I just read an article by Bruce Torff in Phi Delta Kappan, referencing a venture known as â€ścultural psychology.â€ť This is about exploring educatorsâ€™ beliefs about learning and teaching, and how their beliefs affect how a student makes sense of the world. I had to read that article multiple times just to make sure I understood what it meant.
Exploring various beliefs means observing the culture in which educational practices are found. That makes sense. Culture is not bound by ethnicity but can be defined by school and classroom norms. The rigorous academic language requirements do not always take into account the various backgrounds of students and teachers. That makes sense too. From lecturing to modeling, all English learners depend on our abilities to show them how to access the curriculum in meaningful ways. We might feel we did a great job in delivering the content, but how often do we check for our students’ understanding?
How often was I busy teaching and did not check to see if any gaps had formed, closed, or widened? It was not my studentsâ€™ fault that they had a learning gapâ€”it was mine. I was starting to assume that certain students were not ready for rigorous curriculum, and that resulted in providing watered-down lessons that limited my studentsâ€™ academic growth. I was starting to see how my â€śrigor-gapâ€ť was fanning the flames of the achievement gap. My own prior knowledge, influence of my fellow colleagues, time constraints, and my studentsâ€™ level of motivation could have been contributing factors for triggering my rigor gap. However, that does not excuse the fact that I was not providing all my students opportunities to think critically about their content. I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for my students.
How often do our beliefs support or resist change? It seems our beliefs about learning and teaching are carved in stone and are difficult to revise even though research can indicate otherwise. Even our beliefs about how English Learners learn has shaped our classroom practice. Iâ€™m not surprised anymore when teachers still believe speaking more slowly and loudly or that playing Hangman is a great strategy to teach vocabulary. What can we do to address the misconceptions of certain teaching practices beyond the typical meeting together during PLC (Professional Learning Communities) and reading professional literature? What else can we do?!