Student Teachers Learning Together to Enact Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for English Learners

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Student Teachers Learning Together to Enact Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for English Learners

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As Minnesota's schools currently educate 65,000 English learners (ELs), a 300% increase over the past two decades, teachers and school administrators are called to consider how best to meet the needs of this changing demographic. Given the firmly entrenched opportunity gap between ELs and their English-proficient peers, meeting the needs of this growing population of students is particularly urgent. Researchers assert that culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is essential in closing the opportunity gap, as it recognizes the central role of students’ cultures in all aspects of teaching and learning and it acknowledges and responds to the current schooling climate that places students from diverse cultural backgrounds in learning environments that do not mirror their home cultures and values. Unfortunately, CRP is a commonly misunderstood framework and little is known about how teachers can be prepared to enact it. This collective case study examined four student teachers as they participated in a community of practice focused on CRP for ELs in an urban elementary school. The researcher sought to understand how the participants’ understanding and enactment of CRP for ELs evolved and how they overcame perceived obstacles to CRP enactment. Prior to the onset of data collection, the elementary school adopted a new literacy curriculum that required teachers to deliver lessons by reading from scripts. The participants identified the standardized curriculum as the most significant obstacle to CRP enactment; however, findings from this study reveal that the participants developed a system (that the researcher and participants coined “weaving”) in which they attended to the “non-negotiables” of the curriculum while incorporating themes that reflected their diverse students’ lived experiences. Additional findings indicate that participant examination of their own evolving sociocultural identity was a critical aspect in their cultural competency development and that learning to enact CRP for ELs took place within and between community of practice meetings.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Diane Tedick. 1 computer file (PDF); xvi, 193 pages.

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Benegas, Michelle. (2015). Student Teachers Learning Together to Enact Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for English Learners. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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