Jennifer K. LeBlanc, Abiola A. Farinde. Published in NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief - www.nationalforum.com
NATIONAL FORUM OF MULTICULTURAL ISSUES JOURNALVOLUME 10, NUMBER 2, 2013SPONSORED BY THE TEXAS CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FORMULTICULTURAL EDUCATION15Culturally Responsive Science Techniques: Encouraging AfricanAmerican Learners in Science Education through MovementExpressivenessJennifer K. LeBlancPh.D. StudentDepartment of Teaching, Learning and CultureTexas A&M UniversityCollege Station, TXAbiola A. FarindeGraduate Research AssistantDepartment of Middle, Secondary and K-12 EducationCollege of EducationUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte, NC______________________________________________________________________________AbstractThis articledescribes the historical context of African American learners in scienceeducation.Succeeding this discussion, current data trends (NCES,2006, 2009, 2011) arepresented, revealing African American students’ underachievement in science. To engage andimprove the achievement level of African American learners in this discipline area, movementexpressiveness as a culturally responsive teaching technique is encouraged. The articleconcludeswith an action plan, providingdifferent movement strategies that can be implementedin science classrooms.In today’s global and economically-driven society, science, technology, engineering, andmath (STEM)critically depends on innovation and the engagement of all students in STEMfields. According to the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE, 2009), diversestudents are vital to tomorrow’s STEM workforce. Unfortunately, minorities and women areunderrepresented in STEM-related careers (Riegle-Crumb, Moore, & Ramos-Wada, 2010). Inorder to successfully recruit the increasing number of students needed for STEM-related fields,all student populations must be included and actively participate in science education (ACTE,2009). Furthermore, the exclusion of diverse social groups in STEM-related fields is no longeran option, considering that the United States is becoming increasingly more diverse (Carter,2003; Kuykendall, 2004). In this changing demographic landscape, educators are called toengage all learners in STEM education, including African American learners.For the sake of America’s progress, STEM education cannot continue to overlook diversestudent populations. Although this assertion is well documented (ACTE, 2009; Darling-
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE16Hammond, 2010; LeBlanc &Larke, 2011), a significant number of students are left behind eachday in science classrooms across America. These students are victims of low teacherexpectations and teacher pedagogy that is void of culturally responsive practices. Due to theeconomy’s critical state, the need for diversity in STEM fields, thepersistent achievement gap,and the diversity of students in science classrooms, educators must find new tools and strategiesthat will bridge teacher instruction and student comprehension. When considering the learningneeds of African American students one must ask, “What practices can teachers employ in orderto create equitable educational opportunities that will promote student engagement and willimprovethe achievement level for African American learners in science education?”This article seeks to answer this question by following Thompson’s (2004) process ofreform. Thompson’s reform process entails a self-analysis, reflection, and an action plan.Through Thompson’s process, educators examine their beliefs and attitudes about AfricanAmerican learners in order to create an equitable learning environment in science classrooms.Aligning with Thompson’s reform process, a description of the historical context and currentdata trends of African American learners’ achievement in science is first discussed. A review ofthis information allows educators to undergo a self-analysis. Following this acquisition ofknowledge, additional information on movement expressiveness as a culturally responsiveteaching technique is also introduced, calling educators to reflect on their personal beliefs aboutAfrican American learners in science classrooms. Fulfilling the final stage ofThompson’s (2004)reform process, the article concludes with a concrete action plan for teachers, outlining differentmovement strategies that can be used to improve the achievement level of African Americanstudents in science classrooms.Historical Context of African American Learners’ Achievement in ScienceSince the 1700s, science has been an integral part of the African American community.Benjamin Bannaker and George Washington Carver paved the way for other African Americanscientists (Imbornoni, 2007). Unfortunately, during the time of desegregation education becamedominated by Eurocentric cultural beliefs (Kharem, 2006) in which the science achievements ofAfrican American scientists were viewed as seemingly unimportant to the dominant culture.According to Kuykendall (2004), African American students in post-desegregation were notaware of the success of many African American leaders and intellectuals. According to Freire(1970) in this process of omission students are collectors of information distributed by thenarrator. With this assertion in mind, the Eurocentric narratorproduces an education thatdisconnects the learner from the knowledge and even further disconnects the learner when themajority of the narrators (teachers) are unlike the learner (Freire, 1970).This disconnect between the science achievements of African Americans and what istaught in science classes can be seen in Kahle’s (1989) study on students’ perspectives ofscientists. A stereotypical image of a scientist was developed by learners. As described by Kahle(1989), students perceive a scientist as “a white male, who wears a lab coat with a pocket full ofpens and pencils” (p. 5). This foreign, stereotypical image of a scientist perhaps deterred diversestudents’ interest in science fields and effected their science achievement because such an imageand the act of doing science lacked relevance in their everyday lives.The exclusion of AfricanAmerican epistemological paradigms from the curriculum strengthens the claim that AfricanAmerican students rarely see themselves as participants in the sciences (Kozol, 2005).
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE17The science proficiency of diverse student learners is often viewed through a deficit lens.Powell (1990) states, “many minority students have internalized a self-perception ofincompetence in mathematics and science” (p. 292). In addition, a lack of cultural responsivenesswithin science classrooms may have causedissonancebetween students’ culture and the relevanceof science. The lack of acknowledgement of African American achievement in science becauseof the dominant culture curriculum may contribute to the persistent science achievement gaps.Expounding on the achievement gap, Darling-Hammond (2010)notes that instruction received byAfrican Americans was on average a lower quality than instruction given to White students,“creating a racial gap in aggregate achievement” (p. 51). As standardized testing became aschool norm, students began to only receive information that affirms the dominant culture’s“truth” (Kharem, 2006).MethodsData: Current Trends of African American Learner’s Achievement in ScienceTransitioning from historical research to current trends, Thompson’s (2004) reformprocess requires a deeper analysis of the issue. Using data from the National Assessment ofEducational Progress(NCES, 2006, 2009, 2011) for the present study, educators can analyze theneed for improving their science pedagogy as it relates to African American learners. Anexamination of Figure 1, which documents Grade 8thNAEP Science Average Scale Scores for1996-2011, illustrates the longevity of the achievement gap. Although there have been steadyimprovements for most diverse student groups, the achievement gap remains. Lewis, James,Hancock, and Hill-Jackson (2008) expound on this issue by noting that “the achievement gap hasbeen well hypothesized, studied, and documented, and yet it continues to be a perennialeducational issue” (p. 127).Note. Adapted from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, NationalCenter for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP), 2006,2009, and 2011 Science Assessments.
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE18FindingsFigure 1 reveals a persistent trend. From 1996 to 2011 when compared to all otherstudent groups, African American students performed lower that their peers on scienceassessments. National science average scale scores show that for fifteen consecutive years theracial/ethnic pattern never alters; White and Asian students represent the top tier of scienceassessment scores; Native Americans and Hispanic students’ scores reside in the center; andAfrican American students’ assessment score comprise the lower portion of this data trend.Further analysis also exposes stagnation among student test scores. Small improvements haveoccurred, but significant statistical increases have yet to transform the set racial/ethnic pattern asit relates to science assessments. From 2009 to 2011, White and Asian students, thoughpossessing “high” science score when compared to their peers, have not made significantincreases in the area of science; the scores of these two subgroups have not drastically improved.Native American students have made substantial gains, but their increased scores are onlyrecognized because of a drastic decline in 2005. Lastly, much like White and Asian students’scores for the 2009 and 2011 school years, Hispanic and African American students’ scores,although showing gradual increase, approximately remain within a set margin. For thesesubgroups, average scale scores have not moved beyond a six margin increase.DiscussionIf educators are to adequately meet the needs of African American learners, they mustuse data to critically reflect on their beliefs about African American learners in their classroom.Reflecting on the data above, stage one of Thompson’s (2004) reform process, reveals thepresence of educational inequalities. Students are not being offered equal educationalopportunities and their different educational experiences are materializing in the form of varyingtest scores. African American students’ average scale scores in science (NCES, 2006, 2009,2011), presents a consistent disparity between the achievement level of African Americanstudents and their peers. This difference suggests a correlation between the achievement ofAfrican American learners in science education and the underrepresentation of AfricanAmericans in STEM occupations. Although more research is needed to strengthen thiscorrelation, the data strengthens the need for educators to create equitable learning opportunitiesfor African Americans in science classes. ACTE (2009) notes that “African-American andLatino students who, as a group, have significantly lower achievement levels in math and scienceand who have been declining as a percent of the degrees earned in STEM fields,are the key to thefuture of the STEM workforce” (p. 6). The catalyst for broadening African American students’opportunities in the field of science is deeply rooted in science education that employs culturallyresponsive teaching practices in the science classrooms. The science classroom mustbeinstrumental in strengthening African American learners’ scientific skills and competencies;therefore, an action plan must be developed to examine and reform the learning environmentsthat continue to produce such inequitable results.Recommendations
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE19As literature on African American learners is reviewed, common themes begin to emergesuch as movement expressiveness as a socialization factor and a culturally responsive teachingtechnique, which can be incorporated into the classroom to improve the achievement level ofAfrican Americans learners in science. This literature describes recommendations for possibletechniques that increase African American learners’ achievement within classrooms.Furthermore, by reviewing research the educator is engaging in stage two of Thompson’s processof reform.Movement Expressiveness as a Learning Style for African American LearnersWhen reflecting on the learning styles of African American learners, Boykin’s (1994)outlines the following cultural influences:“spirituality, harmony, movement, verve, affect,communalism, expressive individualism, morality and social time perspective” (p. 30). Theseconcepts support the fact that culture must be consideredwhen educating diverse students. Inregards to African American learners, Willis (1989) notes that movement has influenced theAfrican American culture. Therefore, the cultural influence of movement expressiveness is onearea that educators must comprehend in order to create a classroom that respects all cultures.According to Boykin and Bailey (2000), movement expressiveness can be understood inthree terms: a rhythmic orientation toward life, important ways of engaging life and deemed vitalto one’s psychological health, and kinesthetically complex displays of simultaneous oftencoordinated motion. Boykin (2001) states that “providing the opportunity for movementexpression significantly enhanced learning for low-income African Americans” (p. 253).Conceptually, movement and music are viewed by many in the African American community asways of engaging life (Cole & Boykin, 2008). By incorporating movement in classrooms,educators are able to include the diverse cultures reflected in their classrooms. Unfortunately,Neal, McCray, Webb-Johnson, andBridgest (2003) note that movement influences teachers’perceptionof students.Often, movement in the classroom is seen as a disruptive and a behavioralissue (Ellison, Boykin, Towns, & Stokes, 2000). The devaluing of the “Other” culture is amessage that is implicitly taught to students as they come to understand that classroommovement is both discouraged and prohibited (Boykin, 1992).As described in the literature,movement is a part of the African American culture; therefore, educators must incorporatemovement in classroom lessons in order to create a culturally responsive classroom and ensureachievement for all learners.Movement as a Part of Culturally Responsive TeachingCulturally responsive teaching is defined by Gay (2002) as a process of “using thecultural characteristic, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduitsfor teaching them more effectively” (p. 106). Ladson-Billings (2009) describes through personalvignettes and teacher observations how culturally responsive teaching practices improved theachievement of all students. Gay (2010) further notes that “the academic achievement ofethnically diverse students will improve when taught through their own cultural andexperimental filters” (pp. 106-107). Based on the reviewed research (Boykin & Bailey 2000;Gay 2010; Ladson-Billings 2009) movement expressiveness as a pedagogical teaching technique
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE20is an inclusive part of culturally responsive teaching, which can help improve the learningachievement of diverse learners, including the learning achievement of African Americans inscience.Strategies that Work for African American LearnersBy reviewing the research and available trends on the science achievements of AfricanAmerican learners, the science educator possesses a fundamental understanding of the need toimprove African Americans learners’ achievement in science. Movement as a pedagogical toolwould bridge both teaching and learning, expanding how lessons are taught within theclassroom. Learning would essentially take place beyond the confines of a desk and fourwalls.As mentioned in the review of research the dimension of movement is a useful andculturally responsive strategy to use within the classroom for improving achievement for theAfrican American learner. A description of movement as a learning strategy has been clearlyoutlined, but how does this strategy specifically look within a science education classroom?Action PlanThe final part of the reform process as described by Thompson (2004) is the action plan.Recommendations for science educators include incorporating movement techniques in theirteaching style. Possible ways to include movement in the classroom to improve AfricanAmerican learner’s achievement include: stations, observation walks, story talk with hands,vocabulary anchors with motions, concept review dances and skits, the use of science equipment,hands on definition building activities, science warm-up stretches, and science student helpers.Including movement in science can help improve African American learner’s achievementinscience as well as all students’ achievement in science. This claim is strengthened by theNational Assessment of Educational Progress (2012), which shows that 8thgrade students whoengage in hands on activities and investigation in science on a daily basis score much higher onthe science assessment than students who do not engage in such daily activity.In order to create optimal learning for all students, stations in a science classroom are auseful way to keep students moving around the classroom in a rhythmic, time-segmented motion.They can be used for most lessons and can add depth to the lesson plan. Whether a classroomteacher chooses to use multiple or simple lab stations, science concepts are enhanced throughapplication. Observation walks are an easy way to incorporate movement in the scienceclassroom because no materials are needed. Observation walks include going outside to buildvocabulary or adding relevance to the curriculum being taught. During observation walksstudents can identify the following: outdoor chemical and physical changes, simple andcompound machines used around the school, and weathering around the school.The list of usesfor observation walks is endless; how the walks are executed truly depends upon theimaginations of students and their teacher. Another technique used to include movement in thescience classroom is story talk with hands. In this technique you take any science concept andcreate a story with hand motions in order to help students remember the concept.Usingvocabulary anchors with motion is similar to story talk with hands, but instead of describing acycle or set of concepts, vocabulary anchors explain just one word.
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE21Concept review dances and concept review skits are a great way to incorporatemovement into the science classroom. Students are challenged to create dances and skits thatreview science safety, the water cycle, the rock cycle, or any other major concept beingdiscussed in science. The dances and skits can be assessed on accuracy of knowledge acquiredand is a great way for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Using science equipmentin the classroom is a natural way to incorporate movement into the science classroom. Fromhand lenses to microscopes for observing, to test tubes and scalpels for labs, most scienceequipment requires some form of movement. Hands-on definition building includes a process ofbuilding vocabulary through motion and then discovering the definition. A kinesthetic activitythat builds vocabulary involves using play dough to describe the difference between elementsand compounds. Every class can begin with a kinesthetic routine, which gives learners insightinto the topic of the day. Another simple, yet effective strategy is designating day helpers. If astudent needs more movement within the classroom than what is provided for that day’s lesson,then that student can become the science student helper for the day. This role allows students tobe active participants, modeling different science concepts.All of the above techniques are useful ways to incorporate movement into the scienceclassroom so that equitable learning opportunities can be created for all learners. As thoroughlyexplained, implementing some form of movement into daily science lessons will improveachievement in science for African American learners.Regardless of strategy’s complexity,student learning is strengthened.ConclusionIn order for our nation to obtain and sustain economic stability, the present and futurestudents in our classrooms, which are becoming increasingly more diverse, must be engaged andliterate in science. This competency must be developed at an early stage in order for STEMoccupations to better represent the population. Reflecting on Thompsons (2004) three stageprocess of reform, which includes self-analysis, reflection , and an action plan, this paperprovides a guideline to reform the science classroom so as to improvement the achievement levelof African American students in science.It is the job of educators to be explorers and facilitators of knowledge, not directors of aset ideology from a standard curriculum. Kuykendall (2004) states, “teachers must be able toembrace the use of a variety of teaching strategies that reflect individual and institutionalappreciation of cultural diversity and learning style differences” (p. 13). If educators are willingto make this change in dialogue and pedagogical practices, then they will see a transformation intheir classrooms. Diverse student groups, including African American students, will beginconstructing knowledge, rather than reproducing it. Most importantly, all students will gain equaleducational opportunities, furthering their future and the future of America.ReferencesAssociation for Career and Technical Education.(2009). CTE’s role in science, technology,engineering & math.Association for Career and Technical Education Issue Brief.Retrieved from http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/ACTE_STEMIssueBrief.pdf
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE22Boykin, A. W. (1992) Reformulating educational reform: Toward the proactive schooling ofAfrican American children. Retrieved fromhttp://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED 367725Boykin, A. W. (1994). Afrocultural expression and its implications for schooling. In E. Hollins,J. King, &W. Hayman (Eds.), Teaching diverse populations: Formulating a knowledgebase (pp. 243-273). New York, NY: State University of New York Press.Boykin, A. W., & Bailey, C. T. (2000).The role of cultural factors in school relevant cognitivefunctioning: Description of home environmental factors, cultural orientations, andlearning preferences. Retrieved from http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report43.pdfBoykin, A. W., & Cunningham, R. T. (2001). The effects of movement expressiveness in storycontent and learning context on the analogical reasoning performance of AfricanAmerican children.The Journal of Negro Education, 70(1/2), 72-83.Carter, N. (2003). Convergence or divergence: Alignment of standards, assessment and issues ofdiversity. Washington, DC: AACTE Publications.Cole, J. M., & Boykin, A. W. (2008). Examining culturally structured learning environmentswith different types of music-linked movement opportunity. Journal of BlackPsychology, 34(3),331-355.doi: 10.1177/0095798408314137Darling-Hammond, L. (2010).The flat world and education: How America’s commitment toequity will determine our future. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.Ellison, C. M., Boykin, A. W., Towns, D. P., & Stokes, A. (2000). Classroom cultural ecology:The dynamic of classroom life in schools serving low-income African Americanchildren.Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 11(4), 339-350.doi: 10.1037/1099-9809.11.4.339Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching.Journal of Teacher Education,53(106), 106-116.Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice(2nded.). NewYork, NY: Teachers College Press.Imbornoni, A. M. (2007). Black scientist and inventors. Retrieved fromhttp://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmscientists1.htmlKahle, J. B. (1989). Images of scientist: Gender issues in sciences classrooms. What ResearchSays to the Science and Mathematics Teacher, (4), 4-8. Retrieved fromhttp://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED370785.pdfKharem, H. (2006). A curriculum of repression: A pedagogy of racial history in the UnitedStates. New York, NY: Peter Lang.Kozol, J. (2005). The shame of the nation: The restoration of the apartheid schooling inAmerica. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.Kuykendall, C. (2004). From rage to hope: Strategies for reclaiming Black and Hispanicstudents. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dream-keepers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.LeBlanc , J., &Larke, P. J. (2011). Culturally responsive teaching in science. National Forum ofMulticultural Issues Journal, 8(2), 40-51.
JENNIFER K. LEBLANC and ABIOLA A. FARINDE23Lewis, C. W., James, M., Hancock, S., & Hill-Jackson, V. (2008). Framing African Americanstudent’ success and failure in urban setting: A typology for change. Urban Education,43(2), 127-153.National Center for Education Statistics.(2006).National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP), Science Assessment. Washington, DC. Retrieved fromhttp://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/report.aspxNational Center for Education Statistics.(2009), National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP), Science Assessment. Washington, DC: Author.National Center for Education Statistics.(2011), National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP), Science Assessment. Washington, DC: Author.Neal, L., McCray, A., Webb-Johnson, &Bridgest, S. (2003). The effects of African Americanmovement styles on teachers’ perceptions and reactions.The Journal of SpecialEducation, 37(1), 49-57.Powell, L. (1990). Factors associated with the underrepresentation of African Americans inmathematics and science. The Journal of Negro Education, 59(3), 292-298.Riegle-Crumb, C., Moore, C., & Ramos-Wada, A. (2010). Who wants to have a career in scienceor math? Exploring adolescents future aspirations by gender and race/ethnicity.ScienceEducation, 95(3), 458-476. doi:10.1002/sce.20431Thompson, G. L. (2004). Through ebony eyes: What teachers need to know but are afraid to askabout African American students. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Willis, M. (1989). Learning styles of African American children: A review of the literature andinterventions. The Journal of Black Psychology, 16(1), 47-65.