Winter Convocation Examines Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

January 23, 2020

The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) hosted the 2020 Winter Convocation on January 22 at 199 Chambers Street. This year’s theme centered on Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Engagement (CRSE).

A CRSE framework helps faculty and staff create a learning environment that affirms cultural diversity and identifies students’ experiences and background as assets and resources according to the 2018-2019 BMCC Designing for Success Pedagogy working group.

BMCC Interim President Karrin E. Wilks welcomed convocation participants to Theatre One and noted that consistently delivering culturally-responsive lessons will help to engage BMCC students by positioning diversity as a strength.

Wilks said in 2016, the college began reporting on success outcomes disaggregated by race, ethnicity and gender, from developmental education to first year outcomes to retention, graduation, successful transfer and baccalaureate attainment through the BMCC Student Success Report Card. Data showed performance gaps, especially for Black and Latino males, with equity gaps that are stubborn and resistant to change.

“We can proudly report that we have closed the equity gap for Latina women, and that we have put in place several new programs and interventions to provide better support for Black and Latino males, including expanding successful peer mentoring and small cohort programs, and reaching out to students with low high school GPA’s multiple times in their first semester, given our findings that high school GPA is highly predictive of first year success,” said Wilks.

Keynote Speaker Shares Story of Teacher Who Changed his Life

The event’s keynote speaker was David E. Kirkland, executive director of The New York University (NYU) Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools. He framed the premise of his presentation around the fact that a majority of students in U.S. public schools qualify for free or reduced lunches, are students of color and most of them are vulnerable.

“Most paradigms in education have not been designed in response to the needs of these needs of these vulnerable learners,” Kirkland said. “Here at BMCC, we’re tasked with educating the most vulnerable, who may have not had their needs met in their past educational experiences.”

Kirkland said the objective of his work was to change the story, by humanizing the work of education so it meets the needs of the nation’s most vulnerable learners. Kirkland talked about growing up in East Detroit and the life-changing impact one teacher had after she had figured out he was homeless and breaking into a school at night so he could sleep on the janitor’s closet couch.

One day, that teacher gave him a detention. When he showed up, in addition to helping the teacher grade papers, she gave him an apple and a sandwich. Later one night, he went into the janitor’s closet and found a bag with his name on it. It was filled with neatly folded clothes.

“Part of culturally responsive pedagogy. (CRP) is paying attention,” said Kirkland. “Because of a teacher’s food, time and gifts, I was able to get through one of the hardest periods of my life.”

Kirkland said, CRP is not just about teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day, or featuring a book by a LatinX author because there are Latino students. Instead, it’s about responding to and sustaining the soul of all students.

“We can succeed when you all believe that we can succeed,” he said.

Featured guest Kirsten Grant, Clinical Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College, closed out the speaker program with a talk on Implicit Bias. Grant explained that many biases exist beyond the conscious. As part of her presentation, she led audience members through several online tests at Harvard University’s Project Implicit.

Working sessions explore culturally responsive pedagogy

After the speakers’ program, faculty members attended various working sessions where they examined culturally responsive pedagogy through the lens of hiring and appointments, universal design, revising a whole course, grading, the multilingual classroom and more.

Among the working sessions was “Revising a Whole Course with CRP,” led by Teacher Education Professor Cara Kronen and Business Management Professor Orlando Justo.

Faculty members participated in exercises and also discussed how they could articulate what CRP actually is. One professor in the group suggested CRP meant meeting knowing and meeting students where they are. The professors in the group mostly agreed it was important to understand the challenges individual students face daily such as work, housing security, food insecurity or raising children on limited incomes.

Kronen asked the group how do we know who our students are?

Citing Kirkland’s earlier presentation, one faculty member said “he asked if we were looking at who are students really are, verses who we would like them to be,” she said. “Our imagined BMCC student is well fed, well rested and has completely bought into the value of education, has a strong social network at home.”

Is that true for everybody, maybe some of them, but certainly not all she concluded.

In another working group called “Identity Mapping,” led by Argenis Rodriguez and Mayulie Luciano, participants were presented with case studies and statements and asked to respond and reflect on self-identify. Among the case studies discussed was how to handle situations where a professor questions whether or not a student truly needs an accommodation.

One participant noted how important it is to reflect on the BMCC mission and vision and remind everyone who works at the college what that is.

“Our student’s success is our success,” she said.

After the working sessions, participants gathered in the faculty dining room for a refreshments and presentations.

When the day concluded, organizers said the event was a success.

“We are very pleased with the energy and activity generated by the event,” said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Jim Berg. “BMCC faculty and staff are engaged with the concepts related to culturally responsive pedagogies and as President Wilks pointed out, our students are already benefitting.”

The convocation’s faculty planning committee included: Edna Asknes, Margaret Carson, Vincent Cheng, Leslie Craigo, Janet Esquirole, Jen Gilken, Benjamin Haas, Maureen Keenan. Staff: Maketa Barber, Gina Cherry, Christopher Medellin, Greer McPhaden, Siddharth Ramakrishnan, Sharon Reid..

For full descriptions of working sessions featured at the winter convocation, visit the event webpage.

  • Using CRP to Engage Students on the First Day of Class: Presenters, Vincent Cheng and Maureen Keenan.
  • Identity Mapping: Presenters, Argenis A. Rodriguez and Mayulie Luciano. 
  • Revising a Whole Course with CRP:  Cara Kronen and Orlando Justo. 
  • CRP in Hiring and Appointments: Presenters, Lesley Rennis and Greer McPhaden.
  • Understanding and Responding to Student Resistance to Culturally Responsive/Relevant/Sustaining Practice: Presenters, Leslie Craigo, Cecilia Scott Croff. 
  • Universal Design for Learning: Presenters, Jen Longley and Jen Gilken.
  • Creating a CRP-informed Assignment or Activity: Presenters, Margaret Carson and Jonathan Cabrera.
  • Incorporating CRP in grading: Presenters, Hollis Glaser, Ewa Barnes, and Yolanda Medina.
  • Using CRP to Destigmatize Support: Presenters, Ashtian Holmes and Robert Cortez. 
  • Facilitating Difficult Conversations In and Out of Class: Presenters, Ian Wentworth and Amy Ojerholm.
  • Transforming the College: Presenters, Benjamin Haas and Maureen Matarese.
  • Incorporating CRP into Your Syllabus: Presenters, Edna Asknes and Judith Anderson.
  • Cultivating a Multi-lingual Classroom: Presenters,  Rifat Salam and Jules Salomone
  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Science, Technology and Math: Presenters, Siddarth Ramakrishnan.

  • BMCC’s 2020 Winter Convocation focuses on culturally responsive pedagogy, one that sees difference as an asset.
  • Keynote speaker was David E. Kirkland, Executive Director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Researchon Equity and The Transformation of Schools.
  • Featured guest speaker Kirsten Grant, Clinical Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College, discussed Implicit Bias.

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