Nourishing Roots and Inspiring Wings: Building a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Southern Appalachia

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Virginia Tech

This qualitative study focused on the need for culturally responsive teaching within the southern Appalachian cultural setting. The specific components of this approach to teaching were based on research findings, theoretical claims from proponents of culturally responsive teaching (e.g. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Geneva Gay), and experiences and personal narratives of educators working with students in southern Appalachia.

The purpose of this study was to identify aspects of culturally responsive teaching within the Southern Appalachian context by observing instruction and curriculum that sustained the cultural competence of southern Appalachian students and empowered them. As the researcher, I also studied my own efforts as a teacher educator with southern Appalachian roots who was preparing preservice teachers to acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills to practice culturally responsive teaching.

Through narrative inquiry, the study focused on the experiences of an elementary teacher, an elementary principal, and a preservice teacher. The study was conducted within three settings (Holbrook Elementary, Central Elementary and Appalachia College) over a total period of three years. Data collection methods included interviews, observations, participation in school events, fieldnotes, videotapes, photographs, a participant�s journal and other artifacts.

The findings identified practices that promoted culturally responsive teaching for southern Appalachia such as including the Appalachian culture in the curriculum, demonstrating caring, building learning communities, and connecting school to home and community by using the cultural backgrounds of southern Appalachian students as conduits for teaching them more effectively. Four characteristics of culturally responsive educators were presented: culturally responsive teaching takes skill; culturally responsive teaching takes inquiry; culturally responsive teaching is a moral craft; and culturally responsive teaching is a way of life, not just a job.

culturally responsive teaching, teacher education, multicultural education