Culturally Engaged Instruction (CEI):
Theory & Context
Circles of Influence: A full length article on the history of my classroom research process and how I applied it to my classroom. (pdf)
References: The 70+ works included in the review of literature. (pdf)
My teacher research experience began with a frustrated outburst in my teaching journal during my second year in the classroom:
As an English
teacher at a rural all-Black high school in the Mississippi Delta. I enjoyed
a genuine fellowship with my students, many of whom I worked with outside
of school in church and community activities. Lessons in literature and
writing went reasonably well (for a beginner), but then, I started to
teach grammar. Pardon the cliche, but it was like hitting a brick wall.
Whenever I tried to teach grammar or usage, my students put up a fearful, sometimes hostile, resistance.
Yet, in my
class surveys and course evaluations, the students and their parents have
consistently asked that I teach more grammar. At first, I tried to account
for these contradictions with various excuses ("Grammar is just boring
to them; I need to make it more interesting!"). Still, the tension
and the fear were real. Looking back, I realize I shared their uneasiness
with the topics; however, I felt it was my duty to help them become proficient
in "standard" usage.
I had two simultaneous responses to the wall. On the one hand, I immediately started searching for and experimenting with methodologies. How could I teach them grammar more effectively? On the other hand, I had begun what would become a career long action-research study on the issues surrounding the teaching of standard American English to African American students.
Read the complete article on my research process and findings. (pdf)
-Language arts instruction and learning occur within a very dynamic, specific, and complicated context. The context of language arts instruction is also part of the instruction. (requires Flash player)
-Particular strategies and methods do not seem to be the key to the success of African American students in academic literacy. Context, however, seems to matter greatly.
Culturally engaged instruction is a highly interactive, ever-changing exchange between teacher and student that takes into account the many features brought to the classroom by both sides as well as those forces that influence teaching and learning from outside. To become culturally engaged, a teacher has to begin to take these features into account as s/he teaches and while evaluating learning. This is obviously a process (one which I have not yet mastered). I have begun developing some classroom tools that help us develop this type of instruction, especially in the teaching of grammar.
Constructing a CEI Classroom
Personal English Plan (pdf)
Grammar Instruction Model (pdf)
to Effective Teaching of Grammar with African American Students:
Take the time to know your students; respect them and their culture.
Grammar instruction should be focused; don't try to "cover" or "fix" everything at once.