UHD Faculty Address Culturally Responsive Teaching’s Impact on Gifted Students
New Text Features Essays from UHD Professors
By Mike Emery
Diversity in K-12 schools yields many rewards for students. Working and learning alongside peers from different backgrounds, they learn empathy, open-mindedness and confidence.
Such lessons are indeed beneficial, but both curriculum and educator training has struggled to catch up to culturally evolving classrooms … particularly those housing gifted students.
The University of Houston-Downtown's College of Public Service and its Department of Urban Education has long prepared educators for the changing face of K-12 education. Among its faculty’s latest efforts in supporting teachers is a new book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education: Building Cultural Competence and Serving Diverse Student Populations.”
The book expands on the teaching model Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and its relevance for gifted learners.
CRT provides pathways for educators to intersect students’ life and learning experiences. It has traditionally supported teachers in developing classroom strategies that identify with the cultural backgrounds of their students. These may include learning more about individual students through interviews or one-on-one exercises; using media depicting different cultures; featuring guest speakers who can offer varying cultural perspectives; using students’ vocabulary to build understanding of different subjects; or creating a friendly, competitive framework for lessons (or gamifying lessons).
The book, said co-editor Dr. Matthew Fugate, addresses the importance of CRT as it relates to those learners demonstrating high levels of aptitude, academic achievement, leadership or creativity … or gifted students.
“Our goal with this book was to extend the understanding of CRT to the myriad of diverse populations of gifted learners, many of whom have been marginalized,” said Fugate, Assistant Chair and Assistant Professor of Urban Education. “To accomplish this, the book is organized in a series of essays that looks at ‘Culturally Responsive Practice’; ‘Race, Ethnicity and Culture’; and ‘Gender, Sex and Sense of Self.’ The authors of these essays gifted us with powerful and often deeply personal stories that highlight the experiences of these students.”
According to Fugate, CRT is critical in teachers’ understanding of their students' strengths, needs, cultural backgrounds and families. Such insights can effectively help teachers shape students’ educational experiences.
Among the scholars who contributed to the text are Dr. Bernardo Pohl, Associate Professor of Urban Education and Dr. Nina Barbieri, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice. Both Pohl and Barbieri collaborated on the chapter “Implicit Bias: Challenges in the Classroom.”
“Most educators get into this career because of a desire to help, and certainly a wish to help all students equally," Barbieri said. "Unfortunately, the inadvertent and yet potentially insidious nature of implicit biases pose a particular challenge. With that in mind, Dr. Pohl and I offer some suggestions on ways to ensure an inclusive learning environment”
Additionally, Dr. Jace Valcore, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, co-authored the chapter “Transgender and Nonbinary Youth” with Teresa Manzella.
"This chapter is highly relevant for primary and secondary educators because it provides an introduction to the lives and experiences of trans youth, an overview of gender and diverse gender identities, discussion of the current social context, and a description of best practices for creating and maintaining inclusive educational spaces for trans and nonbinary youth," Valcore said.
The content for “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education” was gathered during the turbulent events of 2020. Beyond the challenges of the pandemic, educators and students alike witnessed racial and social unrest within our nation. The text, said Fugate, is very much a response to such events and addresses the need of tailoring CRT for a specific population of learners.
“As the events of the summer 2020 unfolded, we came to realize that this text’s true focus had to be about the need for culturally responsive practices that recognize the gifts and talents that exist among the diversity of our students today,” Fugate said. “This book was journey of self-discovery and reflection for each of us involved.”
Fugate’s co-editors on “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education” include Wendy Behrens, Gifted and Talented Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education; Dr. Cecelia Boswell, founder of Austin Creek Education Systems; and Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, award-winning scholar and independent consultant.
“This book, and others like it, can serve as an important professional learning tool for educators and administrators who are working to create more culturally responsive schools and learning environments for their diverse gifted populations,” Fugate said. “The authors who contributed essays to this work included not only scholars in gifted education, but practitioners in schools, and parents. They offer critical perspectives to this topic that will prove enlightening and informative for today’s teachers.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.