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AACTE Welcoming Session Reframes Effective Teaching for Equity

The Welcoming Session kicked off the AACTE 68th Annual Meeting with a keynote from Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor at the University of California Los Angeles and one of the nation’s most important voices on education and equity issues.

Noguera challenged the audience to take a closer look at what it means to be a highly effective teacher. As the American student population becomes increasingly diverse and opportunities remain profoundly unequal, he argued that more teachers must have the ability to teach effectively across race, class, language, and cultural differences.

“The best teachers teach the way students learn rather than expecting students to learn the way they teach,” Noguera said.

He said to be effective, teachers must understand their students, including their academic backgrounds, cultural contexts, learning styles, and personal needs and interests. Teachers should seek answers to questions such as these: What are the gaps in my students’ learning? What competencies must they acquire? How will I incorporate the history, culture, and lived experience of students to stimulate, motivate, and make the curriculum relevant? How do my students learn when they are not with me? How can I overcome and mitigate the obstacles my students face outside of school?

Noguera said teachers can bridge gaps in student learning through academic engagement and relationship building. According to a Met Life survey, 40% of low income students and 45% of students of color report that they do not identify with their teachers. One way teachers can foster greater understanding is by treating students’ cultural background as an asset. By doing so, Noguera said, teachers can view students as funds of knowledge—and help them view themselves that way, too. Evidence shows children with a strong, positive sense of their cultural identities often perform better academically and have better developmental outcomes.

He identified cultural resources as a student’s family, peer, community, socialization, traditions, rituals and practices, fundamental core values, culturally salient learning structures, and even popular culture. For teachers, Noguera said, cultural competency means the ability to work effectively as a professional across race, class, linguistic, and cultural boundaries based upon a sensitivity to difference and a willingness to withhold judgment. Culturally competent teachers have the ability to establish trust and rapport by developing relationships premised on respect and empathy.

Noguera urged teachers and teacher educators to focus on evidence and learning by making expectations clear and standards explicit. Educators should model and expose students to high-quality work; utilize diagnostic tools to check for understanding; create a safe learning environment in which students can learn from their mistakes; provide numerous opportunities for students to revise and resubmit work; focus on motivation and engagement by incorporating student interests and soliciting feedback and questions from students; and analyze student work with a focus on what student errors indicate about the teaching they experienced.

Noguera concluded his dynamic presentation with a rousing message: “We can only get better if we really focus on what it takes to create the evidence that our kids are learning,” he said. “The future of this country will be determined by what happens at its schools.”

To view a recording of the session and other content from the 68th Annual Meeting, visit the AACTE Learning Center.

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Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE