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Monday, December 4, 2023

Activities & Organizations

TeachHOUSTON toolkit strives to reflect diverse backgrounds


The UH teachHOUSTON program created a toolkit to help STEM teachers in Houston develop curricula that will support diverse student backgrounds. | Courtesy of Mariam Manuel

The UH teachHOUSTON program created and currently offers a toolkit that allows teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to design curricula and teach in ways that reflect and support students from diverse backgrounds.

The Culturally Responsive Education STEM High School Toolkit provides self-assessments, curriculum ideas, training modules and more to help teachers celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity through lived experiences of students.

Other resources include implicit association tests that measure unconscious bias and strategies for communicating across differences. Worksheets allow teachers to reflect on normalities in their own homes that may not be the same across different groups of people, such as caregiving practices or attitudes toward physical exercise.

CRE integrates prior experiences, perspectives and cultural knowledge of students to have the learning experience be more relevant to them, according to the toolkit website.

In practice, this could look like students applying measurement-related topics to explore societal messaging regarding body image or utilizing data analysis to challenge the district’s decision about shutting down a local school, as explained by teachHOUSTON professor and kit co-creator Mariam Manuel.

Another example is science students in Houston may benefit from developing water filtration prototypes in response to local flooding. Teachers can point out how important this is to the local community following natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey that the students can relate to.

“(The toolkit) is intended to be an easy-to-use guide on CRE for educators interested in augmenting their instructional practices with approaches that are research driven, student-centered and designed to improve engagement in STEM learning,” Manuel said.

With CRE, teachers can build relationships with students and explore their “funds of knowledge,” or the lived experiences, academic and personal backgrounds, world views and prior knowledge and skills used to navigate everyday situations, according to Manuel.

They can then find creative ways to make concepts relevant for students who identify with groups that have historically been disenfranchised and excluded from textbook examples. The kit is meant as a launching pad for this through use of the research studies and examples it provides.

The toolkit was created in spring and summer 2021 through a collaboration between 100Kin10, the National Math and Science Initiative, Manuel from teachHOUSTON and Alissandre Robbins, a Spring Branch STEM teacher and alumna of UH’s LEAD Houston STEM Master’s program.

Over summer 2021, 60 classroom teachers participating in professional development sessions were invited to engage with the toolkit. Their feedback via survey will be used as the toolkit’s creators add more examples, videos and opportunities. There is even a form on the website for users to upload their own resources.

“We hope that through this toolkit teachers are able to find a resource that is a one-stop shop for learning about culturally responsive teaching, or even expand on what they already knew about the pedagogical approach,” Manuel said.

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