A Microgenetic Approach to Inquiry-Based Language and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A Framework for Early Childhood Teacher-Student Interactions

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A Microgenetic Approach to Inquiry-Based Language and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A Framework for Early Childhood Teacher-Student Interactions
From the Edited Volume
Edited By:
Catherine Langridge
Content

Abstract

Early childhood educators differ in their understanding of program quality. Although most agree that teacher-student interactions are a critical component of student learning, some argue there is a one-size-fits-all approach to daily interactions that reflects the dominant, white community. This mindset is problematic as early childhood classrooms reflect a mosaic of students with diverse backgrounds. Assuming all students must conform to one way of speaking (or doing) reflects deficit thinking and hinders the academic achievement of marginalized students. To promote equitable classrooms and counter deficit perspectives, we propose coupling culturally sensitive styles of teacher-student interactions with inquiry-based language. Highly effective classrooms are those where knowledge unfolds as teachers and students share ideas, reason, and reflect through shared dialogue. Promoting use of inquiry-based (IB) and culturally responsive and sensitive (CR/S) language strategies, often lacking in the preschool space, can improve teachers’ ‘perspective taking’ and the sharing of ideas between communicative partners. To address this need, we conducted a preliminary case study to examine teachers’ use of discrete IBL and CRL behaviors, and their impact on student participation. Results revealed a low rate of teachers’ IBL and CRL. Student participation increased with teachers’ CRL, even when rates of IBL were low. Future work aims to use this microgenetic approach to examine whether and how teachers’ IBL and CRL can promote children’s engagement and, ultimately, learning.

Keywords

Early Childhood Education, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Teacher-Student Interaction, Deficit Model, Language Equity and Inclusivity

Introduction

Early childhood classrooms in the US are a mosaic of students with distinctly different ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, linguistic, cultural, religious, and neural attributes, e.g., children living in poverty, Black children, Latine children, Native American children, and dual language learners (Paschall et al., 2020). Yet early childhood teachers do not mirror this mosaic. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2020), 80% of schools with majority Black or Hispanic students have teachers who identify as white. This racial mismatch, together with a broader set of factors such as underfunded school districts and disproportionality in discipline rates, contribute to differences in performance on standardized tests. However, research suggests that dialogic forms of interaction that include inquiry-based talk can foster the academic achievement of students of color (Geier et al., 2008; Wilson, Taylor, Kowalski, & Carlson, 2010), narrow the gap in program quality (Bassok & Galdo, 2016; Jensen, Grajeda, & Haertel et al., 2018; Jensen et al., 2020) and advance children’s learning (Mercer & Littleton, 2007) and their willingness to participate. Thus, we propose a model for integrating Culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2010) with inquiry-based (IB) language to promote student success in early childhood classrooms.

One of the most enduring barriers to culturally grounded teaching is deficit thinking among educators and school administrators. This perspective situates school failure within students’ minds, bodies, cultures, and communities (Dudley-Marling, 2015; Valencia, 1997). We can recognize deficit thinking when teachers hold minoritized students to low standards, believing students lack the motivation, home support, or ability to succeed in school. To counter deficit thinking, critics point to institutional and contextual factors that shape (and minimize) opportunities for learning, i.e., the opportunity gap (Milner, 2006). Deficit thinking hinders students’ academic achievement and sense of belonging in classrooms and undermines educational reform (Garcia & Guerra, 2004; Valencia et al., 2001). For instance, teachers’ cultural deficit beliefs are unique predictors of negative perceptions of the behaviors of Black boys (yet no relation to perceptions of those of white boys) (Legette et al., 2021). White educators disproportionally endorse deficit models of students of color, thus contributing to a cycle of racial disproportionality in education (Voulgarides et al., 2021).

One way to potentially overcome the impact of a deficit model is for teachers to couple culturally sensitive styles of interaction with quality pedagogy. Highly effective classrooms are those where knowledge unfolds among teachers and students as they share ideas, reason, problem-solve, and reflect through shared dialogue (Hennessey et al., 2021). The active engagement between teachers and students and the extent to which children can build on their own and others’ ideas in collaborative and collective ways relates to student learning and an overall positive sense of school (Howe et al., 2019).

Educational dialogue (Mercer, 2019) explores the conditions that best support quality, inquiry-based dialogue among all learners (Kershner, 2020; Kershner et al., 2020) through perspective taking and the sharing of ideas between communicative partners. However, when participants have distinctly different backgrounds, teachers need an understanding of students’ lived experiences outside the classroom, which may require them to actively seek out information about their students and families, especially in the face of the mosaic described above. Children from diverse backgrounds participate less in classroom discourse and have fewer opportunities to engage with teachers (Langeloo, 2019). Differences between home and school language varieties, practices, and expectations may create a roadblock to effective dialogue (Delpit, 2005; Alim, 2008). Moving away from a ‘standard way of doing and being’ allows teachers to build a roadmap for equitable practices by uncovering the skills and knowledge that diverse students bring into the educational space from home and community–coined funds of knowledge—as a platform for teaching and learning. This approach can counter deficit thinking among teachers as they develop a critical (social) consciousness and cultural competence and value students’ home and community heritage, language, and practices. For this reason, teachers’ ability to create culturally responsive and sensitive classrooms from which to lead inquiry-based (IB) instruction and dialogic exchanges can transform student learning as schools become more responsive and supportive of all students (Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1. Bridging Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Inquiry-Based Language to Promote Effective Classroom Dialogue

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP) is one of the most prominent and promising approaches to supporting student learning and addressing racial disparities in academic achievement (Gay, 2010). Popularized by Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995), a pioneer of this work, CRP is “a combination of knowledge, practices, and dispositions that center racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse students’ cultural traditions, experiences, and perspectives to facilitate meaningful and transformative learning opportunities” (Gist, et al., 2019, pg. 3). In her call for racial equity, Ladson-Billings urged the educational community to center the strengths of Black, Asian, Latine and Indigenous children and their communities in the classroom. Her research moved educators away from asking questions about the gaps or needs of diverse learners and laid the groundwork for teachers to understand what we gain by tapping into the skills and knowledge of all children. To achieve this, Ladson-Billings explains, educators must begin to understand and address the structural inequities and social injustices that exist in our classrooms and communities.

Ladson-Billings outlined three tenets of CRP. First, students must experience academic success. Next, students must develop and maintain cultural competence. Finally, students must develop critical consciousness and challenge the status quo of their social order. We summarize these tenets below and provide examples of each relevant to early childhood educators.

Academic Success

The purpose of schooling is to equip children with academic skills. Children vary in how they acquire those skills, in what conditions, and for what broader purposes. To contribute to society, children have a range of knowledge and competencies in math, literacy, technology, science, history, and politics. Thus, culturally responsive pedagogy calls for teachers to foster students’ academic skills while cultivating their intrinsic motivation for academic excellence and finding avenues for routing children’s skill sets in academically relevant ways.

Cultural Competence

Culturally responsive pedagogy advocates for teachers to use children’s cultural backgrounds as vehicles for learning. For instance, when reading bilingual books, educators can encourage students to help them pronounce words and elaborate on how they use them in their communities. This approach demonstrates to students that their home languages and cultural expertise are valued, thus granting them agency to contribute to class discussions in ways that bridge their cultural assets with academic materials. In addition to engaging children as cultural experts, teachers can call upon children’s families to learn about the skills they develop at home and then channel these skills toward academic success in the classroom. CRP positions teachers as learners who seek to expand their understanding of children’s home environments and cultural capacities and integrate their experiences into classroom settings.

Critical Consciousness

Finally, culturally responsive pedagogy encourages educators to instill in children the capacity to recognize and critique the cultural norms, values, and institutions that produce and maintain social inequalities. Fostering critical consciousness is relevant to students of all ages, since children begin to recognize and reinforce social hierarchies as early as toddlerhood (e.g., Lee, et al., 2017; Sharif, et al., 2022). Early childhood educators can foster children’s critical consciousness by diversifying ethnic/racial and gender representation of characters in books, for instance. In doing so, they can prompt dialogue with students about why and when differences between people matter and collectively generate ideas that foster how to treat all members of all groups in fair and just ways.

CRP is especially relevant to teacher preparation programs that aim to prepare educators for meaningful and equitable ways of engaging their increasingly diverse student body. However, when we look closely at the ECE community of practice, quality is outlined in ways that lack a focus on inclusivity. The current state of ECE begs the question, are young children engaged and excited? Are interactions with students centered in culturally relevant and meaningful experiences? Do teachers provide positive, stimulating experiences for all children? Are interactions between teachers and children from diverse backgrounds authentic and meaningful? What is the impact of teachers being colorblind to race? To respond to this call, we apply the tenets of CRP to early childhood education and reconceptualize quality classroom experiences rooted in a culturally responsive framework that places teachers’ use of cultural and linguistically sensitive dialogue at its core.

Quality Early Childhood Education

High-quality early childhood education (ECE) is essential to a strong start in life, benefiting children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development during their first five years (Pearman et al., 2020; Yang et al., 2021). Research has linked high-quality ECE to children’s school readiness, long-term academic success, and later adult outcomes (e.g., economic, health, and cognitive and social-emotional skills) (Burchinal et al., 2011; Elango et al., 2015; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016; Heckman & Karapakula, 2019). As teachers, researchers, and policymakers, our focus must be on ensuring that ECE improves the lives and experiences of young children. Past work shows how quality ECE programs engage and excite children about learning (Helburn & Howes, 1996; Justice et al., 2008; Mashburn et al., 2008; Yoshikawa et al., 2013) and relate to positive developmental outcomes (Burchinal et al., 2010). Effective classrooms allow children to be active participants in positive and stimulating teacher-child interactions that drive student learning (Cabell et al., 2011; Harme et al., 2013; Guerrero-Rosada et al., 2021; Langeloo, 2021; Maeir & Young, 2009; Pianta et al. 2016; Pianta et al., 2014). These interactions are essential contributors to children’s development of academic and social skills (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; Dickinson et al., 2010; Downer et al., 2010; Levya et al., 2015; Yoshikawa et al., 2013), and vocabulary skills, in particular (Dickinson & Porche, 2011; Sun & Verspoor, 2020; Weisleder & Fernald, 2013).

Classroom dialogue, i.e., the language embedded in interactions with children—is closely related to learning and achievement (Darling-Hammond & Branford, 2005; Girolametto et al., 2003; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Language practices—what teachers say and how they say it—promote children’s critical thinking and encourage concept development (Mercer, 2019). Further, teachers who take the time to understand the funds of knowledge (González, et al., 2005) their students bring to the classroom and then maximize daily classroom interactions by scaffolding those skills in cognitively and culturally rich ways become mediators of student success.

Teachers’ Linguistic Sensitivity and Responsiveness

Teachers’ role in children’s preschool success is of particular interest considering the expansion of ECE programs and the growing body of research illustrating the importance of ECE and instructional support for students of color who are often underserved in the classroom (Maier et al., 2022). And while recent U.S. Department of Education data indicates that center-based care is the most usual form of care utilized by white, Black, and Latine children from birth through age five (Cui & Natzke, 2021), these studies indicate quality ECE is out of reach for many racially and linguistically diverse families (Burchinal et al., 2008; Morgan 2019; Bogart, 2008). When discussing standards of quality, this body of research often references the importance of teacher-student interactions, highlighting instructional dialogue and responsive feedback, among other factors (Pianta, 2022). Responsive language that elicits intersubjectivity – and moves children toward a shared purpose and focus on shared spaces—promotes participation (Rogoff, 1990) and learning (Howe et al., 2019). These cognitively rich forms of teacher-student interactions “stimulate students’ critical thinking and help to develop (their) deep knowledge and understanding” and are related to learning and positive attitudes towards learning (CEDiR, n.d., Duncan, 2003; Howe et al., 2019; Mascareno et al., 2017). Much of the past work centered around academic language or classroom talk (van Kleeck, 2014) and has focused on (how certain types of language (e.g., using multi-clause grammatical constructions) and cognitive practices (e.g., using language to reason) support learning (Howe and Abedin, 2013).

Traditionally, academic language is a single language ideology positioned as a “more advanced and more complex version of … English” is believed to be an important yardstick of a quality preschool experience (MacSwan, 2020). It is prevalent in preschools (Burke Hadley, 2022) and includes complex syntax, abstract ideas, figurative language, ‘standard’ narrative structure, and content vocabulary (Luna, 2017). Teachers’ use of academic language is widely cited as a critical element in ECE programs (Snow and Uccelli, 2009) in that it is related to children’s later academic and literacy success (Dickinson and Porche, 2011; van Kleeck, 2014).

However, although mastery of the linguistic elements of academic language link to developing literacy and language competence, they fail to create an inviting and relevant language space for all students. Strict adherence to academic language can limit opportunities for teachers and children to bring diverse language ideologies and practices into the folds of the preschool classroom and further promote growth and achievement (Baker-Bell, 2020).

To address this tension, we examined teachers’ inquiry-based language (IBL)—rather than looking at academic language per se—as we aim to expand on the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research Group’s (CEDiR) emphasis on educational dialogue and language interaction. The following language practices and identified as critical to children’s participation in the context of all cultural practices, languages, registers, and forms: (1) building on children’s ideas, (2) inviting children to talk about their reasoning, (3) challenging student thinking, and (4) connecting students’ thinking to contributions, knowledge, and experiences beyond their immediate context (T-SEDA Collective, 2021). Understanding the language strategies at work in the preschool space and how these strategies can assert cultural and linguistic diversity in early childhood classrooms is vital to our understanding of how to best prime children for success in the primary grades.

Students’ Funds of Knowledge

Teachers’ linguistic and cultural responsiveness situated in a broader classroom ecology is co-constructed by both students and educators (e.g., Bruner, 1978; Chapman, 2000; Donato & McCormick, 1994; Nasir et al., 2006; Solano-Campos, et al., 2020; Vygotsky, 1978). In diverse classrooms, varied cultural histories and ideologies that shape styles of engagement and modes of teaching and learning can be at odds with one another (Bornstein, 2002; Bruner, 1983, 1990; Chavajay & Rogoff, 1999; 27 Keller, 2007; Rogoff, 1990; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1983, 1986; Thomas, 2001; Wellman & Phillips, 2001; Vigil, 1999; Wundt, 1912). For instance, autonomous, independent ideologies of Western communities that value assertiveness and individual growth are consistent with white, monolingual, middle-income teachers. These teachers hold in high regard reciprocal input, timeliness, and linearity (Heath, 1983). In contrast, Latine heritage families ascribe to a greater sense of collectivism, focusing on respect and group harmony to achieve a broader goal (Chavajay & Rogoff, 2002), stressing cooperation and mutual responsibility. This type of horizontal organization is often portrayed as the child’s role as an active listener rather than as an agent or participator. Thus, this group of children comes into the early childhood space relying less on language use and active participation as a tool for learning and instead on the importance of observation and cooperation (Callahan, 2011; Chavajay & Rogoff, 2002). In contrast, majority white teachers rely on child-centered engagement rather than on situation-centered experiences, thus privileging the repertoires of white, middle-class children (Heath, 1986; Slobin, 1982). The mismatch between home and classroom culture often leads to deficit thinking whereby teachers assume that students who do not express their knowledge in ways that mirror Western norms are not adept at articulating in expected ways.

Funds of knowledge are one way that educators can bridge cultural differences between home and school contexts (Hogg, 2011). Funds of knowledge are the knowledge and skills that marginalized children bring to the classroom and are rooted in their everyday home and community experiences. Historically, teachers do not value practices whose objectives, attitudes, and activities do not align with majority culture norms. Countering deficit perspectives (Valencia, 2001, González, Moll, and Amanti, 2005) popularized the concept of funds of knowledge with their scholarship on the range of resources working-class Latinx families bring to educational contexts. Using ethnographic inquiry, González and colleagues visited Mexican families’ homes in Arizona, U.S., and documented their social and labor histories, household activities, division of labor, beliefs about child rearing, and values about education and learning. In advocating the funds of knowledge agenda (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) argue how schooling links to broader issues of power, social class, and ideology. Thus, to advance education, we need to situate our research and teaching in the context of funds of knowledge. The funds of knowledge approach has inspired hundreds of studies seeking to understand the various strengths minoritized communities bring to educational spaces (Llopart & Esteband-Guitart, 2018).

Scholarship on funds of knowledge points to the importance of educators employing a culturally responsive approach to teaching that recognizes and incorporates children’s household resources and skill sets to achieve curricular goals in the classroom. By identifying how teachers use language (or do not) to co-construct cognitively and culturally rich dialogue and interactions, our work aims to support ways for all students to become the architects of their learning (even at the preschool level) with activities and storylines that are meaningful and relevant, driven by students’ interests and family histories. Best practices for how to effectively incorporate children’s funds of knowledge into classroom dialogue require further examination.

Reconceptualizing Quality Early Childhood Education: The Intersection of Cognition and Culture through a Microgenetic Lens

The preschool classroom is a “hybrid” learning space where home and school language practices overlap (Barnes et al., 2020; Burke Hadley, 2022). However, when those language practices are at odds, the hybrid space not only becomes less effective in promoting learning for all, but it reinforces and rewards the behavior of some while criticizing and demoralizing others. If teachers are to make cognitively challenging instruction effective for all learners, the foundation of that instruction must be rooted in culturally sensitive and responsive language. Although online resources are plentiful and educators are integrating CRP into preschool curricula, there is a general lack of understanding about how to implement CRP into pedagogy and practice. To address this need, we conducted a preliminary case study investigation to identify discrete inquiry-based language strategies and culturally responsive language behaviors and then explored the impact of those behaviors on students’ participation. The following data was part of a pilot study from the fall of 2022.

Interview and video data were collected during a pilot study in an urban setting preschool with 7 participants (Table 5.1) and 17 miles from New York City. Teachers and students comprised several racial/ethnic backgrounds, and the administrator was white. All participants, except for one student, were monolingual English speakers. When asked about the degree of cultural responsiveness in their programming, the administrator replied:

“Questionnaires are sent home in both (English and Spanish) languages, translators help to make phone calls home, and we have a Multicultural day in January. We also participate in Hispanic-heritage month and teach the children (a) Spanish/English phrases each morning as part of our meeting. We have various books on different cultures and pictures hung throughout the classroom representing different races and cultures. Toys and areas are labeled in English and Spanish as well.”

Whether and how teachers utilize the information gathered through questionnaires and phone calls to permeate everyday practice is of prime importance (e.g., the degree to which morning meeting content extends beyond isolated phrases). Although additional interviews are needed to uncover the extent to which teachers use this data beyond the “morning meeting,” preliminary findings suggest that (per administrative communication) cultural practices are incorporated in fragmented ways. For example, although participation in an annual Multicultural day is a positive experience and one way to celebrate students’ diverse backgrounds, CRP urges teachers to build into the curriculum ways to celebrate diversity and foster children’s funds of knowledge every day. When educators restrict practice to one or a handful of events rather than infusing it throughout curriculum and pedagogy, they reinforce the very individual and societal biases that work against students and communities of color. In effect, a lack of accountability among school districts to practice CRP in ongoing, effective ways perpetuates the blame placed on students and their families for their lack of knowledge about the school’s (hidden) culture and curriculum rather than reforming educational practices in ways that explicitly promote diverse practices in inclusive ways.

Table 5.1. Pilot Study Participants’ Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Language

Participants

Race/Ethnicity

Gender

Heritage-First Language/Second Language

Administrator

White

Female

English/none

Teacher 1 (head teacher)

Mixed heritage Latina/
non-white

Female

English/none

Teacher 2 (asst. Teacher)

African American

Female

English/none

PreK Student 1

African American

Female

English/none

PreK Student 2

Native American

Female

English/none

PreK Student 3

Hispanic

Male

Spanish/none

PreK Student 4

African American

Male

English/none

In addition to interview data, we coded video recordings to examine classroom talk as it unfolded from moment to moment. Specifically, we examined teachers’ IBL and the extent to which it occurred in culturally responsive and sensitive ways. We then used the precise timing of these behaviors to explore the relationship between teachers’ language behaviors and student engagement as we uncovered temporal contingencies between teacher and student behaviors. Using preliminary video data from the pilot study of four children and two classroom teachers participating in three semi-structured tabletop classroom activities, we applied a microgenetic approach by analyzing the frequency and duration of (1) teachers’ inquiry-based language, (2) teachers’ culturally responsive language, and then examined (3) the likelihood that students’ verbalizations followed (temporally) teachers’ language to showcase the degree to which inquiry-based language and culturally responsive language motivated student participation.

Inquiry Based Teacher Language Strategies

Research findings from the T-SEDA Cambridge group found that inquiry-based prompts (e.g., “can you tell me why that might happen if …,” “how is yours different …”) resulted in longer duration of student verbalization, promoted student reasoning (e.g., “it looks scary because …”) and helped students to contrast opinions and perspectives (e.g., “I want mine here because …”). Teachers’ use of open-ended questions prompts children to expand their verbal responses and engage in meaningful conversation. The Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research Group’s (CEDiR) work on dialogic learning found these teacher language practices to be critical to children’s participation: (1) building on children’s ideas, (2) inviting children to talk about their reasoning, (3) challenging student thinking, and (4) connecting students’ thinking to contributions, knowledge, and experiences beyond their immediate context (T-SEDA Collective, 2021). Much of the work centered around classroom talk has focused on children in primary grades (van Kleeck & Schwarz, 2011) and how certain types of linguistic (e.g., using multi-clause grammatical constructions) and cognitive practices (e.g., using language to reason) support learning (Howe and Abedin, 2013). The CEDiR’s T- SEDA research identifies these and several other cognitive strategies from work with older children. Thus, determining if these same strategies exist in the preschool space is vital because language-rich, quality preschool experiences can prime children for success in primary grades. For that reason, preliminary data was coded in a preschool classroom using six “language strategies” to capture the cognitive merit of teacher language as they engaged with students: challenge, invite reasoning, build on ideas, mediate or model, question, and scaffold. After identifying the language strategy, a second-level code indicated whether the strategy was inquiry-based. For example, when one of the students commented about the reindeer having “only one eye,” the teacher proceeded to build on that idea by explaining that it was a side view, our pilot data suggest that teachers’ language frequently served to mediate and facilitate student actions, in lieu of challenging, reasoning, or scaffolding their language. Further, teachers had significantly longer durations of verbalizations compared to students. Teachers asked very few open-ended questions and provided minimal prompts to which children could respond. Thus, there were minimal opportunities to reflect, elaborate, or reason through dialogue.

Culturally Responsive Teacher Language Practices

Regarding culturally responsive language, teachers’ language was coded for the degree to which it encompassed the following: explicitly stated classroom rules and expectations, connected to students’ prior knowledge, invited differences, promoted choices, promoted identity, referenced students’ skills or interests, referenced a world view informed by historical circumstances, or referenced diverse practices. For example, a teacher who directs students to think about whether they agree or disagree with a statement and then to discuss their opinion with a partner is (1) making classroom expectations clear (i.e., explicit) and (2) inviting students to consider differences.

Below, we visualize hypothesized profiles of teachers’ language directed to students based on our theoretical framework (Figure 5.2). We predict teachers’ pedagogical approaches will fall into four distinctive styles: low inquiry-based and low culturally responsive; low inquiry-based and high culturally responsive; high inquiry-based and low culturally responsive; high inquiry-based and high culturally responsive. Proceeding from our theoretical model, we posit that teachers who adopt a highly culturally responsive and inquiry-based pedagogy will successfully promote students’ learning compared to any of the other three approaches. Our preliminary data suggest that highly culturally responsive language moderated the relationship between IB language and student participation.

Figure 5.2. Profiles of Teacher Language

Examining teaching and learning through a narrow lens of discrete behaviors is a new way of looking at culturally responsive and sensitive classroom language. Although a more global assessment of CRP is necessary, exploring the temporal nature of inquiry-based and culturally responsive language allows us to capture the nuances of interaction through a temporal framework to advance an understanding of dialogic participation in the preschool space. Further, a microgenetic approach to examining classroom dialogue is one way to address the wide scale demand to uncover how to implement mechanisms of CRP in the classroom, transitioning more readily from theory to practice.

When teachers arm themselves with the notion that language and culture are “adaptive” mechanisms that drive students toward agency in the classroom, it moves educators away from a deficit perspective. Teachers who use language to engage students in dialogue that incorporates a multitude of linguistic backgrounds, home practices, and skill sets, in turn, create equitable and accessible learning spaces.

Discussion

Researchers, administrators, and teachers agree that quality educational experiences support student learning and development. Yet, the best way to create these experiences remains a matter of debate. Proponents of ECE support the classroom as a place where early academic and social skills flourish. Advocates of CRP see it as a way for teachers to build trust, reciprocity, and a sense of value and belonging among students. These principles are not mutually exclusive. CRP is a critical factor in fostering academic success by cultivating the motivation for academic excellence and finding avenues for routing student skill sets in academically relevant ways. Our pilot study gathered preliminary data that explored ways to reconceptualize how teachers use language and dialogue to promote quality ECE experiences for all children by marrying a focus on curricular content with an underlying cultural competence and interest in the funds of knowledge that children bring to the classroom. Future work exploring a shift in perspective from “fixing” children and families to restructuring classrooms in ways that honor cultural differences and hold diverse practices in the highest esteem has the potential to upend early childhood education and transform early learning for all. Findings from our project have implications for teacher training, classroom assessments, and teacher practice. This work can move teachers from a deficit perspective toward understanding how their language and cultural practices shape classroom success. Supporting teachers to see their biases as a roadblock to student success can create equitable early childhood experiences for all children.

Acknowledgment

We express our deepest gratitude to Catherine Tamis-LeMonda for bringing the authors together more than two decades ago. Without her guidance, support, and inspiration, this work would not have been possible.

 

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