In 1986 the Task Force on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English prepared the position statement Expanding Opportunities: Academic Success for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. The statement advanced an asset-based approach to supporting the academic success of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Specifically, the statement highlighted effective teaching strategies to support the academic success of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, as well as provided recommendations to improve curriculum development, pedagogy, and policy. A committee of English educators has updated this 1986 statement to offer suggestions that reflect the field’s evolved understandings of how to support culturally and linguistically diverse learners.
Over the past three decades, classroom teachers, literacy researchers, and teacher educators have contributed to an evolving body of literature about high-quality models for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students that places students, their life histories, and cultural ways of knowing at the center of the curriculum. This literature finds an anchor in language, literacy, and social change (Blackburn & Schultz, 2015; Kinloch, Burkhard, & Penn, 2017) multicultural education (Banks, 2014; Sleeter, 2017), culturally responsive/relevant/sustaining pedagogies (Gay, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Paris, 2011), critical literacy (hooks, 1994; Kirkland, 2013; Winn, 2011), multicultural children’s literature (DeNicolo & Franquiz, 2006; Haddix & Price-Dennis, 2016; Sims Bishop, 1990); bilingual education (Flores & Rosa, 2015; García, 2008), racial literacy (Wetzel & Rogers, 2006; Sealey-Ruiz, 2011; Skerrett, 2011), linguistics in education (Ball, 2009; Haddix, 2016), digital literacies (Price-Dennis, 2016; Seglem & Garcia, 2015; Vasudevan, Schultz, & Bateman, 2010), and composition and rhetoric (Inoue, 2015; Gilyard, 1999; Royster & Williams, 1999). Across this literature we find examples of self-reflexive practices that work against racial, cultural, and linguistic inequities that manifest across socioeconomically diverse communities.
Specifically, as educators continue to raise questions about how to leverage the cultural wealth and community-based literacies of culturally and linguistically diverse learners in ways that showcase their verbal dexterity, multimodal ways of knowing, textual analysis, racial literacy, criticality, and multiple perspectives, we must advocate for better preparation of teachers, deep and meaningful connections to culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and culturally responsive assessments that capture the literacy practices these students bring to the classroom. With this in mind, the authors of this statement offer the following suggestions within three broad categories that position diversity as a strength that encapsulates the ideals of equity, promotes democratic education, and advocates for humanizing approaches to teaching and learning.
Dimension 1: Literacy Pedagogy and Curriculum Development
Engaging community difference as classroom practice for literacy learning
- Incorporate the sociopolitical interests and rich backgrounds of linguistically and culturally diverse students in the curriculum and materials.
- Develop lessons that incorporate student voice and choice about topics of study, as well as the use of multiple linguistic dialects and registers to communicate with a broad audience.
- Develop a responsive learning environment by centering collaborative literacy practices which promote discussion, encourage contributions from all students, and allow peer interaction to support learning.
- Connect curriculum to social, political, and historical events in students’ communities in ways that promote criticality.
- Provide multiple opportunities each day for culturally and linguistically diverse students to explore expansive notions of literacies that account for multimodal meaning-making and communicating information.
- Position students as producers of digital texts that support communicative competence as well as flexibility to move among preferred linguistics practices.
- Recognize that emergent bilingual students have home language knowledge and practice literacies in their home languages.
- Incorporate the backgrounds of linguistically and culturally diverse students through reading materials as well as discussion about how culture, race, ethnicity, and language are taken up in the reading materials.
Dimension 2: Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
Reflection on practice as central to pedagogy in diverse contexts
- Teachers approach students’ abilities to use all their languages in creative and critical ways.
- Teachers meet communities on their terms, i.e., educators learning from communities must be humble and become students as they build commitment and trust with communities.
- Teachers develop and extend neighborhood networks beyond schools.
- Teacher preparation programs should provide sustained volunteer opportunities in the community in service-learning, field-based courses, or advocacy-based roles.
- Professional development opportunities should continue to build on methods for creating inclusive classrooms.
Dimension 3: Assessment
Assessing what we value in students’ lived experiences, communities, and languages
- Educators advocate for asset-based assessment and evaluation tools that capture the critical, innovative, and creative abilities of bilingual individuals and communities.
- Educators use formative and summative assessment and evaluation tools that recognize the cognitive and social capital of culturally and linguistically diverse students.
- Educators evaluate writing in a manner that centers the affordances of rich and diverse cultural and linguistic literacy practices.
- Educators engage in critical reflection on tools of assessment as racializing measures and constantly challenge assessment tools for antiracist ends.
Research Supporting This Statement
Ball, A. F. (2009). Toward a theory of generative change in culturally and linguistically complex classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 46(1), 45–72.
Banks, J. A. (2014). Diversity, group identity, and citizenship education in a global age. Journal of Education, 194(3), 1–12.
Blackburn, M. V., & Schultz, K. (2015). Interrupting hate: Homophobia in schools and what literacy can do about it. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
DeNicolo, C. P., & Franquiz, M. E. (2006). “Do I have to say it?”: Critical encounters with multicultural children’s literature. Language Arts, 84(2), 157–170.
Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education. Harvard Educational Review 85(2), 149–171.
García, O. (2008). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gilyard, K. (Ed.). (1999). Race, rhetoric, and composition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Gutiérrez, K. D. (2002). Studying cultural practices in urban learning communities. Human Development, 45(4), 312–321.
Gutiérrez, K. D., & Jurow, A. S. (2016). Social design experiments: Toward equity by design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 25(4), 565–598.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.
Inoue, A. B. (2015). Antiracist writing assessment ecologies: Teaching and assessing writing for a socially just future. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.
Kinloch, V., Burkhard, T., & Penn, C. (2017). When school is not enough: Understanding the lives and literacies of black youth. Research in the Teaching of English, 52(1), 34–54.
Kirkland, D. (2013). A search past silence: The literacy of young black men. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.
Lewison, M., Flint, A. S., & Van Sluys, K. (2002). Taking on critical literacy: The journey of newcomers and novices. Language Arts, 79(5), 382–392.
Moje, E. B. (2000). “To be part of the story”: The literacy practices of gangsta adolescents. Teachers College Record, 102(3), 651–690.
Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.
Royster, J. J., & Williams, J. C. “History in the spaces left: African American presence and narratives of composition studies.” College Composition and Communication 50(4), 563–84.
Seglem, R., & Garcia, A. (2015). “So we have to teach them or what?”: Introducing preservice teachers to the figured worlds of urban youth through digital conversation. Teachers College Record, 117(3), 1–34.
Sims Bishop, R. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix–xi.
Sleeter, C. E. (2017). Critical race theory and the whiteness of teacher education. Urban Education, 52(2), 155–169.
Vasudevan, L., Schultz, K., & Bateman, J. (2010). Rethinking composing in a digital age: Authoring literate identities through multimodal storytelling. Written Communication, 27(4), 442–468.
Winn, M. T. (2011). Girl time: Literacy, justice, and the school-to-prison pipeline. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
This document was revised by an NCTE working committee comprising the following:
Detra Price-Dennis, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY
Steven Alvarez, St. John’s University, Queens, NY