveal that “our experience has shown that when teacher receive an appropriate amount of support for professional learning, more than 90% embrace and implement programs that improve students’ experiences in the classroom.” (Marzano and Simms, 2013, p.6) I believe the appropriate amount of support for professional learning includes assessing what coaching support would be best for the teacher such as in class observation, modeling or team teaching. Therefore, I think it would have been beneficial to also collect data on the type and quality of the interaction.

I believe researching the impact coaches have on teacher effectiveness and student achievement is worthwhile and positively contributes to the field of education. I was an instructional coach for several years and had the opportunity to participate in a national coaching study with the American Productivity and Quality Center with a leading expert in coaching, facilitating the study. The goal of that study was to identify a direct link between the work of instructional coaches in supporting teachers and student achievement. After reading this article and participating in the APQC study, I am interested in continuing to research how access to coaches support teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

Imposter Syndrome?

In the article Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems, Wenger (2000) highlights the importance of organizations designing themselves as social learning systems and participating in broader learning systems. (p.226) The author suggests that within social learning systems there are different modes for belonging. (Wenger, 2000, p. 227)

Wenger (2000) reminds us “Sometimes we are a newcomer. We join a new community.   We are a child who cannot speak yet. Or we are a new employee. We feel like a bumbling idiot among the sages. We want to learn. We want to apprentice ourselves. We want to become one of them.” (Wenger, 2000 p. 227-227.) As I read this quote, it brought me back to when I first started in my current position. I was joining a new organization, had a new role and felt like an outsider. I did not feel as though I had the competence or experience to be one of “them.” During this transitional phase in my new role, I was talking with a colleague who said perhaps you have Imposter Syndrome. He was right. I felt like an imposter in this new community of practice. Even though my new role was still in the field of education, I didn’t understand the processes, artifacts or discourse within this community of practice. In fact there were so many acronyms, I felt like I was learning a new language.

As I embarked on my new role I relied heavily on what Wenger (2000) refers to as mutuality: the depth of social capital which he further describes as “people must know each other well enough to know how to interact productively and who to call for help or advice.” (p. 230) Developing these trusting relationships allowed me to ask questions about the processes, artifacts and discourse in a non-threatening way within our community of practice which increased my confidence in my competence. I slowly felt less like an imposter and more like I belonged.

As Wenger (2000) dedicated time in the article to newcomers to a community he also focused on what he calls “old-timers.” He discusses possible pitfalls in the area of competence and experience for a community of “old-timers” or people who have been with the same community for an extended period of time. One of the pitfalls the author describes is “If competence and experience are too close, if they always match, not much learning is likely to take place. There are no challenges: the community is losing it dynamism and the practice is in danger of becoming stale.” (Wenger, 2000, p. 233) This reminded me of complacency. If we are not taking risks, make changes in our experiences then we are not going to move forward in our practice. Wenger (2000) warns communities not to become a hostage of their history. (p.33) We don’t want to keep processes and artifacts in place just because that is the way we have always done things as a community. In the article, the author encourages us not to discount the role of brokers in communities of practice. Wenger (2000) defines brokers as individuals who “love to create connections and engage in ‘import-export’, and would rather stay at the boundaries of many practices than move to the core of any practice.” (p. 235)

One benefit of people who have been part of a community for an extended period of time is they are able to use their experience to introduce new ideas, artifacts or discourse and “pull their community’s competence along.” (Wenger, 2000, p. 227)
As I enter this new community of practice of doctoral students, I do feel like an imposter. Wenger’s article on Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems confirmed the benefit of mutuality and I am looking forward to learning from everyone in our journey as a doctoral student.



Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization. doi:10.1177/135050840072002


Quest for Effective Professional Development

Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M., & Beavis, A. (2005). Factors affecting the impact of professional development programs on teachers’ knowledge, practice, student outcomes & efficacy. Education Policy Analysis Archives. Retrieved May 28, 2014 from

Knight, J., & Learning Forward (2011). Unmistakable impact: A partnership approach for dramatically improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

The journal article, Factors Affecting the Impact of Professional Development Programs on Teachers’ Knowledge, Practice, Student Outcomes & Efficacy by Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, A (2005) explores the influence of structural and process features of professional development on teachers’ knowledge, practice, and efficacy. The process structures that are explored in this article include content focus, active learning, examination of student work, feedback and follow-up. The data that was collected during this study was from 3,250 teachers in over eighty professional development programs through the use of a self-reporting survey. There was a wide variety of professional development programs that were analyzed. The professional development programs included job-embedded professional development through action research, coaching and mentoring, institutional learning to facilitate understanding of research findings and best practice, online learning, participation of formal award programs and conferences and seminars. (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005 p.3) The length of the professional development programs in the study varied from single session workshops to professional development that extended over multiple sessions.

Some of the major findings in this article were “The relationship between content focus and impact on knowledge is strong. The relationship between follow-up and reported impact on knowledge is also significant.” (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005 p.14) The authors also suggest that the level of school support has indirect effects on the extent to which program outcomes are achieved. I agree that follow-up has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the new learning that is applied in classrooms after a professional development. I have the opportunity to work with many schools where follow-up is an integral component of their professional development. The schools that see effective transfer of new learning into classrooms consistently relate it back to the frequency and quality of the follow-up to the new learning. The schools that struggle with transfer of new learning from professional development settings have not found a consistent and intentional way to follow-up with all teachers to ensure the new learning is transferred into classrooms.   One of the most significant findings from this article related to follow-up and feedback was “how rarely professional development program designers built in opportunities for feedback and coaching in the workplace despite the research on their centrality to learning new and complex skills.” (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005, p.14) This quote inspired me to look back at Jim Knight’s work Unmistakable Impact on coaching and follow-up support where he reminds us “Without coaches to provide precise instructions, to model in the classroom, to provide positive and motivating honest feedback, few new practices get implemented and those that get implemented are usually implemented poorly. (Cornett & Knight, 2009, p. 12)


The organization of the article was clear and in an easy to read format. The authors included helpful headings and subheadings that directed the readers’ attention to the important elements throughout the reading. The article was logically sequenced and segmented. The authors defined the process structures of content focus, active learning, examination of student work, feedback and follow-up. This supported the reader in having a common vocabulary for the processes they were referring to throughout the text.

Another strength is the contribution this study made to the field of professional development. I believe this is an important area of inquiry because teachers invest a lot of time in professional development. School districts invest financial and human resources and the question is does professional development make a positive impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning? This study highlights the processes that need to be in place for an effective professional development and what influence those processes have on teachers’ knowledge, practice and efficacy.


One way to improve this study is through data collection. This study used only one data collection method and that was a self-reporting survey by teachers collected at least three months after the professional development program. I believe they could have increased the consistency of their findings by using multiple methods to collect their data. In the article they discuss the importance of follow-up and student work to professional development. Another source of data could have been following teachers after the professional development and scripting the new learning to have observational data on the impact of the professional development on teacher instruction and student achievement. An additional source of data would be to collect and analyze the student work from the new learning to determine the impact of the professional development provided. In my opinion, the self-reporting survey completed by the teachers regarding the impact of the professional development may be bias. In addition, the survey responses by the teachers are dependent on how reflective the teacher is on how the professional development processes impacted their teaching and the student learning. I feel the data they chose to collect in this study impacted the quality of the findings.


I have the opportunity to provide professional development to schools on a regular basis. I have seen the effective transfer of new learning when I provide intentional follow-up and feedback to teachers. This article affirms my area of inquiry to further explore how intentional differentiated follow-up impacts the transfer of new learning. I also learned through this article that I want to make sure I have multiple methods to collect data so I have both quantitative and qualitative data to support my work.



Reflection Starts with You

Access, Excellence, and Impact

Howard (2003) highlights the need for critical teacher reflection in the article “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection.” He sets the stage by explaining the demographic divide and how “US schools will continue to become learning spaces where an increasingly homogeneous teaching population (mostly White, female and middle class) will come into contact with an increasingly heterogeneous student population (primarily students of color, from low income backgrounds.)” (Howard, 2003, p. 195) The author explains the importance of supporting teachers in gaining the knowledge and skills for teaching today’s diverse student community.

One of the ways Howard (2003) suggests acquiring the knowledge and skills for teaching our diverse learners is through critical reflection. He describes critical reflection as, “attempts to look at reflection within moral, political, and ethical contexts of teaching.” (Howard, 2003, p. 197) I can see how this type of reflection would be challenging. As teachers, we are familiar with reflecting on our actions and how it impacted student learning. However, this type of reflection requires much more than just identifying strengths and challenges within a lesson.   Howard (2003) pushes educators to “ask challenging questions that pertain to one’s construction of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.” (p. 198)

This year I had an opportunity to participate in systematic reflection with colleagues. The experience was difficult but rewarding. We used journal writing to reflect and make sense of our experiences. Each session the facilitator would pose questions and give us uninterrupted time to write and reflect. One of the greatest gifts I received in this experience was the opportunity to go back and reread what I had written in my journal at different times throughout our journey. I could see how my thinking had grown and what I needed to do to move forward in my practice. During the systematic reflection, we were invited to share out with the group, but it was not required. I believe a similar format focused on critical reflection would be beneficial for teachers. The author refers to this format as race reflective journaling by Milner (2003) and further describes it as a “process wherein teachers are able to process issues of racial differences in a more private manner through writing as opposed to sharing ideas of racial and cultural differences in a more open and public forum that might be uncomfortable and difficult for some.” (Howard, 2003, p. 199)

I believe that race reflective journaling would be uncomfortable yet eye-opening for teachers and that is what is needed. It would force teachers to engage in an inner dialogue centered on race, ethnicity, social-class and gender and expose what Howard (2003) refers to as deficit-based thinking. In the article, deficit-based thinking is described as an authentic belief that students from culturally diverse and low-income backgrounds are incapable learners. (Howard, 2003, p. 197) My parents experienced the harmful effects of deficit-based thinking. Both my parents are second language learners. I grew up listening to stories about the difficulties they experienced in school as second language learners. As a result, they chose not to teach my brother and I Spanish. The language stopped in my generation because they saw it as a deficit.

I believe that the first step toward becoming a culturally relevant educator is to start with reflection and the article “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection” offers steps to consider, possible pitfalls, and the positive impact critical teacher reflection can have on our diverse student population.


Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory Into Practice. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4203_5