MERC grant focuses on culturally responsive teaching practices

Jesse Senechal, Ph.D., at a conference table during a meeting, smiling.
Jesse Senechal, Ph.D.

The Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium’s (MERC) new Institute for Education Sciences (IES) grant focuses on the use of culturally responsive teaching practices to impact student learning. Schools continue to be characterized by disparities in student outcomes that fall along lines of diversity. This includes academic and discipline outcomes as well as graduation rates. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) practices include frameworks of student culture in the development of curriculum and delivery of instruction.

Led by MERC Director Dr. Jesse Senechal, this project will take place from 2019-2021 with a budget of just over $395,000. The purpose of the project is to support the development and study of a networked School-Based Action Research Team (SBART) model intended to promote teachers’ ability to implement culturally responsive teaching in their classrooms. The SBART teams, facilitated by project investigators at both the university and district levels, will work at two middle and two high schools located in the partnering MERC member districts of Henrico County and Chesterfield County Public Schools.

At each school, the SBART teams will engage seven teachers and one administrator in action research focused on the integration of culturally responsive teaching practices that support both student academic and social/behavioral outcomes. The project will also support a separate, diversity-focused student advisory group which will meet regularly with the SBART team to provide student perspectives of the teachers’ CRT practice.

The project will be co-led by two additional faculty members – Dr. Hillary Parkhouse from the Department of Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Fantasy Lozada from the Department of Psychology – and two school district personnel focused on equity initiatives in the school divisions: Dr. Monica Manns from Henrico, and Dr. Tameshia Grimes from Chesterfield.

Each SBART will select a member to represent the group at cross-school network meetings where leaders from all four SBARTs will share findings and provide feedback on their respective culturally responsive teaching projects. Participants will identify model-based and school context factors that lead to the variation in implementation across the different sites and examine the relationships between model implementation and outcomes of interest, including teacher disposition and knowledge of CRT, teacher CRT practices, and student outcomes.

The expectation is that, as a result of this project, there will be a greater understanding of the relationship between high quality professional development focused on CRT, teachers’ CRT practices, and students’ academic, social and behavioral outcomes.