Culturally relevant learning strengthens relationships in the classroom and improves learning outcomes.
“Relationships are the cornerstone of students being able to be successful in the classroom,” said Jarvais Jackson, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina.
Jackson serves as the director of the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students, which works toward the academic and cultural excellence of African American students.
CEEAAS was founded by Dr. Gloria Boutte, and the program was brought to the University of South Carolina in 2017. The Center focuses on educating teachers on culturally relevant styles of teaching.
“There's a body of research that shows that when African American students and other students of color are taught using culturally relevant, pedagogical, instructional strategies, they not only have better academic outcomes, but also, the social emotional outcomes are more favorable,” Dr. Boutte said.
Jackson said that from his experiences as an educator, he’s seen the ways that forming relationships with his students has transformed the classroom environment.
“I recently was a classroom teacher and just having experiences with students, when they would literally tell me, ‘Hey, I’ve never had a teacher who cared about me. I’ve never had a teacher who just listened,’” Jackson said.
Both Jackson and Dr. Boutte expressed the importance that trust plays in the classroom for students of color.
“We know at a foundation that students can’t learn from someone that they don't love and trust,” Jackson said.
The key to building those relationships and establishing trust? Creating a safe learning environment by assessing your implicit biases in the classroom and seeking out resources to educate yourself.
“We always say, again, start with yourself, educate yourself and there is a huge body of literature out there,” Dr. Boutte said.
Jackson echoed this sentiment, “Start with yourself, look at your biases, look at how you are, your daily walk in your classroom, and start there. And use these open resources for you to start with yourself.”
For more information about the resources offered by the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students, you can visit their website here.