Becoming culturally responsive teachers

Year: 2021

Author: Hattam, Robert, Maher, Katie

Type of paper: Symposium


This paper reports on the findings of an Australian Research Council funded project titled Towards an Australian culturally responsive pedagogy. Specifically this project entailed a multi-sited action research project in seven mainstream public schools, augmented by analysis of policy texts, and additional evidence about school structures, and school culture. The project worked with the following set of provocations for redesigning curriculum and pedagogy: high intellectual challenge; strongly connected to student lifeworlds; cultural difference understood as an asset for learning; activist orientation; and Students performing their learning / creative use of new technology. This paper reports on how teachers interpreted or translated these provocations into their own classroom practices. We were particularly interested in how classroom practices that were crafted through action research arise out of a site-based and local problematisation and in response to locally diagnosed problems and are sustained as an ‘ongoing practical accomplishment’ (Freebody & Freiberg 2012, p.80), constituted out of the ‘practical reasoning’ or ‘practical theorising’ (p.80) at the local site level. In our analysis of the research project data sets we report that becoming more culturally responsive, at least for our participating teachers, can be described in terms:Teachers adopted more improvisational pedagogies; Against highly scripted pedagogies, the teacher is understood as an improviser or virtuoso, in which case ‘good’ pedagogy is not defined by regular productions of ritualised techniques, but instead ‘requires exquisite sensitivity to the characteristics of particular situations’.Teaching aims at sustaining ‘hard fun’ in the classroom. Hard fun rejects deficit views of students and instead works with a view that all students are uncanny theorists of their own lives.Pedagogies of not knowing emerged. The participating teachers realised that it is not possible to ‘know’ about all of the cultural resources that students bring to class. In which case, culturally responsive teaching involves engaging in dialogue with students without any pretense of claiming expert knowledge about the students and their cultures.Learning to know more was augmented by learning to act on the world.