Culturally responsive pedagogy and Latinx educators in higher education: A case study
Aguilar, Reanna Melissa
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Institutions of higher education are serving large numbers of diverse student populations due to shifts in Pre-kinder to 12th (P-12) education. To keep up with these shifts, these higher education institutions are trying to diversify faculty and staff to meet the needs of students. Following the research in cultural responsiveness, two prominent theories have emerged in P-12 education, culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching. Administrators and educators in P-12 utilize these theories when trying to improve achievement gaps in American schools. Scholars have argued that it is crucial that educators at all levels of teaching utilize cultural responsiveness so that they can better understand and meet the needs of diverse student populations. There are many studies researching and defining what cultural responsiveness looks like in P-12 education. However, a scarcity of research exists in graduate higher education. Specifically, there is a void in the literature when it comes to minority faculty lived experiences and how lived and cultural experiences of the educator translates into classroom pedagogy. To address this void, the purpose of this study was to 1) understand how Latinx graduate faculty in graduate higher education conceptualize culturally responsive pedagogy, 2) explore the connection between Latinx graduate faculty lived, cultural experiences and learn which experiences inform their culturally responsive pedagogy in higher education, and 3) to understand the ways in which Latinx graduate faculty lived experience informs their culturally responsive practices in graduate higher education. In this study, culturally responsive pedagogy is defined as the graduate faculty participant making meaning from their own lived experiences, in an effort to enhance both the experience of learners of culturally diverse backgrounds. In addition, this making of meaning from their lived experience informed the graduate faculty’s diversification of teaching strategies and practices in their graduate classrooms. Participants in the study included four self-identified Latinx graduate faculty: three females and one male, all with earned PhDs in Education, self- identifying as culturally responsive faculty and teaching graduate-level courses in the College of Education at institutions of higher education. This study called for the use of a qualitative, multi-case study method utilizing Latino Critical Race theory (1995), social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978), and Villegas and Lucas’s (2002), culturally responsive teachers framework to analyze and interpret the data. The data suggested that Latinx graduate faculty tap into many areas of their own narrative and lived experience to inform their pedagogy in the graduate classroom. The results of this study suggested the ways in which Latinx graduate faculty have used their lived experiences to inform their culturally responsive pedagogy in graduate higher education is through building bidirectional relationships or relationships that serve both parties, incorporating their knowledge of their own challenges and resiliency to create relevant classroom pedagogy, and advocating for themselves and others through persistence. The findings in the study suggested that Latinx graduate faculty have a good understanding of what culturally responsive pedagogy is; however, they grapple with implementing culturally responsive pedagogy because there is no clear guideline, and there is not enough support to carry out culturally responsive pedagogy in institutions of higher education. This study brought insights into Latinx graduate faculty’s lived experience to the table for the very first time in terms of culturally responsive pedagogy in graduate higher education. It introduces an alternative way for leadership to evaluate and understand the perspectives and experiences that their current staff bring into the classroom with them. It also provided the opportunity to leverage the experiences of educators in developing responsive classroom curriculum. It also provided the basis to develop professional development workshops for faculty in higher education who work with diverse student populations.