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Anthropology, culture, and research on teaching and learning: Applying what we have learned to improve practice

by Michèle Foster, Jeffrey L. Lewis & Laura Onafowora - 2003

We examine the role of culture—anthropology’s essential concept—in teaching and learning. After providing a brief overview of the application of anthropology to research on teaching and learning, we examine various studies that demonstrate how culture can be understood and used as a resource for teaching and learning. In particular, we focus on the growing body of research that positively exploits, scaffolds, and links productive community and cultural practices, particularly those of ethnic minority communities, to classrooms. We then present a theoretical framework and rationale for a current research project in which an after-school program for elementary students is developed that can serve as pedagogical laboratories and professional development community sites for inexperienced teachers as well as research sites where various issues of teaching and learning can be examined. At the heart of this project is the linking of inexperienced teachers with master teachers who have demonstrated success in teaching culturally diverse students in urban schools. Preliminary results that document children’s academic achievement and teachers’ improved performance are presented from the 1st year of the project.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 2, 2003, p. 261-277
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11121, Date Accessed: 9/18/2021 10:29:16 AM

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About the Author
  • Michèle Foster
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    MICHÈLE FOSTER is professor of anthropology of education at Claremont Graduate University. She has received several fellowships, awards, and research grants and is active in professional associations. Foster is author of more than 50 publications, including four books. She is currently the Vice President of Division G, the Social Context of Education of AERA, book review editor for Educational Researcher, and serves as a member Minority Scholars Advisory Committee of The Spencer Foundation. Broadly focused on the social and cultural contexts of education for African Americans, her research includes life history studies of teachers, research on teacher professional development and change, and sociolinguistic and ethnographic research in classrooms.
  • Jeffrey L. Lewis
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    E-mail Author
    JEFFREY LEWIS is an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Lewis is interested in how local culture and history shape human development. Focusing on early childhood, he is particularly interested in how children's lives are shaped by culturally specific developmental scripts that enable them to develop the intelligence and abilities necessary for social success in their communities. Dr. Lewis is also interested in the social and affective experiences of African American children, particularly as these pertain to school experiences and academic success. He is currently developing protocols to better research children's perceptions of their experiences and knowledge of their social worlds.
  • Laura Onafowora
    North Carolina Central University
    E-mail Author
    LAURA ONAFOWORA is assistant professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Technology, and Professional Studies, in the School of Education at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). As chair of the NCCU Candidate Assessment Committee she played a leadership role in the development of a Generic Teacher Candidate Assessment Process and the model rubric for National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. She received a PhD from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where she was a Patricia Roberts Harris Teaching Fellow. She has presented numerous conference papers. Onafowora’s research interests include educational measurement of student learning and teacher efficacy, educational research, and educational program evaluation.
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