New research to address cultural competence and trauma when teaching African American students

By 

Clinical Assistant Professor Tina O'Neal

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect education and worldwide protests triggered by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor headline the news, African American students are particularly susceptible to trauma and race-based traumatic stress.

A new study led by Tina O’Neal, Clinical Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction, aims to address that trauma by improving the cultural competence of teacher candidates and current teachers.

“Studies have indicated that both historical and race-based trauma can have a direct impact on an individual's social, emotional and academic learning,” O’Neal explained. “Integrating culturally responsive pedagogy and trauma-informed education helps to combat these issues by not only taking an empathetic approach, but also acknowledging the harmful impacts of traumatic situations and implementing strategies to address the individual needs of students.”

 

With the current state of our country, current and future teachers need to enter their classrooms with cultural competence and the ability to acknowledge injustices and effectively interact with African American students.

Clinical Assistant Professor Tina O'Neal

By integrating trauma-informed training practices with culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) into an urban early field setting for IU teacher candidates, O’Neal’s study aims to explore racial and cultural biases amongst teacher candidates, improve teacher candidates' implementation of race/cultural-competent and critical-conscious strategies within their lesson plans and instruction and support teachers in realizing, recognizing, responding and resisting re-traumatization in the classroom.

Participants in O’Neal’s study will complete the Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparedness Scale (CRTPS) before and after Urban Education Professional Development Modules. They will also participate in Urban Education Field Experience online workshops, which consist of literature, videos and guided mini-presentations on use of diverse teaching strategies, the four elements of the TIE system, culturally responsive pedagogy and supportive learning environment reflecting the culture of African American students.

Document review of lesson plans will be explored to identify evidence of CRP and TIE approaches in each teacher candidate's lesson plans. In addition, with the use of Go React, an interactive teaching tool for providing feedback, grading and critiquing videos currently being used by the Office of Teacher Education, recorded lessons will be reviewed to identify whether teacher candidates are implementing CRP and TIE approaches in their delivery of instruction.  Participants will then engage in focus group discussions to reflect on pertinent literature, experiences, and takeaways, with some selected to participate in a semi-structure interview.

O’Neal hopes her work will bring awareness of the importance of recognizing how racial injustice can cause trauma and impact social, emotional and academic progress for African American students. The importance of this work has already been recognized by IU; her project was recently awarded a grant from the IU Racial Justice Research Fund.

“With the current state of our country, current and future teachers need to enter their classrooms with cultural competence and the ability to acknowledge injustices and effectively interact with African American students,” O’Neal added. “Understanding and committing to the principles of culturally responsive pedagogy and integrating the practices of trauma-informed care is a great starting point for building bridges and making a deeper connection with African American students.”

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