- INFLUENCE OF CULTURE ON LEARNING
“If we understand the pervasive influence culture has on human life—how it envelops and nurtures a particular people and provides them with a general design for living and patterns for interpreting reality, it becomes clear why culture must be the starting point for all learning. And when we observe the obvious cultural differences among various groups of people in our country, it is clear that each group’s starting point for learning needs to be different.”
Wade W. Nobles
It is important to note that African Americans, like most groups in America, are culturally complex; but despite this variety, most African Americans continue to share elements of a common culture. These characteristics are grounded both in African culture and in the experiences of African Americans in North America.
Research and study by a long line of African, African American, and other scholars from the late nineteenth century to the present has generated a substantial bank of knowledge on African and African American culture. Contemporary historians, educators, psychologists, artists, and others are continually adding to this body of work. Nine themes that have been identified as prominent in African American culture are: Spirituality, Resilience, Humanism, Communalism, Orality and Verbal Expressiveness, Realness, Personal Style and Uniqueness, Emotional Vitality, and Musicality/Rhythm.
Akbar (1976), Asante (1987), Boykin (1979, 1994), Dixon (1976), Karenga (1986), Mbiti (1970), Nobles (1986a, 1990), Pasteur and Toldson (1982), Richards (1990), and White (1984)
- RESEARCH ON SUCCESSFUL TEACHERS
America’s schools are failing to educate to any degree of excellence large numbers of students, mainly from low-income communities. Many of these students are of African American ancestry. Studies of successful teachers, however, show that this failure is preventable. An analysis of successful teachers, who are of various ethnicities, reveals that their lesson content and educational practices are built on the culture of their students. Their teaching is culture centered. The 14 components of Touching the Spirit™ are the teaching and learning patterns and practices that effective teachers use. As teachers use the patterns and practices of the framework, so prominent in African and African American culture, they realize that these principles speak to students of all cultures.
Watch this video clip of Augusta’s demonstration of this powerful “performance” strategy to accelerate the acquisition of important background knowledge for underperforming students
- THE NEED FOR ACCELERATION
A footnote to successful teachers’ use of culture-centered principles and strategies is the understanding that when students are deficient in the skills and knowledge in the standard curriculum, they must be taught at an accelerated pace in order to catch up before they can move forward. Teachers who use the same methods and materials for all students often overlook this fact. This essential acceleration requires a different set of teaching and learning models than those presently used in most schools.
- PRINCIPLES OF BRAIN-BASED LEARNING
Knowledge from the neurosciences supports our work in culture-centered education and our belief in the need to use new and varied approaches to teaching and learning. The use of brain-based principles deepens our work with culture-centered approaches as they fold so neatly into African American cultural themes. The findings of scientists regarding the positive effects of music on learning, the strong link between novelty and attention, the power of emotions on cognition, the role of movement in learning, and the brain-based need for social relationships all connect to main African American cultural strands.