Lesson-1: Case Studies: The Student and Culturally Responsive Practitioner

Sam, a 21-year-old African-American male, is attending an introductory STEM course at his local university. His past experiences in school have been average at best, but he is determined to succeed on his higher education journey. He is nervous about attending the first day of his STEM course. When Sam enters the classroom, he finds a place to sit and waits for the course to begin.  Prior to his STEM course, Sam attended his culturally responsive, college success course. As part of that course, Sam and his peers were offered an optional acculturative stress scale. The scale was offered after a lesson in acculturative stress and cultural responsiveness. This was an optional lecture. If desired, individuals were able to share their findings from their scales The instructor also collaborated with the campus counselor to offer additional guidance and support.

The instructor explained that students would benefit from culturally responsive teaching methods in addition to traditional teaching methods. This is because the instructor privately reviewed the student scores priors that were submitted. Most students in the class scored within 80% or above on acculturative stress levels.

The instructor worked with the course designer to design elements of a culturally responsive course. The course designer who is a certified Learning and Online Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer© CASEPS designed a course to address the high levels of acculturative stress.

The instructor then gave Sam and his peers time to collaborate and find aspects of the class they felt were culturally responsive. Sam and his partner, Jessica, found three areas: 1) A welcome message supporting the importance of diversity equity, and inclusion that went beyond the cut and paste of the university’s diversity statement (Tier 1), 2) a cultural lab and collaborative outline of the role of culture and collaboration (Tier 2), and 3) an opportunity to have culturally responsive feedback if students are struggling to understand a concept (Tier 3).

From Sam and Jessica’s perspective, the Tiers are irrelevant. For practitioners and instructional designers, it helps pinpoint the appropriate design and instructional methods for the course.

Examples of Tier 1 Cultural Responsiveness

Learning and CognitionSocialization
A culturally responsive introduction question.A general announcement about the importance of diversity.
Identify communal academic resources and their uses.Cultural norms of the environment are established.
Create cultural competency goals for one or two assignments or outcomes.Create a sense of community rubric.

Examples of Tier 2 Cultural Responsiveness

Learning and CognitionSocialization
Culturally responsive learning labs. How did erosion affect different ethnic groups in different places?Create a safe space within your LMS. Make spaces for difficult conversations.
Identify communal academic resources and the cultural impacts of such resources.Have students help develop collaborative norms for active or group learning.
Create interdependent learning goals for collaborative assignments.Provide various opportunities to connect with outside resources that are reflective of the diversity among the student population.

Examples of Tier 3 Cultural Responsiveness

Learning and CognitionSocialization
Introduce complex storytelling.Provide time for students to psychologically suit themselves in a group setting.
Interwoven competency based on lived experiences.Foster exploration of self-identity in relationship with concepts taught. 
Identify specific strengths and their relationship to specific realities. Increase opportunities for divergent thinking.Engage an online diversity officer to decrease the marginalization of online spaces.