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Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy into Practice: Elementary School Teachers’ Implementation of CSP in Their Classrooms


While culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) emerges from decades of theoretical and empirical research on culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy (Banks, 1995; Cazden & Leggett, 1976; Gay, 1994, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995; Villegas & Lucas, 2007), the field is still in its nascent stages in terms of identifying explicit teaching practices (i.e., strategies and content) that reject white hegemony as well as honor and sustain students’ home and community cultural practices and identities (Irizarry, 2017; Machado, 2017; Woodard et al., 2017). This dissertation project seeks to learn more about the practical applications of CSP in elementary school classrooms. I use a descriptive qualitative case study methodology in order to identify what pedagogical strategies and academic content teachers use in their efforts to be culturally sustaining. Additionally, I capture the challenges teachers experienced while implementing CSP in their elementary classrooms. My research seeks to generate in-depth descriptions of teaching and learning activities while examining the phenomenon of a cohort of four teachers using CSP in the context of an elementary school (Yin, 1981). I use participant observations, individual interviews, and focus group interviews in order to respond to the research questions. The findings indicate: (1) Teachers included content that explicitly engaged issues of racism and patriarchal gender norms, as well as content that centered People of Color, in simple and direct ways with which young elementary school students could grapple. (2) Teachers used age- appropriate pedagogical strategies that supported the linguistic and cultural competencies of students through response and discussion protocols, connecting learning done at school to students’ families, communities, and home languages. They also invested students with power over how they would engage with a lesson. (3) Teachers experienced challenges to implementing CSP in their classrooms because of a policy mandating the strict implementation of a new ELA curriculum and inconsistent school leadership with regard to CSP and the district-mandated curriculum.

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