Touching the Spirit: The Two-Part Framework

TOUCHING THE SPIRIT is Augusta Mann’s original, research-based teaching modality that achieves success by utilizing culture in the achievement of educational excellence for African American and other students. It is based on two areas of research: the culture, history, and language of African American people, and successful teachers of African American students and students of other ethnicities whom our schools are failing to educate to high standards.

A review of the research on successful teachers of African American students provides us with many examples of how these teachers—of various ethnic backgrounds—recognize the important role of culture in education. They understand that a people’s sense of reality is grounded in their culture.

These teachers learn about their students’ history, culture, language, background knowledge, and experiences and then use this information to develop learning activities that empower their students and connect to their interests and involvement. The Touching the Spirit framework helps guide teachers in these processes.

Its effectiveness rests on five African American teaching and learning patterns used within the context of nine supportive practices.

African American Teaching and Learning Patterns


  • Affirmations/performances


  • In music, speech, and movement


  • Oral performance/memorization


  • To enhance meaningfulness


  • Relationships of love, respect, and belonging
  • Recognizing ties between humans and nature
  • Scientific study of patterns in nature and the phenomenal world
  • Making connections between schoolwork and students’ life experiences

Nine Supportive Practices

  1. Expectations of Excellence
  2. Continual Search for Patterns
  3. Insistence on Working Toward Mastery
  4. Teacher Modeling of Skills and Processes
  5. Intensive Direct Instruction and Practice
  6. Study of African and African American Philosophical Thought
  7. Focus on Discourse, Inquiry, and Creative and Symbolic Thinking
  8. Using Knowledge for Transformative Social Criticism and Community Action
  9. In-Depth Study and Performance of African and African American Culture and Extensive Study of African and African American History.

Download the Touching the Spirit:  The Two Part Framework