2011. Vol.2, No.4, 408-413
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.24059
Meeting Their Fullest Potential: The Beliefs and Teaching of a
Culturally Relevant Science Teacher
Charlease P. Kelly-Jackson1, Tambra O. Jackson2
1Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia;
2University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tambra.jackson@sc. edu
Received February 12th, 2011; revised March 19th, 2011; accepted March 28th, 2011.
As elementary and middle school children of color continue to score poorly on science standardized tests, cul-
turally relevant teaching has been shown to be an effective approach to addressing the social and academic needs
of students from diverse backgrounds. In this article, we illustrate how the theory of culturally relevant peda-
gogy is embraced in the teaching beliefs of a sixth grade science teacher in a rural, low socioeconomic, pre-
dominantly African American school. The findings from a qualitative case study reveal beliefs and teaching
practices consistent with three major tenets of culturally relevant pedagogy: conceptions of self and students; so-
cial relations; and perceptions of knowledge (Ladson-Billings, 2009). This study builds upon the culturally rele-
vant pedagogy knowledge base by illustrating the tenets of this theory in the beliefs and teaching practices of a
sixth grade science teacher.
Keywords: Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Science Education, Tea che r B eliefs, African American Students
Elementary and middle school children of color continue to
score poorly on science standardized tests. According to the
National Assessment for Educational Progress [NAEP] (2009)
and the National Center for Education Statistics (2003, 2007,
2010), African American and Hispanic/Latino students are
significantly behind their White counterparts in terms of grade
level competence in reading, math, history, geography, and
science. More specifically, science standardized test data show
a history of significant achievement gaps among students of
color and English language learners (Lee & Fradd, 1998; Mullis,
Dossey, Campbell, Gentile, O’Sullivan, & Latham, 1994; Na-
tional Center for Educational Statistics, 2002; National Science
Foundation, 1994; Parsons, 2008). In fact, their poor achieve-
ment becomes more and more visible as they move further in
school (Parsons, 2008). The National Assessment for Educa-
tional Progress (2009) reports 42% of African American fourth
graders, 59% African American eighth graders, and 67% Afri-
can American twelfth graders performed below basic on their
science proficiency exams.
Research suggests that challenges in science learning in-
crease for students who do not bring the same views and ways
of knowing science from their culture as are taught in schools
(Ai kenhea d & Otsujui, 2000; Atwa ter, Freeman, Butler, & Draper-
Morris, 2010; Bryan & Atwater, 2002; Barba, 1993; Bianchini,
Cavazos & Rivas, 2003). According to Atwater (1994), “more
traditional ways of teaching science might not be as effective
with underrepresented groups in science as are some of the
active, relational and holistic approaches” (p. 563). Learning to
teach science in an equitable manner in contemporary contexts
can be complex and challenging (Bianchini & Brenner, 2010;
Bianchini et al., 2003). While numerous factors influence
teachers’ decisions about the content they teach, how they teach
it and what materials will actively engage students with the
content (Weiss & Pasley, 2004), science learning and achieve-
ment occur when science is presented in a mainstream fashion
in concert with valuing the relevance of students’ everyday
lives (Aikenhead, 1996; Bianchini & Brenner, 2010).
Culturally relevant pedagogy has been shown to be an effec-
tive approach to addressing the social and academic needs of
students from diverse backgrounds especially at a time when
students of color continue to fare poorly in U.S. schools (Gay,
2000; Howard, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Patterson, 1997).
A growing body of literature exists examining culturally rele-
vant pedagogy in various disciplines such as literacy, history,
geography, art and mathematics (Baker & Digiovanni, 2005;
Boutte & Hill, 2006; Gutstein, 2003; Jackson & Boutte, 2009;
Lad son-B illings, 1992; Stinson, 2004; Tate, 1995; Thomas, 2006).
Although literature addressing equitable science teaching and
practices is emerging (Aikenhead & Otsujui, 2000; Atwater, et
al., 2010; Bianchini & Brenner, 2010; Lee & Buxton, 2008;
Le e & Luykx, 2007; Luykx & Lee, 2007; Sadler, Amirshokoohi,
Kazempour, & Allspaw, 2006), attention to culturally relevant
teaching in science is near absent in the literature (Boutte,
Kelly-Jackson, & Johnson, 2010). In this article, we illustrate
how the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy, which speaks to
the notion that classroom instruction should be more relevant to
the students’ cultural orientations and experiences, is enacted in
the teaching beliefs of a sixth grade science teacher in a rural,
low socioeconomic, predominantly African American school.
Our goal is to demonstrate how this pedagogy is embraced in
the beliefs of the teacher, which in turn, become enacted in her
teaching practice. We begin by explaining the theory of cultur-
ally relevant teaching and how it is visualized in the science
Teaching Science to Diverse Students
Research on the teaching science to diverse populations
points to promising practices. Lee and Fradd (1998) note that
promoting science to students of color and non-English lan-
guage backgrounds involves understanding the nature and prac-
tice of science as it relates to the students’ language and cul-
C. P. KELLY-JACKSON ET AL. 409
tural experiences. The comprehension of scientific knowledge
and terminology is a key component of knowing science. Stu-
dents’ prior knowledge and experiences are crucial components
in acquiring new information (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer
& Scott, 1994; Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog, 1982).
Studies conducted by Rosebery and colleagues (Rosebery, War-
ren, & Conant, 1992; Warren, Rosebery, & Conant, 1989), em-
phasized the effects of “doing science” among Haitian and
Hispanic students. The essential idea in the Cheche Konnen
project was to involve students who had little to no experience
engaging in formal science practices. The studies used open-
ended scientific inquiry and analyzed students’ communication
patterns as they learned new science skills and content. Re-
searchers focused on changes in the students’ conceptual know-
ledge and the use of hypotheses, experiments, and explanations.
Results indicated that students bring different levels of knowl-
edge into the science classroom; therefore, it is important to
Drawing upon students’ prior experiences with the content
helps teachers link the science learning goals with what stu-
dents already know (Atwater, 1994; Barba, 1993; Bianchini &
Brenner, 2010; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Matthews & Smith, 1994).
Teaching science and encouraging science learning requires
teachers to have 1) “an understanding and appreciation of stu-
dents’ languages and cultural experiences, 2) scientific knowl-
edge and habits of mind, and 3) abilities to relate science to
students’ background experiences” (Lee & Fradd, 1998: p. 18).
In sum, teachers have to integrate students’ language and cul-
ture with their science content knowledge in order to provide all
students with quality science (Lee, 2003).
Culturally relevant teaching is a theoretical framework for
education that embraces the cultural capital of students from
culturally diverse backgrounds (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings,
2009; Morrison, Robbins, & Rose, 2008). It uses “the cultural
knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and per-
formance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning
encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (Gay, 2000:
p. 29). While culturally relevant pedagogy is a part of the
broader conversation on equitable teaching and practices for
historically marginalized youth, it is a theory that entails spe-
cific tenets which work in tandem. Culturally relevant teachers
must have an ability to develop students academically, a will-
ingness to nurture and support cultural competence, and the
ability and desire to foster the development of a sociopolitical
or critical consciousness (Ladson-Billings, 2009). In order to
engage in this kind of teaching, teachers have to embrace a
pedagogical stance inclusive of particular kinds of knowledge,
skills, and dispositions that encompasses 1) their conceptions of
self and others, 2) the manner in which social relations are
structured, and 3) their conceptions of knowledge (Ladson-
Billings, 2009). Culturally relevant teachers see themselves as
members of the c ommunity and teaching as a way to give back
to the community. They also believe that all their students are
capable of academic success. When cultivating social relations
in their classrooms, culturally relevant teachers demonstrate a
connectedness with all of the students and encourage students
to learn collaboratively and be responsible for one another.
Finally, when it comes to conceptions of knowledge about the
curriculum and content, culturally relevant teachers view know-
ledge as shared, recycled and constructed. They promote the
idea that knowledge is not static and must be viewed critically.
Research efforts that focus on diversity and equity issues in
science instruction have focused on students from diverse lan-
guages and cultures, but few specifically place attention on
culturally relevant pedagogy in science classrooms. Further-
more, since science teachers are one of the most influential
factors on science learning (Atwater, 2000), this case study uses
the theoretical lens of culturally relevant pedagogy to examine
the beliefs and teaching of a teacher of African American stu-
dents in a rural, sixth grade science classroom. The analysis
highlights the ways in which the teacher embraces notions of
culturally relevant pedagogy as her primary pedagogical stance
in her science teaching.
The research reported in this article is a case study from a
larger multiple method project which examined the beliefs and
perceptions of middle school science teachers towards cultur-
ally relevant teaching. A possible pool of teachers was identi-
fied using the school and district webpages. The participants
represented middle school science teachers (grades 6 - 8) in
four counties included in what is referred to as the “Corridor of
Shame.” This is a group of rural schools, in proximity to U.S.
Interstate 95 in South Carolina, that serve predominantly low-
income and poor African American students (Ferillo, 2006).
Eight participants agreed to participate and completed a 2-part
Likert-type scale questionnaire developed by Phuntsog (2001).
The items tapped into beliefs and dispositions considered to be
important characteristics and issues for culturally relevant
teaching inclusive of being culturally literate; self-reflective
analysis of one’s attitudes and beliefs; caring, trusting, and
inclusive classroom; respect for diversity; and transformative
curriculum to create social change (Phuntsog, 2001).
Teachers were then asked to participate in a focused inter-
view informed by their responses to the questionnaire. The one
hour focused interviews were used to corroborate data ascer-
tained from the questionnaire. Four teachers agreed to be inter-
viewed. The interviews focused on 1) participants’ personal
histories and how they came to choose teaching as their profes-
sion; 2) their beliefs about culturally relevant teaching and how
their experiences have shaped their teaching practices; 3) chal-
lenges teachers face while teaching and how those challenges
relate (if at all) to diversity
After analyzing data from the questionnaire and focused in-
terviews, the first author identified one teacher as representative
of the literature on culturally relevant teaching. The author
employed case study methodology which best suited the pri-
mary goal of this phase of the project which was to examine the
phenomenon of culturally relevant science teaching in a spe-
cific context (African American students in a low socioeco-
nomic rural setting). Using a case study approach allowed the
researchers to gain an understanding of a complex social phe-
nomenon (in this case, culturally relevant teaching) while cap-
turing a holistic and meaningful view of everyday activities
(Yin, 2008). Our main inquiry was: What does culturally rele-
vant science instruction for African American students look like
in a sixth grade science classroom? In this article, we specifi-
cally focus on findings that speak to how a teacher’s beliefs
aligned with culturally relevant theory support her teaching
Sammie (pseudonym) was a 36 year old African American
female science and social studies teacher in her fifth year of
teaching. She attended the state’s public schools and obtained
her Master of Arts degree in teaching from a historically black
C. P. KELLY-JACKSON ET AL.
institution. She entered the teaching profession with a range of
life experiences, including previous work experience in ac-
counting. She was considered by her colleagues and adminis-
trators to be an excellent teacher and had been recognized as
the school’s “Teacher of the Year.” Sammie also served as the
varsity cheerleading coach. During the time this study was
conducted, Sammie was seeking a terminal degree in admini-
Sammie taught at a predominantly African American middle
school along Interstate 95 in South Carolina also referred to as
the “Corridor of Shame” (Ferillo, 2006). The school consists of
grades 6 - 12 and accommodates approximately 411 students.
The State Department of Education in South Carolina recog-
nizes and provides awards not only for high levels of student
achievement but also to schools attaining high levels of abso-
lute performance and/or to schools attaining high rates of im-
provement in the areas such as student attendance, teacher at-
tendance, and/or student dropout rates. The school at which
Sammie taught ranked below average for the past three years
prior to the study in their absolute rating. Below average means
the school was in jeopardy of not meeting the standards for
progress toward the South Carolina Performance Goals. How-
ever, the school received an award two years prior to the study
for its improvement rating on the State’s Report Card from the
State Department of Education as a Red Carpet School in 2008.
During the year this study took place, the school’s scores on its
state’s standardized test exceeded the state’s average in sixth
grade mathematics and social studies, in seventh grade mathe-
matics and English language arts, and in eighth grade English
language arts. While the school as a whole was making pro-
gress and great strides in the areas of math, English language
arts, and social studies, it was not fairing as well in the content
area of science.
In addition to data garnered earlier in the project, the first
author conducted three classroom observations of Sammie’s
teaching and mentoring both during school and after-school
hours. The researcher chose to visit Sammie’s classroom at
different points in the school day every two weeks over six
weeks. Extensive fieldnotes were taken during these three to
four hour observations in order to gain a more in-depth under-
standing as to how Sammie goes about her everyday life as a
culturally relevant science teacher (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw,
1995). In addition to fieldnotes, audio files from the observa-
tions were used and transcribed in order to capture stu-
dent-student and student-teacher interactions. Artifacts (e.g. test
scores, philosophy of teaching and learning, lesson plans, stu-
dents assignments) were also collected during visits to the
school. The goal of this portion of data collection was to garner
multiple sources of evidence (e.g. direct observation, partici-
pant-observation, documentation, artifacts) commonly used in
case study methodology (Yin, 2008).
The data were analyzed using cu lt ural ly relev ant pedago gy as
a theoretical framework. Data were examined for the broad
dimensions and recurring discourse patterns relevant to cultur-
ally relevant pedagogy. After the interview and each observa-
tion, post interview and post observation forms (Jay, 2006)
were completed to reflect upon what was shared or not shared
by the interviewee. The coded data were organized under sub-
headings such as communication, cultural literacy, teacher-
facilitator, inclusive classroom environment, and community of
Helping Students Meet Their Fullest Potential: Sammie’s
Conceptions of Herself and Her Students
Ladson-Billings (1995, 2009) posits that culturally relevant
teachers have a clear understanding of themselves and others.
Culturally relevant teachers have a keen awareness of how
powerful the role and responsibility of teachers are in the lives
of students. They are clear about their purpose as teachers in the
lives of their students and in the profession. During the inter-
view Sammie was asked why she chose teaching as a career.
She responded by noting that teaching was not her first choice
as a profession. She mentioned that she wanted to explore a
career different from her other family membe rs (most of whom
were teachers) and decided to go into accounting. Sammie be-
lieved that teaching was always in her heart and eventually
something inside her led her to it. She said with a smile, “I
realized that this is something I am supposed to be doing.”
Sammie described herself as a humble individual who teaches
from the heart:
I look at the child for who that child can become; because
we’re gonna have to depend on these children one day. But I
humble myself and try not to get too religious or spiritual,
‘cause I am not a religious person. But you have to look at your
calling. If this is something you are called to do, and you know
the person who called you to do it, and you know that person
who called you always expects something higher, then that’s
what you have to do.
Sammie has a keen sense of purpose in her work as a science
educator. Though she does not consider herself to be a very
religious person, she is very clear about having been called to
be a teacher. In other words, she could have continued with the
career path of being an accountant, but she has greater sense of
purpose in her work as a teacher. She is very clear about her
beliefs about students and her role in fostering their growth:
I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a
secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow
and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially.
It is my desire as an educator to help students meet their fullest
potential in these areas by providing an environment that is
safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas.
In addition to having a strong sense of purpose for teaching,
Sammie has strong convictions about importance of teaching
and learning. In her written philosophy of teaching, she notes:
Teaching and learning are two of the most important activi-
ties most people ever engage in. Our capacity to grow in wis-
dom as well as stature is what makes us human. Teaching is a
lifelong process of learning about new philosophies and new
strategies, learning from parents and the community, learning
from colleagues, and especially learning from the students.
Teaching provides an opportunity for continual learning and
growth. One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a love of
learning in my students, as I share my own passion for learning
with them. I feel there is a need for compassionate, strong, and
dedicated individuals who are excited about working with chil-
Sammie positions herself a learner, and feels the need to
model her passion for learning to her students. Sammie had
C. P. KELLY-JACKSON ET AL. 411
several books displayed on her desk that exhibit her commit-
ment to learning and self-improvement. Included amongst the
books were titles such as: Teaching Matters: Motivating and
Inspiring Yourself; Planting Seeds of Hope: How to Reach a
New Generation of African Americans with the Gospel; Do you
Know Enough about Me to Teach me: A Student’s Perspective;
and Teaching to Capture and Inspire all Learners: Bringing
your Best Stuff Everyday. Sammie’s selection of texts reveals
strong messages about her beliefs around her teaching, and she
publicly displays these books for her students to understand her
You Have the Right to…: Sammie’s Beliefs and Practices of
Typically, the relationship between a teacher and a student is
fixed and tends to show the teacher as the leader. The students
listen while the teacher speaks; the student works as the teacher
assigns. Culturally relevant pedagogy purports the notion of a
teacher-student relation that is fluid and extends to interactions
beyond the classroom. In this relationship the teacher demon-
strates a connectedness with all students and encourages stu-
dents to learn collaboratively (Ladson-Billings, 2009).
While observing Sammie’s classroom, several posters around
the room portrayed beliefs about learning collaboratively and
taking responsibility for others in the learning community. The
posters exuded the ideas of learning, teaching, and playing
together as a community while respecting each others feelings,
thoughts, and actions in the process. One poster, titled Rights
and Responsibilities, read:
You have the right to a safe environment./You have the right
to follow safety rules./You have the right to voice your opinion./
You have the right to respect the opinions of others./You have
the right to use school books, materials, and equipment./You
have the right to take care of all school materials./You have the
right to fair treatment./You have the right to treat others fairly./
You have the right to a good education./You have the right to
do your best.
The messages on this poster and others encouraged students
to take ownership of and responsibility for their own learning
and the learning of others. Though all of the statements begin
with the clause “You have the right to,” the poster’s title indi-
cates they also have a responsibility to create the conditions
they are entitled t o.
Sammie’s beliefs about collaborative learning were also evi-
denced in the kinds of assignments and tasks she designed for
her students. She regularly expected them to teach each other
and take responsibility for each other. A portion of one of her
lesson plans reads:
Have student A to turn to his/her partner and tell the differ-
ence between a chemical and physical change. Have student B
to turn to his/her partner and give three examples of physical
changes and three examples of chemical changes.
Imagine you are teaching a group of younger students about
the difference between physical and chemical changes. One
student claims the change from liquid to water vapor is chemi-
cal. Write a brief paragraph of what you would say to convince
the student otherwise.
Sammie’s students regularly worked in groups and pairs. In
fact, the arrangement of the students’ desks encouraged coop-
eration. The desks were grouped in sets of four. While this
spatial arrangement is used in many classrooms around the
nation, there is generally no real cooperation taking place
amongst students. Unfortunately, many teachers use this kind
of seating arrangement in correlation to ability grouping. In the
interview, Sammie noted that each student has a specific role in
each group and it takes the cooperation of each member to
make the group a success.
During one observation, the first author noticed a female
student ironing cheerleading skirts. When queried, Sammie
explained that she was the varsity cheerleading coach and that
her role as a teacher extends beyond the science classroom.
Sammie went on to explain that the girls hang out in her class-
room on game nights until the game begins. She noted, “It’s
safer for them to stay on campus and it keeps them out of trou-
ble. Too much can happen if they leave campus. The ‘cheer
moms’ take turns bringing snacks for the girls so they will not
have a reason to leav e”.
The relationship Sammie had with her students resembled
that of an extended family. She was firm, yet flexible about
classroom expectations and she helped students understand the
meaning of consequences. Sammie lived nearly 30 minutes
away from the school, yet she chose to be involved with her
students beyond the realms of the science classroom through
cheerleading. Her role as the cheerleading coach demonstrates
her efforts to connect with her students outside the science
Discovering for Themselves: Sammie’s Perceptions of Know-
Often times, science is relegated and viewed as a discipline
that is factual in nature. It is easy for teachers to fall into the
trap of teaching science as a collection of facts to be memorized.
Moreover, in many science classrooms, students are taught that
science is acultural and void of any connections to cultural and
social identities and communities. Culturally relevant teaching,
however, “attempts to help students understand and participate
in knowledge-building” (Ladson-Billings, 2009: p. 88). Teach-
ers show students that knowledge is continuously recreated, and
it is not static or unchanging.
Sammie encourages students to think critically when they
search for understanding. Students’ assignments clearly depict
her efforts to help them develop their capacity to think critically
as each student in Sammie’s class is considered a scientist. She
believes students “need the opportunity to discover for them-
selves and practice skills in authentic situations.” Because she
supports the hands-on approach in the science classroom,
Sammie believes such an approach “creates an opportunity for
individual discovery and construction of knowledge to occur.”
Sammie facilitated her students in a hands-on activity entitled
“Ch…Ch…Ch…anges” focused on physical and chemical
changes and properties. During the lab activity, each group was
allowed to rotate to eight stations (labeled A-H) to make ob-
servations, record data, and draw conclusions. The stations
involved the following inquiry processes:
Station A: Observe eggshell pieces after placed in vinegar;
Station B: Observe the change of water after adding drops of
food coloring; Station C: Observe changes that occurred after a
test tube with sugar is heated; Station D: Observe and compare
a penny that was left in lemon juice overnight to one in water;
Station E: Observe changes in baking soda when water is
added; Station F: Observe Plaster of Paris that was combined
with water; Station G: Measure copper sulfate, add to water;
and observe changes when an iron nail is added to the copper
solution; and Station H: Observe milk when vinegar is added.
To assist students in building their ideas and discussions, the
following questions were posed to each group as they engaged
in the lab activity.
What are some characteristics of physical changes? What
are some characteristics of chemical changes? State the main
difference between a physical and a chemical change. Synthe-
C. P. KELLY-JACKSON ET AL.
size your responses. Create a double bubble that compares and
contrasts physical and chemical changes. Which senses did you
use to make observations during this lab? How might you use
scientific instruments to extend your sense in order to make
As groups reported their findings to the entire class, they
were allowed to defend their positions if not all groups agreed
or observed similar changes.
Sammie believes that it is of equal importance to provide
students with the opportunity to study things that are meaning-
ful and relevant to their lives and interests. She knows her stu-
dents learn better through hands on activities that are relevant to
their daily lives. Many of the learning tasks are designed en-
compassing elements of the outside world and students’ lives.
In Sammie’s philosophy of teaching, she describes her ideal
Developing a curriculum around student interests fosters in-
trinsic motivation and stimulates the passion to learn. One way
to take learning in a direction relevant to student interest is to
invite student dialogue about the lesson and units of the study.
Given the opportunity for input, students generate ideas and set
goals that make for much richer activities than I could have
created or imagined myself. When students have ownership in
the curriculum, they are motivated to work hard and master the
skills necessary to reach their goals.
Having students engage in the construction of knowledge
shows them that they are scientists. They do not just read about
scientists. They also get the opportunity to be scientists. And in
being scientists they have the opportunity to make sense of their
previous understandings of science concepts with what they are
doing in their labs as well as make connections to their every-
Discussion and Implications
Teachers who approach teaching from a culturally relevant
standpoint demonstrate three types of beliefs and ideologies in
their practice. The first dimension of culturally relevant peda-
gogy is teachers’ conceptions of themselves and others. Sam-
mie’s conceptions of herself and her students are consistent
with culturally relevant pedagogy and the notions of under-
standing one’s purpose for teaching and the importance of
teachers in the lives of students as well as the community.
Sammie had high regard for her students, and she believed that
she was part of the community and her teaching was a way of
giving back. She was completely aware of the image of failure
that society held for her African American students, especially
in the area of science. Despite the school’s below average rat-
ing in science, Sammie was convinced that her students could
achieve and she saw herself as a vital part of the learning proc-
Culturally relevant teachers purposefully create social rela-
tions with their students and amongst students that supports
community and collaborative learning. Sammie connected with
her students, and for some, extended their relationship beyond
the science classroom. The rapport she establishes with students
let them know that they had a right to expect the best from her;
however, they also had the responsibility to give their best. This
stance is especially important in the science classroom given
the poor performance of students of color in science. Culturally
relevant teachers do not allow students to fail. Accepting any-
thing less than students’ best is not an option.
Lastly, unlike assimilationist teaching which assumes that
“students come to class with certain skills and suggests that it is
impossible to teach those who are not of a certain skill level”
(La ds on- Bi lli ng s, 2009: p. 104), culturally relevant teachers help
students develop necessa ry skills by meeting students where they
are. Culturally relevant teachers position knowledge as being
continuously recreated and students as constructors of knowl-
edge. Sammie created a learning space in her classroom where
students were expected to explore and be involved in hands-on
inquiry and investigations. Similar to the work of Rosebery and
colleagues (Rosebery, Warren, & Conant, 1992; Warren, Rose-
bery, & Conant, 1989), Sammie’s students had an opportunity
to “do science” and embrace an identity as scientists.
This project builds upon and supports the work of scholars
(Gay, 2000; Howard, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009) who argue
that students from culturally diverse backgrounds are capable
learners and the content taught in the classroom should be
grounded in cultural contexts consistent with their experiences
and values. This article adds to the knowledge base of cultur-
ally relevant pedagogy by illustrating the tenets of this theory in
the teaching beliefs and practices of a sixth grade science
teacher. We suggest that one’s pedagogical stance is just as
important as content competency in effectively teaching science
to students of color.
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