Self-Reflection and Cultural Relevance

At what point will educators be mandated to assess their own personal biases before they assess the academic abilities of their students? Tyrone C. Howard’s 2003 article, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, truly resonates with me, as an assistant principal in a K-8 Title I elementary school. Throughout my years in the K-12 education system I have encountered the issue of educational inequity for my minority students and have often questioned what the school system can do to do create more culturally aware educators. In a diverse society we need to ensure that all of our students have access to education, which requires educators to be aware of the needs of their specific student population. I wholeheartedly believe that in order to create a school environment that meets the needs of our heterogeneous student population we must create “culturally relevant teaching practices” (Howard, 2013, p. 198). In order to make such an elaborate change we must ask our educators to go through a process of “critical reflection that challenges them to see how their positionality influences their students in either positive or negative ways” (Howard, 2013, p.198). This idea of self-reflection is required before we can begin to address an educator’s feelings about race, culture, and social class, which shape the ways they instruct their students.

As I have experienced in the past, teachers are capable of subconsciously projecting their negative concepts of culture and race onto their students on a daily basis, which can negatively impact a student’s level of academic achievement. Unfortunately, I have witnessed teachers who project personal biases onto their students leading to an awful crushing of young academic spirits. Stephen Jay Gould (1981) speaks to the idea that humans have battled with racism throughout history, in his book The Measure of Man. According to Gould, “racial prejudice may be as old as recorded human history” (p. 31). With this being said, educators need to be aware of their own possible prejudices and determine the best ways to adjust their ways of thinking as to not project any negative thoughts onto the students. As previously stated, the first step is self-reflection in order to first determine which prejudices each person possesses, allowing the educator to move towards lessening or even possibly eliminating such biases.

Although there is a clear necessity for teacher self- reflection, I continue to ask myself if teacher training programs can appropriately address the issue of honest, in-depth teacher self-reflection. Such reflection will require educators to come to terms with their own cultural identity and personal biases.Are we ready to have these difficult conversations? In order to see the change in teacher mentality, teachers will need to ask themselves challenging questions, discuss honest answers openly, and address any concerns discovered during this internal journey (Howard, 2003, p. 198). The question still remains, how will we integrate this critical self-reflection into our current teacher preparation programs and daily lives? Also, how do we determine if teachers are reflecting in an honest fashion that allows them to create teaching practices that are more culturally relevant? These are questions that we will have to address within our educational system immediately in order to ensure that our students are receiving an excellent and culturally relevant education.

In the United States we have a very diverse population, which affects our ability to give all students access an excellent education. We must devise ways to allow all students to access culturally relevant curriculum. In order for us to determine if a teacher is being effective in their classroom we need a way to appropriately assess a teacher’s efficacy. Leading to the question: How can we accurately assess a teacher’s value in our K-12 education system? According to Pauler and Amrein-Beardsley’s 2013 article, we must have random assignment of students in each classroom in order to analyze assessment scores by means of value-added analyses and interpretations. “Value added models (VAMs) are used to measure changes in student achievement on large-scaled standardized test scores from year to year” (Paufler and Amrein-Beardsley, 2013, p. 1). This measurement system depends on random assignment of students, which is not the case in the United States, so biases are inevitable in such a test score analysis technique. With this being said, do we need a better way to determine the quality of teachers or are we able to counteract the biases that exist?


Gould, S. J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher

                      reflection, 42(3), 195­202.

Paufler, N. A. & Amrein­Beardsley, A. (2013). The random assignment of students into

                   elementary classrooms: Implications for value­added analyses and interpretations.                                 

                   American Education Research Journal, 51(2), 328­362.